It seems like there is just no such thing as having too many articles about the “Problem of Evil” in the blogosphere, these days. In the interest of living that out, here’s another one.
The way I’d like to approach this today is from the perspective of why people feel like the Problem of Evil is as significant as they feel it is. After all, when I hear about people using this to describe their disbelief in God, I typically hear the same types of issues and concerns.
More than any other thing, the root of the issue tends to be that we can’t understand how God could allow certain things to happen. Implicit in this perspective is the idea that we feel as though, if we were in charge, we would never allow some of the horrible things that God allows to happen.
If it were up to you or me, people wouldn’t be starving to death, child sex-trafficking would never happen, natural disasters wouldn’t take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and cost billions of dollars of damage each time one occurred. We’d never allow those things to happen. People would be healthy and happy.
Now, before we get much further, I need to point out that, as I have written before, just because we don’t like a certain thing, that does not make it untrue. That should be understood as we move forward. I suppose you can tell that I may write something that some people will probably dislike or even be offended by.
The fact of the matter is, if God really is who Christians claim Him to be, one of the attributes that He must possess (in order to qualify for the Christian definition of God) is omniscience. This means, He must know everything. We can get into the implications of that in another piece, later.
For now, being omniscient, God had to make certain choices. He knows how each of us will react in a given situation and wants the largest number of people to accept Him and the fewest number of people to reject Him without impinging on free will.
Without going down that very tempting rabbit trail, the short explanation is that God must, if He is accurately represented as a God of love and compassion and goodness, have a moral justification for everything that He does (and doesn’t do).
This is where the “I’d do it differently” thing breaks down. You and I don’t have an eternal perspective. We aren’t omniscient. Therefore, just because we may not think God has an adequate justification for something, just because we can’t conceive of a way to justify certain things, we are simply not in a position to know whether or not, in the long term, eternal story, these things actually did have sufficient moral justification.
I should probably mention that I’m referring, here, strictly to the logical Problem of Evil rather than the emotional one. The former is about whether or not it is a logically contradictory thing to have a God who is omnipotent and good and loving, etc. who allows such suffering. The latter is more about the idea of how we deal with the suffering of this world and still embrace our faith. Those are two, very distinct things that I do not want to get confused here.
Essentially, when dealing with the logical aspect of this issue, people will say that God can’t exist and they know this because they can’t understand how a good, loving, all powerful being could allow suffering, pain, death, disease, hunger, poverty, etc. Again, to use the same argument that science uses all the time, just because we don’t know the answer, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.
Likewise, just because we, in our limited, finite perspectives, can’t see how such a God could allow these things, that does not mean that He does not have morally sufficient reasons for allowing it. Not to mention the fact that the Fall was our fault to begin with. Well, OK, specifically it was Adam’s fault, but as a result the whole universe “groans and suffers…”
Another time, I’ll write more about how that all works (I’m keeping a list, by the way. Just so I don’t forget.) For now, we need to understand that fact that, just because we think something is wrong or unjustified, we don’t have an eternal perspective and don’t see how this could end up working out for the best for someone, somewhere.
This is no different than how we handle certain things with our kids. There are times when we allow bad things to happen to them. They don’t understand why we do that, but we know that there is a lesson they need to learn. Now, that analogy only goes so far as it’s not always about learning a lesson, but it simply illustrates the point. We don’t know.
This may not help with the emotional aspect of pain and suffering and how we can deal with those things. But, hopefully, it helps you to understand that there is an answer and you can feel secure knowing that to be the case. That will allow you to open yourself up to the idea so that it will be easier to embrace Him during times of suffering and pain in your own life.
Grace, love and peace.