Saturday, May 28, 2011

The big question 1

In a play about Job, Satan taunts, "If God is God, he is not good.  If God is good, he is not God." [1]  The play writer, Archibald MacLeish, poetically captures here what is often called the problem of evil.  If God is God--that is, if he is all powerful--then how is it that he allows so much evil to go on in the world, not to mention pain in general.  On the other hand, if God is good, then you would think he would want to put an end to evil and  suffering.  Perhaps he just is not powerful enough to do away with it.

It is not a new question.  It is a question that has come up whenever some people dared to think that their gods loved them.  It is implied in Old Testament stories like when Israel lost in battle to the city of Ai in Joshua 7.  How could they lose when Yahweh was powerful enough for them to win?  The Greek philosopher Epicurus raised the question hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth.

It is a question that knocks on the door of the modern world more than ever before, because individuals are more empowered than ever before.  In the ancient world, in the two-thirds world, powerlessness in the face of the wicked is such a given that it is often easier to accept.  A sense of fatalism--that the world just is what it is--often is the name of the game.  Death is an ever present reality you just accept.

But the democratic, Western world at least in theory has given everyone a voice.  And science has allowed us to beat death far more than ever before.  Never before has so much seemed possible.  Never before have we seemed more empowered to say "no" to evil and suffering than before.

So perhaps never before have the impossibilities of this world seemed more anomalous, more angering.  When we are so motivated to change the world, why does God seem to let "the nations rage" (Ps. 2:1)?  When we are now noticing the forgotten of the world, why does God continue to let them suffer?  When we now pass laws that look out for those with disabilities and provide health care for the impoverished, why does God not put an end to such things?  These are the problems of evil and suffering.

[1] JB, by Archibald MacLeish.

1 comment:

twelc said...

Thanks for the thoughts on evil and faith in the fact that God is a good God regardless of whether their is evil or not. This is a major issue for a lot of believers, and I think one of the best answers is in the book and short film THE CASE FOR FAITH by journalist Lee Strobel (former atheist now true believer). Watching this calmed my concerns and gave well researched answers to the great questions we all face.