Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tough Philosophy Night

Tonight's philosophy class was on the problem of suffering and evil. Difficult because the bottom line to me is that we just have to trust God:
  • We have to trust that God can stop evil and suffering, even if he doesn't.
  • We have to trust that God is loving in a meaningful sense. A meaningful sense is one in which God actually would prefer for everyone to be saved and doesn't determine who will be saved or damned. 
  • Within that context, we have to trust that, despite our suffering and the continuance of evil, there is some bigger picture that we do not see in which God still loves us in a meaningful sense.
Where I think I got into murky waters, I think, is in relation to what evil is. In my philosophy, evil always involves personal intentionality. If I made the class suffer tonight out of delight for them to suffer, I was evil. If it was unintentional torture, it was just suffering, not evil.

I function with two definitions of sin. The most important, the one by which I believe God judges us, is a matter of intention. To paraphrase Wesley, the meaningful sense of sinning is when a person intentionally does something they know they shouldn't do. This is the intransitive sense of sin, "I sinned."

Yet a person can also sin against another person without intending to do so. A person can lose control of the wheel through no fault of his or her own and swerve and kill someone. They have sinned against the other person although they have not sinned in intent. A person can also sin against God, not by violating some absolute law but by wronging God, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Here's the most controversial thought. My Wesleyan theology would be incoherent, I think, if God judged anyone on the basis of the second definition of sin, although the second definition of sin is atoned for by Christ's blood, just as the first one is.

The first kind of sin is evil. The second kind of sin relates to suffering. Of course there is also much suffering that is not a matter of human action, but I'll stop here. I'm sure I unsuccessfully tried to tease this out here.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I don't blame anyone for not commenting. What can anyone say in the face of the Holocost?

Last night, we watched "It's a Beautiful Life". It is about young boy, on his birthday being taken with his father, and later, his mother to a concentration camp. As all parents do to protect their children, the father gave the son a made up story-line, a myth. The story is for protection, so the child would not have to face the real (stark) realities in life. That is the case with theology, philosophy, politics, in the context of real life, and living.

No one has to experience a "holocost" to know what the human experience entails. If you live long enough, you won't have to ask anyone.

Pastor Bob said...

I agree with this thought process, good post.
Thank you