Friday, November 13, 2015

The Question of Evil

1. I don't think the biggest question in relation to faith is science. Nor am I threatened by battles over the Bible. Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again. We're good. The evidence doesn't have to demand anything, but it is plausible. There is no body. Multiple people were strongly convinced they had seen Jesus alive in different places and at different times after he died. In the end, faith is not based in proof.

The biggest question in relation to faith is why a loving God allows evil and suffering to continue in the world. I find incredulous the hocus pocus of some who wave a magic wand and say, "Love is whatever God does by definition." God has already defined love just fine in Scripture numerous times. He has defined it in Christ, not least. It involves related words like "saving," "giving," "kind," "hopes."

2. By faith, we believe that God is love, defined in the normal ways. The world does not always look that way. But then again, I don't believe God directly wills every event that happens. In many cases, I believe God allows things to happen that would not be his preferred course. This is the question of how much freedom God has built into his creation and given to humanity.

Some believe God directly decides and causes every event that happens. The problem is that this view makes God into Satan, almost literally, for it would mean that God directs every action Satan takes. Then he would direct the action of every demon down to the last evil detail. God becomes the direct author of all evil. God would then direct every feeling of pleasure that the worst serial killer has.

No, that position more or less makes Christianity incoherent, a devilish religion much to be avoided.

3. Most of the time, we will not know why God allows specific events of evil and suffering. We only know that they fit in some way with God's love. We know that God is currently allowing evil to fight back against him, although its days are numbered. There are personal agents of evil in the world, ranging from Satan to lost human individuals needing to find their God.

We know that God's priorities are eternal rather than the temporary. We know that we do not always have a good sense of what is most important. We know that God can use suffering for good. There can also be times when the good weighs against the good, but we cannot discern the better because we do not know the big picture.

In the end, however, these answers are not likely to feel sufficient in the moment of pain. Ideas and head answers are always weak in the face of the heart. For our pains, God has given us each other as an answer. Brothers and sisters in Christ are God's immediate answers to the question of evil and suffering. And by faith we know that God is still in control.

4. What we know is that Christ cries with us. He remains fully human. In Christ, God embraced our suffering, and in Christ he embraces it still.


Patrick Bowers said...

Do you think the "problem of evil" has always been a great threat to faith, or do you think that it has just been magnified so much from the societal change from local/place-centered communities with local/place-center narrative to the individual as the center of the narrative?

Martin LaBar said...

The book of Job seems to indicate that the "problem of evil" was pretty important a long time ago.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Kind of a pablum answer to the evil in Paris tonight!
Babies need answer for such evil, as there can be none if one really acknowledges evil for what it is. And it doesn't help to think another's suffering alleviates loosing one's family because of it. What good is it to think about another's suffering? even when scripture says it will bring comfort. Instead it is mockery and mocking of personal loss! Job included!

Job's story of God's allowing Satan an opportunity to sift his faith, as Peter was sifted, just does not make sense. As if "higher purposes", i.e. faith is more important than one's loved ones!! That is exactly the thinking of those that can kill in COLD BLOOD tonight in the name and for the sake of God. They can allow themselves to be useful to the "Kingdom of Allah"! And these do it by not batting an eye, because they are doing it for a "greater purpose or cause"! Sickening!

"Evil" by its very nature is not understandable! Otherwise, evil would be called "mistake",fallibility, frailty, misstep, etc.! Those could be placated by such promises of comfort, at least to those that choose to be placated by such platitudes. But not in these cases. No not at all.

Patrick Bowers said...

First, the Book of Job is not about tbe "problem of evil", it is about the faithfulness to God as a people. We must stop reading Job as a Greek story. Job is about a man who is a patriarch of a family (a people/a community) and being so represents not just himself but a whole people (just like Abraham).
Second, we do not even have a time frame for thd Book of Job. We do not even know if Satan had been exiled yet. We should at least recognize that Satan is farther a long in his rebellion against the plans of God once we meet up with him in the tempting Jesus.
So my question still stands "Was the problem of evil really the greatest threat to faith before modern individualism seperated persons from communities rooted in particular places?"