The Problem of Evil (Part 7)
When we view reality from the perspective given to us in the Bible, we find that it presents us with no philosophical Problem of Evil. That is not to say that, according to the Bible, our difficulties with evil do not arise from the suffering we endure living in this fallen world. There is a real sense in which the ”problem” lies in our emotional and psychological state. This, of course, is not to trivialize the traumatic impression made by encounters with evil.
The pain of losing a loved one often may cloud our judgment regarding God’s character. Likewise, the blinding emotional outrage of witnessing the killing fields of Rwanda can temporally disable us from thinking clearly about the truth-value of Christian theism. Yet, I’m not saying that the touch of evil only disables us. The Bible abundantly shows us a world filled with pain, and evil. We may be tempted to ignore the suffering of those outside of our own circles diminishing the intensity of their pain. But when we personally feel the sting of pain, suffering, and evil, our malaise is placed in proper perspective. As C. S. Lewis noted that evil is God’s megaphone to a morally deaf world (see his The Great Divorce, New York: Macmillan, 1946.) Evil cannot be ignored or denied.
The intensity of our experience of suffering is typically advanced by the fact that while we may believe in God, often our prayers, and answers in response to the “why” question, are not answered (at least not in the manner in which we desire). There is the mysterious “wait” and “dialectic” between evil and good (I got this notion from John Frame). We are called to trust God, though many times it seems as if He does not answer. Likewise, the dialectic reminds us daily that the righteous do not always prosper nor do the wicked always suffer. These experiences raise the existential or pastoral PE, the “How Long, O Lord” cries of the heart. This pain may lead us to doubt God’s word. But here a severe caution must be raised. “Beware of becoming the thing that you hate.” It was the doubt of God’s word as sufficient to direct our lives that originally ushered sin and evil into our world (Gen. 3).
We could rightly say that from one perspective the entire message of the Bible is one grand-scale answer to the problem of evil. The thrust of scripture points to the notion that had God destroyed creation after the entrance of sin and evil, Satan would have won. What we find is that God is not in favor of redemption from creation, but rather the redemption of creation. He has decreed that He would not defeat evil unilaterally, but from within the created order, by the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15). As salvation history unfolds, the seed is identified with Abraham, then Judah, and finally with King David. In Christ, sin and evil do their worst, only to be conquered and made a spectacle of (Col. 2:15). The cross is indeed the “victory of God.” The ultimate triumph over evil came through a man, Jesus Christ (the Son of God).
Though most who raise the PE desire a top-down answer (some form of God waving a magic wand and making every evil go away), in this regard, God’s answer, the Biblical answer, is bottom up. God has deemed history, families, dominion, and ultimately the work of the Savior valuable. This is no gnostic answer to the PE. This is a gritty, hands-in-the-dirt God, who in the second Person of the Holy Trinity knows suffering like no other knows it.
Next I’ll wrap up this series with my conclusion…