Friday, July 02, 2010

The Problem of Evil

I'm slowly reading "The Doctrine of Sin and Redemption" by Henri Blocher, and the chapter on the problem of evil (the first chapter, and only one I've read so far) was interesting.

He starts with three biblical principals that lay the foundation for assessing our attempts at answering the problem of evil:

1) Evil is completely, radically, and absolutely bad (or evil). We should never diminish the wickedness of evil or the horror of its effects. God hates evil.

2) God is completely, radically, and absolutely sovereign. We should never minimize his resoluteness in making all things happen, both in the big picture and the smallest details. "Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." (Psalm 135:6 ESV)

3) God is completely, radically, and absolutely good. He is never complicit with evil, nor does he ever approve of it.

Generally, he says, our attempts at resolving the problem of evil reflect some biblical truth as seen in one or two of these three principals, but at the same time minimizing or outright denying the remaining principal(s).

He set forth some of the classic representations of each of these three emphases. The reformed position--God allowed evil to enter into the world because he saw, in his infinite power and wisdom, that His defeat of evil would bring Him more glory than any other possible world He could have created. The free will position--evil entered into the world because man has a completely free will, and man has a free will because ultimately, if his choice of loving God didn't come from his own free agency, it wouldn't be love at all. And lastly, the least common view--that God had to create evil to be complete. Without evil, according to this view, God would be like Hall without Oates, or peanut butter without jelly, or yin without get the picture. Obviously, this last view can't be held by anyone who adheres to a traditional evangelical set of beliefs because it makes evil a part of God, i.e. God is part evil.

What I appreciated the most about Blocher's position, was that he didn't want to abandon the three very obvious biblical principals that he cited (Evil is absolutely evil, God is absolutely sovereign, and God is absolutely good) for the sake of having a nice, clean, easily resolved doctrine of evil. Instead, he prefers to guard the mystery of the details. After all, the reformed position tends to minimize the pain in suffering and the fact that suffering at the hands of evil men is the result of evil itself, an evil that God hates with a pure hatred, though He remains in control at all times. The free will people tie God's hands just for the sake of keeping theirs free, though the scriptures are replete with examples of the contrary. And obviously, who could dare say that God is in Himself evil, as if it were a necessary part of his existence?

So, I'm resolved to try to look at the world and all of it's wickedness--encountered mostly in my own heart--through the lens of these three biblical principals instead of through the lens of my traditionally reformed doctrine. When I see evil, I can't deny that it is 1) absolutely, positively evil, 2) it is not out of the control of God's sovereign, loving, and protecting hand, and 3) God hates it, and it is absolutely contrary to the perfectly good God I find in the scriptures.