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.

1 comment:

Porsche Guy said...

Mike, it sounds like you're expanding your awareness of God and using sound principles to do so. It's an awesome journey.

I find it interesting the three positions you sighted. As you dig deeper you'll find interesting, and valuable, principles behind them. Aside from the motive that the reformed position implies, the principle that God has power to defeat evil, and does, is very comforting. The free will position is exceedingly shallow, missing the point entirely. Do we think that God is without free will? And I really like the least common view because it dares to attempt a challenge based on reality. Those who have experienced both (good & evil) soon recognize you cannot have one without the other. It's not that evil is required to make God complete, but that it was required to make this reality exist. Not only was it necessary, but we fail to see how even its (evil's) existence glorifies God. If you're having difficulty seeing how, ask yourself the following: which is greater, the God who is good because good is all that exists, or the God who is good because he chooses it over evil - every time, all the time?

If Blocher's position is as you say - prefers to guard the mystery of the details - that's one position I encourage you not to take. I myself never want to stop seeking the mysteries of God. They are food for the soul. Admittedly, I don't expect to find them all, but I never want to stop looking.

If you're of a similar bent, you might consider a fresh reread of the Book of Job. I especially like Stephen Mitchell's translation.

For me, the Book of Job opened up a whole new revelation about God's perspective. Which, by the way is totally different from ours. Remember the garden of eden? God's perspective is the "Tree of Life". We're the ones born into the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil". I've found that the goal of conversion is to lead us back to the tree of life. The Book of Job is the finest, and perhaps most extreme, example of new covenant conversion as you'll ever find.

Enjoy the walk.