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Dying for an Answer: An Attempted Theodicy to the Problem of Evil

Dying for an Answer: An Attempted Theodicy to the Problem of Evil

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Published by Frederick Meekins
It is perhaps one of the greatest intellectual stumbling blocks in all of religious thought. As much as any soul would like to avoid the topic all together, sooner or later each person will be forced to grapple with the seemingly incongruous realties resulting from the simultaneous existence of both a sovereign God and the prevalence of evil in the world.
It is perhaps one of the greatest intellectual stumbling blocks in all of religious thought. As much as any soul would like to avoid the topic all together, sooner or later each person will be forced to grapple with the seemingly incongruous realties resulting from the simultaneous existence of both a sovereign God and the prevalence of evil in the world.

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Published by: Frederick Meekins on Jun 17, 2013
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Dying for an Answer: An Attempted Theodicy to the Problem of Evil
 byFrederick MeekinsCopyright !"#
$t is perhaps one of the greatest intellect%al st%mbling blocks in all of religio%s tho%ght& As m%ch as any so%l wo%ld like to avoid the topic all together' sooner or later each person will be forced to grapple with the seemingly incongr%o%s realties res%lting from the sim%ltaneo%s e(istence of both a sovereign )od and the  prevalence of evil in the world& To some' the disconcerting e(istential tra%ma of s%ffering in their lives and in the lives of those aro%nd them is eno%gh to make one come down in the negative in their answer to the )od *%estion& +owever' %pon deeper reflection one is forced to reali,e that --- tho%gh still mind boggling --- it is not necessarily inconsistent for both evil and the .iblical conception of )od to e(ist at the same time&$n the hopes of gaining /%st a bit of perspective into s%ch an overwhelming %niversal mystery' it is probably best to start o%t by form%lating the problem in a s%mmari,ed written form& 0orman )eisler in
 Introduction To  Philosophy: A Christian Perspective
 states the problem in the following manner: 12"3 $f )od is all-powerf%l' +e co%ld destroy evil& 23 $f )od is all-good' +e wo%ld destroy evil& 2#3 .%t evil e(ists& 243 Therefore' there is no s%ch )od 2)eisler' 543&6 To establish a credible defense to these charges' the Christian m%st show that evil does not necessarily %pset the divinely appointed applecart and is allowed to e(ist beca%se of the p%rpose it serves in s%bordination to higher' more important realities even if these do not always make sense to finite h%man sensibilities&At the heart of this debate is a disc%ssion as to both the nat%re of )od and the nat%re of evil& As to the ethical nat%re of )od' Matthew 7:48 instr%cts the reader' 1.e ye therefore perfect' even as yo%r father which is in heaven is perfect&6 +owever' that goodness is not like %nto that of a saintly grandmother' tho%gh kind and loving in all of her intentions' who is helpless to prevent the world from deteriorating all aro%nd her&$n the spirit of the 9ooseveltian a(iom of speaking softly and carrying a big stick' )od has the power necessary to carry thro%gh implementing how +e thinks things o%ght to be& Colossians ":"5 says' 1And he is before all things' and by him all things consist&6 This is f%rther elaborated and e(tended in Acts "5:8 which reads' 1For in him we live' and move' and have o%r being&&&6 Pretty m%ch nothing happens witho%t )od knowing abo%t it and at least allowing it to happen by not intervening to prevent it even if +e himself does not endorse the action' behavior' or event in *%estion& Evil' by its very nat%re on the other hand' is a tho%ght or deed violating )ods nat%re of absol%te goodness as e(pressed in the form of +is nat%ral and special revelation to those who inhabit the %niverse +e created& ;et' if )od really does have the whole world in +is hands as the old spirit%al s%ggests' there needs to be a bit of e(planation on the part of the apologist or theologian& For if )od really is in sovereign control' one m%st show how this fits together with passages s%ch as $ <ohn ":7 which says' =This then is the message we have heard of him' and declare %nto yo%' that )od is light' and in him is no darkness at all&=The first step in eliminating the apparent contradiction arising between the e(istence of both )od and evil is to show how evil might serve some p%rpose or be allowed to e(ist as the %nfort%nate byprod%ct of some more comprehensive good& Perhaps the best response Christian thinkers have provided th%s far over the cent%ries is  probably the so-called =Free >ill Defense=&
 
The %nderlying ass%mption of the Free >ill Defense posits that the fa%lt and conse*%ences for evil in the world lies solely on the sho%lders of those who commit moral transgressions and e(hibit ethical shortcomings rather than %pon a )od imposing them %pon the world from the o%tside& ?cript%re bears m%ch of this idea o%t in  passages s%ch as 9omans 7:" which reads' =>herefore' as by one man sin entered into the world' and death by sin@ and so death passed %pon all men for that all have sinned&&&= Th%s' it is pretty m%ch o%r own fa%lt as a species as a whole for the misery rampaging across the face of the earth and in individ%al lives&>hile s%ch a theory might help acco%nt for things s%ch as crime' war' and even sickness since none of %s have escaped the stain of sin' by itself it does not provide eno%gh e(planation to acco%nt for the tragedy arising from nat%ral disasters 2often referred to as so-called 1acts of )od63 or why )od does not normally intervene to  prevent neer-do-wells from inflicting pain and s%ffering %pon their victims innocent in terms of instigating these partic%lar acts of malice& .oth of these *%andaries find their answer in what 9onald 0ash calls the 10at%ral Baw Theodicy6 or what <ohn Frame refers to as the 1?table Environment Defense6&Frame notes in
 Apologetics To The Glory Of God
that a stable environment is f%ndamental to h%man e(istence 2"43& 9onald 0ash writes in 1
 Faith & Reason: Searching For A Rational Faith
6' 1Free rational action re*%ires a world of nat%ral ob/ects governed by nat%ral laws 2!!3&6 C&?& Bewis adds to this perspective in
The Prole! Of Pain
' 1.%t if matter is to serve as a ne%tral field it m%st have a fi(ed nat%re of its own &&& if yo% were introd%ced into a world which th%s varied at my every whim' yo% wo%ld be *%ite %nable to act in it and wo%ld lose the e(ercise of yo%r free will 2"3&6 Bewis contin%es in the following paragraph' 1Again' if matter has a fi(ed nat%re and obeys constant laws' not all states of matter will  be e*%ally agreeable to a given so%l' nor beneficial for that matter which he calls his body 2!3&6Th%s in essence' the same system of reasonably stable nat%ral laws that allows man to s%rvive and even thrive in an otherwise hostile %niverse can also end %p allowing the very same components of nat%re that man re*%ires for his very e(istence to be t%rned on him and to inflict harm %pon him& Bewis points o%t how fire can either warm the flesh or b%rn it& This is wro%ght with conse*%ences as to why both nat%re and man seem capable of raining down misery with imp%nity& As to the iss%e of nat%ral disasters' 9omans 8:!- e(plains' =For the creation was s%b/ected to fr%stration not by its own choice' b%t by the will of the one who s%b/ected it&&& >e know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right %p to the present time 20$3&= Th%s' the very physical setting of creation is %nder the c%rse not %nlike that imposed %pon h%manity for the fall of the species into sin&Tho%gh the providence of )od no do%bt often spares certain individ%als from befalling the ferocity of a world o%t of control' the system of physical laws thro%gh which the nat%ral world is governed is %s%ally left in place for the overall benefit of finite kind& For we wo%ld be %nable to ad/%st in o%r c%rrent condition to a constantly changing and fl%ct%ating cosmos& This principle readily applies to those bent on %sing physical matter to inflict their own corr%pt wills %pon secondary by-standing parties& For e(ample' one can %se a baseball bat to en/oy an afternoon of leis%rely recreation or to work someone over d%ring an armed robbery& >hile we wo%ld all like )od to intervene to prevent physical matter and nat%ral forces from wreaking havoc %pon %s' in all likelihood doing so wo%ld inflict even greater harm %pon the h%man species and the world in their c%rrent condition than simply allowing these contingent entities to contin%e on %ntil the so-called end of history and the beginning of eternity&M%ch of this theodicy is foc%sed %pon the preeminence of freedom in the relationships established %nder the terms of the divine economy& .%t some might arg%e that it is at this point of imb%ing the actors in the %niversal drama with their own sense of freedom that )od erred in +is drafting of the cosmic screenplay& +owever' it is  beca%se of +is absol%te goodness that )od has seen fit to grant some degree of say-so to those +e loves the
 
most&$t is beca%se of the overwhelming sense of importance placed %pon love that freedom m%st take precedence over order and control tho%gh freedom and love take place within the bo%ndaries established by this order and control& For as any lovesick high school st%dent t%rned down for the prom event%ally reali,es' love m%st be given freely or it is not tr%e love&The ?cript%re says in <osh%a 4:"7' =&&&&choose yo% this day whom ye will serve&= The te(t does not say that the decision will be thr%st %pon yo%& The Bord will hear eno%gh whining on the Day of <%dgment& +e does not need to make +is task more diffic%lt by assigning the responsibility for o%r eternal fates and destinies to any  party other than o%rselves&For cent%ries' skeptics %sed the problem of evil to chip away at the fo%ndations of theism& +owever' the fact that the ob/ection can be raised at all points towards the affirmative in its concl%sion to the )od *%estion& +%man beings recoil in horror as they do to the pain and %nfairness of the world since it is s%ch a shocking affront to the way things were originally intended to be& Atheism %ses this reaction deep within the so%l to make its case for a totally nat%ralistic %niverse& .%t if evil' pain' and s%ffering are simply a part of the nat%ral order' on what gro%nds are we /%stified in railing against it' and for that matter' how are we even capable of determining something has gone awry in the first place$f evil is nothing more than part of the backdrop against which life plays itself o%t' man sho%ld barely notice it& For e(ample' most normal people do not lie awake at night wondering why there is o(ygen in the world or work themselves %p into having an an(iety attack despairing as to why they will have to eat breakfast in the morning& The ability to complain abo%t and speak o%t against evil points to the reality of some transcendent standard e(isting above the fray by which to /%stify this innate tendency towards making /%dgments&Gne might co%nter that these standards simply e(ist within the individ%al as personal conscience& ;et both the daily news and the pages of history are replete with e(amples of how competing interpretations of these  principles differ considerably and the conflicts that often arise witho%t appeal to a yet higher arbitrating a%thority&Th%s' some e(ternal standard m%st e(ist in order to tell the difference between right and wrong& The only s%fficient basis for this criteria is fo%nd in )od& Alister Mc)rath provides the following proof in
 Intellectuals  "on#t $eed God & Other %odern %yths
: 12A3& Hnless there is a )od' there cannot be ob/ectively binding moral obligations& 2.3& Gb/ectively binding moral obligations e(ist& 2C3& Therefore' there is a )od 24!3&6At this point' the Christian thinker o%ght to take the problem of evil' invert it' and t%rn it against the critics of faith& <ohn MacArth%r writes in
Terroris! 'ihad & The (ile
' his response to the ?eptember !!" terrorist attack %pon the Hnited ?tates' 1The *%estion we o%ght to ask is not why disasters happen sometimes& >hat we o%ght to ask is why dont disasters happen all of the time 273&6The problem really is not so m%ch the problem of evil b%t rather the problem of pleas%re& For h%man beings have done s%ch a s%perb /ob messing %p the world' that if )od did not e(ist' how does any pleas%re e(ist at all And if )od does e(ist' why does +e contin%e to bless mankind despite the rebellion' anim%s' and contempt characteristically displayed on the part of the species to its benevolent Creator <ames ":5 says' 1Every good and perfect gift is from above' and cometh down from the Father of lights' with whom is no variableness' neither shadow of t%rning&6 0o matter how wretched life can get' somewhere along the way most people can recall at least a single moment of fleeting kindness in their lives and %s%ally more&

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