Monday, June 03, 2013

The Continuing Problem of Evil

I've written on theodicy, the "problem of evil," before, but as the title of that post indicated, it was brief. It was brief for a purpose: we lose too much sleep in the theoretical justification (or is it condemnation?) of God in His inscrutable actions, rather than seeing our wider and broader calling to be God's hands in the world. I sincerely don't think that we can answer that question in any rationally satisfying way because evil, whether natural disaster or man-made, isn't rational. It is an aberration of God's goodness that the world shares (Gen. 1): it is not the way it is supposed to be. So, when I read that this or that is "God's judgment" (always from those who believe that the charismatic gift of prophecy has passed into non-existence), it makes me cringe. Maybe said event is, maybe it isn't. Maybe the world is just corrupted and we are dealing with those effects. Maybe, instead of worrying about those abstractions, we should concentrate on care of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, the neglected, and the marginalized. If we did so, we'd have enough on our plates to never be bothered by such scholastic non sequiturs.

I hear students (and I don't know if this is something that is being said more and more or if I've finally paying attention) that believe the "blessing of God" on our lives is peace, stability, comfort, and prosperity. That the 'good life' or 'shalom' is basically a form of heavenly sloth. I wonder if this is tied to the overwhelming anti-asceticism of Protestantism: that 'good works' are not in any way necessary for salvation (just to quell any freakouts here, most Protestants do believe that good works are necessary to show or to prove that one has been freely and monergistically justified by Christ; so I'm not stepping out of orthodoxy here) and once you say a prayer, or give rational assent to a list of doctrines (the denuded form of 'faith' that seems to pass these days) you are in and deserve to sit back, relax, and enjoy this earthly life. Not only is this a damaging form of realized eschatology (as most all forms of such ultimately are), but it is simply lazy and unChristian. We allow our faith to be shaken by school shootings, by tornadoes, by the larger and smaller risks of living in a world hell-bent on its own destruction so that it might have fleeting pleasure, that we miss the fact that we are actively contributing by building a theological handbasket for its descent.

This is not to say we shouldn't ask, "Why, God?" or "How long, o Lord?" Both are found in our spiritual grammar of the Psalms and Job. But the answer is always: God is King and He is about the business of restoring this world through the Cross of Christ (in which the very Life of the world died), in which He asks us to participate by dying to our selves so that the world might find life. Our proper response to evil is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" as we share the Cross of Christ for the life of the world -- any other response, other than sharing in God's sufferings and the sufferings of our fellows, is illegitimate and, usually, selfish. We must share the sufferings of Christ and our fellow human beings, for this is our lot since Adam.

God, help us to do what You have done.