From time to time on this site we discuss the theodicy — how is it possible to reconcile the existence of a good God with the existence of evil in the world. It is a difficult problem, and anyone (in either camp) who says it is not plainly hasn’t thought about it enough. Pain. Suffering. Misery. Like a cruel and irresistible tsunami, the problem of evil threatens to engulf and overwhelm our minds. Yes, there have been many excellent efforts at theodicy, and they are often helpful, but none is completely satisfactory. The solution to the problem of evil is one of those things we see “through a glass darkly,” and we are not conceding defeat when we admit our solutions are tentative and our understanding far from complete.
There is another thing I don’t understand, and I was thinking about it this morning during communion. Why, in all of the vast universe, would God even take notice of me, far less love me enough to set aside the attributes of his deity and become a man and suffer and die for me. The very thought is absurd. Yet there is clear and convincing evidence that he did just that. I have no right to share in the vast riches of God’s love and grace and mercy, but, astonishingly, he freely gives them to me anyway. I have spent decades studying apologetics, and on an intellectual basis I am satisfied of the truth of Christ’s claims for himself. However, my faith does not rest on mere dry intellectual assent. Sometimes I sense his presence so strongly that, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, my heart burns within me, and at those times I experience the indescribably wonderful lightness of a spirit infused with hope.
The title of this post is misleading. There are a lot more than two things I don’t understand. But I have hope and for me that makes all the difference. I will leave you with a meditation from David B. Hart:
[When confronted with enormous evil we must not attempt to] console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God’s goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery. Ours is, after all, a religion of salvation; our faith is in a God who has come to rescue His creation from the absurdity of sin and the emptiness of death, and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred. For while Christ takes the suffering of his creatures up into his own, it is not because he or they had need of suffering, but because he would not abandon his creatures to the grave. And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity. As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy. It is not a faith that would necessarily satisfy Ivan Karamazov, but neither is it one that his arguments can defeat: for it has set us free from optimism, and taught us hope instead. We can rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, “Behold, I make all things new.”