Sunday, May 12, 2013
Blog # 301 Evil
Blog # 301 Evil
Philosophers, theologians, Social Welfare professionals, victims of criminal violence, pacifists, widows and widowers, men and women of deep faith in God and those without faith in God have worked and wondered in search of what has been referred to as 'The Problem of Evil'. I am among those who wondered.
I think I came closest than ever to a solution to the problem of evil on the day I denied there was a problem of evil. It is not that I have me eyes closed to evil in the world. The recent tragedy of innocent school children killed in Newtown,Connecticut, and then just a few weeks later the slaughter of people at the finish line of the Boston Marathon prompted me to write this blog. I had the honor, privilege, burden, challenge, or whatever you want to call it, of personally spending a good part of a day visiting the death camp at Auschwitz, Poland years ago. Many days there are stories in the local newspaper of shootings stabbings violence and hatred even among members of one's own family. I do not deny evil in the world. I do not think that evil is good and not evil. I just want to say I see it differently than most people seem to do. I do not defend evil or think it is good. Evil is bad. It is evil. Calling or naming it a problem is what I call into question.
Ordinarily when we think of anything as a problem we incline to think of it in relation to a solution. Once we arrive at a solution the problem is solved and the case is closed. In the case of the 'problem' of evil we should not be surprised there have been several well thought out and sincere solutions proposed. Some have been satisfied to solve the 'problem' in identifying someone to blame for it. It is the result of sin in the world. Eliminate sin and we would eliminate evil. Partly true.
If we were to consider pain and suffering as evil, as many do, then blaming it on sin, we do not have the solution to the problem of good and innocent people suffering and in pain. If we were to say evil is beyond God's control, we would have a solution that would be in contradiction to our identification of God as unlimited, totally good, all-powerful, and all loving. In seeing this as true, some would feel no need to go further in their search for a solution to the 'problem' than to deny the reality of a personal unique unlimited good powerful and loving God. For them, in the stage to which we have come in our natural evolution as human beings, evil remains an inevitable given. The solution is to recognize this and to avoid it as well as you can.
In these and other solutions sincerely offered to solve the 'problem' of evil I see a fundamental danger and an obstacle of arriving at the truth we are seeking. It is the danger of identifying the task in which we are engaged as seeking a solution to a problem. Ironically, the danger comes from having a solution. We work to solve a problem until we arrive at a solution that we confidently feel is the truth. The situation is complicated by the fact that others working toward a solution to the same problem confidently and sincerely arrive at a different solution. If our solutions are different, someone is correct or closer to being correct than another. That is another problem. But if I am sufficiently confident in my solution and someone else's solution does not evidently harm me, it tends not to be my concern. I remain apart from them.
I would like to try to illustrate how this works out when we apply it to what I consider one of the greatest evils of all. The problem is the division of the Church. I have to point out and admit that as far as I can tell I am in a definitely very very small minority of people among those I know personally and through the media, government leaders, church members, people all around me who otherwise are very much like me in our everyday experience of life who see this as a problem to be solved. It is not that others confront me and try to change my convictions. I think they are just not aware of what I am concerned about as a concern of theirs. They just don't think of it. If I did not experience it as real I don't think I could imagine how we could claim to live by the Gospel message of salvation and not be seriously concerned about our division.
We can shed significant light on the 'problem' by focusing it in the form of a question: What does it mean to be 'saved'? Identifying this as a problem we seek a solution as our response. Each Sunday here in the United States millions of good people gather in large and small Christian gatherings to worship a single God in the name of a single Savior, but divided in the solutions they give to the problem of our division in direct contradiction to the prayer of Jesus that all who would come to believe in Him would be united in the love and obedience He lived in His relationship with His Father Whom He had identified as the sole Creator of us all. (Jn 17: 11, 20 - 23, 26).
In considering evil as a problem and seeking to solve it with a solution, we have in the ocurrence of different solutions the situation of something being correct or incorrect and and therefore division among the searchers of truth which in itself is one. In response to this I have continued to refrain from using the title Problem of Evil and subsituting the title Question of Evil.
Solutions for me imply conclusions, the end of a process. Questions lead to answers but also for me leave room for other questions from other people who have different answers than ours to what we thought were the same questions until we asked questions of one another and discovered our questions were not the same. Then through further questions we can grow in our knowledge of the truth that unites.
The process is ongoing rather than conclusive. Sincere questions are invitations to unity rather than intrusions and sources of division.
There are a few more things to consider with regard to the question of evil so we will include them in a different blog.