I was talking with a friend at work over lunch today, a friendly and interesting chat about theology and theologians.
She had attended a lecture by a former Dominican priest who had apparently abandoned Christianity because he couldn’t believe in, or at least couldn’t worship, a God who would allow so much evil. He noted how much natural evil there was, in addition to moral evil; he used the example of a wasp that will paralyze a moth and lay its eggs inside the moth’s body, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the moth from the inside out, and the moth is still alive while it’s being eaten, etc. Which, I agree, is pretty horrific. So are viruses and hurricanes and other kinds of natural evil.
Now, as far as I know and have been taught, natural evil, like moral evil, is a result of the Fall and the severing of man from God’s supernatural life. That makes sense to me. In the fall, man chose the devil over God. And all creation essentially turned upside down. Why shouldn’t there be natural evil as well as moral evil in a fallen world?
The problem, which my friend was also speaking of, was that so many theologians and so many average Christians today basically believe that we moderns have outgrown the stories of Adam and Eve, the fall, original sin, and even the devil himself. Now, if you don’t believe in any of these any more, if you discount them as myths devoid of any meaning whatsoever, then of course you won’t be able to make sense of evil. You will come to see religion as just a generic kind of moral code, a way to live out your life, without being beholden to any real, personal God. Or, you might reject religion completely. You will become a practical, if not a professed, atheist.
These people let everything, their entire worldviews and belief systems, hinge on the problem of evil.
But what do they do with the problem of good? How do they account for the fact that even in this fallen world with its many various evils, there is so much good? Good that defies all natural explanation? Goodness that prevails in the face of sheer evil? How do they explain miracles? How do they explain seemingly irrational acts of self-sacrifice or heroism? Or natural goods such as the tenderness some animals show toward their young, the exclusive monogamous bonds between mates of some species, the cycle of the seasons and the abundance of crops, the astonishing beauty of life on earth? Where does goodness come from? How can there still be so much of it if the world is so steeped in evil and has been since the beginning of time? Surely evil should have long ago conquered all–and yet it hasn’t!
That’s the question that must be posed. And it never seems to get posed. We allow the nay-sayers to moan and groan on and on about evil! That’s exactly the way the devil likes it. He likes everything to be all about him. And he especially loves it when people don’t realize that they are making everything all about him! He laughs! He laughs at us and He laughs at God.
So, here’s my advice to myself and to everybody. Whenever anybody raises the problem of evil, raise the problem of good to them. Whenever they use the problem of evil to try to discredit God and Christianity, use the problem of good to try to discredit their position.
As far as I can tell, Christianity provides answers to both problems. Their position doesn’t provide answers to either problem. They take the one for granted and wallow in it incessantly, while completely ignoring the other. In all charity, we must try to get them beyond that. Get them to face the full picture. Challenge them to come up with answers. Until then, I don’t see that they have any rational grounds for rejecting God or Christianity.