Friday, May 10, 2013

The Problem of Physical Evil

Why does an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God allow evil such latitude in our age? That God will judge such in a time to come, and cause it to cease thereafter forever is an answer, but it seems a marginal one at best to those living through this age. And to be honest, eternal judgment in the Lake of Fire for the evil done temporally seems only to exacerbate the problem, fighting evil with evil for all intents and purposes. Natural evil--catastrophes, pestilence, genetic abnormalities--seems capricious and only adds to the miserable mystery.

Physical evil certainly is a vexing problem. It rains (too much or too little) on the just and the unjust, earthquakes do not shake merely the morally shaky, tornadoes have been known to sweep through Bible-believing churches while the congregation was in the midst of worship and prayer, and pestilence, mutations and snakes strike apart from any discernment protocol. God may have pulled the plug on this creation because of sin, and let it slowly spiral down the drain, but on the surface, for those twisting in the vortex, it doesn't seem very just or loving. Who can make sense of it?

What needs to remembered in such considerations is that, according to God's standard, it's not the other guy who is evil, it's us--all of us, every single one that has ever come into existence. By God's reckoning, any opposition to his will is evil, even merely eating a piece of fruit he did not want us to. We think we are innocent (so long as we have not overtly harmed another creature), but that is just not the way God sees it. The truth is that humans do as they please, they do without regard to God, they do in opposition to God, and thus they demonstrate that they are, in fact, evil.

That humans have what opportunity they do have to live in a dying world is an accommodation of the magnanimous grace of God. "Wait just a minute," you might be thinking, "we didn't ask to be born at all, let alone the way we are where we are." How is allowing some of us to be particularly evil, while letting all of us live in an environment consistently evil, grace? Well, I think that it demonstrates that God has not written off the human race.

Everything could have ended with the failure of the prototype (Adam and Eve). God could have wiped out everything at The Fall, and been justifiably done with it. Starting over again would not have been an option, because in granting a creature freewill, the same evil to which the prototype succumbed would have been in play for any built like them (in the image of God, that is). The truth is, only God can handle being like God: those that are merely like God, but not God, must live submitted to God in love and faith.

So, though God cannot allow evil to stand and so pulled the plug on this universe, in his love for what was made good, he patiently continues what seems to us the slow, inexorable unfolding of judgment, which is physical evil, because there is a possibility of redemption. Evil creatures, which rebelled in the darkness of ignorance, can be illumined and change their mind and heart about going their own way. If they can truly take to heart the necessity of submission to and agreement with God, he can recast and reset them in a new universe untainted by the fall of the originals.

So there really isn't a problem with physical evil, but there's still a bit more I'd like to talk about...

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