The Problem of Evil

8 Responses

  1. Dave, you really need to write some e-books. You don’t mind and seem to find time to dive deeply into subjects and cite resources from a variety of perspectives. Earn some money while having fun. My two cents.

    • davemackey says:

      Bill – Thanks! I have been working on turning a contemporary a few favored classics who I think have more to say to our times than I do…but also have a book or two waiting in the wings. One I’ll be co-authoring with a longtime mentor, the other the first in a series of commentaries…The commentaries I have been working on in fits and starts for years, but, Lord willing, I’ll have something ready for publication within the year.

      Good news is, I do earn a little money while having fun. 🙂 The ads on this site and the links to various books all derive revenue for me. Its pocket change – but still something!

  2. Alex Digman says:

    Dave, I always enjoy your blog. I think it’s the care and intentionality of your effort that comes through and inspires me. Here is a brief response to the above:

    Last Christmas my wife and I experienced a miscarriage. The experience was wretched and nonsensical. It was the kind of event that leads the mind to Theodicy (the problem of evil) and demands a solution. Academic arguments pale in the face of my wife mourning the death of a child she never met.

    I cannot redefine evil to solve the problem. A miscarriage is flagrant suffering. I can provide explanations, like perhaps God is teaching, but the result is always, “This is too harsh. This is not loving instruction.” I cannot redefine God either. I am suspended in the middle of the Theodicy. Its resolution is paramount, and utterly impossible. I am walking contradiction. I want an explanation that doesn’t exist.

    And then I received a little note. In it, the note said, “It hurts. God walks with you.” God walks with me? The threat of Theodicy is that we conclude that God is a cosmic asshole. “God walks with you.” Assholes inflict pain on others, but not themselves. We cannot conclude that God is an asshole. Yes, it is important that God became Man, and dwelt among us. So he knew our suffering viscerally, and knows our suffering memorially.

    No, that last is wrong. “God walks with you.” God still knows our pain viscerally. As He breaks our bones, He breaks His own bones. God ordains suffering. But when He ordains it, He destines Himself to suffer alongside us. It doesn’t hurt less, but it means that God is not an asshole.

    So what remains is why God ordains suffering. This is the heart of Theodicy, and the part that is left up to conjecture. Here is my conjecture:
    Suffering always has meaning, but that meaning should never be imposed from without, and it may never be expressed, either. The meaning of our miscarriage may be nothing more than that I would be the person writing this right now. Sometimes, it seems clear that suffering is the product of God choosing to never impose upon our free will. That seems to be the case for all human-instigated suffering, like abusing children. On the other hand, there is suffering that seems due to nothing at all human, like having a miscarriage or losing everything in a tsunami. Sin in a general sense may be the answer, but it is not the immediate causative account. Sure the world has some independence from its Creator, and this brings chaos into the world, but that doesn’t answer why this couple, why this house, why this town?

    I don’t have an answer to those questions. “It hurts. God walks with you.” It doesn’t resolve Theodicy. Theodicy can’t be resolved. But, as you put it, we can float in it awhile.

    • davemackey says:

      Alex,
      First let me say that my heart goes out to you and your wife for the loss you have suffered. Early in Charity and I’s marriage, Charity became pregnant with twins but miscarried. As you note, there is nothing to resolve the suffering we are “suspended in the middle of the Theodicy” as you so powerfully picture it.
      For whatever it is worth, I found some small amount of comfort in visualizing my children with my Savior. To think of them as perfect and whole and happy. I do not believe they are gone forever, but that they continue on, in fact have experienced the fullness of life before I have had the opportunity.
      At the same time, I don’t mean to minimize your suffering – I know that such visualization for me is but paltry comfort to the ongoing loss one feels. Perhaps what I have said here will sound crass and insensitive, surely anything else I might attempt to say would only be such, so I will end b/c I cannot answer or cure your suffering.

      • Alex Digman says:

        Oh, I would say for me that event is resolved. What I was sharing was the productive value of not solving the problem of evil. Note what it did to me. It drove me to walk with my God. It doesn’t always, but I think often it does. This kind of thing is settled in experience, even when reason can never settle it.

  3. Evan says:

    Dave, nice post. I have moved away from trying to explain evil because Scripture doesn’t appear to answer why it exists just what God will do about it. We often don’t think of this, but the incarnation of the Word is a type of suffering due to kenosis. Thus, Christ experienced a type of suffering his entire time on earth until it reached its climax in his death. Fortunately, due to the resurrection, Paul can say our suffering presently cannot be compared to our future glory.

    • davemackey says:

      Thanks Evan. I agree that the kenosis involved Christ’s suffering, though I think I am going a little beyond that in my post – I would suggest that God suffered not only through the kenosis but also suffers throughout time in His empathy with humanity. If God only suffered in the kenosis, that would still provide me with an adequate emotional answer to the issue of evil, but we see God expressing emotion throughout Scripture and as such, I’d posit that He continues to suffer with us – a choice He makes rather than an essential of His existence.

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