In theology and Christian apologetics, one of the most difficult issues to handle is the subtopic of Theodicy – that is, defending the character of God in light of the permeation of evil we observe in the world all around us. This is sometimes, and more popularly, characterized as the "Problem of Evil.”
The Scottish philosopher and skeptic David Hume constructed the argument this way: "Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"
This syllogistic form of argumentation was once believed to spell the demise of the God described in the scriptures. But not quite so fast.
If we take the given three propositions...
God is good.
God is all-powerful (omnipotent)
Evil exists (happens)
But then insert a fourth term as a viable possibility…
That God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists or he allows, known at least to himself.
Now we no longer have a potential contradiction. We have a rational, logical solution to the Problem of Evil. God is neither impotent nor malevolent. Still, an answer that can satisfy the inquiry of the mind does not always quench the thirsty cries of the heart.
This is because, as every apologist knows and understands, the Problem of Evil has two components, a logical side and an emotional side. The real problem is not logical in nature, but rather psychological or emotional. That is, we do not have a certain answer. And it is this emotional aspect that we must contend with, wearing silk gloves.
Christian apologist William Lane Craig frequently debates atheists. He is often asked what could make him disavow God? Craig concedes that if an incident such as his wife suddenly being diagnosed with terminal cancer occurs, he has no way of knowing whether that could destroy his faith since it hasn’t happened. Craig then responds that the wrong question has been asked. The correct question should be not would it destroy my faith, but should it destroy my faith.
In should be noted that most of us will face the death of a spouse or close family member sometime in our lives. For myself that tragedy has already occurred, in both a sudden and a traumatic way. So, for myself, I have already faced in reality what Dr.Craig confronted as a hypothetical challenge. So far, I have come out with my faith in God intact.
I want to share a couple thoughts on how I’ve dealt with the emotional side of the Problem of Evil issue. First and foremost, my faith tradition teaches that when a loved one dies as a believer, they are in the love, rest, and comfort of God. Here the rubber meets the road concerning our trust in God. While I feel the heartache of lost fellowship, experience, and companionship of my late wife, I recognize God is the better caretaker of her being than I could ever be.
Secondly, as I go about my daily life, needing to do many of the things she once did, I think of myself as standing on her shoulders. I may not always be as competent, but nevertheless, I feel as purposeful. I have the ability to carry on her objectives.
On the philosophical side, I recall a habit of viewing obituaries in the local paper. I would read columns of many people living into their 90’s, living long and fulfilling lives, but then would come across someone cut down in the summer of life, perhaps passing from a terminal illness in their 40’s. Worse yet, the column of a child dying in infancy.
At that point I had an epiphany. I recognized that for the survivors of the people who died young, they were all pondering how God could have allowed this to happen. They were struggling with the sudden loss of a loved one, needing comfort. I then reasoned that if I were genuinely an honest skeptic, that contemplation should have given me cause to doubt the goodness of God, long before tragedy appeared on my doorstep. I recognized it would be disingenuous to blame God when tragedy stuck at me but be indifferent when it impacted someone I didn’t know.
Finally, my wife emphasized to me often that she was ready to go if it came to that. She told me that if anything happened to her, she would never begrudge me for searching for someone to love again.
With that in mind, I have soldiered through this difficulty, with periodic weak moments, yet with a sense of resolve. I now have the benefit of experience that can be used to help others.© Robert Meyer
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