The God I Don’t Understand 3: Evil
The problem of evil is a problem for Christians at every level since they believe in a good all-powerful God.
In one hugely important sense there is no mystery here at all. Genesis’ diagnosis is unvarnished; human sin, either directly or indirectly, is to blame for the vast amount of evil, suffering and pain that disfigure our world.
Yet the human fall is a decision to become complicit with an already existant force of evil. And, as Wright puts it, it when we ask the question ‘Where does evil come from?’ we enter the arena of mystery. While the entry of evil into human experience is described at the Fall, where that evil comes from is left unexplained.
- It is not of God – evil is not part of who God is
- It is not of the human creation which is declared good
As Christians have long done, Wright traces its origin to the serpent / the Devil / the fallen angel – linking texts like Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4 and Rev 12:7-9.
But to ask further where did this evil come from and how did it come into existence is to be confronted by silence. The Bible simply does not say.
Wright agues this is a good thing. Evil is beyond rational explanation. It does not ‘belong’, it cannot be understood, only resisted. There is a sense here that to look for the ‘sense’ in experiences of suffering and evil is to be met with silence rather than a comforting explanation.
I’m reminded here of what John Sanders the Open Theist said about so much human suffering being ‘pointless evil’, out of God’s purpose or foreknowledge. Now I’m not saying Wright and Sanders are saying the same thing! They are not. But there is some overlap here in that they are both saying, for very different reasons, that we may look in vain for ‘answers’ or ‘purpose’ in suffering and evil.
What do you make of this? In our own experience, and in caring for others, should we try to discern purpose and meaning for why God allows it to happen? Some Christians seem to find this necessary in order to deal with suffering. In pastoral care, this theology can lead to the sufferer being told God has willed it for some specific reason. The trouble is, how do we know this? It is purely subjective speculation and tends to come close to making God the author of evil.
Admitting that we can’t discern purpose, Wright admits, is hard to deal with. The focus of Scripture is what God has done and is doing to overcome and finally defeat evil, rather than offer philosophical explanations of where it came from. Yet saying this does not mean we accept evil or lamely accept it. No, rather we lament, cry out, we long for a better day. And this brings us to the next chapter …