About a week ago I finished reading Annie Dillard’s book For the Time Being. It was an interesting work that was at the same time both interesting and confusing. It is not a book that states a clear purpose from the outset and you must somewhat figure out what she’s talking about on your own. The main thing I thought she was getting at was the existence of evil and suffering and how it can exist if there is a truly good and all-powerful God.
This topic is a fairly popular one. It is known as the “Problem of Evil” in philosophy. As I read through the book and thought about the topic, I can to a somewhat interesting bit of self-revelation. This issue is not a problem that I wrestle with that much. It is not that I don’t wonder why there is evil or suffering or that I don’t long for an existence that doesn’t have evil, suffering, and pain though. It is more the realization that the “Problem of Evil” is not so much a problem with evil as much as it is a problem with there being a good, all-powerful God. It boils down to a problem with God more than it is a problem that deals face to face with evil.
I guess that’s why I’ve never really wrestled with this issue. It is not that I do not see or experience evil or suffering, but it is the fact that just because you get rid of a good, all-powerful God; you don’t get rid of evil, suffering or pain. Yes I admit the answer of how the two mesh is not easy to understand, however someone can say that and say that they believe that human beings are really good deep down. How does one hold to that conclusion? Can one look at the news or, if we are fully honest, our own actions and thoughts and say that they are inherently good? I know I can’t.
It often seems that we want to have evil be an indictment against God, as some sort of proof that a good God can’t exist. However, if we get what we want in that line of argumentation, we still hold this indictment of evil and have eliminated God as a source of such a thing, unless we hold that God is not fully good. Admittedly, this doesn’t seem to be the position held by many people, even though it may appear to be more logical than throwing God out of the picture all together. There would probably be much more concern about appeasing God if one held the idea that He wasn’t fully good. So if evil eliminates the existence of God as many seem to contest where do we say evil comes from in that situation. Evil is still there and so to me the whole line of argument seems more than a little disingenuous.
I don’t claim to be approaching this philosophically with all the complex argumentation that philosophers get into. It just seems to me that the wrestling over evil is often to disprove God, while not really caring that evil still exists regardless. It often doesn’t seem we use evil as that same measuring stick against other ways of thinking like humanism, where humans are the highest good, or even evolutionary theory, where such concepts like evil and suffering really has no place. I can understand struggling with the suffering and evil that we all face, but whether or not one believes in the good, all-powerful God of the Bible or not evil is still there. Simply reducing evil as a proof against God just seems to be missing the point, but that could just be me.