The Problem of Pain and Evil
In light of today’s tragic events, I want to take the opportunity to start a discussion on the problem of Pain and Evil in our world. As I was preparing to write this post I came across this brilliant answer to these questions from Dr. Ravi Zacharias. RZ is one of my favorite speakers of all time. He is an apologist who travels the world defending the Christian faith in secular forums. If anyone is well acquainted with the question and capable of giving an answer, it is RZ.
Here is the video:
There are a few quick points I want to draw out of his answer to the question.
“The question does not dislodge God, if anything it proves that God actually exists – otherwise value and the question disintegrates. You don’t ask the question unless you believe in an absolute moral law and you don’t believe in an absolute moral law unless there is an absolute moral law giver. So the question is with God in the paradigm not outside the paradigm.”
The question itself, how can a good God allow Pain and evil, is one that starts from a way of thinking (paradigm) that believes in the existence of God.
“The ultimate ethic in life is love, that is the supreme ethic. There is no ethic more supreme than love. But, necessary to love is the component of the will. You cannot have love without the freedom to not love. Otherwise you have conformity, compliance, you really don’t have love. So if love is a supreme ethic and the freedom of will is indispensable to love, and the question must keep God in the paradigm…
You cannot have love without the option to choose not to love. You cannot have real love unless it’s possible for the person to choose not to love you. So, in order for God to have a creation that truly loves Him, He had to give that creation the ability to choose not to love Him.
Then what I would say is the greatest gift of God is the gift of the freedom of our will in order that we can love. But with the greatest gift comes the greatest possible calamity, when you violate that love the entailments actually follow. So both good is real and evil is real. And the human heart must be able to recognize this and choose what is good. Otherwise, you live in a world of non-concrete expressions where you can choose bad if there were no consequences.
With the greatest gift comes the greatest calamity. With something that has such potential for true love, there is also the potential for the opposite – true evil. This is the problem of evil. God didn’t want or need to create a people of robots who must follow and have no choice. He wanted to create a people who, when they chose the right love, would be a people who truly love God.
In the supreme effort of God to bring you and me to himself, he gives us the example of love. He has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.
God has made us for himself, and we are not at rest until we find Him. Another way of saying this might be to say, that since God made us for himself but gave us the option to choose, we are at odds or war with God who is good until we do choose Him and His ways.
What is good? Every time we raise the problem of evil it is either raised by a person or about persons…Which means personhood is indispensable to the question. Therefore, the assumption is that the intrinsic value is not in the question but in the personhood. How can a person be of intrinsic value if time plus matter plus chance has been the cause of that person, it’s nothing more than chemistry in motion. The only way the person can be of value is if the person is the creation of somebody with infinite and intrinsic worth which means it’s God himself that needs to be able to justify our question.
The fact that we look at what other people do to other innocent people as wrong and evil – we are stating that every person has value and worth. Which begs the question, where does a person’s value come from. If they are the by-product of goo, where is the value in that? If they are the planned creation of a God who is infinite in worth, then there is value because we were created by a worthy God.
So when we talk about evil we need to realize that we are the point of God’s creation…and this is to build worth and value.
In talking about evil, it leads us to God. Just in asking the question, we argue for the existence of God because we believe that there must be worth to the people who have been harmed. In order to have a true love, God had to allow for the possibility of the opposite. It doesn’t make God evil. It doesn’t make evil any easier to deal with. In some ways, it makes it harder to deal with because we believe there is value in every life that is taken.
When you are at war with God, the things we call evil become harder to see. This is why there can be such great evil in the world. The more evil a person becomes, the further down the hole they fall, the farther they get from the truth. And as they get farther from the truth, what seems abhor able to us, seems common place and even good to them.
“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Feel free to chime in on this discussion. What I hope to do is to give an answer to those who are asking questions as a result of what happened today in Boston. Why do people do evil things? Because they are at war with a good God. And when you are a war with good, evil will abound.