Earlier today, a man on Facebook queried me as to why the Creator would allow evil to occur, if he is as good as we deem Him to be. If the great panorama of wars, murders, thefts, rapes, and the entire host of human-manufactured horrors, both great and small, occur under the watchful eye of a loving God, then how can we possibly conclude that He loves us and desires justice, let alone exists? In light of mankind's historical bloodbath, does this muted voice from the heavens translate either to a cosmic aloofness, or lead us to the conclusion of a divine culpability for our myriad pains and sufferings? For indeed, the mystery of suffering provides the greatest roadblock to faith; and to many it stands as the most serious indictment offered to savage the Christian God -- a Being, of whom it is written, cares for even the tiniest of sparrows?
This position would seem to reflect a certain double-mindedness, since the man's sincere but self-satisfied anti-theism is, on one hand, wedded to a confirmed state of denial about the very existence of God. And yet at the same instant, he is armed and ready to level his accusation as a means to somehow absolve or diminish Man's responsibility for his own choices and actions -- all the while kicking the bloody dagger to the foot of the Throne. "Where is the divine thunderbolt of Justice," he seemed to say? To demand "Justice Now" and imply that the fact of suffering and evil is therefore proof positive that there is no God, or that He is not great -- or that He is perhaps evil Himself, is a bold statement. Nevertheless, I believe that our agitated anti-theist was perhaps a tad forgetful of his own exhaustive catalogue of personal injustices, or he would not have opened the door to the Divine Entity for such an accelerated "squaring of the books." For if the Lord began allocating Instantaneous Justice as payment for our iniquities, why shouldn't He begin with our non-believing friend, or with us for that matter?
Having heard the non-believer's line of reasoning many times before, my query to him was directed towards the very value of justice itself. Why does it mean so much to us; especially since, by virtue of his materialist philosophy, we are the meaningless products of a deadened amoral cosmos that ultimately can promise us nothing, nor offer us any expectation of hope, consolation, purpose -- or that pesky quality of just desert that makes us feel so offended when we are deprived of its psychic warmth? Moreover, those indispensable ideas that we cherish and maintain concerning good and evil -- which are in essence descriptive measuring rods, must themselves rely upon an authoritative lodestone that is itself superior to human law and convention. What is this ever-abiding standard that informs us when we pass judgment on man's ethical systems, and why are these judgments more or less consistent with those niggling ideas of good or evil that are ensconced so deeply in the marrow of our minds? Indeed, what is it that enshrines the legitimacy of the Hebrew Decalogue over Nazi or Shar'ia justice, since all, to the confirmed relativist, are the considered products from mankind's moral-intellectual horizon? In short, are we not utilizing a greater standard, albeit hidden but of greater lasting importance, when we render our judgments of equity and fairness? Just why should we expect, along with the billions of our brethren interspersed throughout the islands of the earth, to be granted that elusive justice, unless its anticipation is interwoven in the very quintessence of our hungered souls?
Perhaps the existence of human evil is inextricably linked to a nature that is in essence free, yet twisted by sin. If God were to have withheld from us that priceless capacity for making the wrong choice, he would have had to deny us those discerning mental/moral qualities, that when rightly oriented, make existence as we know it so wonderful. A world comprised of pre-determined machines is ontologically worthless. Such a life is certainly not worth living and definitely not worth dying for -- since it would be bereft of what is beautiful and most preciously borne from the nature of God Himself. Could it not be that even with its mixture of fleeting joy, tragedy, and death, that very character of the world in which we live is the best possible He could have created -- given the formidable variables of freedom and sin? And given the realities of what we as a race were intended to be and what we have become through the exacted curse of our own hands, are not those unquenchable longings we feel for the good, the true, the beautiful, and yes, that elusive call to justice -- even when accompanied by those rank evils and sufferings, merely the stick-figure foreshadowings which herald our thirst for being's greatest awakening?
But this point would be lost upon our anti-theist, who is only instrumentally concerned with justice -- a justice framed only by the accusation that places God in the Dock as the world casts its own rancid incarnation of judgment upon His alleged motives: as lice would render their verdict upon a lion. If the Lord instantly struck down every evil that had ever proceeded from the blackened heart of men, then our anti-theist would have invariably turned the tables and accused Him of harboring a tyrannical heart -- that is, if our non-believing friend survived the utterance. In all truth, the anti-theist's indictment is as old as the Dream of Nimrod's Tower -- and just as desolate. God desires free moral creatures because he knows that man could never offer genuine love or enjoy the full measure of joy without the prerequisite of freedom: the necessary unconstrained condition for the highest apprehension of the Good Life -- and God had meditated on this long before the hearts of men were woven together in divine expectation.
God is all powerful, but He cannot accomplish what is logically impossible -- like devising the proverbial one ended stick. And since it is logically impossible for God to create beings who are both free and who must act solely from perfect love or altruism, it became necessary to plan for the contingency of evil -- and this ultimately is interwoven into the profound message of the cross, which will in the fullness of time make evil itself a byword that no man will ever again embrace.
That God does not render immediate justice to humanity as the just wages for our freely chosen evils does not mean that He has abandoned us to our calumnies or our wretchedness, for He is at this very minute preparing for either that judgment or that paradise which we shall all one day partake in. Nor does His silence make God complicit in our evil; because by granting us full moral autonomy, He has in reality turned over to us the "keys to the car"-- and hence, the full measure of responsibility for our actions. God can grant no greater gift to His creations than to imbue them with free moral agency, and this is what is spoken of when the scripture says "and He breathed into their nostrils the breath of life." Indeed, He gave to us what was most precious to Himself, viewed through His own infinite eyes.
As the inhabitants of the earth will one day viscerally and unmistakably come to terms with, God has not forsaken the earth so much as stood back as a wise Father and revealed to us, through our suicidal chain of troubles, wickedness, and sufferings, what the character of "freedom" unhinged from Man's rightful purpose looks like and invariably leads us to. We would do better to consider God's silence as a way to extend grace, mercy and the patient opportunity for humanity to come individually to their senses; and not interpret His longsuffering as blank apathy or a callous disinterest in our sufferings: the same sufferings He bore upon His own Person a billionfold. Heaven forbid that we should receive the full measure of the justice we firmly merit. Were it so, planet earth would be as devoid of life as the sterile countenance of Mars.