The Problem of God & Evil

There's this term that gets employed quite a bit in the study of theology: a term that focuses on the big questions that must be answered about God.  

The term is theodicy, and it's a big umbrella under which is perhaps one of the most challenging God questions that any of us have: 

Why does God let evil happen in the world?

I have often tried to answer this particular question with an argument about free will, which goes something like this: 

Because God loves completely and without conditions, there can be no coercion of our love for God on God's part.  God won't force us to love God.  So, this freedom to choose means that we are also free to choose, and this freedom has both benefits and consequences depending on our choices.  Sometimes, the choices of ourselves and others cause pain and destruction.  Sometimes, the freedom of all of Creation to evolve, move, and act without coercion can mean tragedies, and disasters.  But God never forces the choice to love because to do so would deny God's very essence, which God cannot do. 

I still think this is a pretty good answer to the theodicy question about God allowing evil, but I may have found a better one that I need to reflect upon a bit. 

I recently read this fantastic quote by Dorothy L. Sayers, who framed this theodicy question within the framework of the Resurrection: 

What do we find God "doing about" this business of sin and evil?... God did not abolish the fact of evil; [God] transformed it.  [God] did not stop the Crucifixion; [God] rose from the dead. 

There's so much awesome in this quote that I hardly know where to start.  But I also realize that providing an explanation is a bit limiting. There are times, though, when maybe an explanation isn't what we need.  

Let me explain... (Ha! See what I did there?)

Sayers looks past all of the explanations, which are all just endless speculation anyway, and focuses on how God restores and resurrects.  

In her approach, Sayers wastes no time figuring out God and the problem of evil.  Instead, she focuses on the reality that bad things happen, and God transforms them.  

Not only that, but God transforms evil, according to Sayers. 

Sayers's reason for saying this seemingly impossible statement comes from the Resurrection.  Jesus did not resist the Cross.  He endured the worst that the world had to offer and overcame it. 

So, what do we do with all of this theological stuff?  How does it make us feel any better when we look out into the world, and it often feels like evil is having a heyday? 

Well, for starters, we can know that God doesn't cause all things, but God is present in all things. Because of this, we know that God is not content with letting the ruin left behind by evil remain ruined forever. 

God takes what is left for dead and brings it back to life.  That's what God does. 

Even though there might be things going on in our lives and in the world that we have a hard time accepting without a measure of bitterness, we can rest in the knowledge that God will one day get what God wants, and it will be made new. 

This shift in our thinking can bring us some much-needed peace if we are willing to trust that it is so. 

We also have to sometimes surrender our need for immediacy. God is playing the long game, and the transformation of evil, brokenness, and death doesn't happen overnight.  

But if we are willing to accept that there is something greater going on in the world, and that God is slowly but surely permeating the Universe with God's peace and purpose, we can stop trying to explain everything and simply rest in the knowledge that whatever is wrong, won't stay that way forever. 

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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