Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Problem of Evil

One of my favorite authors is Dr. Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College and a prolific writer. In one of his essays, titled “The Problem of Evil,” he says, “More people have abandoned their faith because of the problem of evil than for any other reason. It is certainly the greatest test of faith, the greatest temptation to unbelief….The problem can be stated very simply: If God is so good, why is his world so bad?.…Why do bad things happen to good people?”

I’m sure we all know of people who had some degree of faith — at least it never dawned on them to become hardcore atheists — and after experiencing a terrible tragedy they did indeed lose their faith completely.

Years ago a friend told me about one of his coworkers, a faithful man who went to church every Sunday. Then the man’s teenage son was killed in a car accident. From that moment on, the man never stepped inside a church again, and he regularly would look up, shake his fist at the sky, and yell to God, “I hate you!”

When my friend tried to talk to his distraught coworker, he discovered this heart-broken man no longer believed that God existed, and at the same time he was extremely angry at God for not existing.

So, it’s a very crucial question: If God is so good, why does He allow terrible things to happen to people? Why does He allow evil to flourish in this world?

Dr. Kreeft states that “evil is not a thing, an entity, a being. All beings are either the Creator or creatures created by the Creator….If evil is a thing, then God is the creator of evil, and he is to blame for its existence.”
Kreeft goes on to explain, “No, evil is not a thing but a wrong choice, or the damage done by a wrong choice. Evil is no more a positive thing than blindness is….the origin of evil is not the Creator but the creature’s freely choosing sin and selfishness. Take away all sin and selfishness and you would have heaven on earth.” 

Many people think that if God exists, He is very distant and uncaring. After all, He allows terrible things to happen to us, and He doesn’t really seem to do anything about it.

That’s simply not true, according to Kreeft. “We do not worship a deistic God,” he writes, “an absentee landlord who ignores his slum; we worship a garbageman God who came right down into our worst garbage to clean it up. How do we get God off the hook for allowing evil? God is not off the hook; God IS the hook. That’s the point of a crucifix. The Cross is God’s part of the practical solution to evil.”

The key to this vexing issue is that this world is not the only world we will experience. If our earthly existence was all there is — if we cease to exist at the moment of death — then our lives are indeed a tragedy, no matter how things turn out. We either die young, say, from a drug overdose or car accident; or we die in middle-age from a heart attack or cancer; or we die at very old age, frail and alone in a nursing home. Whichever way it occurs, it’s still a tragic end, IF there is no other world to experience.

As St. Paul wrote, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all” (1 Cor 15:19).
If our earthly existence is all there is, then nothing is meaningful. There will be no ultimate joy or justice. None of the wrongs will ever be made right. Evil flourishes and death eventually conquers all. Life is a one-act play, and it is a tragedy.

However, this world is not all there is. Act One tells the story of how everything went wrong. But in Act Two, the Creator Himself takes on human flesh and shows us there is a way out of this mess. Finally, in Act Three, everything is resolved in the joys of Heaven.
The problem of evil is certainly a difficult one. But it doesn’t prove that God is not real. Instead, it gives God the opportunity to do something wonderful, a process that began 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, and continues to this very day. 

Don’t despair. In the end, God will triumph. And He longs for us to be with Him when it happens.

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