Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good God Evil World

"Why does God allow people to starve to death," asked the young man staying with me, "or let little children suffer? How can a loving God allow all these evil things?"

We had been talking about this blog and I had made a comment that he found interesting. I said that most of the major questions that people ask, those that are often seen as the eternal questions, are ones that I found satisfactory answers to many years ago. I said that I hadn't thought of them as questions for 20 or 30 years.

"Does God exist?" Yes. Next?

"Is there life after death?" Of course. Any others?

"What is the purpose of life?" To lend our share to the advancement of civilization, no matter how small that share may be.

These are not questions that keep me up at night. In fact, it has been so long since I have even thought about them that I cannot even recall what the questions were in the first place. And that, dear Reader, is why I keep asking for your advice about what topics to address.

So my friend asked his heartfelt question, the one you read at the beginning of this article. The one that is often stated, "How can a good God create so much evil?"

To which I respond, "He didn't."

"What?" I hear you cry, and yes you read correctly. I do not believe that God created all the problems we have in the world. I truly and sincerely believe that we did.

My young friend asked me about how I can reconcile a good God with the reality of fetal alcohol syndrome. "It just doesn't seem fair. How can that poor child be allowed to suffer such hardships when I've had it all fairly easy? Most of us in North America have such an easy time in life compared to those millions of children who starve to death in Africa. It's just not fair."

We spoke at length, he and I, about this issue, and this is what we came to understand: he's right. It's not fair.

But we can't lay the blame at God's feet, so to speak. God, through His infinite love, has given us free will. What we do with it is up to us. We have, however, been cautioned about the consequences of our actions.

My friend asked me why God didn't tell the parents of the child with fetal alcohol syndrom not to drink, to which I pointed out, "He did."

In Proverbs 20:1, it says, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." In Romans 14:21, we read, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine". I do not even need to mention any other Scriptures, for we know that strong drink and getting drunk is condemned in them all.

The truth of the matter is that God warns us, He cautions us, but He cannot compel us. He has given us free will, and that means that we are free to make very bad choices, if we so desire. Like a loving father, God has warned us of all those things we need to be aware of, but He allows us to choose and decide and grow for ourselves.

Time for a quick aside: I was watching a movie the other day in which our hero was facing down a bad dude who had a knife at the throat of the wife of said hero. He wanted the hero to do something or other that wasn't a good thing to do. I don't really recall the details because it was all quite absurd. But I do remember the hero guy saying that he wouldn't do it, and the villain guy saying, "You're killing her." As if the hero was the one holding the knife and getting ready to cut her throat. Nope. I just don't buy that argument. The bad guy was the one doing the killing. End of story.

This movie reminded me so much of the arguments and anger I hear about God.

We choose to abuse the land through our various farming techniques. We multiply until there are so many people on the planet that we can't support them all. We pollute the water so that it is no longer safe to drink water from a river until it has been filtered. And then we blame God for the crop failures, the floods, and all the other disasters that strike.

Now please don't think I'm mean-hearted. I weep real tears when I read of my brothers and sisters who suffer under these trials. I do what I can to try and mitigate the suffering.

But I don't lay the blame falsely.

When an earthquake hit Haiti and all those poor people lost their homes, their livelihoods, or their lives, my heart broke for them. But let's face it, most of the suffering was imposed by us humans. By erecting buildings in an earthquake zone that didn't have the proper re-inforcement, it just made a bad situation worse. And we can't really lay the blame on any one person or people, for there is a whole history of colonization that evolved this culture that made these choices.

With the child who has fetal alcohol sydrome, yes the parents are the direct cause of it, but the time comes when the child has to make their own choices in life. The parents are suffering their own hell for their choices in life, but they should not be blamed for the choices that the child makes as they grow up.

What it comes down to is personal responsibility. We are responsible for our own actions. That is the long and short of it, as far as I can tell.

To the age-old question, "Did God create evil?" I respond, "No".

God did not create evil, any more than He created darkness, or cold. Darkness, as we all know, is merely the absence of light. Cold is the absence of heat. They are the zero-end of a line segment that is infinite in one direction. Similarly, evil is the absence of good.

This is, of course, not to say that an absence of good does not have an effect, for remember, you can die from an absence of heat. If you don't believe me, you should've been here in Winnipeg just last month.

No, we make our choices, and we have to live with the effects. God has warned us many times about the consequences of some of our actions, but we have generally ignored it. We seem to forget that choosing to do an action means that we accept to live with the consequences of it. Sometimes, though, those consequences hit us in the next world as we become aware of the true effect of those actions.

But the important thing to me is to not lay blame where it doesn't belong.

Last note: As I've said many times here, I warn my son not to touch the hot stove. If he chooses to touch it, and I'm not fast enough to stop him, his hand will burn. I won't punish him by burning his hand, for I love him, and his hand will already be burned. It is just the natural effect of that action. If he were to burn it so badly that he would lose the use of it, I would be very saddened, but I would not say, "Why did God do this to him?" If, ten years down the line, he were to ask me why this happened to him, I would tell him, honestly, that it was his own action that caused it, and I would express my sorrow.

Similarly, if he were to be hit by a car and lose the use of his legs, I would explain that it was not God who did this, but some driver who was probably not careful. I would offer what comfort I could, and encourage him to pray for the soul of the driver who would go through their own torment either here, or in the next world, knowing that their actions caused a child to lose the use of their legs.

I believe that it is very important to place responsibility in the right spot, and accept it when it is ours.

So if I've made any bozoid comments in this piece, they really are my fault. And I accept full responsibility.

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