For a very long time, I have struggled with the reality of sin and evil in the world. Scholars of philosophy call this struggle the quest for a “theodicy” – otherwise known as “the problem of evil.”
I am afraid we will all be totally frustrated if we simply see evil as a “problem” – likened to a mathematical or other problem that works to a solution.
The “problem” as most see it, stems from the seeming contradiction that one of God’s properties is to be “all good.” The Muslim name for God in this characteristic is “The Beneficent One.” Yes. God is “The Beneficent One” – the power beyond human nature that embodies all that is good in the universe. Our small minds, however, cannot hold together the notion of an all-good God and one that would create a universe that contains evil and the possibility of sin, that is, our direct participation in that evil.
In our studies, we are told that the point of reconciliation is in human freedom – that in order to be free, to be able to choose, we need real options, real choices. In other words, in order to be able to love God, we must be able to choose not to love God. While that satisfies on one level, it still does not help to fully reconcile the idea that God (The All Powerful One) could not create us with a freedom capable of choosing only the good! I guess that is relegated to the category of the same question which asks: Can God (the all powerful) create a stone too heavy for God to lift?
What this all does for me is point me away from the feeble attempts of my mind to comprehend what is in the end incomprehensible (God) and grow in my appreciation of “mystery” (something that we seem to be able to know but which defies explanation). Once I engage that awesome element of our knowledge, I am able to sing once more, as the Church has for centuries in the Easter Proclamation, “o felix culpa” – “o happy fault, the necessary sin of Adam, that merited for us so great a Redeemer!”
In the end, I don’t need to understand how and why evil came into the world, or why a most beneficent God permits it to exist, all I need to know is that the same God has made it right, by sending us the Son, our Redeemer, to speak to us of a love so great that the Son would freely lay down his mortal life, so great a love.
Thus, even in the face of any evil, even evil that evokes visceral horror, I can stand confident that it need not triumph for we have the promise of this same God, that no evil is stronger than the love of God for God’s own creation. Our revulsion at such horrendous events is the marker that we, made in the image and likeness of this beneficent God, are not formed from evil stuff. Rather, we are formed from God’s own life. We need only let that life emerge in great love – even if it means laying down our lives for our friends.
The greater temptation, then, is to disbelieve this good news and refuse to accept that our innate goodness and the goodness of others flows from the creative will of God. When we do this, we insist that we must do something else to become like God or become valuable in God’s eyes. It is in this that we begin to sin.
— read Genesis 3
Source: Rector’s Blog