“Give me a God I can Understand!”
We have been considering the question of evil the light of the great theodicy question that confronts the Christian gospel – why does an omnipotent God of eternal love permit the existence of evil?
Christians believe that creation is good, was created good and that evil emerged from it, rather than being part of God’s nature. This is a very important distinguishing feature of Judaism And Christianity, who do not permit the possibility that another god exists, the one responsible for all the bad stuff (a view we call “dualism”). As I have argued, this leaves with a need to look for purpose it the way that God and reality seem to be, warts and all.
This requires us to eventually accept a God of mystery. I was reminded of this listening to a sermon this Sunday about the 10 Commandments and the incident of the Golden Calf. The people of Israel cried out for a God they could understand, a God they could touch, a God they could appease and manipulate in the way that everybody else did. The result was not God at all, but a golden idol, the very opposite of what the commandments contained, literally carried under Moses tired arms as he descended the mountain (Exodus 20 and 21).
The problem of evil illustrates for me that we do not have a God we can fully understand. I have tried to show that we must accept that God created a universe which includes stuff we don’t like, and created or allowed the possibility that evil would emerge from His creation. I will go on to explore why this might be, but without ever pretend that I have the full answer. But I thought I’d like to back up my assertion with something biblical. The Bible contains much that suggests that all reality comes from him, and is sustained and governed by him. The clearest passage I can find is this one from Isaiah, which insists, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”
I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal* and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:5-7
(* “Weal” = happiness or prosperity.)
There is a danger that we create a theodicy or an explanation for evil that is nothing more than preference doctrine, that is the sort of thing we want to believe because it avoids questions we would prefer not to ask. On toughquestions.org we are saying that these questions are allowed, and the God we seek is not a simple answer to any of them. More than anyone whoever lived, Job perhaps has justification for asking God, “Why do these things happen ?” After much wrangling God answers in Job 38-40 along these lines :
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” Job 38:1-5
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” is a rhetorical question that actually says, these things are not for you to fully understand. God asks us, will we love Him and trust him, even when we do not understand. So before we embark on addressing the “why” questions, I think we need to accept the fact that reality is that it s and there may be a purpose in it, as opposed to the view that it’s all a ghastly mistake and God is currently operating Plan B. I would seriously counsel, be heard the God you think you understand and beware the theologies of those that make him just like us. He is not.