Doubt Month: The Problem of Evil

January 6, 2010

Did you know there are “factual errors” in your Bible?

That’s what Dr. Bart Ehrman says, author of “Jesus Interrupted.”  His book is all about the completely random, human circumstances that formed the Bible we know today.

While I was perusing the bookstore this week, I spent some time with the book.  It seemed like a good idea, this being unofficially “Doubt Month” here at the blog.  I especially concentrated on the last chapter, titled “Is Faith Possible.”

What surprised me was his account of becoming an agnostic (not an atheist.)  He actually said that nothing in the whole book was new information to him, or to the “academic” world, and none of it had to do with his loss of faith.  He felt disenchanted with the Bible long ago, but his becoming an agnostic boiled down to one thing…

Evil: pain, suffering, injustice, bad stuff.

This certainly intelligent guy lost his faith over the same worn out stumbling block that has tripped thousands of minds before his.  How could a perfectly loving God allow all the suffering and evil and pain in the world we see?  Answer: there is no perfectly loving God.

That got me thinking.  How do I justify it?  How do I look at our crappy world, supposedly the very evidence of our wonderful Creator, and actually give Him credit and praise for it?  I’ve struggled with that before.  Maybe you’ve struggled with the same thing.  Maybe it’s caused you to have doubts or a crisis of faith.

Well I finally used my brilliant mind and came up with a couple of responses that I hope are helpful, if you are struggling with this. 

First, I’d ask Bart, “Can I call you Bart?”  Then if he said yes, I’d say, “Bart, as a fellow human being and steward of this world, how much suffering and evil and pain have you allowed to exist in this world?  How have you acted to ease the strife of your fellow man?  How much of the proceeds of your book are going to save the people that God refuses to?”

Really, why is it on God to solve my every problem?  We assume if something’s wrong, someone else should take care of it.  And if you can’t find someone to help you, the government should fix it.  And if the government is too far in debt to handle it, then God should solve it.  That’s what we pay Him 2.5% of our paychecks every Sunday to do!

On the flip side, think about this: the last century saw the rise of more humanitarian organizations than at any other time in history.  There is more human power (and just as important,) more money available to allieviate suffering in the world than ever before.  If you’re one to give God credit for moving human hearts and checkbooks, it sounds like God’s been working his holy butt off, thank you.

Second, I’d say, “Bart, while you’re pondering that first question, let me buy you another beer because I can tell you’ve had a hard day.  Now think about this.  It’s obvious that God allows evil and pain and suffering.  He even allowed Himself to be affected by it.  If he is so good, then it would seem He suffers everyday for His creation.  But isn’t it quite obvious that although God allows suffering, it is people who cause the most suffering?”

Seriously, if we were keeping score on who causes suffering in the world, we’d have the lead on God by, like, a million points.  When it comes to causing pain, God’s so 2000-and-late.

Okay, so God creates a category 5 hurricane, which we called Katrina.  That’s pretty big, and God would be responsible for that storm and the suffering it caused.  As it turns out, humans were only responsible for everything else.  It was human laziness, greed, and outright stupidity that insufficiently built the city below sea level and ignored the scientifically proven need for more water pumps.  It was human idiocy that made such an inept response after the storm.  And it was human arrogance that caused all those people to stay in their homes and watch the weather forecasters tell them what was going to happen days in advance.

Kind of makes the hurricane itself seem like not that big of a deal.  In fact, when we talked about hurricane Katrina in the days afterward, we didn’t blame God.  We blamed George W. Bush (even though we should’ve been blaming the Mayor of Crybaby Town, Ray Nagin.)

The more I’ve studied human history (which has been a lot), the more I’ve realized that we have no one but ourselves to blame.  And yes, God allows us to do it all to ourselves, because He hopes one day, we’ll choose better.  Seems kind of naive and idealistic of an all-knowing God, I know.  But maybe He knows something I don’t.  In the meantime, I think He plans to bring justice to the people who got the short end when He sorts it all out.

The real “problem of evil” is that God hasn’t acted as we would in His place.  If I were God, if I had the power to control everyone, I’d do it.  I’d make sure the humans were put in their place and there would be hell to pay if they screwed up.  Isn’t that what most anyone tries to do when they find themselves “in charge?”  That’s just not God’s game.
Well that’s just me.  My answers may not be enough for you.  What do you think?  I’d be happy to continue this conversation, so let’s go.  Have you ever struggled with the “problem of evil?”  How have you dealt with it?  Are you still struggling with it?

We’re going to have something super fun on Friday.  You won’t want to miss it.  I met a blog hero of mine a while ago, and you’ll get to read all about it.  I’m giddy with anticipation!