Yesterday, I spoke of the Blog for WWGHA totally messing up Christian doctrine. Mere rabbit trails compared to what the author really wants us to answer for him.
Thomas is asking for a theodicy that makes sense of the events of the last few years:
How can anyone love a “God” who allows hundreds of thousands of people to die in a tsunami, or dozens of people to get shot innocently in a movie theater? What parent would allow you siblings to die while they looked on laughing.
Semantically, Thomas is actually asking for a personal reason Christians can love a God that passively allows tragedy to occur. But I’m going to interpret him charitably here, assuming Thomas is asking for a theodicy: a logically argued resolution to the problem of evil in a world run by an omnipotent, omniscient God who could end evil but doesn’t.
Infinite wisdom, as the author of the target piece argues, isn’t really all that satisfying. Neither is the related “mystery” of God.
I’ve never really been that big a fan of the “free will defense,” since the Bible shows God quashing free will. However, the instances of God upholding free will vastly outnumber the instances of him preventing sin. So I think that free will, while not the answer, is a component of the bigger picture.
Greater good isn’t all that great by itself. Strobel’s Case for Faith has a great analogy about a bear trap. Suppose a bear is caught in a trap and you decide to free it. You can’t possibly do so without causing the animal more pain than he’s in, and there’s no possible way to explain to the animal that his increased pain will actually lead to total freedom. And so he’ll lash out at you while you try to free him in a misplaced effort to defend himself.
We lash out at God for people dying in tsunamis and for innocents getting shot in a movie theater. But what if all this is just part of the ultimate plan designed to free us from this bear trap? What if the pains we see and the suffering we endure are really leading up to the day when none of this pain and strife will be necessary? When the metaphorical hunter finally releases our leg and we can scamper pain-free into the woods?
I don’t think it’s the whole picture, but I think that the greater good defense has some merit to it.
This means I see merit to both free will and the greater good. And I think a synthesis of the two is the answer to all questions related to theodicy. Which leads me toward something I might call the Education Defense for Evil — it is necessary to have evil in this world to reveal God’s full character (wrath, love, and mercy), bring full glory to God at the culmination of history, and to reveal our own nature.
Evil serves a purpose (greater good) without being God’s purpose (free will).
I confess that while I’ve thought about this for a while now, I have little in the way of previous theodicy by any great thinker to back it up. The idea needs more development, but it is something I foresee I will be writing and researching more in the future. This seemed as good a time as any to introduce it, since I could scarcely criticize Thomas from WWGHA in the previous post without actually answering the one conundrum that was worthwhile.