Monday, March 14, 2011

A Difficult Question


The evil of the world is a predicament that is frequently, and rightly, brought before the church. "If God is as good as you claim He is, why does He allow there to be so much suffering in the world? Why does He allow the innocent to die? Why does He permit such evil?" Our world is in a sad state of affairs -- continually tumultuous, ever sorrowful, its history wrought in the fires of war and the cold winds of death. "How could a loving God permit such misery amongst those He loves?"

There is always some response to this: "Man is depraved," "We brought it on ourselves," "We turned from God, and these are the consequences." All these responses are Scripturally sound and to some degree make logical sense; however, they do nothing to answer the question, they are simply a restatement of the premise. Evil exists because the world is full of evil. If a child were to ask you why it was dark, you would hardly respond, "because dark is what it is."

We live in a world defined by contrasts -- by differences in shape and shade we can determine objects from one another, we know each other by our differences. If we were the same, we would lose all of our sense of identity, because there would be nothing to distinguish one human from another. What a bland and boring world that would be... perhaps even unsurvivable. We could not communicate, we could not befriend anyone, we could not love. In a similar manner, the contrast between light and darkness, or between good and evil, define the world we live in. Could we know joy if we never knew sadness? Could we appreciate light if we had never been in darkness? Would we know to revel in the cool dew of the morning if we knew not the scorching heat of the day?

No man is capable of truly appreciating anything if he has never known otherwise... without betrayal we could not revel in friendship, without the evidences of selfishness and greed, we could not understand love and generosity. We created beings are not created with all expansive knowledge -- instead, we are made to grow, learn, and be fascinated by the world around us; our existence is to discover, to reason, and to appreciate all that is given to us. Accomplishment is only made sweeter by the toils along the way, nothing brings satisfaction like a goal that is striven for and earned.

This may be a bit scatterbrained and sort of a roundabout way of reaching the point -- but the point is a singular one. In order to learn, we must be born in ignorance; in order to love, we must understand the need for it; in order to cherish life, we must understand that some day we die. Without an alternative, there is no appreciation of good. "Why didn't God do it differently then? Why couldn't He make everything perfect, but alter the rules so that things wouldn't be so bland as you claim? What if He orchestrated life better?" These, now, are simply questions that are unanswerable. Life exists as we know it, and no other way. No amount of questioning can alter the existence of the universe, so what comes of "What if"ing except to question your way to utter dismay with things as they are?

Obviously I'm not undermining the nature of questioning, but unlike the common cliche, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Questioning the nature of things is an excellent practice, it brings us knowledge and understanding... but questioning how they might have been if they weren't as they are is a hopeless practice -- for the mind can always imagine what it expects would be a better method of doing things, or a better manner of living than it was dealt. All this line of questioning does is make one despondent, no satisfaction or deeper knowledge can ever come from it. Not all questions are worth being asked.

The state of the world is what it is, and it is our call to explore and understand it, to better each other and the world alongside us. We're given what we need, and in amounts to make it worthwhile and appreciable. Friends may be scarce, but scarcity does nothing more than make those few ever more priceless. Life may be short, but its brevity gives us cause to press toward a goal, to accomplish something within its bounds. Love may seem difficult or fleeting, but that gives us all the more reason to pursue it with dedication and treasure its every aspect. We are small and seemingly insignificant in this life, but we are in it together, alongside those who we love, and who care for us. No one is hopeless, and no one dies alone.