Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yet More on the Problem of Evil

Anglican priest Doug Chaplin responds to the "problem of evil" meme started by Sam Norton. As you can see, he has chosen a "freedom" theme as one response to the issue that comes close to what I have argued here. Here are some highlights:

simply don’t feel these are the right questions, and, interestingly, in the real world of suffering people, I rarely hear those questions asked. In my experience people are more likely to ask “Why am I (is he/she) suffering like this?” (with the clear implication that pain is related in some way to goodness or merit). The other question that seems to emerge is harder to express simply, but revolves around a search for meaning or purpose: “If the world’s like this, what’s the point of it all?”

My shortest answer is one I don’t normally articulate, which is “Shit happens”. (You can see why I don’t normally put it in these terms!) I tend to resist rather strongly the notion of a planned purposeful meaning for the many random events of our lives. I don’t believe God has a plan for us. I do think he has dreams and aspirations for us. (Yes, I know that’s hopelessly anthropomorphic.)

But it seems to me that the randomness of existence is the guarantor of human freedom. It is not that the events of our lives simply have meaning, but that we give our lives meaning. Believing in God is about believing both in the worthwhile nature of that meaning-giving activity, and in co-operating with the giver of meaning, so that the meaning we give within our lives finds its horizon against the meaning God is giving to creation. God has, if you like, created a space where he has benevolently chosen not to be omnipotent, so that others can share his meaning creating power, and learn what it is freely to relate in love. I assume (and to my philosophically untrained mind this assumption seems sound) that that kind of freedom is only possible through allowing randomness a significant role.

By and large, however, that kind of musing is not the most immediately useful. Finding ways to appropriately help people engage the story of Christ seems to me to work better. In the end, I continue to find it strange that those for whom the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the key to creating meaning in our lives, should ever let others get away with framing the question of theodicy in such abstract and deist terms.

Read it all here.

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