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“The Triune God’s Answer to Evil” Part I

June 2, 2011

“The Triune God’s Answer to Evil: How Specific Christian Doctrines Offer a Satisfying Response”

 I.   Introduction

Though the problem of evil is not likely to be solved any time soon, as a Christian I would hope to find resources within the doctrines and teaching of Christianity in which to provide a satisfying response–at least for myself–to this seemingly impossible problem.  In the classical representation of this problem, we are not dealing with the God who most decisively reveals himself in Jesus Christ, but an abstract deity who is considered to be wholly good, all-powerful, and omniscient.  Of course, the God of Christian theism meets these qualifications, but is decisively more than the god of Classical theism.  So while the Christian theist should interact philosophically with the classical problem (or the logical problem), at the end of the day, the Christian will want to consider whether or not the Christian tradition specifically offers anything in its doctrines of God, Jesus, the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God, and.so forth that may explain why evil exists, or at the very least, what God intends to do about it.

I intend in what follows to explore several key doctrines that I consider helpful in offering a distinctly Christian response to the problem of evil.  My aim is not to try to solve the problem fully.  Indeed, I do not think it can be fully solved.  The very nature of evil, in my view, is something inexplicable–for it is something that should not be.  Existentially, that is why we respond to it the way we do.  Even the most sophisticated theological responses cannot help us with our “gut-reaction” that it should not be this way.  And yet, evil is here, in all its horror.  What in Christianity can account for why evil is here in the first place?  I turn to the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Fall for an answer to this first question.  God’s very nature as a triune community of everlasting love roots our understanding of God’s goals in creation; all that God does flows from his nature as the triune God.  When we understand God’s goals for creation, we may be able to fathom how the possibility of evil was metaphysically necessary in the first place.  We may be able to vaguely grasp the tragedy of a fallen creation (both angels and humans).

Of course, Christianity must do much more than explain how evil arrived in the first place; it must go on to declare what God has done, is doing, and will do to confront evil, bring justice, and finally defeat evil in the end.  I propose that the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Kingdom of God help show how God has not abandoned his creation to the chaos of evil, but specifically in Jesus Christ faced it head on.  The brevity of this essay will not allow for a comprehensive treatment of any one of these doctrines, let alone all of them.  I can only offer an abbreviated sketch for how they each provide what I consider to be a satisfying response to such an enigmatic problem.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2011 7:10

    going with the definition of evil as that which should not be, then your god falls neatly into the category of evil, as nothing should exist outside of nature or the orderliness of nature.

    It makes sense then that so much intolerance and violence arises from religions, which posits a peace leaning existance but does not tolerate other religions or people who do not accept any religions.

    True peace is not achieved through coerced conformity, the crusades failed, the witch trials failed, and the current thinking in America that to be a true American one must be a christian patriot, right or wrong, will ultimately fail.

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      June 5, 2011 12:57

      Random,

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 First, let me state where we are in agreement. I couldn’t agree more that “true peace is not achieved through coerced conformity.” That is religion, and it fails every time. Interestingly enough, Jesus spends a lot of his time attempting to show people that God had never been about purely religious rituals that bring conformity, but rather right relationships with God. It’s impossible to derive the Crusades and witch trials through the teachings of Jesus (and the Prophets in the O.T.); that is a weakness of human sin, rather than what Christ taught.

      However, your statement “nothing should exist outside of nature or the orderliness of nature” is quite enigmatic. First, without a orderly creator, how could we ever have such “orderliness of nature”? Naturalism posits complete randomness that somehow accidentally produced order, but when you think about it doesn’t that seem incomprehensible? How does complete and utter randomness (a universe without a divine intent) result in what you call “orderliness of nature?” Second, it is one thing to assert that God is “something that should not be,” it is quite another thing to show it with reason. Why do you believe that the existence of God is so improbable? I agree that religion has often defamed who God really is, but that doesn’t disprove his existence; it merely shows that sometimes his followers have not represented Him.

      I hope you’ll keep reading. I do not claim to prove God, but I do hope in the rest of the essay to express Christian doctrines that show God as one who does fight against evil and injustice. Thanks for your feedback. 🙂

      P.S. My favorite Christian author agrees heartily with your last sentence about being American doesn’t equate being a “Christian patriot.” In fact, he says that to be a follower of Christ, one would need to rebel against such obscene forms of nationalism. His name is Greg Boyd, and his book is called Myth of a Christian Nation. Doesn’t the title say it all? 🙂 Check it out.

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