In the Garden of Good and Evil

  • by Rick James

I was listening to a conversation between mothers concerning childbirth when one woman claimed, “It was like having someone beat on my spinal cord with a baseball bat for 26 hours.”

A clear hierarchy began between the mothers: those who had suffered and those who had really suffered.

Those who had only “suffered” learned their unspoken role to be apologetic about the ease of labor. They gawked in amazement at the superhuman feats of endurance accomplished by the those who really suffered — apparently from the good stock of Viking women who gave birth while simultaneously hewing a canoe.

Writing on the problem of evil is like that. The reader holds in tension in two separate categories: Do you have any real wisdom on the subject and what do you know about pain anyway?

Well, if you want to know if I have I had anyone beat on my pelvis with a baseball bat for 26 hours the answer is no, I haven’t.

But I’ve experienced enough pain to know the wisdom of the saying, “pain is pain,” which means pain is always relative to your life.

It might be painful for Bill Gates to stay in a Super 8 Hotel. Is that actually the case? I don't know, but we don’t have to judge anyone else's pain. “Pain is pain” and we’ve all experienced it.

Flowing from my first edict of wisdom that “pain is pain,” I shall now utter a second oracle: The problem of evil can’t be answered. It is a mystery, and not a problem.

I do believe we can shed light on the mystery of evil. But even as we do, we’ll notice as the circle of light grows larger in its circumference so does the surrounding darkness. Answers will generate more questions and we need to cease - you from reading and me from writing.

I’ve redefined our search. We are not looking for an answer, but insight that allows us to understand why God would allow evil.

I just realized, I have not mentioned God hitherto. Of course, without God there is no problem. The world is what it is, and evil is simply a word we use to describe what “it is” we don’t like. The mystery we are trying to solve is why a good and loving God would allow the world to be “as it is.”

I’ve decided we’ll begin by presupposing the correct verdict to the mystery that a good and loving God would be incompatible with evil.

They are divorced on grounds of irreconcilable differences. What sorts of existential and philosophical problems have we created for ourselves by solving the problem through the elimination of God?

Well let’s see.

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