Wednesday, May 28

The Problem of Evil & other stuff

Two articles today:

My half-baked solution to the problem of evil - Not really a solution, but my attempt to contribute to the debate.

Liars - If this blog post was a music single, I would call this article the b-side. It is full of left-leaning social commentary, so be warned if you aren't into that kind of thing.


12 Comments:

Blogger edward said...

Thanks for you cross link to my blog Timothy. On reviewing these latest posts I am in total agreement with most of the points you make. The only comment in the "Liars" blog was where you state "wealth should be redistributed". While I agree Christians should be more conscientious about and giving of their "wealth"...as in not being controlled by it...I think it is quite another thing to advocate "redistribution". I think there is Biblical and historic support for the belief that "if you dont work you dont eat" and each persons reward for their work or effort. Traditionally, Judeo Chritian ethic calls for a "tithe" of what we make given back...not to the church necessarily, but to the needy around us. Obviously the more we make the bigger the tithe. If everyone did this, world hunger would be quickly and significantly reduced or eliminated. But I cannot concurr with many modern day "Marxist" Christians or cultish approaches to giving EVERYTHING to the church or political/social movements. This has historically only enabled a "few" leaders to take advantage of those "sheep" who would not take responsibility for their own finances and affairs. Part of this viewpoint I'm sure has a bit of influence from my American capitalist background and Libertarian foundations.:)

5:00 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey Ed,

I can be quite a socialist at times, but I do my best to keep it off this blog as much as I can haha.

Nevertheless, you mentioned that there is historical and scriptual precedent for people who don't work don't eat. While it was true that there were no welfare states, in terms of interpersonal relationships there was quite a bit of redistribution going on in Christian circles. You have jesus, who when he entered his ministry did not ever work, and all of his followers who are relying on the goodwill and charity of others to survive (of course, being able to turn 8 loaves into 800 loaves helped the food problem heh).

He taught that wealthy people do not enter the kingdom of God, that how you treat the poor in society is how you treat God, and he often told people to give away all of their possessions. In the early church the well-to-do would often contribute with financial aid and acts of charity to the poorer in the group. There is also some evidence to suppose that they at times shared possessions. So, I do think redistrbuting wealth to the poor is a concept that Jesus commanded.

However, I do not agree with the supposedly communist idea that there should be a complete redistribution of wealth. Inevitably wealth inequality will exist since some people work and produce more than others. Where I take issue is how massive wealth inequality has become. The richest 1% own 40% of the world's wealth. Should filthy rich people even exist in a world where millions upon millions of people are living under the poverty line? I don't think so.

Hence, i'm not a communist, but I do like the idea of a generous welfare state that taxes the rich heavily and regulates anti-competitive behaviour to the point where one man can't control too much in the private sector. These are just my own economic convictions that came from my reading of the Gospel, I like to think that people of any political ideology can get something out of my blog.

8:48 AM  
Blogger joyindestructible said...

Hi Timothy,

Evil is relative to perspective and ours is not the perspective of God. I live where there is a lot of sandy soil and it is ant heaven but there is trouble in ant paradise because I live here too. From my perspective, it is not evil to use poisons in order to limit the ant population but it is very evil from the ant's perspective. Compared to God, I am not much more than an ant and what I perceive as evil does not always agree with God's perception. God is subjected to no evil as He sits above good and evil and works them together for ultimate good. The original evil done by human beings was to begin choosing between good and evil instead of trusting God. We can't really judge between them properly because we are subject to each. What looks good to me usually ends in evil for me because of the unforseen consequence. Also, that which seems evil may in actuality be good for me. My perspective is limited and I tend to choose according to my own desires. I've done much better with Jesus in my life as He restored my relationship with God and now I can return to obedience and not be left to my own choosing. Of course, I still tend at times, to be a know-it-all and think that I can handle some choices on my own. If it were totally up to me, even with a restored relationship to God, I would blow it without the forgiveness that I have in Christ.

It really is an evil desire that makes us think we can be like God apart from Him. He knows we are sinful and not able to choose correctly between good and evil and has made provision for us. It is just we humans that can't accept that we are sinful and not godlike. We also put ourselves at the center of everything and wonder why God does not do things the way we think He should. Realistically, an ant can't know what I think or have my perspective, and neither can we completely know the mind of God. We can't understand every thing and that is not failure on God's part. We just aren't equipped to know it all.

11:05 AM  
Blogger the_burning_bush said...

Wow, very existential. And I kept thinking to myself while reading it, "This guy seems to know Jesus!".

I like your observation that the things we accuse God of are often the very duties we are lacking in. An example that comes to mind: I was reading the bio of a famous hollywood celebrity who said he thought God was really unfair to let people suffer ... this is a celebrity who left his wife for a younger woman. Who does this guy think he is looking down on God? And yet, this is SO common, perhaps even universal.

I find it interesting you deny a intervening God on the basis that the 'laws' of the universe would cease to be laws. If the universe really is absurd, there must be something about it which doesn't fit into a law. You seem to say this very thing: "The world is too absurd to be able to
explain, and the mysteries of this life are never revealed with ease." I find that totally true!

Anyway, a lot going on in your answer. The problem of evil is very important, and I find it refreshing when people do not answer it with syllogisms and logic (as I am used to seeing).

6:24 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Thankyou for the thoughtful feedback joy and BB.

Joy, in regards to your metaphor with ants: I agree that the comparison between us and ants is quite similar to the one between God and us, there is a big gulf in all aspects. However, when it comes to morality and evil, wouldn't it be different because Humans are capable of experiencing both physical and psychological pain, and we have the mental capacity to relive and remember that pain for the rest of our lives? The ants hate us for mass murder yes, but we don't actually cause them suffering. On the other hand for example, God sending a flood to the earth causes massive pain to alot of people. What do you think?

BB, your example is really fitting. Before anyone can lecture that God does not do enough to stop evil, they should do their utmost in their own life to prevent evil, otherwise it closely resembles hypocrisy. This is especially true in the case of suffering that emerges from social inequality.

The logical argument in the problem of evil is important as well, but when you've read alot of logical arguments for and against, you realise that it's missing a large chunk of the relevant discussion. At least in my opinion.

Also, you are completely right with my seeming contradiction. Sometimes I find myself in disagreement with myself! I love God, and I feel his presence in my own being from time to time, but at the end of the day I feel that I must recognise the fact that he does not intervene in the physical world at large. Only with individual souls. That is the only way I can make sense of human suffering, and at the same time include my own spiritual experiences.

The whole thing about scientific laws ceasing to be laws was not really designed to be an argument, just a passing thought. When you're talking about natural disasters and why they are happening under the watch of an all-powerful and benevolent God, you can only really talk in passing thoughts and tangents.

10:24 PM  
Blogger joyindestructible said...

Timothy,

The comparison I was after was more one of dimension and it might be more accurate to depict us as a virus in comparison to God. I am also sure that God is much more compasionate towards us than we are toward ants or viruses. As He sits outside of time and space, I am sure that He has a much better perspective on the suffering natural disasters cause or even prevent. He sees the whole of Creation and we only a very small part with our own need at the center. Death was introduced with sin, according to the Bible, to limit the time that human beings could live apart from God. Not only the lives of human beings were limited but death spread to the whole Creation. If we could wipe out a species and get rid of death, I'm sure we'd do so but God is merciful towards us and is working to redeem us along with the rest of Creation from sin and death. I cling to the Bible view that even in the midst of horrible natural disasters, God's Mercy endures forever. He is merciful even when I can't understand what is happening as being of His Mercy.

As far as morality, in general, we don't do very well apart from God. I know that before I had God in my life, my morality was based upon what made me happy, what made me feel good, and what was expedient to both at the present time. Having God's perspective on things changed my morality radically. I once was blind and deaf but Jesus opened my spiritual eyes and ears and now I see.

4:36 AM  
Blogger joyindestructible said...

p.s. As you come to know me better, you may find that you want to refrain from the question, "What do you think?" ;-}

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Ry said...

In my understanding, Jesus was extremely apolitical (the zealots wanted him to be political) but he was indeed a Holy Spirit redistributionist. His teachings were for human beings as his followers, but not for impersonal entities like states and governments.

The early followers of Jesus certainly redistributed wealth, but it was within their fellowship as each one was moved and as there was need. It was an understood movement of love of neighbor.

There is absolutely no indication that the early church moved to have the Imperial Roman state adopt redistribution of wealth laws so that the "kingdom could come on earth" or some politically charged effort like that. This was the error of the Zealots.

Jesus was emphatically NOT in favor of people having their money taken away by coercion of law. This would be no more than stealing, and would only put the wealth under the control of a few. In the coming kingdom, for the sons of God, there will be no taxes (see Jesus' episode with the fish with the coin).

And instead of being love and Spirit based, redistribution by government would be law and coercion based.

The way of Jesus, contrary to kingdoms of this world, is relational based (think Good Samaritan, early church in Acts, poor widow giving "more than all"), it operates from a completely different principle than the State. Thus, in its political sense, the kingdom of God is anarchical. Not anti-government, just a-governmental. Its rulers do not originate in the government. Its operating principles do not come from the government. Its administrators have no positions over others.

It is truly the kingdom without hands and the handiwork of God, because this kingdom is something that God accomplishes in his community of intentional followers, both in the immediate sense and as this community extends over the whole earth.

His word to Pilate himself as to how to live his life would have been "do good and lend to the poor," but his word to the state is nothing but the silent, nonviolent, noncoercive existential communication.

This is indeed a change in my own mind... but a book that crystallized a lot of this was Christian Anarchy by Vernard Eller, available to read online at www.hccentral.com

3:13 PM  
Blogger the_burning_bush said...

Hi Tim,

I like the way you don't seem to feel the need to explain your opinions sometimes. You just say, 'this is my belief'. Who can argue with that? Sometimes the most daunting contradictions can turn out to be very, very real.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey Ry,

You express alot of ideas that I am quite sympathetic towards. When I talk about politics, I try to be very careful not to say "this is how God would do it" or "this is how Jesus said it should be." Rather, I take inspiration from the ideals of Jesus and express them in a political way.

I think you're quite right in that the communities that Jesus envisioned would not be run by a powerful state. If you look at the tenement churches in rome, they were composed of slaves who frequently shared all their food with each other and there was no rigidly defined hierarchy who took their money and redistrubted it.

However, when I talk about politics I am forced to adapt my view to present considerations. Adopting anarchy in any country would not be like the early church, nor the kingdom of God. I firmly believe that private charity would not in any way be able to cover the human suffering vacuum left by the absence of a Government-run welfare system or foreign aid. If everyone was a humanitarian, it might be a different story.

Anyway, i'm certain Christian anarchists have heard that argument many times before (I am not as familiar with their thesis as I should be), so feel free to rebut me!

7:56 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey Burning Bush,

I tend to dislike religious writers who talk as if God is speaking through them. It's healthy to every once in a while remind people that what they are reading is your own opinion or interpretation :)

It should be judged based on its merits, and how closely it resembles the teachings of Jesus. So in a way, I guess it could be also said that it makes my writing more arguable!

I like your description of contradictions, that's what existentialism is all about!

8:03 PM  
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1:44 PM  

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