On evil and Forrest Gump
I was pondering this morning the age old question of why God allows evil to exist. This question has been asked so often and by so many people that it has been given a name: Theodicy.
Theodicy is sometimes also referred to as "The problem of evil". I think it was G.K. Chesterton who asked why we don't just as well ruminate over "The problem of good": If God does not exist, why does good exist?
Probably the most cogent and concise explanation that I've ever read of why God allows evil to exist came from an article entitled "Theodicy and Evolution" by Karl Krienke, Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Seattle Pacific University.
In a nutshell, the answer to the question is: Love. This seems counter-intuitive at first. God allows evil to exist because of love? Yes. First we need to define evil. If we believe that God is completely good and loving then evil would be that which is contrary to God's nature and will. God could have made man and woman without the capacity to make choices contrary to His nature and will, but to do so would have been to create us, essentially, as automatons and not as humans. God would have been like the tragic character J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner, who builds automated toys to keep himself company. Or it would be like a man who loves a woman and wants to marry her and so slips her a drug that causes her to love him in return. It is a sham because her love is not given freely.
God's desire is for true, loving relationship with the people that He has made in His own image. In order for this to occur, people had to be given free will. Only if they could choose to reject God would it mean something if they chose to love God. Unfortunately, the choice to reject God and His ways results in evil.
This got me to thinking this morning about the film Forrest Gump. In the film, Forrest loves Jenny with a pure and unfailing love. He only sees the best in her and only desires the best for her. Jenny, on the other hand has been damaged by childhood abuse and leads a life of self-destruction. Throughout the story Forrest continuously reaches out to Jenny, but she keeps keeps running away, even though he is the only one who truly loves her and can give her what she really needs. Jenny lives in the fast lane while Forrest, by comparison, is dull and slow. Yet, although Forrest seems out of step, his life is marked by virtue and success.
I don't want to take the analogy much farther than that. God, unlike Forrest, is not developmentally disabled. Yet, like Forrest, God reaches out to us with a love that is pure and unfailing. We, like Jenny, are damaged by our own sin and the sin of others and run off in search of that which only God can truly provide.
In our mad quest to find fulfillment apart from God, we produce evil; often without intending to.
God is relentless in His pursuit of us, but in order for us to love Him honestly we must freely make the choice. Thomas Talbott, in his book The Inescapable Love of God, posits that, ultimately, everyone will be convinced to freely chose to love God. When we stand before Him and see Him as He truly is; without the blindness and madness of our sin getting in the way; we will give ourselves to Him of our own volition.
Then evil will be no more.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." - Paul, 1st Corinthians 13:4-8
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - John, 1 John 4:7-12