The Problem of Evil—The Theodicy Problem
By Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger
The fact of evil and suffering in manís experience is the most perplexing problem confronting religionists who believe in an all wise, all good, all powerful God (referred to as the theodicy problem). Some theistic philosophers attempt to solve this enigma by assuming limitations in Godís wisdom or power. Others admit the rationally inexplicable nature of this vexing question, which, they point out, is due to manís limited knowledge, and leave the issue in the realm of divine mystery. I believe there is a more adequate approach to this troubling problem.
The problem of evil has perplexed man primarily because he has failed to comprehend the dynamics of the perfect methods and goals of an all wise, all good, all powerful creator. To catch a glimpse of the wisdom behind the divine plan, we need to be aware of basic universe facts and purposes regarding man. First, we live in an evolutionary universe. Evolution is the basic method of creation, growth, and achievement. There is no substitute for experience in an evolutionary universe. Second, we are imperfect beings living on an imperfect planet; not by accident, divine limitations, or creative inabilities; but by deity purpose and design. We possess a degree of free will as well as imperfection. Such a combination makes mistakes (evil) inevitable. Along with these limiting conditions, the basic law of the universe is the demand for growth toward perfection.
When we contemplate these facts and conditions a great purpose for man which is both wise and good, begins to emerge. Man is participating in his own creative growth toward perfection. Among the universes of creation, God, no doubt, does create perfect universes with perfect beings; but such personalities would not have the same qualities as those participating in their own growth toward perfection in an evolutionary universe.
By starting at the bottom of an evolutionary universe and experiencing growth from the lowest form of life having truth perception, or true choice, to eventual perfection, man will possess an experiential maturity, appreciation, and wisdom impossible to any being created perfect. This is an unalterable aspect of reality. Experience always adds to any other form of universe reality. God, being true to his own nature (reality), does not, indeed cannot, create a perfect being that has all of the desirable qualities of one created through evolutionary experience, and participating in his own creation.
In such an evolutionary universe, there are certain inevitabilities. In order to develop courage, evolutionary beings must live in an environment where fear, struggle, and hardship are encountered. If such personalities are to achieve loyalty and integrity, they must have experience in a society where betrayal and duplicity are possible. If man is to appreciate pleasure and achieve happiness, then must he dwell in a world where pain and suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.
Through the educational process encountered between the hammers of suffering, and the anvils of necessity, the creative evolutionary process is a forging out of man the beginnings of a noble, strong, and thoroughly experienced being whose potentials transcend lowly manís fondest dreams. Manís anxieties and sorrows, his trials and suffering are just as much a part of a wise and good divine educational plan in the universe, as the lessons of childhood; the rigor of school days; and the psychic suffering of adolescence are necessary in developing character in humankind, at our present level of existence. That which appears evil, cruel, or unjust, when we see the total situation from a universe point of view, we realize was due to the illusions of a partial and immature understanding.
The foregoing presents a positive understanding of the reasons for imperfection, suffering, and evil in an evolutionary universe; but it does not speak to the excessive and irrational aspects of evil and suffering. These unreasonable and absurd characteristics of the problem of evil may be better understood if we realize that in an evolutionary universe, God not only establishes physical, mental, and spiritual laws which operate more or less autonomously; but also delegates all of the power and control possible to subordinate beings, including man; because in his perfect wisdom and unselfish love, he knows that these procedures will eventually be the most rewarding way of sharing his divinity (reality) with every being, past, present, and future, in such a universe.
God, being fully aware of the potential and actual evil with would result from delegating such creative power and authority, also established compensating and reclamation sources of ministry and salvation so that everything deprived of personalities on one level of universe experience, will be made available or compensated for, on other levels of experience.
The rebellion of a "Lucifer" and other universe personalities from the divine way, may result in erratic, unexpected, or uncontrolled behavior by both intelligent beings and natural laws on the planetary level. This "chaos" is not arbitrarily corrected in an evolutionary universe, because such arbitrary action is not in harmony with the divine wisdom of creative evolution. Time is required for personalities to make decisions, and divine justice never destroys what loving education can save. Evil is more clearly seen for what it is, when allowed to run its evolutionary course. We are being thoroughly trained to recognize and resist all of the dynamics of evil. Finally, far more good will accrue in the universe by this evolutionary process of overcoming evil, than by applying arbitrary solutions. God inaugurated an evolutionary universe out of a Fatherly love to share himself with creation, even though at immature levels, the problem of evil would be a stumbling block to the comprehension of the wisdom of the basic purpose of this creative process.
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