More responses to rautakyy. After this, I’ll actually have to go write my reading notes.
Evil must be stopped. Would you not expect an omnipotent god to be able to convince any wrongdoer to see the wrong they are doing and compel them to stop? Yet, such interference is not at least visible anywhere in the world, not even in history or in the most grievous acts of human terror, or violence
So, that’s what you meant – that God ought to make wrongdoers stop. Well, you fail to make an important distinction. Yes, I would expect an omnipotent God to be able to make a wrongdoer see the wrongness of their action and force them to stop. He can do this by getting inside their heads and effectively fixing it, taking away their free will. He couldn’t do this otherwise because so long as they were free, they could refuse to believe that that they were in the wrong and even if they saw it, they could still not wish to stop it. Taking away their free will would be the way to go. But like I pointed out, we’re all wrong-doers so God would have to take away all of our free wills – he couldn’t be partial, could he? Then God would have a bunch or robots running around. In fact, he could have done this right from the beginning then no one would have ever sinned.
While I agree that he can do this, I would not expect him to do it if he were the Christian God. The reason is simple: The Christian God wants more for our lives than just the absence of suffering. He wants us to know joy. The greatest joy we can ever have is to serve God and have communion with him*. If the way to this great end is through suffering, grievous acts of violence against us by others and even our own sin, it will all be worth it in the end. A life that is merely free of those things is a most pitiable one and God would not give it to us when he could give us so much more. The idea that the evil in this world is something that God would get rid of if he were just powerful enough isn’t quite right. Good things result from them. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – isn’t that what Kelly Clarkson said?
Paul understood this even though he went through a lot of persecution. He said:
But he[God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5: 3 – 5
And Peter said it too.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.- 1 Peter 1:6 ,7
I don’t expect this to make sense to anyone who’s going through hard times. It didn’t used to make sense to me, either (See: Thinking about pain…). But it becomes clearer the more you think about it and eventually it just clicks. But I think it is important to separate the emotional reasons from the intellectual ones. The violence people commit against each other everyday feels wrong because it is wrong. But that does not mean that God does not exist or isn’t good for not stopping it by all possible means. Don’t let that stop you from thinking about the issue clearly. And may God give you the clarity that he gave me.
* This is easy to see if you have the right understanding of who God is. Some people (like Christopher Hitchens) think of God as some sort of North Korean type dictator, not the beautiful being of whom Jesus is a perfect image, a God who loved us so much that nothing – not even a most horrible form of death – was too much to undergo for us.