Saturday, November 6, 2010

Of Bedbugs and Theodicy

In Susan Jacoby’s column “Bedbugs and the theodicy problem” she asserts that the existence of bed bugs challenges the idea that a benevolent God exists. This is a variation on the problem of evil in that it asks why a loving God would create insects whose sole purpose seems to be making the lives of His created beings miserable. I have four objections to this argument:

1. Bedbugs are highly evolved blood suckers
2. Our separation from God removes his protection
3. We don’t know all of God’s reasons for doing things
4. Bedbugs are insignificant in the great scheme of things

Bedbugs are highly evolved blood suckers

Given the preponderance of evidence that supports evolution I don’t think that God created bedbugs in the traditional sense of intelligent design that Jacoby talks about. God set the universe in motion and established the universal constants in such a way that life could form. God sparked life and evolution was set into motion with interventions as needed. This means that bed bugs happened to evolve through the processes of natural selection. God could have stepped in and disrupted their evolution, but apparently chose not to.

Our separation from God removes his protection

God gave us free will in order to have a truly authentic, loving relationship with us so that we could choose to love and follow him or reject him. He could have formed us without free will, but then we would have been reduced to robots who are not capable of true love. The problem is that free will is messy--humankind has long been in rebellion against God and walked away from Him. The consequences of this are that we are no longer under the complete protection of God. He gave us the autonomy to make our own decisions and we are responsible for the consequences of our poor decisions. It’s like we ran away from a perfectly safe home, in order gain freedom, and we are now vulnerable to the predators and dangers of a cold, hostile world.

We don’t know all of God’s reasons for doing things

Why would a loving God allow evil things to happen to his children? This is not an easy question answer, as we don’t know the mind of God. It seems to me that He allows us to face challenges in order to prepare and refine our soul for eternity. By enduring challenges we have the opportunity to rely on Him and grow as people. Without evil in the world heroes couldn’t arise to fight it. I also think that God is grieved by the state of a world awash with the consequences of free will, and that He is capable of bringing good out of evil situations. God is omniscient and man is very limited in his knowledge, so God might have a myriad of other reasons why he would allow evil to occur in the world. We are not capable of fathoming all of God’s reasons.

Bedbugs are insignificant in the great scheme of things

Even if you live to be 120 that is an in an infinitely small blip in the history of the 13.7 billion years the universe has existed, and even smaller when compared to the mind blowing duration of eternity. There is no doubt that there is a lot of suffering and evil in the world, and that when we are in the midst of suffering it can feel unbearable. However, when compared to an eternity of bliss with God our present trials, like bed bugs, seem small. God himself is acquainted with suffering. He sent his son Jesus Christ to be humiliated and face the agonies of the cross in order to right our relationship with Him. Through Christ’s sacrifice our relationship with God was repaired and he conquered death. As the Bible says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4)."

Although there are a lot of troubles and annoyances in the world, like bed bugs, ultimately things will be set right. The hope and promises of God gives me the strength to carry on. As John Donne wrote in “Death be not proud,” “One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

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