Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The New Zealand Earthquake and the Problem of Evil

The recent earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand has John Loftus bringing up the problem of evil once again. John said, “I consider the evidential case against a good God from naturally caused suffering to be the most significant problem for believers. Can anyone tell me why God did not do a perpetual miracle by averting that earthquake?” The naturalistic explanation for what happened in New Zealand, which I agree with, is that the earthquake resulted from the release elastic energy when plates along the Alpine fault rubbed together. This explanation doesn’t address John’s question about why God couldn’t/wouldn’t miraculously release this elastic energy in a way that didn’t result in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. To answer that question we explore the great cost of freedom.

When God formed mankind He endowed us with free will so that we could choose to love Him and follow Him or not. Giving mankind free will was the only way to have an authentic loving relationship with him. He could have made us into robots that worship God with an automatic fake love, but God chose to have an authentic unforced relationship with us. Mankind inevitably chose to reject God and follow its own path. God let us chose how we want to live our lives and let us face the consequences of our choices and actions. When we walked away from God we also chose to walk away from the joy and protections of life with God. Life apart from God is fraught with chaos, unhappiness and danger. We are no longer protected from dangers like earthquakes, tornados and tsunamis. As I wrote in an earlier post on theodicy, “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.”

When it comes to the question of evil there are some fundamental misunderstandings about God’s love. When people say that God is good they are often saying that God is kind in that he does not subject us to pain. The correct way to define God’s goodness is that he does what is best for us. Sometimes what is best for us is to experience a little bit of pain in order to help us to grow as people. God is like a good Chemotherapist who subjects us to the discomforts of chemotherapy in order rid us of the cancer within us that threatens to destroy us. Sometimes God must use tough love with us.

Another misunderstanding is that if there is a loving God then our lives should be filled with bliss. This is the idea that God is running a gigantic vacation resort and that he is at our beck and call ensuring endless pleasure. In the real world, where we are separated from God, we should not expect that life is a perfect vacation. Our brief lives are a proving ground for the afterlife. Difficulties and challenges help to build character and refine us. If life was easy then we would never grow. Without adversity heroes wouldn’t have anything to strive against or people to save. The troubles of this life can be difficult and uncomfortable at times but they are extremely ephemeral when compared to the great age of the universe or the mind blowing idea of eternity.

As wrote before, “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.” So, we can see that the cost of freedom has been high, but God had a plan to rectify that. With the promise of God and heaven all the evil in the world will be set right. All the suffering that occurred on earth will be a distant memory.

1 comment:

  1. The real question for Mr. Loftus is how could a just God allow a depraved mankind not to be punished continually for its continual acts of evil. Why hasn't a great earthquake wiped us all out already? Christ is the rock from which all grace and life flows, but you should recognize that God's continued patience is to lead us to repentance, and one day the Lord, slow to anger, will have to unleash a full measure of justice on the Earth. Have you gotten away with any evil Mr. Loftus? You may think you have but one day all your debts will come due. Repent and accept the grace of Christ who has all authority to forgive sins.