Religion: Can We Know God? (15)-God and Man, Continued

   If God exists, if God is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all present), if God is completely good and if evil exists, how can the presence of all good (God) live with evil? Is it not inconsistent to believe God (alive, powerful, present, good) could possibly allow evil to exercise even temporary, limited influence in the cosmos?

   Let us move from the practical to the theoretical in this discussion.

   First, evil does exist in the cosmos. Apparently, evil exists by creative choice. That is, created beings opt for personal control over themselves and their surroundings, avid to live apart from divine companionship as much as that is possible.

   The more distinct (not distant, since God is omniscient) created creatures make themselves from God, the less hopeful the distancing creature seems to be about life. The religious certainty of recognizable, personal survival after time expires is naturally rejected, so life is forlorn of hope. One is born, one lives for a time, one dies. Nothing one does matters much except as it fulfills oneself, though how personal fulfillment is possible in an amoral life is left unexplained. After all, how can one experience happiness, or even identify the sensation of happiness is actual, if life has no underlying moral framework?

   Happiness is the third casualty of a-theism, after God and love. Emptiness overpowers unfounded hope. The earth is again with form, void, and darkness covers the face of the deep. Nothing matters if there is no Person behind matter.

   So, evil does exist, even in the presence of the all-present, all-powerful, all loving God. We can accept the evidence of our eyes to convince us of active evil in the world. The practical question seems to be, then, how can God allow (exist) with evil in the world?

   Let me suggest it is possible God is able to forbear the presence of evil in the lives of persons because it is the nature of God to be forbearing. Forbearance is equal parts patience and (agape) love. Mercy and grace accompany forbearance in supernatural fraternity. 

   More simply put, God must be seen to forbear evil for the sake of the perpetrator. This starts us toward another conversation about justified evil, but hold on to our current conversation for a moment. Suffice it to say, for now, that justified evil is actually evil that is permitted for a time to protect the greater good that would be destroyed if the evil were struck down.

    This is severe mercy. God sees the potential for good in the most evil man. You know the story of the song "Amazing Grace." The writer of this most famous of Christian songs spent the early part of his life as a slave trader. John Newton bought, sold and often murdered human beings. His story ends quite differently than it begins. 

   While we speak of severe mercy, it is necessary to remind Man of his debt to God, rather than to act as if it is God who is somehow indebted to Man. One great distinctive of the Christian faith is this Truth, that the God who is offended by human sin pays the full redemptive price for human salvation and extends this saving love to all Mankind.

   And, while we speak of God's severe mercy, let us put to rest the a-theological proposition that it is inherently evil for anyone to bear pain or deprivation of any kind. In fact, the greatest goodness imaginable may result from self-sacrifice.

   I knew a minister with a large family. His children often invited their school chums to eat with the family on Sunday. The minister himself would help put food on the table and then go sit quietly in the front room. Only years later did the children realize a difficult truth of severe mercy. Their father did not eat because there was not enough food for him and the family and their friends. We should not need to say his act of hospitable charity was ennobled because of the self-sacrifice he exemplified but never mentioned.

   The saving love of the Christian God eliminates any need for a particular or general act of Man, benevolent or malevolent, to generate or obtain relief from evil (salvation). Christian knowledge, based on agape love, puts forward a God who releases sinners from the penalty of sin (separation from God), then relieves Man from the habitual practice of sin and, finally, recreates a world where redeemed Man no longer must live in the presence of sin.

   As you can see, to argue the rationality of God's perfectly moral existence set consistent in the face of evil is defensible from practical (common sense) grounds, if one can in any way take the omni-benevolence of God as constant with God's omnipotence and omniscience. That is, God is not just powerful and present, but knowable, loving and lovable.

 Tomorrow, God being our help. let's look at some of the more theoretical arguments for God and Man co-existing in a moral sphere with evil.

Opinions expressed here are mine alone. I think you can see why.

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