Reflections on “the problem of evil”
I have been reflecting on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it has made me think about “the problem of evil.” In fact, at the end of the book Tom himself, one of the spiritual heroes of the book, is wrestling with the problem himself. In the book, there are all sorts of terrible realities that represent actual events. Injustice after injustice happen to the people in the story, and again, these stories are based on actual real life events.
One could try to do away with these sad and confused thoughts by just saying that slavery ended long ago. However, this does not solve the problem. Evil continues, injustice continues, ramifications continue. Further, there is still slavery. There is still abuse. Some live life as a mere dash in-between agony and futility. That is all they know, tossed on an endless wave of seemingly nothingness. So one does not escape the question by saying things are now good, or at least not so bad. What then is the answer to the pain, the suffering, the injustice?! Why do people, millions of people, live painful lives, just to die in greater pain?
It was not meant to be like this–we cry injustice!–and an injustice it is. However, we brought this upon ourselves. There is fierce sin and fierce suffering and I do not mean to overlook that, people do disgusting sick, damning things, yet when God made the world, “Behold, everything was very good” (Gen. 1:31). So if we want the answer we must adjust our perspective.
The question of the problem of evil is misconstrued. Evil is a reality because of the fall, our fall. The question, the real problem, when understood rightly is why grace? Why mercy? That is not to minimize suffering and injustice but it is the truth and vital to realize. The problem of evil is our problem. Yet, God has made it His own. We see this in the beginning chapters of Genesis. Even as we began the problem and brought the grave curse upon the world, God was there, and there in mercy and grace. He shows His mercy by the slaughter of the first animal to cover humanities guilt. The animal was slaughtered and not the whole human race, that did not have to happen. Condemnation was deserved. However, that is not all we see. In the first gospel proclamation, God says that an offspring will be born to defeat the wicked serpent and thus, it is implied, bring a reversal of the curse (We see this for example in Adam and Eve’s expectation and in the hopes that people had for Noah).
In all of this, we see that we must not pin evil and suffering on God but on ourselves. God is gracious and longsuffering. We have brought the curse upon our own head. Yet, God the Son bore the wrath we deserved. He suffered, He died. He can relate to Tom and all the characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He was tempted and indeed suffered in every way that we do yet He was without sin. Without sin, and yet bore the wrath of sin for us! O’ the wonder and majesty of God! How inscrutable His ways!
Perhaps then, there is a “problem of pleasure,” “a problem of joy,” “a problem of peace.” God did not have to be gracious and merciful. He did not to have to offer rescue at the cost of Christ Jesus.