Last night (before I went and saw the midnight showing of Indiana Jones, which was awesome) we had a Bible study at church, put on by my good friend Chuck Walker. The study was entitled, God is Great, God is Good and it was on theodicy--the problem of evil. I have found that there are two ways that we can ask the question of evil. We can either say, “how can there be a good God while there is such evil in the world?” Or we can ask it another way, “How can such evil exist if there is such a good God?” Do you see the different nuances?
Chuck pointed out another question which we should probably ask. How can a good God not exist while there is so much good in the world? A Christian is someone who affirms the goodness in the world, remembering the declaration of genesis 1--the earth is “very good.” So what’s the real anomaly, God or evil?
Unfortunately, there are no complete answers to the question of evil. The Bible is not primarily concerned with answering this question. The Bible is more concerned with pointing out where evil exists and exposing it for what it really is. The Bible is most concerned, however, with how we respond to evil. Do we play it’s game, on it’s terms, or do we respond in revolutionary ways exposing evil for what it really is (or is not). Chuck pointed out “our arsenal” in Ephesians 5. Something interesting and ironic about one of Paul’s most famous passages--Ephesians 5, the “full armor of God”--is that violent revolution was, in fact, an option for the Ephesian Christians but instead of encouraging such an affront to “evil,” Paul recommends a different kind of list. This list, including the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit, does not include the sort of armor which will stop a real arrow or a metal blade. This list, if worn and taken seriously does not play evil’s game by making evil a victim of it’s own power, it’s not violent warfare. This list leads to martyrdom, exposing evil’s victory as true failure. With a crucified messiah as our leader, our victory comes through martyrdom. When we are victims who never become victimizers we take part in the crucified Son’s victory. When it comes to evil, what seems like victory is often defeat and what seems like failure is actually victory. Think to the cross. In the same moment that the Romans and the Jewish politicians thought that they had victory in defeating Jesus, the temple curtain was torn in two and the work of true victory, the work of salvation, was finished.
Evil is de-creation. The first defeat of evil by God was his work of creation--bringing harmony to the tohu vabohu, the chaotic world of nothingness. As evil creeps into the story and invades creation, it is manifest in chaos, in de-creation. Thus, when we sing with God the words of peace and salvation, we create harmony in chaos. When we work against the force of evil in the world, we take part in the work of creation.
Chuck did a great job. This Bible study was a reminder of how much I love my church. At most churches I would have left a meeting on that subject quite frustrated. But I left this meeting with some good insights. I am really looking forward to studying the Bible a lot more with these people.