Voice and Vision

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69: The Problem of Evil

Since about twelve years of age, I’ve wondered about evil–why it exists, if it exists, how it can exist if God is good and omnipotent.

Bill imagines my poor Sunday School teachers saying: “Oh, no! Here comes that Evans kid again with her questions!” Most of them certainly tried to answer the unanswerable and a couple would occasionally actually satisfy me for a while.  By the time I got to college I was wandering the library’s philosophy shelves for answers. Later, I studied a wide variety of religions and went to seminary. Since then, life itself has been a pretty good teacher. But this Evans kid will always ask questions. It’s how I learn, grow, understand.

So today how do I answer this primal question–How can evil even seem to be if God, good, is all?  Certainly, the answer will always be evolving, but on this summer day in July, 2022, here’s my take.

The one thing that has always seemed incontrovertible to me is that God is real, good, omnipotent, the creator, the originator of life, truth, love, virtue, wisdom, Spirit rather than material, and the Source of all that is. Being the One Supreme Being, God can have no opposing power because if so, God would not be all powerful– and one of God’s main definitions is his omnipotence. Another is His/Her goodness. In thousands of languages throughout time, God has meant “good.”

There is nothing in good out of which evil can be made. God, Good, cannot know or make evil. So I come to my question: How can evil even seem to be? If evil is illusion, it certainly appears real to anyone facing it! War, murder, Uvalde, Columbine, Ukraine, Holocaust, disease, death–there seems to be plenty of evidence that evil exists, often in horrific array. If God knows no evil, where does evil come from?

I’ve come to see that evil can be likened to a wrong answer when doing math. We do not accept that 5 is the answer to 2 + 2; we dismiss it as false because we can prove that 2 + 2 = 4. We accept the real and the false disappears. This does not disturb us. We’ve built buildings, countless inventions, space telescopes and more using correct mathematics. We trust its principles. Yet when we deal with the more abstract concept, God, identified as Spirit, the governing Principle, we bristle at accepting its reality. Afterall, we have seen evil with our eyes, heard it with our ears, felt, tasted, smelled it. We believe what our senses tell us.

But what if they are lying?

What if Spirit is the real and evil is the lie? What if evil–no matter how frightening, ugly, painful, horrid–is no more real than a nightmare or horror film?

I once read: “There is no why to a lie.” Trying to find the origin of what isn’t is impossible. Where did that wrong mathematical 5 come from, and go, in 2 + 2 = 4? It didn’t exist in the equation. Rather than looking for reality in what isn’t, holding on to what is makes more sense. So, now, rather than asking why the lie of evil seems to be, I focus on the real, on God, aiming to see God’s healing presence as means to irradicate lies, “magnifying every scrap of good” as my favorite uncle once said.

As always, humans will continue to grapple with the problem of evil. And that is good. For in the grappling comes the eventual understanding that good is the worthy focus, the everlasting truth, the only reality, the divine gift we’ve been given to bravely radiate under every circumstance.

Before the Storm, Cape Cod Beach, watercolor, 26" x 22" , framed, $775 by Gwendolyn Evans

Before the Storm, Cape Cod Beach, watercolor, 26″ x 22″ , framed, $775 by Gwendolyn Evans

ArtworkBefore the Storm, Cape Cod Beach, watercolor, 26″ x 22″ , framed, $775. Literally painted just before a storm, this watercolor captures the moment of anticipation of a massive downpour, of thunder and lightning, yet the beauty of the dunes and shoreline prevails.

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