Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Problem of Evil on the Margin

The Problem of Evil was never a problem for me.

I could easily believe that a world with a mixture of good and bad was better than no world at all. I could even believe that God had to allow evil in order to make his glorious plan of redemption meaningful. Perhaps wars must be fought so heroism can have a forum.

Wars, corruption, man’s general inhumanity to man … all this evil on a large scale … I can accept all that.

Rather, it is the small things — what I’ll call evil on the margin.

The Bible says that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” In colloquial terms, “It’s all part of God’s plan.” God may work in mysterious ways, but he is at work in every circumstance.

If God is perfect, his plan is perfect. It cannot be improved one iota. Any change would diminish its perfection.

So here we have a boy who is being raped by his priest. Far from turning to God in his suffering, the boy ends up embittered against the Church. No vindication of God’s plan there. The priest’s heart becomes more corrupt with each rape he commits and his hypocrisy takes deeper root. No good there, either. The abuse is never uncovered, so no social good comes from reforms or repentance.

In short, the evil is entirely gratuitous and without a redeeming consequence.

Those who believe God is sovereign and “works all things according to the counsel of his will” must believe that God’s plan would somehow be diminished if this boy had not been raped.

And let’s have none of the argument that evil is the inevitable consequence of God granting the wonderful gift of free will. Free will can have limits and still be free. My kids have free will even if I will intervene before one of them inflicts serious harm on another. (I have free will, too! Doesn’t God?)

In my four decades as a theist, I could understand why God’s plan might allow evil in general and on the scale that turns history. It was the individual, senseless, gratuitous acts against innocent people and animals that presented a greater problem.

I will not argue that a world without war would be better. That argument would be too complicated. Let’s keep it simple: will any theist argue that God’s most perfect plan had to include the rape of that one boy?