Avoiding the Mystery Card
I’ve been reading what great and not so great theologians say about evil. The vast majority believe an almighty God could stop evil. But they don’t know why a loving God doesn’t do so. It’s a mystery, they say.
I’ve recently published a book that solves the problem of evil. The Uncontrolling Love of God offers a variety of proposals, but a primary one offers a solution to why a perfectly loving and powerful God does not prevent genuine evil. And I don’t appeal to mystery.
I don’t claim to know all truth, of course. I have limited understanding, and I see as if looking through a dark glass (1 Cor. 13:12). I haven’t got everything figured out!
To admit to not knowing all truth, however, differs from appeals to mystery I find among most theologians. Most great and not so great thinkers provide partial solutions to the problem of evil and then appeal to mystery on the crucial issue of why God doesn’t prevent all genuine evil. In fact, the vast majority of Christians say God either directly causes or allows evil.
By contrast, I offered a full-orbed solution to the problem of evil, focusing especially on the issue of rethinking God’s power.
When asked why a loving God would cause or allow evil, most theologians play the mystery card. “God’s ways are not our ways,” they say. God’s will is inscrutable. God is hidden, they claim. We must live the question mark.
In my proposal, I do not say God permits or allows evil that God could have prevented. I do not appeal to divine hiddenness. I don’t play the mystery card. And I think we can find a viable answer to this crucial question.Unfortunately, the majority of Christian theologians say God either causes or allows evil. Click To Tweet
The Soda Bottle Example
Let me illustrate the difference between how most theologians appeal to mystery and how I do not.
Suppose while hiking the wilderness of Idaho I found a soda bottle with a message inside. Upon reading it, I discover that someone from Nairobi, Kenya wrote the message. I might wonder how the bottle traveled such a great distance – half the globe – to my remote North American location.
Suppose we asked five people unaware of the bottle’s actual journey to speculate how it departed Nairobi and eventually arrived in Idaho. We also decide to assemble a panel of judges to read the speculations of these five people and assess which explanation is most plausible.
The judges read the five explanations and found that each guess differed. One person speculated that the bottle traveled north out of Africa through Israel and eventually to the shores of France. Another speculated that the bottle traversed north and the east through the Asian continent to China’s eastern ocean shores. Others offered their own guesses on how the bottle left Nairobi and traveled to an ocean. In addition, each of the five people differed on how they guessed the bottle traveled to Idaho after it arrived in North America.
In sum, the judges read clever speculations about the routes taken and those who carried the bottle with its message.
Let us also suppose, however, that our judges found something surprising: only one person offered a possible account of how the bottle traversed the oceans on its way to North America. Four explanations completely left out any account of how the bottle traveled this crucial leg – across the earth’s large bodies of water – on its journey to Idaho.
Not accounting for this crucial segment of the bottle’s trip — across the massive waters of separating the continents — seriously undermines the overall plausibility of four of the five explanations!
Soda Bottles and Theologians
Now let me apply my bottle illustration. Most Christian theologians say God causes or allows evil. They think permitting evil is mysteriously consistent with God’s perfect love. They don’t have an explanation for this mystery.
The great and not so great theologians argue this way, because they presuppose that God has the kind of power that makes it possible for God to prevent evils unilaterally. But it’s a mystery to us or hidden from to us why a perfectly loving God permits evil.
As I see it, the failure to give a good answer to why a loving God doesn’t prevent genuine evil is like explaining how a bottle traveled from Nairobi to Idaho without accounting for how the bottle crossed the oceans. Plausible explanation of the bottle’s journey must account for crossing the world’s large bodies of water. Likewise, plausible answers to the problem of evil must account for why a loving God does not prevent genuine evil.
I believe my proposal — my soda bottle explanation, to refer to my illustration — accounts for all of the crucial questions related to the problem of evil. I hope you consider my proposals in The Uncontrolling Love of God.
Unlike most theologians and Christian philosophers, you won’t find me playing the mystery card on the evil question!