Saturday, 14 November 2015

The problem of good...

There was a lot of evil committed last night in Paris. My thoughts go out to the many families touched by these disastrous choices. God please break this evil.

Today's post has been a draft for quite a few months, but I am going to release it now.

A lot has been said of the problem of evil, and from what I have understood in philosophy the very nature of the problem has changed (from a philosophical standpoint). It all began more or less with the issue of the unspeakable evils in this world: how could an infinitely good and infinitely powerful God stand by and watch the horrors of torture, murder etc?

As horrendous as this is, I find my own attention drawn to different philosophical problem: the problem of Good. And this fascination for me goes back to 2007 when I finally realised that some people, non-believers, exhibited far greater evidence (fruit) of Holy Spirit character than some Christians, myself absolutely included. That had been a faith-shaker for me before I felt God showed me a way through this.

However, philosophically, there are other issues. When Philip Yancey delves into stacks of real-life examples that seem to poorly fit the superficial explanations, he focusses on damage caused by wrong (or over-narrow) teaching about evil, that can completely undermine faith in the good God. I remember vividly one example of a plane crash that someone wrote to Yancey about, in hope of an explanation.

In the plane crash, some people survived, some died. In a church service after this event, prayers of thanks for the "miraculous" escape of those that survived and prayers of peace and consolation for the families of the bereaved. It struck the person writing to Yancey as so unfair and inconsistent that God gets no blame when things go bad and all the credit when things turn out well, even in the same incident (accident).

Really both these problems concern how God is interacting with this world. It also concerns how we understand the freedom He has given us. Open theism says that God does not necessarily know in advance all the choices we will make. Yet he does know where history is headed and is Himself involved in guiding it toward that outcome. I think, but do not know for sure, that it also accepts that there are also chaotic and random factors at work. I will have to check with my open theist friend D. and ask him. The mainstream view, however, remains that God knows everything, and that includes the future.

Q: The wages of sin are death. We all deserve to die. Is anything other than death then a bonus?

Some very dubious and profoundly unsatisfying logic begins to flow at this point.
True Christians cannot die in accidental plane crashes, for thanks to our sinless saviour we no longer need to pay that price for our sin.
There truly are random events out there. This creates another problem, but it is one I am much more ready to embrace.
R  a     n  do         m

That word warrants savouring in your mouth (or mind) a moment. You cannot predict for sure the outcome in advance, but you can measure probability.

Let me give a crazy scenario that turns my blood a little cold. Imagine that in the USA, 40 ℅ of air passengers are practising Christians. Let us also imagine that the probability of an incident involving some fatalities but not all fatalities is approximately 1 in a million. It would be mathematically possible to work out how long it would it be before it would be more likely than unlikely that the only survivors in an incident were believers in Jesus. It is precisely the same kind of calculation that as rolling a dice and predicting if you roll a six or not. At first you are not surprised at rolling other numbers, but if you roll the dice a million times and not once roll a six, then your dice is probably weighted, right? Or what about the disease that only 1 in a thousand recover from? How does the Christian thank God if they are "healed"? How can they know it was faith, God's hand etc that did it?
So the problem for me and the question I am asking is how to be thankful when I or others benefit from random good? Does it do my faith any good to publicly or privately express thanks to God as though he caused this good directly? That shows Him that I believe that had He not intervened, or even had we not prayed, the good would not have happened. But I do not believe that can be reasonable.

God is a God of Truth. He will not, I feel sure, be glorified by exaggerated accounts or false accounts of direct intervention. Truth is and must be sufficient.

We rejoice always. Philippians 4:4.

I will do a follow-up post on moving away from direct causal assumptions by believers regarding divine intervention, what that might be and alternative ways to define it that might bring more satisfaction to my problems with the miracle-obsession.

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