The inscrutability of evil

by Kim on May 4, 2010

To take a break (though not really) from writing a homily and prayers for the service of death and resurrection* of a suicide on Friday …

“The agony of the Christian mind wrestling with the problem of evil seems at first sight a sign of weakness. Is it not an admission of its inability to resolve the principal objection, its powerlessness even to begin chipping away at the ‘rock of atheism’? On reflection, however, we would suggest that things appear differently.

“If we bowed to the incomprehensible as a way out every time that we found ourselves in difficulties, there would be grounds for suspicion about such a procedure - it would be sheer irresponsibility. People are too ready to fall back on the action of ‘mystery’, and also to confuse mystery with the absurd - which Scripture never does. But we would argue that the mystery of evil is the one unique inscrutable mystery, as unique as evil itself, sui generis. Far from being absurd, it corresponds precisely with the experience of evil, with its two facets: unjustifiable - reality….

“We may take these thoughts further. The sense of evil requires the God of the Bible. In a novel by Joseph Heller, ‘while rejecting belief in God, the characters in the story find themselves compelled to postulate his existence in order to have an adequate object for their moral indignation’ [E.L. Mascall]. Moltmann too has perceived that you suppress all protest against suffering, if you suppress God: ‘Since that time no atheism can fall below Job’s level.’ When you raise this standard objection against God, to whom do you say it, other than this God? Without this God who is sovereign and good, what is the rationale of our complaint? Can we even tell what evil is? ….

“We do not understand the why of evil. But we can understand that we do not understand…. To understand evil would be to understand that evil is not ultimately evil…

“Evil is not therefore to be understood, but to be fought. The absence of any solution to the theological problem of the emergence of evil is one side of the coin; the other side, something still more precious than righteous indignation, is the solution to the practical problem of the suppression of evil. What you appear to lose on the theoretical level you gain on the existential level. And we have in mind particularly the far horizon of the practical task, the end of evil, something of far greater interest than its origin. Then will end the cries of ‘How long?’ which express a far heavier burden than the cries of ‘Why?’”

Henri Blocher, Evil and the Cross (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), pp. 102-03.

* I have said before that Christians don’t have “funerals”, we have “services of death and resurrection”. No doubt we will all continue to use the word “funeral”, for shorthand at least - as long as we recognise the semantic poverty, indeed misleadingness. of the term, rather like calling a “sermon” an “address”.

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Henri Blocher on evil, the cross, and hope « P e r ? C r u c e m ? a d ? L u c e m
05.06.10 at 12:50 am

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Mark Byron 05.06.10 at 12:42 am

I’m not sure if we need as much to fight evil as to avoid it. Judo works better than boxing.

A lot of problems flow from when we are obsessed with fighting evil, we forget to do good.

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