Evil Stories: Part 3, The Problem of Evil is a Feature, Not a Bug

In the last post I shared that two of the three stories we tell about evil have intolerable consequences. Specifically, if evil is eternal it can't be defeated. Also, a purely scientific account of the world says that evil is an illusion, that evil isn't real. Not even human moral evil, as humans are just a part of same deterministic clockwork (or a deeply-random-quantum-roll-of-the-dice-universe). A rock can't be evil. Nor can a dog, tree, or a human. Yes, humans can hurt each other, and we can insist they stop, but there is nothing "broken," "wrong," or "out of sync" in their behavior. They are, like all the particles in the universe, just water flowing down a hill.

By contrast, the Christian story of evil says that something broke, that we can be radically "out of sync" with what the cosmos was, could, and should be. There was and is a lane, and we've jumped out of it. And the two great implications of this story is that, for Christians, evil is both real and can be defeated. We are out of sync but believe we can become back in sync. And because of this, I think the Christian story is the best story about evil.

However, like the other stories, the Christian story has its own implications that have to be faced. Specifically, in the Christian story you have to given an account for why the cosmos broke, how things got out of sync. How did evil enter the picture if everything was originally 100% good?

That's a hard question to answer. Because of this, Christianity is plagued by "the problem of evil': Why and how did God allow evil to come into existence? The Christian story about evil is plagued by the question of origins.

Personally, I don't think there are any great answers to the question regarding the origin of evil. But here's what I'd like to say and point out.

First, as I've pointed out, every story of evil has a hard issue it has to face. And of the issues, I prefer the issue the Christian story faces--the question about the origin of evil--over the implications of the other two stories, that evil is an illusion or cannot be defeated. Phrased differently, the price you pay as a Christian for having the best story about evil is the perennial "problem of evil."

Which is a bit ironic given that "the problem of evil" is generally considered an argument against Christianity, and is often a stumbling block to faith. And yet, if you step back and consider the other stories of evil you come to see how "the problem of evil" is the best problem to have. When it comes to the stories we have about evil you have to pick your poison. You can believe that evil isn't real, or that evil cannot be defeated, or struggle with the question of origins. Personally, I'd rather wrestle with origins and live with "the problem of evil" to believe that evil is both real and can be defeated. Again, it's just the price you pay for having the best story.

All that to say, "the problem of evil" isn't a problem for Christianity. It's the exact opposite. The "problem of evil" is a feature, not a bug of the Christian story. "The problem of evil" is just the price you have to pay to have the better story.

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