The Problem Of Evil -- By: Herbert W. Magoun
BSac 90:357 (Jan 1933) p. 36
The Problem Of Evil
“Hath God Forgotten To Be Gracious?”
The problem of evil is as old as man himself. Job and his friends labored at it but solved it not. Men have stumbled over it, nay, they have always been baffled by it. John Stuart Mill is reported to have declared that there could not be a good God, since nature is filled with violence and a good God would not tolerate such a condition. He is commonly regarded as a great philosopher and a deep thinker. Was he really either in this connection? Is it possible that in this instance he stumbled and was a shallow thinker?
God does permit such things, and God must be good. How can the two facts be reconciled? How much do we know of the divine purposes and plans? Nay, more, how much do we know of what is for our own best good? Men behold war and famine and pestilence in the world and ask why such things are tolerated by the Creator. They perceive the wickedness of men, the evil that they do, and wonder why God permits that sort of thing. They even ask whether He is omnipotent and opine that He cannot be, since, otherwise, He would not tolerate such conditions. They even ask why He does not make all men good.
It never seems to occur to them that it might be well to consider alternatives. Many of them understand that there can be no sound without an ear to hear, because sound is the response of an ear to certain vibrations in the air. The vibrations may be there, but the ear is needed to respond to them, if sound is to materialize. So with color. An eye must respond to the vibrations of light before color is possible. The vibrations alone cannot make it, for by its very nature it is the response to those vibrations by a seeing eye. All recognize on the instant that there can be no mountains apart from valleys. It is also clear that many things involve certain necessary conditions, and that most mundane affairs have their limitations. Sup-
BSac 90:357 (Jan 1933) p. 37
pose we start from that as a basis and recognize its possibilities.
Is goodness one of them? What is it? How would you define it? Could there by any possibility be any goodness apart from the chance to do wrong? Is goodness anything else than the choice of what is right in place of what is wrong? Suppose there were no chance to choose, what then? Could goodness exist in an environment of that sort? Is not freedom of choice a condition precedent to the thing we call goodness? Can goodness exist, then, apart from evil?
No one would be foolish enough to say that God is not omnipotent because He cannot make mountains apart from valleys, since it is only too patent to the eye that the valleys must be ...
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