Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Problem of Good

Clint Roberts:
The late atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens was fond of likening the universe to a cosmic North Korea ruled over by a dictatorial deity. But as sure as Hitchens suffered his share of problems, right up to the problem of his own withering health, did he not also experience a life of many enjoyments? Did he not secure an outlet as a writer and a platform for fame? Did he not fill rooms with people who enjoyed his sardonic wit and lined up for his autograph? Did he not rub elbows with important cultural and political voices during a very long public career? Did he not spend many a fine meal regaling the table with his sharply sarcastic critiques of so many things in the news? Why would the all-powerful ‘Kim Jong Ill in the sky’ be so good to him as to allow all of that? Why would that cruel cosmic meanie give so many pleasures to a man who railed against him ceaselessly?

If the world is ruled over by a figure of omnipotent viciousness and cold cruelty, we should expect a thousand times more hardship in life than we experience. Likewise if the story of human history is nothing more than the story of a race of creatures on a distant galactic outpost where, by a crazy long-shot, a zillion factors lined up to make their existence possible, then all of our eloquent lyricizing and philosophizing about good and evil amount to nothing more than sounds going out into the atmosphere and never beyond it. As Doug Wilson put it, “the material universe doesn’t care about any of this foolishness, not even a little bit … it’s all just part of a gaudy and very temporary show. Sometimes the Northern lights put on a show in the sky. Sometimes people put on a show on the ground. Then the sun goes out and it turns out nobody cares” (Letter from a Christian Citizen). Yes the problem of good and the problem of evil both force our attention and require us to consider more seriously the kind of reality in which we live.

No response is neat and tidy so as to satisfy us completely, but, like Wilson and unlike Hitchens (the two men, incidentally, are featured in a series called Collision that highlights their uniquely antagonistic friendship through several public debate appearances), I would maintain that the Christian understanding of things makes more sense of good and evil than the alternatives.
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