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Thread: The Problem of Evil

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    The Problem of Evil

    The Problem of Evil
    And a Strategy for Christian Wholeness

    “I loathe my life: I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me.” -The Book of Job, 10.1-2

    The problem of evil and suffering has troubled the hearts and minds of man from ancient times to the present; and it is no less exasperating today than it was in the days of Job. What is evil? Where does it come from? Is it a retributive justice of the gods? A contrasting Theodicy, which says evil, exists simply that we might know what is good? Is it merely a consequence of sin and the fall of man? Perhaps it is simply part of the divine plan for the cosmos? Or is it simply that God is not omnipotent after all?
    The philosopher, David Hume, seemed to take this last stance when he immortalized the classic statement of the problem:
    “Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing: whence then is evil?”

    I recall the childhood prayer I was taught to pray at meals and enjoyed reciting with my family when I was young: “God is great. God is good. Thank you Jesus for our food. Amen.” But if God is both great and good, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Why does God allow it? The problem is then reduced to three primary issues- “God’s power, God’s goodness, and the presence of evil in the world” (Mallard Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 412).

    Christian teaching divides evil into three categories or types- physical evil, moral evil, and metaphysical evil (New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, “Evil”). Physical evil is such things as natural or social conditions that directly cause harm- disease, accidents, death, poverty, oppression, etc. Metaphysical Evil is when natural objects, such as “animal, human, or vegetable organisms” are limited or prevented from “attaining to their full or ideal perfection, whether by the constant pressure of physical condition or sudden catastrophes” (New Advent, Evil), such as, predatory animal, storms, hurricanes and earthquakes, etc.
    Moral Evil is aberrations in the soul and hearts of man that are contrary to the Moral Law. They are innately produced there by the effective consequences of sin and the fall of man. These include sins that are under the category of grave and mortal sin-, which is, defined in contradistinction to those that are venial sins (of which moral evil would not necessarily be categorized)-which are sins that have as their object and intention, serious or grave matter, full knowledge, and complete consent (CCC, 1859) on the part of the perpetrators. These are such sins that “destroys charity in the heart of man by grave violation of God’s law…and turns man away from God…by preferring an inferior good to Him” (CCC, 1855); and which include St. Paul’s various listings of the Works of the Flesh (Gal. 5.19-21; Rm. 1.28-32; 1 Cor. 9-10; Eph. 5.3-5; Col. 3.5-8; 1Tim. 2-5); and would also include those defined by the catechism as “Offenses Against Chastity”: lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, rape, and homosexuality (2351-2359).

    The specific problems and aspects of evil we are interested in are those of a Moral Evil, such a rape; why God allows such things to happen; and how to bring victims of such evils to a state of Christian wholeness. There are no easy answers to this question and whole philosophies have been developed throughout the centuries attempting an answer. As Christians, we must, as George MacDonald said in The Golden Key, “throw ourselves” into chasm of faith and trust in God. “There is no other way.” We must trust in the goodness of God as revealed in the whole of the Christian faith; and in what specifically concerns us here, regarding the problem of evil, is the Providence of God. As defined by the Catechism, creation according to providence:
    “did not spring forth complete from the hands of the creator. The universe was created in a state of journeying toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call Divine Providence the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection: by his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well. For all are open and laid bare to his eyes, even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures” (CCC, 302).

    As part of God’s providence, man has been granted Free Will and God has deigned to bring all things to completion in Christ through cooperating with man. “God, the First Cause, operates through us as Secondary Causes” (CCC, 306). Though God does not desire evil, he has allowed it in order that we might have our own freedom-a freedom to act in accordance with or against the moral law of God. Furthermore, God can and does conquer the effects of evil and produce that which is good from it. The most effective sign of this principle is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    This brings us to the question of how we are to deal the effects of evil and journey towards Christian wholeness. First, we must realize that there is a “double consequence” to sin (CCC, 1472)- the eternal and temporal effects and punishments for sin. The first deals with the effects of Grave Sin, such as our case situation of Rape. There remains, even for the victim of someone else’s mortal sin, a temporal punishment or effect. Though the victim was not the perpetrator of the crime or sin, there may yet remain the physical, psychological and spiritual wounds or effects of the crime.

    In seeking an answer to healing these effects, there are many elements of the Christian “Cure of Souls,” some primary, such as the sacraments; and other secondary means of healing, such as the spiritual disciplines and professional counseling.

    One aspect of dealing with the temporal consequences of grave sin is often overlooked. We live in an era where guilt, contrition, personal responsibility or sufferings are seen as social evils to be avoided. However, there is a certain meritorious aspect of suffering that as Christians we need to embrace. St. Paul expressed a special vicariousness or merit in his suffering: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction, for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1.24). He implies that there is merit in his sufferings, which are connected with Christ’s; and those merits or benefits are for others, the church. St. Peter also speaks of sharing Christ’s sufferings (1Pt. 4.13).

    Although, “our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become temptations against it” (CCC, 164). Therefore, we must put our faith in God and Christ. Sometimes “even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses” (CCC, 1508). It is in these situations of dealing with the consequences of evil that we must embrace our sufferings and realize that the Lord’s Grace is sufficient for us and “his power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12.9).

    Two aspects related to meritorious suffering are indulgences and merit. An indulgence is connected with the Sacrament of Penance and deals with a “remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven: and may be either “partial or plenary according as it removes either, part or all the temporal punishment due to sin” (CCC, 1471). However, this deals specifically with a penitent and may not be directly applicatory to a victim of a moral evil, such as rape. It may however apply when it deals with overcoming the temporal effect of the perpetrator’s sin on the victim; and the victims own sin as regards the effect of the perpetrators crime on the conscience of the victim, such as anger, hatred, unbelief, etc.

    Merit, on the other hand, deals first with the True Merit found only in Jesus Christ and provided to us through him, by God’s own initiative and “gratuitous justice,” granting us the initial grace of forgiveness and justification (CCC, 2010). It is only then, as adopted children and heirs of Christ, through the powers and grace of justification, that we can, “by being moved by the Holy Spirit and charity,” “...merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and the attainment of eternal life” (CCC, 2010). It is in this sense, that as we embrace our suffering, it becomes a participation in the sufferings of Christ (Col.1.24; CCC, 1508, 1521); and that it becomes meritorious for others.

    I have strayed somewhat from the target of this paper on the problem of a particular moral evil, rape; and the means of bringing a victim of such to Christian wholeness. However, this issue of meritorious suffering is something the Christian community preaches very seldom. The common solution today is the prosperity doctrine where all suffering, illness, poverty or social injustice is seen as a resultant lack of faith. There is something to be said for a faith-filled anticipation of the miraculous; but there is much to be said about endurance, perseverance, the carrying of our cross, and the bearing of suffering. Even those with significant psychological trauma cannot be wholly cured until they are willing to face their demons, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (which I believe is more than just penance); through the Spiritual Disciplines of the Church; Christian Healing, and Christian Counseling.

    In brief, then, I will provide an Appendix of an Outline, Prescription or Strategy for Christian Healing and Wholeness. This scheme is based on an understanding of the Meritorious Work of Christ, the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints, and the Spiritual Disciplines of the Church. All such, with their corresponding doctrines, are to be assumed; and that according to the Three Streams Approach of the Catholic Faith, as represented by the Charismatic Episcopal Church. This is most clearly delineated in Fr. Mark Pearson’s book; but other sources were consulted as well. The Spiritual Disciplines are largely taken from Dallas Willard and Richard Foster’s work, although many classical Christian practices from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church were also considered.

    In seeking to guide someone toward Healing, I would draw various aspects from the following appendix. The most important are the Sacraments, which are the primary means of receiving the Grace of Christ. Part of one’s spiritual formation and healing, would be an introduction to the practice of the spiritual disciplines through which we learn to cooperate with the Grace of God; as well as a general catechesis of the Christian Faith. In the specific case of Victimization, skilled Christian Professional Care and a medical, psychological, and nutritional evaluation would also be highly recommended.

    Prescription or Strategy for Christian Healing and Wholeness
    I. Sacramental Healing
    A. Sacraments of Initiation
    1. Baptism.
    2. Confirmation
    3. Eucharist
    B. Sacraments of Healing
    1. Reconciliation
    2. Anointing

    II. The Spiritual Disciplines
    A. Disciplines of Abstinence
    1. Solitude
    2. Silence & Passive Meditation
    a. Meditation
    b. Centering Prayer
    c. Prayer of the Quiet
    d. Contemplation
    3. Fasting
    4. Frugality
    5. Chastity
    6. Secrecy/Confidentiality
    7. Sacrifice
    B. Disciplines of Engagement
    1. Study & Reading
    a. Bible
    b. Catechesis
    c. Hagiography
    d. Spiritual Reading
    2. Worship
    3. Celebration
    4. Service- works of charity & service
    5. Prayer
    a. The Daily Office
    b. Ejaculatory Prayers
    c. Active Meditation:
    1). The Rosary
    2). The Jesus Prayer
    3). Mental Prayer
    4). Visualization
    d. Jesus Prayer
    6. Fellowship
    7. Confession:
    1). To a Confessor/Spiritual Director
    2). The Sacrament of Penance to a Priest
    8. Submission & Obedience
    III. The Spiritual Gifts
    A. Gifts of Healing
    B. The Word of Knowledge
    C. The Word of Wisdom
    D. Prophecy
    E. Speaking in Tongues
    F. Mercy
    G. Discernment of Spirits

    IV. Skilled Care
    A. Spiritual Direction
    B. Prayer Counseling
    C. Professional Counseling
    D. Medical Evaluation & Healthcare
    E. Dietary & Nutritional Counseling
    VI. Additional Aspects of Christian Ministry
    A. Indulgences
    B. Merit
    C. Works of Charity & Service
    D. Works of an Apostolate
    E. Intercession of the Saints
    F. Deliverance Ministry
    G. Hospital or Home Visit Ministry
    H. Altar rail ministry
    By Aslan's Mane, the Reverend Father Aidan Jerry Hix+, Vicar
    St. Aidan's Charismatic Episcopal Church
    POB 341 Antioch, CA 94509

    "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

  2. #2
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    Re: The Problem of Evil

    For those of us who accept the full rights of a sovereign God to accomplish whatever he pleases, there is no problem of evil. There are many threads on this forum where this subject is debated in detail.

    Perhaps it is simply part of the divine plan for the cosmos?

    I'm glad that simple is best, scrap the complicated, A good God creates evil as one of his many purposes to glorify himself!

    Many of us here at 5solas (myself included) do not believe that the Hebrew RA (evil) distinguishes or compartmentalizes the physical, the moral, or the metaphysical into separate entities. The evil that God creates encompasses all three of these aspects. We are certainly aware of the long-standing Augustinian and Platonic tradition that God is never the first cause of evil. I, for one, realize that standing against that tradition places me outside of the mainstream of institutional churchianity.
    I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice--no one will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain. Walter Scott

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