You don't have to be a genius to recognize that evil deeds happen, especially when it involves deliberate killing children in the name of G-d. Why do people have the license to be evil?
This idea that evil men are in pain and that explains what they do, is deplorable. They are many good people who have suffered and are in pain as well, but they don't go around dishing it out.
The answer to that question is pretty simple - because other people tolerate it.
As a young adult, I can remember grappling with the problem of evil and of God’s role in connection with it. The typical solutions I had heard weren’t really cutting it for me. I felt very early on that the Theory of Free Will – that in order to offer love freely we have to be given free will, and that this is why God allows evil to happen – didn’t address natural evil, such as diseases and natural disasters. These phenomena occurred long before humans populated this planet.
So I decided to suspend everything I had heard about God’s role in relation to the problem of evil. Along with doing this, I also decided to suspend everything I had heard or read about what God’s power is. I decided to go straight to the source with my questions, without any bias towards the answers I might “receive”. I sent out my questions like an oceanographer sends out soundings to gather information. I felt strongly I would receive answers. And I believe I did … “like echoes from the depth of time” I would later write.
The worldview that began to unfold in front of me didn’t seem to at first address the problem of evil directly, but as the different aspects of it began to fit together, a possible new solution to the problem of needless pain and suffering in the world – of natural and human evil – began to emerge.
The first answer, or awareness, I received was that in the beginning, the fundamental realities of the universe – like the first chemical elements, gravity, electromagnetism, and the laws that govern them all – had to be what they were, that it was absolutely essential that they be what they intrinsically were because they derived directly from God, who is the Ultimate Reality. This reveals the universe as an unfolding manifestation of God. These primordial realities could not be anything other than they were.
At first this seems to limit God’s power, because one might ask, “Couldn’t God create the universe any way and with anything that he wanted to?” But in reality it doesn’t limit God’s power at all. It reveals that the questioner is asking from a biased perspective, a perspective that doesn’t reflect the way Reality truly is. It’s like asking, “Couldn’t God create a square circle?” One wouldn’t answer “no” to the question (and thus limit God), but one would rather say that the question itself isn’t in accordance with the Reality of God and the realities that derive from God.
The second answer, or awareness, I received was that from the moment anything was created, it naturally turned to God out of a need to be something more – to progress. This automatically set up a “call and response” dynamic between God and the universe. There was even a type of yearning – not like the yearnings you or I feel, but a yearning nonetheless – within complex molecules to be something more. God lovingly responded to this need – and life itself came into existence, began to thrive and grow. From that point on, the needs – the yearnings – within the universe became much more complex. This process sets up a dynamic of collaboration between God and nature to bring about the development of the universe. Along with many new life-processes, the reality of physical pain came into existence. Pain was not conjured up by God as some kind of warning system or learning experience, but is a natural result of the reality of sensation itself. As I wrote in my book of philosophy ~SOUNDINGS~: Exploring the Depths of God and Nature:
The reality of pain is intertwined within the very fabric
of this evolving universe.
It is an actual aspect of the unfolding manifestation of God,
of this continuing collaboration of nature with God.
So is the reality of pleasure,
although an understanding of pleasure is less intriguing.
We simply enjoy it, pursue it, long for it—
not really caring so much why.
But pain is another story.
It can consume us, overwhelm us.
It has the potential to drive us deep within ourselves,
crying out, reaching out with a yearning
and longing for release,
for something, someone, to deliver us.
The third answer, or awareness, I received (and perhaps the most applicable to the problem of evil) was that the realities that derive from God have an inherent power within them to resist the full power of God. This power to resist God is linked to the dynamic that these realities derive from God, and thus share in God’s Reality. This sets up another dynamic in which God is in contention with the life-forms in the universe to bring about their evolution and development. It’s not like these life-forms consciously resist God’s power. It’s more like this power to resist is just part of their very nature. Yes, things do get more complicated where human beings, and matters of free will, are involved. But that undercurrent of contention between God and that which derives from God – the universe as the unfolding manifestation of God – still remains.
These three understandings – manifestation, collaboration, and contention – help to make up a philosophy I’ve come to call derivism. This philosophy has led me to a surprising understanding of God in relation to the universe and how that relationship addresses the problem of evil – both natural and human. That understanding is this:
At this moment – at every moment – God is offering us everything in his, in her power to give. God, who is Pure Love, isn’t withholding anything. But God is contending with our natural selves – ourselves physically, chemically, biologically, and psychologically.
Now, some might see this contention as limiting God, but once again that perception is a mistake, in my opinion, and is based on biases about God’s power that we bring to the table:
To view this truth as a limitation of our wonderful God
is a mistaken perception.
The reality of the power of the sacred Spirit of God
exerted in its fullness upon the natural world,
resulting in the development of life
through planetary history,
and climaxing with the advent of humanity—
this reality doesn’t limit or lower God,
rather it raises the universe
to its true significance and worth.
It raises the preciousness of life
as it is reflected in God’s eyes.
It raises God’s people, every human being,
to a deeper understanding of their roles
as collaborators in God’s plan,
as laborers of God’s love—
and sometimes, as those in need of special care.
The misconceptions surrounding God’s activity
in relation to the universe begin when we confuse
what God’s power actually is
with what we imagine it to be.
Just because we can imagine God’s power
being exerted on physical objects
like an actual hand would be exerted,
doesn’t mean that God actually works that way.
It seems very possible that the way God works—
maybe the way God must work
in accordance with reality—
is through the hearts and minds
and limbs of living things,
that this is the essential avenue
through which miracles occur,
especially within the human arena.
So for me, these answers and this awareness colors everything I witness regarding the harsher realities of life – realities like death, accidents, natural disasters, disease and human evil. I’ve come to realize that much of human evil can be attributed to a person’s reaction to the lack of God’s power and love in their lives. To quote Augustine, “Evil is the privation [or absence] of good.” Evil isn’t a real thing in itself. It is more like the absence of the Ultimately Real Thing – or One – which is God.
This philosophy of derivism helps me to not blame God for the essential way that the universe is developing, with all of its beauty and heartache. It’s a worldview that has served me well for over twenty years, through all kinds of turmoil – inner as well as outer. I came to this worldview as a Christian, and it has strengthened and revitalized my faith. But I don’t see derivism as an exclusively Christian philosophy. I can see it being applied to other faith traditions as well.
So to answer the question “Why does God tolerate evil?” my answer would have to be that God doesn’t tolerate evil at all. God’s power is exerted in its fullness at ever moment, but is contending with realities that derive directly from God, and thus have the power to resist God. So of the three classic attributes of God, two of them remain virtually untouched in derivism – God’s omniscience (all-knowingness) and God’s omnibenevolence (all-goodness). The third attribute – God’s omnipotence (all -powerfulness) – is simply revised to mean the kind of power that God’s power actually is and the way that God’s power actually works. If God’s omnipotence is real and our ideas of what constitute omnipotence are not, then we should be the ones changing our minds, and not expect God to change his, to change her Reality.
Who would want to change God’s Reality anyway? God is all-inclusive Pure Love and the universe is unfolding in accordance with that. This world, with all of its pain and struggle, is still a wondrous, exciting, and fulfilling place. As a human being thriving down here on planet Earth, I can think of no other place I’d rather be!
Hi Frank, I think the point is, that God gave us the power to create in His own image or likeness. The mind is not limited in its power to create, only in WHAT it chooses to create. We cannot resist God but we can miscreate. If God made the mind limited then God would have limited his own power. That is why correction has to come from us, from our ability and willingness to change our mind. Or rather align our mind with the Creator. Otherwise we just get stuck with what we believe whether it be truth or illusion. We still get to choose what we believe but the outcome of that choice determines whether we create hapiness or more suffering and illusions for ourselves and the world. Ultimately there is only One Choice and everyone must reach this happy realisation eventually!
Hi Matthew, I too am in favor of us aligning our minds with the Creator. I've often thought of it as being like a string on the instrument of God. When we are in tune with God and in harmony with the other stings, the music just flows and sounds incredible. Get out of tune with God and out of harmony with the the other strings and we start sounding like Rosanne Barr singing "The Star-Spangled Banner"!
I also agree with you that if we don't align our minds with God, then we "just get stuck with what we believe whether it be truth or illusion." And yes, ultimately there may be only One Choice, but there appear to be many, many ways of arriving at it.
I don't think Jesus chose to be a sacrificial lamb, I think his purpose was much greater than that. It is a very Christian stance to believe that Jesus sacrificed himself to save us from sin. I prefer to believe that he did it to demonstrate that pain, the body and even death were an illusion and that no matter what anyone said or did to him, they had no power over him. Rather an extreme lesson but such were the times he was living in.
Amen to that :)
It is good to help someone not to do something that allows them to suffer. Not allowing someone to abuse you protects them as well as you.