My previous post was a review of N.D. Wilson’s excellent book, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl. While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I would have addressed the problem of evil in a different way.
Wilson used art as a metaphor to understand why there is darkness in God’s world. He talked about the necessity of both shadow and darkness in a good painting, otherwise you end up with something that has no depth or color. Without black, you are left with a perfectly white painting, and perfectly blank.
In the same way, he says that when we see the shadows of life, we must understand that the painting of reality is a potpourri of shadow and light, resulting ultimately in beauty.
Wilson also makes an appeal to our limited perspective. Because our perspective is limited, we simply have to accept that this is the best of all possible worlds (for now):
If we live in art, struggling in the boundary between the shadow and the light, how can we begin to judge? How can we presume to talk about a better painting, a better novel, when we only see a single line, a single page, and it brings us grief?
I think we can talk about a better painting because God has given us glimpses into a what that looks like. Will the new heavens and the new earth be a lesser work of art because there will be “no more tears”? The analogy breaks down badly at this point.
The scriptures are filled with tradgedy and pain and our lives hold potential to have horrible suffering that can’t be explained. But there will be beauty in the end, and God will crush such evils under his feet–in fact, he is already active in doing that now and invites our participation.
For me, the problem of evil in the world is not about just wanting my own position “a little more comfortable.” When I struggle with it, I’m not thinking of the aches and pains my body carries around with it every day. I’m thinking of the most horrific evils in the world and how they can be permitted to happen when God is perfectly good and powerful.
I cannot brush off the fact that children are sold as sex slaves by saying that my perception is limited, and if I could just see things from a higher view it would make sense. I’m not convinced that such evils can make sense. Perhaps the better answer is that we are supposed to struggle with them and not just accept them as a part of a larger tapestry that will look beautiful in the end.
Perhaps our hope in the face of such evils is that God has invited us to participate with him to set captives free and “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).