This dramatic title was the name given by the Concordia University Catholic Students Association for a talk they asked me give. I have a special place in my heart for students, and am always especially happy to encourage those of my alma mater, so I gratefully accepted. Still, it was a tall order. Here is the blurb they added to the event:
Bishop Thomas will explore one of the hardest – and most important – questions we all make at a given point in life: the problem of evil. How can there be a good, omnipotent God who co-exists with so much suffering, pain and misery? If you want to hear a deep and satisfying solution to this apparent paradox, don’t miss this talk!
A solution to the problem of evil, in 2 hours? That’s a tall order! So I made sure to open with these words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
309 If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.
Hopefully no one was disappointed that I was not able to present “Christian faith as a whole” in only 2 hours… :-)
Seriously, though, the question of evil, suffering and disasters is one which obviously vexes the heart of man, particularly when one accepts the existence of an all-powerful God. Like Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov, many people, faced with evil and suffering, actively refuse faith in God. I remember reading that book as a young adult, after having providentially picked it up second hand at an outdoor market, and I remember how one chapter in particular, called “Rebellion”, challenged my own understanding of this question. The name of this blog is in some ways an answer to Ivan: I have come to see that the true opposite of Evil is Love, and that Evil is able to exercise its dark mastery wherever Love has grown cold. For me, being a Christian is about living the “civilization of love” as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ.
While the room was packed for the talk it unfortunately was not recorded (an oversight on my part), although one participant did provide some notes on his personal website. Given the response of the group, I’m sending a need to expand on this subject for a broader audience, which I will definitely work on. In the meantime, here is a link to a talk I gave about 5 years ago on the subject If God is good, why is there evil in the world?