When There are Wars & Planes Fall from the Sky: How to Face the Problem of Evil & the Greater Problem of Good
So after dinner, she picks coneflowers in the garden.
Cradles the long stems in her apron skirt, carries them up through the picket gate.
And she turns to me on the top step of the porch, holds her apron out to me, all those purple petals — art in an apron.
“Why is there all this loveliness?”
She wants to know.
I almost tell her -- The World is full of loveliness because it’s full of of His love.
Isn’t that the meaning of beauty?
The fundamental purpose of loveliness — is to convey His love.
Everywhere, wildflowers, even in cracks in concrete sidewalks. Everywhere, this fragrance, this pursuit, this passion.
But I don’t know how to say that — when I know that coneflowers unfold off the porch and she stands there with an apron heavy with garden glory and the sunflowers nod yes, when planes fall from the sky, when war rages and girls are kidnapped and parents die from broken hearts. Why is there all this loveliness?
Don’t you mean — why is there famine and why is there this shocking disparity and what is right in a world of diets and death by starvation?
But doesn’t she really have a right to question it all — the sunflowers sparking in sun flare, the light falling late through the trees, all gold like this, the phlox blooming along the picket? I see that too, on the porch. The extravagant art that makes up this world, it does jockey for an answer.
The existence of loveliness everywhere, it begs explaining.
If I raise the problem of evil in this world — shouldn’t she raise higher the greater problem of good? If evil is seeming evidence to eradicate God from our mental landscape, then doesn’t goodness, even in this apron, testify to the gospel truth of God?
How can we behold loveliness — and say that this world looks like this if there were no God?
I don’t know if I have ever thought of this before — the great problem of good on this planet.
The philosopher Augustine had asked two questions of the world:
“If there is no God, why is there so much good?
If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”
I wonder if I have spent a lifetime murmuring under my breath only the second question?
But why don’t I first get hung up on the first question? The question my girl is bringing in with the flowers — why all this loveliness and where does it come from?
The great problem of good on this planet implies that there is a Great God in heaven.
Do we not wonder at the why of good because fundamentally all human beings presume the overspilling grace of God? That good is our intended atmosphere — and evil is the exception. Isn’t our default to ignore the expected and focus on the unexpected?
And even our deeming anything good or evil, it betrays our deep-seated beliefs —- because how can mere nature be either? Isn’t it just is?
To even assess events as good and evil reveals our true paradigm: we believe there is a moral center at the center of the cosmos, God at the axis of the universe.
But if there is really a God at the center of the universe, love at the core of the cosmos, love manifesting itself as loveliness in the garden —- doesn’t He care about children dying in the Middle East, about children being shot out of the sky, about children caught in the Iraqi crisis who are desperate for someone to remember them before they breathe their last gaping breath sometime this afternoon?
Yet if I think God doesn’t care about the hurting — aren’t I believing the chief lie of humanity?
The one hissed in the garden to Eve, the first deception that deceives us still — that God doesn’t care about the needs of His children.
And maybe this is why the world hemorrhages— if we think God doesn’t care — why should we?
Isn’t it easier to blame Him?
When I believe the Edenic lie that God doesn’t care — is that the excuse to turn away, to spread the lie that God doesn’t care — when maybe the truth is that it’s humanity that doesn’t care?
If we love because He first loved us… do we now care, because we know He did first care, has always cared, will always care and has the nail scars to definitively prove that He cares.
If all the world believed the truth of God’s character — that God cares —- wouldn’t this world become a caring place?
He cares, so we care; He loved first, so we love now.
Why all this loveliness?
Do I tell our Hope-girl just this --
that there is enough loveliness, enough beauty, enough peace, enough love in this world — enough food in this world —- if we would just share?
I pick one coneflower out her apron, twirl it between fingers.
“It’s God, isn’t it? — All this loveliness…” All this love in the face of our warring…
She says it to me, picking out one of the coneflower to inhale deep…. her picking up the scent of God.
She didn’t need me to say anything.
There are things that need no words.
His love clearly manifests itself also in the “problem of good.”
In every cone-flower curling itself into a megaphone of mercy.
This one long echo of evidence --
A love lingering bravely and boldly on ….