We’ve been looking at it backwards. At least I have.
I’ve been in conversation with a Facebook friend recently, regarding the age-old question: “If there is a good God, why does evil exist in the universe?” Lots of ink has been spilled and bytes have flown over the topic … I’ve weighed in on it myself in the past. The bottom line, as I have acknowledged in every such conversation I’ve had, is that while I remain a theist for other reasons, the answers to this dilemma that I’ve so far encountered leave me unsatisfied in the extreme. This post isn’t gonna change that.
I’ve been mulling over it even more recently as I look at the world around me. From the depressing tendency toward autocratic fascism in too many of my countrymen, to the dismal reports of misery and fear as we leave behind our failures in Afghanistan, to the maddening opposition of too many people to the notion they might defer their rights for others’ safety in the pandemic … we’ve no end to the list of ways the world sucks and is tending to suck worse.
In the middle of a 300-mile drive the other day it suddenly occurred to me: I’m not at all surprised that people do evil. In fact, I’ve rather come to expect it. What surprises me are the times when, evil circling all around us, anyone does anything good. Not just day-to-day decency: most people do want at the least keep their heads down and stay out of others’ way, and if they do happen to interact it’s usually benign if not exactly kind (although tragically, even this appears to be growing less common). Even so, on a general scale it seems, at least to me and at least now, that the oppressor and the abuser eventually come out on top. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to win if you fight dirty, and “bad guys” lack the principled stands of “good guys.” Or maybe, in the words of Dark Helmet, “…evil will always triumph over good because good is dumb.” (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Nevertheless, every once in a while we still see genuinely self-sacrificial, generous, loving acts. People who don’t have to care, care. People who don’t have to be kind, are kind. And people with nothing to gain work to the betterment of those who can never repay them. And the question that leapt to my mind was “so why is there any good in the midst of all this crap?”
Could it be because the Imago Dei remains within us, flickering and sputtering and stubbornly refusing to die despite our best efforts to snuff it? Might we better ask, “if there is no God, why is there any good in the universe?”
I know this isn’t airtight apologetics and it isn’t biblical exegesis either. And it’s not dispositive for there being a God, or for that matter for there being any actual good.
But still … somehow, it gave me a flicker of hope. If for nothing else, then to at least try to be one of the ones who cares. Right now, that’ll do.
(And if you haven’t figured it out by now, just read the title backwards.)