Certainly, the greatest theological problem that plagues most individuals in our generation is theodicy, or why a good and all powerful God allows for evil to exist. We as Mormons can be trite and say, “Well that’s easy, people have agency,” as if that answered every possible objection. Of course there are additional issues that agency doesn’t answer, such as natural evils. An all powerful God could probably make a world with fewer earthquakes, diseases, etc.
Anyway, I’m not super interested in directly answering the problem of evil in this post, rather, I would like to discuss a thought experiment. I really enjoy following the links of the sideblog at By Common Consent which are often humorous and witty. A few weeks (or months) ago they linked to a blog post by Stephen Law titled The God of Eth, which I found wonderfully effective in illustrating the weakness of our common responses to the problem of evil. Stephen turns our premises on their heads by offering a mental exercise wherein professors on the planet Eth are debating whether they can defend their basic beliefs that the God of Eth is all powerful and all evil. He has his characters try and explain and defend a belief in an all evil being who allows some good to come through in the world. You see, they have to deal with the Problem of Good. Here is a short sample of the dialogue.
GIZIMOTH: Hmm. But why would a supremely wicked God give us beautiful children to love?
BOOBLEFRIP: Because he knows weâ€™ll spend our entire lives worrying about them. Only a parent can know the depth of torture a child brings.
GIZIMOTH: Why does he give us healthy young bodies?
BOOBLEFRIP: Well, after 10 or 15 years they slowly and inevitably slide into decay, disease and decrepitude until we end up hopelessly ugly, incontinent and smelling of urine. Then we die, having lived out a short and ultimately meaningless existence. You see, by giving us something, and then snatching it away, our evil creator can make us suffer even more than if we had never had it.
GIZIMOTH: But then why does God allow some people live out such contented lives?
BOOBLEFRIP: Of course an evil God is going to bestow upon a few people lavish lifestyles, good health and immense success. Their happiness is designed to make the suffering of the rest of us even more acute! Weâ€™ll be wracked by feelings of envy, jealousy and failure! Who can be content while they have so much more!
GIZIMOTH: Oh honestly.
BOOBLEFRIP: Donâ€™t you see? The world clearly was designed to produce life, to produce conscious beings like ourselves. Why? So that itâ€™s designer can torture us. The world is designed to physically and psychologically crush us, so that we are ultimately overwhelmed by lifeâ€™s futility and bow out in despair.
So, what has really stayed with me over the month or so since I read it was the issue of trust and faith in a God that we assume is omnibenevolent. So my question for you is: How do you explain faith in a God that could be setting you up to be crushed? I guess it really isn’t that much different than asking, “What if the God of Calvinism is real?” If the God of Calvinism were real, even his defenders today admit that he chooses who he will save and who he will torture. He created the devil, after all. His character is such that he could be setting people up to feel saved, experience joy, make them believe they were eternally secure, then surprise them by torturing them in hell along with all of the sinners. (“So you thought you were better than everyone else, huh? Thought you were special? Never figured that me and the devil were one and the same? Mmmwaahahahaha, haaaaa!”) Wouldn’t that just be devastating?!?!?
Anyway, we always argue about the limits of his power (in order to address the problem of evil), but I don’t think we’ve ever dealt with the issue of the limits of God’s morality and how we can trust that he is not setting us up for a fall. Is there an effective answer to the God of Eth?