Sufficient evil – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

I enjoy my life. I’ve made my share of mistakes, but it’s a good one. I’ve been the beneficiary of God’s merciful and bountiful provision, and have the luxury of deciding when to pay off more debt, or to help someone in greater need, rather than choosing which of my children get to eat today. I haven’t had to bury a child. I’ve never starved. I’ve never even been involuntarily unemployed. I’m not excessively burdened by worry.

But….

Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

I recently saw a picture I can’t un-see. A couple of young men cut the ears off a dog, just because.

And one of a mother holding her child, snatched from her by sickness.

And another, of the remains of hundreds of aborted babies stored in what were essentially plastic butter tubs.

Do you know there have been well over 54,000,000 abortions in the USA since 1973? If each of these children were put into a small 8oz butter tub, and we assume the tubs all fit together with no wasted space, we’d need room for 432,000,000 oz. There are about 1.8 cubic inches per oz of liquid. That’s 777,600,000 cubic inches, or 450,000 cubic feet. Piled into a cone, that’s a cone approximately 120 feet tall and 120 feet across. You know that statue in Brazil? The statue of Christ the Redeemer? It’s 120 feet tall. A mountain of tiny infant coffins 120 feet tall.

You don’t have to go far on the internet or any history book worthy of the name to be confronted by evil.

Leibniz proposes that we live in the best of all possible worlds:

“I do not believe that a world without evil, preferable in order to ours, is possible; otherwise it would have been preferred. It is necessary to believe that the mixture of evil has produced the greatest possible good: otherwise the evil would not have been permitted”

Plantinga argues that there are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being cannot create, and one of those is a world where persons have free will, but never choose evil. He proposes:

“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.”

There are substantial disagreements between their positions, I think primarily arising from Leibniz’s more classical understanding of God as being itself, versus Plantinga’s understanding of God as the greatest creature having being, and the difference between Leibniz’s “possible” and Plantinga’s “possible to actualize.” But, the point is…

God loves us.

And he wants us to love him
…freely.

And the value he places upon our love, freely given, is so powerful that even horrific evils pale in comparison.

He loves us more than moral good, as we understand it.

He loves us more than a mother her child.

He loves us more than life itself, even his own.

And he allows us to suffer, and to cause suffering, because that is the only way we can also freely receive and give love.

It’s mind boggling.

What about the 55 million corpses? Did he love them? What about the critters (human and otherwise) in the world that are tortured and killed? What about the starving? The sick? The abused and molested?

I think my brain, and my faith, and my understanding of his love is just too small. I’m thankful for the gift of faith, however small, that I know I’ve received by the fact that when my soul is crushed, I find myself having to choose whether to bless or curse God, rather than wondering if he exists at all.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

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