Untangling Christianity Podcast
In this episode John, Gregg, and Charlie continue their discussion from the previous episode on the problem of evil.
John notes his frustration that hard topics like evil are sometimes brushed away or avoided by appealing to God’s mysteriousness or our inability as humans to understand God’s ways.
Gregg counters this idea strongly. In his view a key aspect of what is required to live authentically–to have genuine relationship with God or with oneself–is having gone through the process of asking the question about / investigating the problem of evil.
Gregg explains that just as we in the West are an information-saturated culture, so too we are a culture where the problem of evil is presented in so many ways that no one can remain unaware of it.
So Gregg distinguishes between the “question of evil” and the “problem of evil,” where the first is a hypothetical or philosophical discussion about evil and the second is any actual, instantiated instance. In Gregg’s view everyone in the modern world is grappling with the problem of evil (even where such grappling involves ignoring that problem or presuming there can be no answer).
Charlie emphasizes that the vast majority of people ignore the problem, though: like ostriches they have stuck their heads in the ground. So how are they engaging?
Gregg agrees, but sees this very process of ignoring or of pretending that evil is “not there” as simply a way that people are already engaging with this issue, albeit poorly / ineffectually. Further, Gregg notes that everyone in the modernized, western world is confronting the problem of evil–no one is still working with the hypothetical “question” of evil. So we all have experienced or heard about an instance of evil (such as the recent attacks on Paris) that is “real enough” to them such that we are forced to respond, even if we respond by ignoring it.
John and Charlie note their tendency to avoid following the news closely and in particular incidents like Paris because they feel unable to address the wider world’s problems directly. But how does one engage with the problem of evil directly?
Gregg’s response is that, as Christians, we should orient ourselves toward such events as the Syrian refugee crisis or the attacks on Paris in such a way that we carry an understanding of the situation with us in our daily lives such that we can engage with ourselves, with God rightly. And then with others. Practically speaking, then, this means identifying how much time we have each day to engage with such matters (while knowing that some days–and on occasion, perhaps many days in succession–we will have really no time for such engagement).