An Answer to the Problem of Evil
One morning God woke up
Before there was such a thing as morning
God was well pleased with God’s self
“I know that I am all that!”
In fact, the only thing better
Than knowing I’m all that
Is to not know I’m all that and then find out I’m all that!
So God got lost
And it’s been mourning since
The epic title of this poem is somewhat ambitious, since this poem, no matter how optimistic or hopeful, obviously doesn’t bring an end to the problem of evil. Of course, the title begs some humility in suggesting “an” answer, not “the” answer. What I hope this title and poem offer is a positive perspective on the intractable problem of evil. This poem addresses one of the deepest and thorniest philosophical and theological issues that exists: how can evil exist alongside a powerful, loving God? Nonetheless, my hope is that this poem’s playful tone elucidates something about the nature of God in the face of such a mournful human problem.
My understanding of salvation is deeply rooted in a transcendent perspective which ever moves me toward that which is larger, more all-encompassing, and more whole — some would call this spiritual perspective as seeking a higher power or God. I see this process of salvation or enlightenment as a continual trading up to something better. In the process of trading up, one must give up the current or old to make room for the new and better. This is a mournful process. Losing things of value is difficult This is especially true when things of value are taken away from us without any choice on our part. These events and processes of loss seem to capture our attention quite effectively. Somewhat ironically, the process of gaining things of value, especially when due to no choice or action of our own, generally receives little complaint, and often scant attention. Exhibit A: the gift of life, your very existence. Unearned gains, the stuff of grace, is the companion of the problem of evil: the problem of good. Of course, few people demand a solution to the problem of good, not seeing a need to address it as a problem. Still the philosophical and theological issues are exactly parallel. To be fair and balanced, these issues should be addressed as the problem of good/evil. No doubt, some have aspired to amorality as a deeply ironic and banal way of “transcending” such a problem. If we can’t do any better than this, then we certainly can’t do any worse! Such a desperate, nihilistic approach seems to me like destroying the question to avoid having to answer the question. But back to the question at hand! The process of mourning loss (and celebrating gain) are inextricably linked. My definition of sacrifice is this: giving up something of value for something of greater value — “trading up.” When loss is put in perspective of gain, then loss can “gain” positive meaning. This is certainly no justification for evil, but it opens the process of redemption. My favorite example of this is getting hit in the face with a two-by-four. It is possible to learn/gain wisdom from such a situation, whether it was at the hands of another’s cruel intent or an “accident.” However, just because it is possible to learn/gain from such a situation, does not mean that it is good to hit people in the face with two-by-fours. It means that such bad situations can be redeemed, placed in a larger, “transcendent” perspective, where wisdom can be gained. No doubt there are better and worse ways to learn/gain wisdom, but every situation offers raw material for learning. So, let’s redeem those worthless coupons of loss, whose face value is meaningless, into something greater, something with meaning and value.
This poem sets up this process as God getting lost to us, so the even cooler prospect of discovering God is opened up. The implied calculus of this deal is that the pain and loss of not knowing God is worth the coolness of (re-)discovering God. The playful tone of this poem emphasizes the creative and playful aspect of God. Hopefully, this lighthearted aspect of God can be manifest in us enough to make up for the heavy-heartedness of all the pain, loss, and grief that we experience. So, let’s carry on with the longing and groaning of such discovery.