I’m getting ready to do a talk on Theodicy soon: that most difficult of questions perhaps – if God is good and all powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? I’ll put some links to it on the blog as and when – but evil’s not just a philosophical problem, it’s something we all have to deal with.
Just before the September 11 attack on America, a Newsweek cover story focused on the human capacity for evil. Author Sharon Begley wrote:
“In their search for the nature and roots of evil, scholars from fields as diverse as sociology, psychology, philosophy and theology are reaching a…chilling conclusion. Most people do have the capacity for horrific evil.”
Psychologist Robert I. Simon, director of the program of Psychiatry and Law at Georgetown University School of Medicine, says,”The capacity for evil is a human universal.”
Dr. Billy Graham once famously declared, “I know my own heart and its deceitful power. I know that outside of the restraining grace of God, there is no evil act I could not commit within thirty minutes of leaving the platform.”
We all condemn the evils of world terrorism, global greed, environmental destruction- rightly so. But what about the evil resident in our own hearts?
The film Nuremberg, is about the infamous trials of former Nazi leaders by the International Military Tribunal. In one powerful scene, Nazi defendant Hans Frank attempts to explain his actions to an Army psychologist.
“I tried to resign as Governor General of Poland. I did not approve of the persecution of the Jews. Anyone reading my diaries, they will know what was in my heart. They will understand that such things I wrote about Jews, the orders I signed, they were not sincere.”
“I believe you, Frank,” says the Doctor, “And yet, you did do those things. How do you explain it? I don’t mean legally; I’m not a lawyer or a judge. I mean how do you explain it to yourself?”
“I don’t know,” replies Frank. “It’s as though I am two people: the Hans Frank you see here, and Hans Frank the Nazi leader. I wonder how the other Frank could do such things. This Frank looks at that Frank and says, ‘You’re a terrible man.'”
“And what does that Frank say back?”
Frank replies, “He says, ‘I just wanted to keep my job.'”
Whenever I hear political leaders pontificating on ‘evil dictators’ who must be ‘rooted out by any and all means…” I recall that Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
It’s a strong word isn’t it? Evil. Some will read this post and say, “Speak for yourself, I’m a good person.”
Now if I were the standard of goodness – you’re probably entitled to say that, but what if the standard is the holiness of God? A God who is perfectly holy, whose holiness we cannot exaggerate? A God who commands our love and obedience together with self-sacrificial love for our neighbour? A God who has put himself on record as declaring that if you or I break just one commandment once, it’s as though we’ve broken them all!
For a prank, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote to several of his friends the note, “All is discovered! Flee while you can!” All but one left the country.
Despite all this, we can know a God who passionately loves us, completely forgives and sacrificially restores us. Do you know him? A God who went to a cross himself to pay the price for every wrong or shameful thing we’ve ever done, thought or said. Do you know him?
A God who knows us at our worst – yet loves us best! Better than any human being ever loved us. The only God who can give us strength to resist temptation, deception, fear and guilt. Do you know him?
Someone said, “Jesus didn’t come to rub sin in, he came to rub it out!”
He doesn’t wait to condemn you. He wants to love you. Just like so many ordinary people in our community who are discovering these truths, I invite you. Come and know him