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Friday, February 29, 2008

Why do the Innocent Suffer?

The law of "how it should be" is a God implanted sense that all humans have of life's beauty and triumph. Yet we live in a good creation where hurricanes do not discriminate, where evil befalls the good as well as the wicked, where all that is beautiful is in some sense marred. It is as if some spanner has got stuck in the works.

Atheists of course use this as argument against there being a benevolent creator God. With so much senseless waste and misery should we not rather charge this "God" with being a lousy and incompetent designer?

Let us consider this issue raised in that great novel "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Doestoevsky? Here is a short extract from Chapter 35.

Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature -- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance -- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."

"No, I wouldn't consent," said Alyosha softly.

That is the beauty of our humanity that we rage against injustice, that we storm heaven with our protests, that we in no way ever consent to the instrumentalism of sacrificing the one for the many.

Now look what God does.

To mend creation he sacrifices himself for all. He places HIMSELF in the breach of death, the place of horror ... and he vanquishes that, closes the breach, brings resurrection to the fallen.

So, slain we live - with our death in Christ.

Somehow, somewhere in the distant past or perhaps a "time" before time or in realm beyond this something became not as it should have been through the very freedom that God imparted to it. And so it is that everyone dies.

Be thankful though that everyone dies .... yes that even the innocent die, NOT because this is itself good but because the world has to be transformed and it cannot be transformed without eternal life exploding out of this merciless death. We scream that this should not be so. Our outrage though was born in a place from which we have been excluded. To see this longing and revolt resolved we need to return to God who can do nothing other than raise the fallen ... and with them creation itself (Romans 8:18-25).

So, why does not God or the angels lift us out of this? By now it should be clear that just as Christ did not call on legions of angels to deliver him, neither can we. VERY occasionally though, the devil oversteps the mark and uses natural death to try and subvert God's plan. This is when the angels intervene. If Christ indeed had faced death before his appointed "hour" (a continual refrain of St. John's Gospel --- "my hour has not yet come") then the angels would have intervened for Him as well.

No, we all have our God appointed hour and that is when we shall taste the bliss of resurrection and when one more piece of creation will be healed. The devil's tactic though is to encourage us to doubt God's wisdom in allowing innocent suffering. He insinuates that Christ should not have died. But when we lift high the cross the devil always scuttles away howling.

Faith is kicking him in the arse/butt as he so richly deserves.


Zac said...

You write: "No, we all have our God appointed hour and that is when we shall taste the bliss of resurrection and when one more piece of creation will be healed."

Very good post, Father. As usual, thought-provoking to this Orthodox law student whose thoughts should be instead focused on things like "substantive due process" at the moment.

My main question comes from the excerpted piece above. If I were taking this part literally, I'd say that you were arguing for a sort of "instant Resurrection" upon death, instead of passing into either a foretaste of heaven and hell. The reason I ask about it here is that I've been hearing that from Fr. Hopko (OCA) as well. If you do look at things that way, perhaps you could expand on it.

Or perhaps you mean that we begin to experience the some of the bliss of the Resurrection prior to its culmination at the end of the age?

Anonymous said...

Love the final sentence in particular Father. :)

Father Gregory said...

Dear Zac

That there CAN be a foretaste of the resurrection is clear from the miracle of incorruption in the remains of some of the reposed saints. There are other issues here though concerning eternity and time. One of the reasons the Latins got themselves in knots over purgatory concerned this very question. What is time in heaven? Is the same as earth time or different. Is the fact that God in himself is not subject to time an argument for considering all moments in earth time as His eternal NOW? If in heaven we are to be deified in union with Him, should not our time be this time as well? Some of these issues seem I think to imply that there may not be a delay between death and resurrection in heaven. You may be familiar with the concept of time dilation in Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. As we know time is relative to each frame of reference. In eternity all such frames might be superimposed even if for us they remain separate.

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