The problem of evil is one of the greatest, most substantial, challenges to theistic belief. Why do such horrific things befall often innocent people, including children? Isn’t the whole Darwinian struggle for survival of the fittest, in a natural world that’s red in tooth and claw, incompatible with the existence of a loving God? Where was that loving God during the Japanese tsunami or the Indian Ocean earthquake or the Nazi Holocaust? Given great evils, can we really believe in a God who is both benevolent and all-powerful?
While I’m confident that an answer will someday be given, and while I suspect that some decent answers are available even now, I don’t think that any easy answer is on hand. And I certainly don’t believe that any purported answer can or should be proposed that minimizes or trivializes suffering and pain.
But here’s a thought: I’ve often been struck by the contrast between those, often very faithful, who — say — lose a beloved child to a terrible congenital disease and those, often speaking in fast and testimony meetings, who tell of divine help in finding a lost key or gaining title to a vacation cabin. Truth be told, though I’ve never borne testimony about such a thing, I myself have had some very striking, virtually undeniable experiences of what certainly felt like divine assistance in matters that . . . well, just don’t seem very big or particularly significant.
How to deal with this, theologically?
The terrible thought has occurred to me that maybe we really do have guardian angels, and that, just maybe, some of them are like mortal Mormon home teachers.
In other words, some guardian angels are dutiful and reliable, and perhaps even a bit overzealous. They love arranging vacation timeshares for their assigned people, locating lost rings, arranging “chance” meetings between old college roommates. Others, though, are a bit like many real-world home teachers: “Really? Seriously? My guy died five years ago? Man! I could swear it hasn’t been that long since I checked in on him. I’m sooooo embarrassed! But, really. that just doesn’t seem correct. Could you check again, please?”
I know. I know. A flippant response to a really serious and troubling question. But I mean it: There may be answers, but they’re not easy ones.
The biblical Job isn’t really given an “answer” or an explanation for the problem of evil. He’s basically told that God is unbelievably powerful and that he, Job, doesn’t know much, and that he should patiently submit.
Ludwig Wittgenstein said that, with respect to that of which we cannot speak, we should remain silent. But perhaps a nervous laugh is okay once in a while. And an acknowledgment that we, too, don’t know much.