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Edited from: 2003 The Problem of Evil: Anglican and Baptist Perspectives: MPhil thesis, Bangor University
Christianity is a historical faith and it states through Scripture that God supernaturally interacted with human beings through his prophets, apostles, and Jesus Christ himself. So, the examination of Scripture is very important in any study of the problem of evil.
Critics may suggest it is very convenient that the supposed supernatural occurrences in Scripture which support the Christian faith, and its remedy to the problem of evil through Christ’s work, took place thousands of years ago, before our scientific age. These supernatural events, it could be stated, are now rather hard to either prove or disprove. If they cannot be proven, why should the Christian answer to the problem of evil be taken seriously? I admit this is an important criticism, but the Bible is consistent in its message, written within historical periods by historical people. The accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are in unity, and his resurrection, although disputed by some critics, does have the backing of New Testament authors, who claim to have witnessed the resurrected Christ, or to have personally known those who have.
McGrath also discussed in his text the weaknesses of a philosophical problem of evil discussion alone, without mentioning how the work of Christ will help us in human experience. He also mentioned how destructive Enlightenment theories on God have been the last few centuries. He thought the personal nature of the Biblical God was negated for a perfect philosophical God. He pointed the reader to the personal nature of God through the death and resurrection of the Son of God, and the saving work for humanity.
McGrath’s work in Suffering is helpful in that it provides historical, philosophical background on the problem of evil and suffering, and yet stays true to Scriptural historical Christianity and its remedy to evil through Christ.
To play devil’s advocate, a critic could claim that Christianity has not solved suffering any better than Communism or especially western liberalism; however, I think McGrath is correct. A belief in God in society and better yet a spiritual relationship with Christ leads to the tempering of evil in a nation and the world. Christianity’s ultimate answer to evil comes through revelation, but at least that has historical evidence of Scripture behind it. Christians are disobedient to God, just as nonbelievers are, and this is probably part of the reason Christianity has not made more social progress.
But I still agree with McGrath that Christ’s atoning work and resurrection is the only ultimate answer that remedies evil. This work has, of course, not been completely culminated, but I think the Scriptural evidence supports the idea that Christ will return to restore his creation. "In the fourth place, he was liberating us from the fear of death." McGrath (1992: 49).
McGrath explained that western culture was afraid of death to the point of not wanting to discuss it. He noted that Jesus liberated people from this fear as he defeated death through the reality of the resurrection and, at the same time, any power the devil had over people was destroyed. This will not be culminated until all believers are resurrected, but the required work has been accomplished by Christ. Believers’ resurrection is guaranteed. All people will be resurrected and believers will be in Christ’s presence.
Irenaeus stated with regard to Christ’s work defeating death: For it behoved Him who was to destroy sin, and redeem man under the power of death, that He should Himself be made that very same thing which He was, that is, man; who had been drawn by sin into bondage, but was held by death so that sin should be destroyed by man, and man should go forth from death. Irenaeus. (ca. 130-200 AD) Book III, Chapter 18, Section 7. (Note: There does not seem to be a historical date to indicate when Irenaeus wrote this work. It is estimated that he wrote the work near the end of the second century.)
From Irenaeus’ comments, it can be seen that McGrath’s sentiments are echoed by this ancient author. Christ on the cross was the way that God incarnate could, in a loving act, take sin on himself, defeat sin in death, and through his resurrection defeat death itself. Humankind had no deliverance from the bondage of sin and death until Christ committed this work. McGrath is correct in that a future hope of Heaven is something to be considered since Christ has been documented in Scripture to be resurrected. His promises for believers’ resurrection seem to be certain. Suffering and the problem of evil will only end as resurrection and restoration culminate. God, through Christ, sacrificed because he was good, but at the same time because he loved humanity. In all human suffering he has always been present, he has defeated evil through his atoning work and this shall be culminated with the resurrection. Presently he desires that people seek him out when suffering.
IRENAEUS. (c 175-185)(1998) ‘Against Heresies’, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Denver, The Catholic Encyclopedia.
IRENAEUS. (c 175-185)(2005) Against Heresies, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Denver, The Catholic Encyclopedia.
IRENAEUS (c 185)(2005) Proof of Apostolic Preaching, Translated by J. Armitage Robinson, London, The Macmillan CO. McGRATH, A. (1986) Iustitia Dei, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
McGRATH, A. (1992) Bridge-Building, Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press.
McGRATH, A. (1992) Suffering, London, Hodder and Stoughton Limited.