Don't be angry with God (1)
Author: Paulino Quevedo PhD.
If, as we have been taught, God knows everything and can do everything, and also loves us without measure, why does he allow so much evil and so much war? Why does He allow so much suffering, even of innocent children?
Some have come to the personal conclusion that the above cannot be, and that therefore, one of two things happens: either God is not almighty, or He doesn't love us as much as He says. And others, perhaps less, have reached worse conclusions: God is bad, or simply, God does not exist, we are only the result of the blind laws of matter.
What has just been said contains perhaps the greatest obstacle for many people to have a good relationship with God. The illness or death of a loved one can provoke reactions of rebellion against those who are responsible or cause of such a tragedy. And by not finding any man responsible, God is responsible. There have even been cases of people dying while praying in a church, because a strong wind or an earthquake collapses the temple walls. Couldn't God have prevented those misfortunes, if it is true that He loves us so much and that He can do everything?
Faced with such realities and questions, many people begin to doubt God or be terribly upset with Him. And their questions are usually answered inappropriately, improperly pious, or with reasoning that does not much convince uneducated people, and not at all cultured people. Perhaps the most frequent response, but not because of this the most reasonable, is that God has given us free willed beings, and loves us so much that He has great respect for our freedom; so that, if we freely do wrong, He cannot avoid it without restricting our freedom.
But what happens in misfortunes where freedom does not intervene, such as a hurricane or an earthquake? This is usually answered, without better fortune, that God loves order, and that His physical laws are full of order, and that is why He does not want to violate them. Why then does He violate them when He performs a miracle? Failing to find good answers, to all this is usually answered, less and less fortunately, that one must be humble and resignedly accept the will of God.
Many may be surprised that I rate the previous answers as unfortunate. They are not unfortunate for being false - not all of them - but, in part, for not responding adequately to what is being asked, and mainly for being faint-hearted answers. God is magnanimous, and He could certainly avoid all evil without restricting our freedom. If He does not avoid it, it is precisely because he does not want to, because He loves us to the fullest and wants for us the best of projects, which is the best of all possible worlds. We must not resignedly accept God's will. We must passionately love God's will!
Although the articles in this series can be read independently, there is a relationship between them; due to which, the reading of each one will be better understood if it relates to that of the others, which can be found by activating the link offered immediately:
Body of the article
Let us contemplate this matter - the presence of evil in the world - with greater serenity and objectivity. No doubt God can avoid all evil, and not just some evils; otherwise, He would not be omnipotent; and if He were not omnipotent, He would not be God. He would be, at most, like some of those gods of anthropomorphic mythologies, such as Greek mythology typically was. But no, God is not a counterpart of Zeus or Cronos. God is the Subsistent Being, the One Who is for Himself and the one who gives being to everything else; that is why God is the creator of everything that exists, except for Himself.
It is not the case that God created man and loved him so much that He decided to make him free, but at the cost of, for that reason, losing his sovereign dominion over free human actions; that is, at the cost of losing their sovereign dominion over all things, since some of them - the free actions of creatures - would be beyond His reach. In such a case, God would cease to be omnipotent just for giving the gift of freedom to some of His creatures. But an omnipotence that could cease to be, would never really have been omnipotent; and a God who could cease to be omnipotent, would never really have been God.
The truth is that God is omnipotent, always has been and always will be. And precisely because He is omnipotent, He can create and can also grant the gift of freedom to His creatures. Therefore, God still has a sovereign dominion over the free actions of his creatures, and could perfectly prevent them from doing wrong without restricting their freedom. A very clear example of this truth is in the Virgin Mary. And the examples multiply if we consider the Saints of Heaven, be they men or angels; once they are in Heaven, they always do good while remaining free.
No doubt the saints of Heaven remain free. What glory would be the one that deprived them of their freedom? How could they love God without freedom? It would be absurd to imagine Saint Gabriel in his embassy to the Virgin, or to the Virgin herself in her apparitions, as if they were automatons that repeat a message mechanically. God achieves, in Heaven, His saints well-doing, without restricting their freedom. And to achieve this, all that is needed is that God shows Himself enough to them; then the free creature, whoever it is, freely adheres to God with all firmness, because God is the object that fully satisfies its capacity to know and love, and all its desire for happiness.
The free creature may not adhere to God when He has not shown Himself enough, because then it fails to perceive that God is the object that fully satisfies its ability to know and love, and all its longing for happiness. Why, then, does God not show Himself to all his free creatures?
We may think what we want, but the fact is that He doesn’t; and He doesn't, not because He can't, but because He doesn't want to. God is, at least for us, a hidden God, and also a quiet God. But why? In another article we will address this issue.
This is where our discontent is often found, and even our rebellion: why does God treat us that way? Why doesn't he act in accordance with what seems best to us? And here, too, is where our mistake is usually found. It is not God who must act according to our criteria and our plans; it is we who must act according to God's criteria and plans. He has revealed enough to help us in this task; but after that official revelation, and many private revelations, he usually stays silent personally with each of us.
God has a master plan, a great project, and we must collaborate on it with Him. God gives us enough elements for each one of us to discover how to collaborate in His project, and also to understand that in that project He will usually be silent and hidden in His dealings with each one of us. Obviously, I mean being quiet and hidden when it comes to clear perceptions. Undoubtedly God speaks to us personally in prayer, but there is always the possibility that the things we have "heard" are just something imagined by us. We would like Him to speak to us clearly, but He remains silent; We would like to see Him clearly, but He remains hidden.
It may bother us that God does not speak to us or show Himself to us clearly, but what most often irritates us is that He allows so much evil in the world; and irritates us even more when we understand He could avoid it all without restricting our freedom. Where is His omnipotence and the supposed love He has for us? Well, this annoyance distracts our attention so much that it prevents us from considering the reasons why God allows evil, which are very simple and can be understood by anyone. These reasons will also allow us to understand that God not only allows evil, but has planned to allow it because he wants to allow it.
God, remaining silent and hidden, wants us to discover that His project is to remain silent and hidden in addition to allowing evil to a great extent, and even more, to the fullest extent. The divine project is to create the most perfect Creation of all, or, as they say, the best of all possible worlds. This presents us with no difficulty, and our attention tends to be oriented to set aside the evils. And in distracting ourselves in that sense, we do not consider that the key piece to the puzzle is that the best of all worlds must include evils; Moreover, it must include all the possible evils that are compatible with all the possible goods.
God has created the best of all possible worlds
The philosopher Leibniz said that God made the best of all possible worlds, and they chastised him. They said that it is enough to look at our world, with all its ills, to realise that it is not the best of all possible worlds. Furthermore, God created freely; He was not obliged to create, nor was He obliged to create the best of all worlds. He created what He wanted, how He wanted and when He wanted to. On the other hand, why would God choose to create a mediocre world? Leibniz's position could be reduced to this question: Did God really make this world? The answer would be yes, no doubt. To which Leibniz could answer: Well then I don't even need to see it to be sure it is the best of all possible worlds.
In the end Leibniz makes a bet on God, in the sense that God would never make a mediocre world, no matter how free God is: why should He? Precisely because He is free, omniscient and omnipotent, God chose to create the best of all worlds. The important thing here is to determine the criteria to know which is the best of worlds. We quickly realise that there are two main criteria: maximise assets or minimise evils. God is magnanimous and used the criterion of maximising goods, because he loves good more than he detests evil.
Let's see it another way. Suppose we have two large drawers in front of us; in the first are all possible pure goods, without mixing evil; and in the second are all possible goods with a mixture of evil. Obviously, there is no third drawer of pure evils, without a mix of good. Now comes the final question: where are there more goods, in the single first drawer or in the two drawers together? Without a doubt, there are more goods in the two drawers together. What happens is that only in the first drawer there are no evils. What do we want then, add goods or eliminate evils? What is greater, our love for good or our loathing of evil? Consider the parable of the wheat and the weeds:
It is clear that God loves wheat more than He hates tares, and that he loves good more than he hates evil. That is why the best of all worlds is the one that contains all the goods, although with them some evils are dragged; and not vice versa, the one that lacks evils, even at the price of eliminating some goods. You and I, dear reader, are of those goods with a mixture of evil. Honestly, it doesn't seem to me that the best of all worlds was a world where I was missing, or where you were missing. What do you think?
Evils favor love
On the other hand, us creatures cannot love with all our capacity without having the experience of forgiveness. And since God wants maximum love to be achieved, he wants us to have the experience of forgiveness; and forgiveness implies the presence of evils. Without evil, the ability of good to triumph over evil would not be appreciated. Anyway, wherever you see it, in the best of worlds there must be evils, all possible evils that are compatible with all possible goods. Leibniz was right. As for God, He has the right to create in whatever way He sees fit; and so much more, if possible, when deciding to create the best of all worlds. Let's not run over His rights with our rebellion.
I like to call the best of all possible worlds Great Work, which God has done in his magnanimity. If we pay attention now to what Sacred Scripture says about it, we find very interesting passages. In the narration of the six days of creation (Genesis 1), at the end of each one it is said that God saw that what he had done was good. And at the end of the sixth day, after creating man and woman and giving them the mission of growing and multiplying, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed - the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31). And the Scripture also says: "How varied are your works, Lord! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." (Psalm 104, 24). And also: "But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.For great strength is always present with you;" (Wisdom 11, 21). It is clear, therefore, that God has done everything very well, in the best way, that is, the best of all worlds, his Great Work.
How was God to deprive us of the gift of living in the best of all possible worlds? And that world includes evils. We must not, therefore, be bothered that there are evils in this world; What we must do is try to avoid them, to the extent of our possibilities and with God's help. In speaking so generally, the subject is clear; the difficult thing is to continue understanding when looking at the subject in its details, that is, when trying to understand how the evils that have touched me collaborate in the formation of the best of worlds. But that will be the subject of other articles. For now we know at least this: we should not get angry with God, even for the presence of so many evils in this world.
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