Well, I lied. In part 3 I said I would cover free will in this post, but I’m saving it til later. I wanted to discuss another POV that will wind up connecting with free will first. Please do read my other posts on “the problem of evil” here: part 1, 2, 3.
This “solution” to the problem of evil sees evil as therapy. The idea here is that evil is a tool that God uses to help mankind learn and mature as a species.
I always explain this POV to my students like this; we all know kids who have been raised by extremely overprotective parents. These kids are not allowed much freedom, nor are they allowed to experience the consequences of any mistakes that they happen to make. They are protected from the world in many ways that actually hinders their maturity.
Now, oftentimes what happens when these kids do manage to get out into the world? Usually one of two things; either they go nuts with their new freedom and wind up committing really bad mistakes because of a lack of decision making and self-control, or they wind up being overcome by the world completely; real life is simply too much for them.
This solution to the problem of evil is kind of based on that idea. God allowed evil…he allowed mankind to make choices and suffer the consequences, not because He Himself caused the evil, but so we will learn what evil is, and why it is a good idea to pay attention to what He has to say.
John Hick is pretty well known in the philosophy field for supporting this idea, but it really can be traced back to Irenaeus’ teachings.
Mankind as a whole is learning from our interactions with this world, including both natural and moral evil. It serves, so the idea goes, to purify, and ultimately bring about spiritual healing in time. Now, this solution rests on the idea of free will too, which I will indeed get to.
Leaving that to the side for a minute, how does this solution line up with scripture? Some of it does indeed line up with what we are taught. First, God’s Law, and everything that comes with it is indeed teaching one main lesson…the lesson that is being drilled into humanity; for sin comes death. This teaching is everywhere throughout scripture and in human experience. Death entered in through Adam’s sin, and continues on throughout current human history.
Also, the idea that hardship and suffering teach us things is also included in scripture…however, so is the idea that suffering should be defeated, that death should be, and will be, done away with. Evil isn’t something we are to embrace in the least, it is more presented as a fact of life. This “solution” then makes sense on one hand (suffering does shape us), but I don’t find the idea that mankind was created immature in scripture…quite the contrary.
Again, free will is an important component that I will get to soon…