Something I posted to my Facebook earlier.
I am about to walk y’all through a very uncomfortable train of thought.
The problem of theodicy – why God allows suffering – is a very troublesome and intractable one.
This train of thought started with a woman a saw jogging while leaving the grocery store. She was wearing a shirt that said “such a nasty woman”.
And then I thought about what she was saying with that shirt. I doubt that she believes that she is nasty herself (though she might) – what she was instead saying was that she is a woman who revels in sinning – in doing things that many people would find disgusting.
But then I thought that, if the hyper-gracers are right, that there is nothing that she could do that would truly *make* her nasty, but that instead the nastiness is in her own mind, *defined* by what she believes is sin.
As I was walking in the store, I saw quite a few beautiful women, and I thought to myself “why is it wrong to want them? Why is it wrong to desire them?” And I realized that it isn’t. If all things are permitted, then truly all things are permitted – the minute we begin to pick and choose is the minute we begin imposing our own rules on God’s creation. If there is nothing we can do in order to be rejected by God, then one must draw that to its logical conclusion – there is truly absolutely nothing we can do. Hitler himself could not do anything sufficient to be rejected by God, as truly all things are permitted. Even his truly horrific acts. This could be seen as “reductio ad absurdum” – and to some degree it is. Is there a certain level of evilness that we could commit that would make God turn his back on us forever? But it could also be the gateway into a theodicy. I will be exploring the latter.
If God does not see sin, why do we still have justice? Why are some things not permitted even when they are permitted? When it comes to theodicy, it’s particularly easy to ignore the fact that nature is, indeed, God’s creation, and by looking at nature we can see what God thinks is good.
Animals rape. Animals kill. Animals torture. Death and suffering is not only permitted, but seemingly enthusiastically embraced. There are animals out there that do truly horrific things – things that if a human were to do it they would be executed faster than you can say “John Piper”. We can’t ignore this – because God created this and said it was good. Why did he say it was good? Why did he create such a (in one sense) lawless world, set animal upon animal, and declare that all is well?
I think this is a necessary consequence of a God who does not see sin. You can’t have it both ways. Either God sees sin, and thus this world he created is absolutely unconscionable and *must* be destroyed – or he does not, and everything – horrific and terrible as it may be – is good in his eyes.
So then where does sin come from?
If God does not see sin, and we do see sin, then sin must come from us.
The consequences for doing something forbidden are earthly. You rape, you kill, you torture, you do any series of things that humanity has – for one reason or other, mostly centered on their animal heritage – deemed to be unacceptable, and the consequences come from *humans*. That’s the order of nature. We have taken the animal world – which is “survival of the fittest”, “dog eat dog”, etc., and instituted our version of order on it. Perhaps sin is our invention – and perhaps justice is *also* our invention. Perhaps when we believe that God wants justice because we are holy and righteous, we play into that false narrative of theodicy, because if justice is to be had in this world, then there must be wrongdoing, and if God wants justice for us then he must have set up a set of moral laws – and he’s already violated them.
For a God who sees sin, for a God who demands justice, for a God who punishes and is wrathful, we are already more holy and righteous than he is. For we see things that he has done, and rightly judge them by his standards, and *find him wanting*.
But, then, how do we address the fact that God wants justice, that God is righteous, that God *does* want the best? Because there’s equal evidence for that.
Perhaps this is because God wants for us what *we* want.
Perhaps he takes our animal nature and, instead of overlaying our nature on his and calling it evil, overlays his nature on ours and calls it very good? Perhaps he sees our cries for justice, and for an easing of suffering, and our desire for all the tears to dry and for the lion to lay with the lamb – not because it satisfies his sense of justice, but perhaps because it satisfies *ours*? Perhaps it is our justice that is the aberration, perhaps it is our idea of sin that is wrong, but because it is our nature as humans to suss out right and wrong, to “know good and evil”, to make sin out of what is not sin, he ultimately grants us justice *in the context of the sin that we ourselves created*?
What if sin comes from us, and salvation comes from God, not because he wants to eradicate sin from us, but because he wants to eradicate the *knowledge* of sin from us? And in doing so, because we already have it in us to create justice and create utopia, perhaps all (or nearly all) darkness in that event will completely… melt away.