Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god (and human accountability to a god). He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. He believed that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Since, per Epicurus’s teaching, “that there is no Maker whose puppets we are“, the problem of evil paradox he posited augmented this teaching:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus


 

The Epicurean paradox is answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of Son of man. There was direct observation by his followers. In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. Philosophers, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world. Jesus entered flesh and blood, space and time, to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to the Satan’s temptations, Demons were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross, an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his people who so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. Palm Sunday. The King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered. It was not the dénouement of evil.

Jesus is everything you need to know about God and the problem of evil. Let the King of Glory come into your life to deal with the problem of evil.

 

Take “The Shack” Out Back

 

(And yes, I know that each century since Christ, artists have rendered each person of the Trinity. For the most part they have done so being faithful to a Scriptural rendering of the Trinity, e.g., The Father as a voice coming from a cloud; the Holy Spirit as a dove or as wind. Artists portray their subjects through their worldview, hence there are Italian looking depictions of Jesus and of those around him., e.g., the paintings of Caravaggio.)

I do not want to read or see the Shack. I do not want those images in my mind when I think of the Trinity. Besides, there are no images of Jesus’ physical appearance. This, to me, reinforces the notion that Jesus came to show us the invisible God: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Col. 1:15. So, what has been passed down to us about Jesus? His appearance or His words and actions which represent the Father? His appearance or His words and actions which represent true humanity?

Another reason I avoid The Shack: I have lived with loss. I lost a child. I have suffered other losses. A deeper understanding of Jesus came out of each loss. Each loss is unique. Each growth experience is unique. I learned about God as I turned to Jesus. The Shack would add nothing to what I have gained and would likely diminish that knowledge by its lack of reverence.

As best as I can tell, The Shack is not allegorical. Its disturbing ‘symbology’ of the Trinity is portrayed by three ready-made culturally ‘approved’ characters who are not unlike the emotionally ravenous people reading and watching. We are shown reality TV characters who portray a “diversity” promoting God, a God who would otherwise be irrelevant to modern sensitivities. I am not surprised that the ‘patriarchal looking Morgan Freeman was not used in The Shack. Instead, the goddess of feminism was served by an African-America woman who ‘manifests’ as God the Father (The Sugar Shack is so much more palatable for angry women). The Shack is a post-modernist’s collage of drippy feelings for the Age of Feelings. Title (and subtitle): “the house you build out of your own pain (and using your own fashioned gods).

Finally, I’d rather take in good fiction. Movies are, at best, vicarious roller coaster rides edited and enhanced to titillate. So, instead of ‘meditating’ on sentimental cultural iconography which does more harm than good, as in dumbing down ergo popularizing (a best seller) ergo offering schmaltzy messaging about God and evil, I’ll read The Brothers Karamazov…

“The Problem of Evil” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Paper: “The Problem of Evil” by Fyodor Dostoevsky