The question of evil is a strange thing:
If God is All Good and All Powerful, from whence evil?
Modern Christian alternatives, instead of fielding Scripture, has been many times suckered by Pagan philosophies and gut-level cringing. There have been calls to the free-will argument. Here God does not desire evil, nor does He bring it about. Man instead is the cause of all evil, and God, who desiring the greater good of freedom, allows man his atrocities. Yet this is horribly inadequate. Not only does it demote God to a creaturely, pleading nanny, but it runs rough-shod over reality and biblical data. Natural disasters do not have a Human origin. There are ways this is nuanced. Sometimes it is still attributed to Humanity (i.e. tracing to Adam’s fall), or to spiritual powers (i.e. demons bring down floods and volcanoes).
But it still lacks Biblical warrant. The Lord is not reluctant to accept His working through evil means. Sometimes direct and sometimes indirect. Throughout the TaNaKh (Old Testament), the Lord would bring down judgment. Sometimes “natural” (i.e. Judgments on Pharaoh) and sometimes “agential” (i.e. Ordering Israel to invade Canaan). Even in the New Testament, the Lord brings death to Ananias and Saphira for lying to the Holy Spirit, trying to cheat God through His commissioned Apostles. The Lord even brought judgment on Herod for thinking himself a god.
We’re squeamish to admit it, but the Lord is no pushover. It’s been hard to see God, the Lord of Life(!), be at anyway involved in death. And yet, harder still, if He is such, then why not more consistently? There are thousands of oppressed, many who claim the name of being His People has wrought much chaos and evil. Is God not so mighty and interventionist? For reasons, one or another, some have argued so. God is in the Process of the World becoming. He is the Spirit to the Body that is the World. There is a climax coming, and mankind needs to act and bring this about.
Some of the popularity of this is in the trauma and tragedy of the 20th century. Where was God, some ask, in the Holocaust? Or in the Gulags? Or in the mass oppression of Colonialism and Western governance? It is perhaps nicer to think that God, who can do no more than cry, is doing the best He can. If He is merely the substance of Freedom, the grounds of our being, and our ultimate concern, then He is doing His job, we need to do ours. A synergism of sorts comes about, as the Body must be beat into Fitness at the Behest of God (World-Spirit).
But a god of this kind only leaves me feeling mugged. When I watch a movie-comic like Watchmen, I do not sit with any kind of comfort from the above god. Instead, the truth is that we are abandoned. Such a god is no god in a world this bad. Frankly, there is no comfort in a crucified god. It is a tragedy, perhaps being assumed into the god, but still a tragedy. Rorschach’s recognition rings true: “It’s not God who kills the children…it is us, only us”.
It’s this darkness that led Niebuhr’s Realist crusade against the Social Gospelites and any face towards the future. The world is dark, sin is real. Niebuhr (at least his thinking) was not a Christian, but he, like a Cicero, could see the World clearly. People, even oppressed people, were no different, and their chains would only pass on to another. As a song lyric put it,
“Guillotine blades release peasants and slaves,Peasants turn Princes and chain them again”
Or a quote from a TV show,
“Slaves do not dream of being free, but of being masters”
These are not comprehensively true, nor are they an excuse to validate oppression. It’s just a part of the reality. The argument for the World-Spirit god is overly optimistic, and bound for failure. The argument from the Niebuhrs, the Ciceros, and the realistic Pagans of the World is many times used to maintain the status-quo and promote sin. Better an authoritarian system that is well constructed, then wild anarchy. So they say. Of course they are beneficiaries and are not run ragged by it.
While I appreciate the cry for freedom, such a god is useless. While I appreciate the bitter realism, their view is a descriptive wisdom, not a proscriptive one. The former is sub-Christian, and the latter is Pagan, and sadly, the Pagans have a better grasp of the situation. But they both make a similar claim: the Cross is both the axis of Christianity and it is purely tragic.
But, as a blind prophet like Rorschach will admit, it is still up to us.
But what if Christ truly rose from the dead? What if He truly ascended? What if He rules from the Right of Majesty? What if the events of the world are in His hand? Well, how would we know this? It sure doesn’t look like He is ruling over the rebellious cosmos of sin and death. This is why Providence is not evidentiary, but an article of faith.
How would Israel have known what the Lord was doing when Assyria approached? A crumbling kingdom was on the bring of annihilation before a world-consuming empire. As the Mouth-Piece would shout at the walls of Jerusalem: what god has resisted Sennacherib? Do not all gods bow before Assyria’s might?
The Prophets presented a different message: you are judged, yes, but trust God, He will not forget His promise.
It was only in the mouth of an Isaiah that a Jew would know that Assyria was a tool of judgment in the Redeemer’s Hand. The Lord raised Assyria up to chastise Israel. However, at the same time, the Lord maintained another reality through His Prophet: Assyria was sinful, full of oppression and arrogance, and would be smashed for the worthless pot it was. Assyria was a tool and a demon. It had a place to be used, and a time to be destroyed.
The above will boggle us, for it reveals the Wisdom of God is manifold and deep. It is beyond our two-dimensional sight, for how may the creature lay claim to the Mind of the Creator? It leaves us with unanswered questions, and an awe that will leave us stuttering in asking them.
Chelcicky is a Christian who sought Lady Wisdom, and applied the objective Truth, the Reign of Christ, to his own personal situation. He was a man who lived in the 14th century, a time of chaos in his homeland of Bohemia. It was the Middle Ages where, for many, Feudalism was the Divine Law. Church and State were the Two Hands of God. But with a prophet’s mouth, he denounced such blasphemy.
Chelcicky understood the biblical witness. The Church had cast her allegiance to an Earthly Master, and the State had taken up divine prerogatives. Like Revelation would tell us, a Whore masqueraded as the Bride, a lamb with the voice of a dragon, and she spread her legs to the kings of men, drunk with the blood of the saints. He saw that much evil was done, and it was called good.
This is the mystery at work. Chelcicky would raise much anger against injustice and wickedness. Feel his anger:
The authorities think that the best way to get rid of contrary things is through fighting or other forms of revenge and repulsion. Therefore, they rise up against enemies with force, wage war against them, repay evil for evil, and murder them in order to establish peace – this is the whole aim of the military service. And propaganda always runs ahead of the struggle saying, “This is not for our sake, but for God’s sake.” God knows this propaganda, and the people know it too because, were it God’s struggle, they would all be long-suffering, and accept afflictions… But the warriors’ behavior shows that they are lying and that they are serving God falsely when they cannot stand a slander at home, while at the same time they take no thought of blasphemies against God
Substitute “for God’s Sake” with the many justifications proffered today, and it rings true now as it did then. Chelcicky was not in the business of justifying the evils of this World. However, he was not advocating violence or revolution. He was not a synergist, but believed in the mighty Hand of God, Jesus Christ, and His patience. The only reason that Feudal order, and all its horrors remains, is it still has a place. Even for all its terror, it promotes some semblance of a ‘common good’. The Sovereignty of God “suffers [empires] in order to keep the world together”.
There were a flood of violent revolutionaries (Taborites) who wanted freedom from Roman authority, whether it be the Pope or Emperor. Yet they still subverted the authority of Jesus Christ, and made themselves into God’s Hand. Chelcicky refused their calls for him to join them. Even though they fought against the current order of oppression, their method would only lead them back to a road of murder and authoritarianism. Peasants turn princes once again.
It might seem fanciful to cast your faith onto a Providence. But that is the claim of resurrection. If Jesus lives and reigns, if He is King, then no other power is legitimate. The Christ suffers them for His purposes. We don’t know why or for how long, but we know He rules.
God is not tragic. He is not powerless and only able to cry. He is not distant and aloof. He has not left us to ourselves to offer up pragmatics. The cry and anger of the Psalms should echo our cries. The Saints beneath the altar (in Revelation) cry for justice to be done. We can bang on the Lord’s door because He has adopted us into His Royal Son. Clever theology cannot mask that God is the Stranger Whose shadow casts a question over all claims to authority, nor can it mask His Voice that rings out and shatters.
May we await His Coming with our own cries and shouts. May we appropriate Christ the King’s Reign for our own times.