"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Where Was God?

Last night my friend caught me up on the latest news about Joe Paterno and Penn State. I'd seen enough glimpses on Facebook posts to have a rough idea of the gravity of the issue, but Wendy filled me in on more of the details.

It brought back memories. As a child of 10 or 11, I exposed a sexual predator when a close relative told me what that man had done. If I'd been older, perhaps I'd have given more thought to the firestorm that created, but even as an adult, no matter the cost, I don't think I could have done anything less than report it to people who would stop the abuse.

In light of this current scandal, I can't help but wonder if people will ask; "where was God?" and perhaps use the existence of evil as an excuse to ignore our Creator. Over the years I've given much thought to the problem of evil and why bad things happen to good people.Why did Bernie Madoff bilk people out of their life's savings and humiliate, even implicate his sons to the point where Mark committed suicide? Why would a mother drown her five children or a distraught father/husband kill nine people?

What is evil? Is it a "stuff?"

That question was answered in Without A Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, a book I had the privilege of editing by philosopher/theologian Kenneth Richard Samples. In the chapter about "How Can a Good and All-Powerful God Allow Evil?," he cites one of historic Christianity's greatest thinkers, Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430).

Samples said this problem kept Augustine from embracing Christianity earlier in life. But as he contemplated this troubling issue, Augustine came to the conclusion that "evil is specifically the lack of something that should be present in a person or thing. Evil is therefore defined in the negative. . . Analogously, a person acknowledges blindness not as a physical thing, but rather as the absence of sight. Similarly, a cavity is not so much of a thing, as it is a lack (a hole), namely a lack of enamel in a tooth. Yet like evil, blindness and cavities are not things, but realities of life." I'd add that darkness is not a "thing," it's the absence of "light."

Samples goes on to talk about how Augustine became convinced that evil is "specifically a privation of being and goodness. To be precise, evil is the absence of goodness that should be there in the will of the creature."

Sometimes that "goodness" is there but can be squelched for the sake of other priorities. Perhaps that's what Paterno did for the sake of the football team and now he's reaping the consequences. People who support him may see goodness in other areas of his life, but for the sake of the game it appears he squelched the goodness of God with reckless regard for the welfare of children.

That's why it's so critical when tough things happen, when we're afraid of losing that which we value, be it football, prestige, income, or even life itself--people need the judgment of an all-good, all-loving Creator who can help us make the right decisions. Instead of turning away from him in a crisis, He's exactly the One we need--whether it's for coming to grips with the loss of something dear to us or the need for courage to do the right thing despite the potential for loss.

Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things, could have given Paterno the courage he needed. In my view, to cut Christ out--to deny the Way, the Truth and the Light that is the Life of men--doesn't just hurt children, it can lead to evildoing even in otherwise decent people.

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