The problem of evil? The Greater Problem of Good?
So after dinner, she picks coneflowers in the garden.
Cradles the long stems in her apron skirt, carries them up through the picket gate.
And she turns to me on the top step of the porch, holds her apron out to me, all those purple petals — art in an apron.
“Why is there all this loveliness?” She wants to know.
I almost tell her — The World is full of loveliness because it’s full of of His love.
Isn’t that the meaning of beauty?
The fundamental purpose of loveliness is to convey His love.
Everywhere, wildflowers, even in cracks in concrete sidewalks. Everywhere, this fragrance, this pursuit, this passion.
But I don’t know how to say that — when I know that coneflowers unfold off the porch and she stands there with an apron heavy with garden glory and the sunflowers nod yes, when 30,000 children have starved to death in the last 90 days in the Horn of Africa famine. That’s over 330 children every single day. Why is there all this loveliness?
Don’t you mean — why is there famine and why is there this shocking disparity and what is right in a world of diets and death by starvation?
But doesn’t she really have a right to question it all — the sunflowers sparking in sun flare, the light falling late through the trees, all gold like this, the phlox blooming along the picket? I see that too, on the porch. The extravagant art that makes up this world, it does jockey for an answer. The existence of loveliness everywhere, it begs explaining.
If I raise the problem of evil in this world — shouldn’t she raise higher the greater problem of good? If evil is seeming evidence to eradicate God from our mental landscape, then doesn’t goodness, even in this apron, testify to the gospel truth of God?
How can we behold loveliness and say that this world looks like it would if there were no God?
I don’t know if I have ever thought of this before — the great problem of good on this planet.
Augustine had asked two questions of the world:
“If there is no God, why is there so much good?
If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”
I wonder if I have spent a lifetime murmuring under my breath only the second question?
But why don’t I first get hung up on the first question? The one my girl is bringing in with the flowers — why all this loveliness and where does it come from?
The great problem of good on this planet implies that there is a Great God in heaven.
Do we not wonder at the why of good because fundamentally all human beings presume the overspilling grace of God? That good is our intended atmosphere — and evil is the exception. Isn’t our default to ignore the expected and focus on the unexpected?
And even our deeming anything good or evil, it betrays our deep-seated beliefs —- because how can mere nature be either? Isn’t it just is? To even assess events as good and evil reveals our true paradigm: we believe there is a moral center at the center of the cosmos, God at the axis of the universe.
But if there is really a God at the center of the universe, love at the core of the cosmos, love manifesting itself as loveliness in the garden —- doesn’t He care about the 330 children with names and dreams and who lay in Somalia with flies buzzing around their listless, wasting away limbs, till they breathe their last starving breath sometime this afternoon?
Yet if I think God doesn’t care about the hurting — aren’t I believing the chief lie of humanity?
The one hissed in the garden to Eve, the first deception that deceives us still — that God doesn’t care about the needs of His children. And maybe this is why the world hemorrhages— if we think God doesn’t care — why should we?
Isn’t it easier to blame Him?
When I believe the Edenic lie that God doesn’t care — is that the excuse to turn away, to spread the lie that God doesn’t care — when maybe the truth is that it’s humanity that doesn’t care?
If we love because He first loved us… do we now care, because we know He did first care, has always cared, will always care and has the nail scars to definitively prove it. If all the world believed the truth of God’s character — that God cares —- wouldn’t this world become a caring place?
He cares, so we care; He loved first, so we love now.
Why all this loveliness?
That the problem of evil in the world isn’t a problem for proof of God —- but a problem of our own turned-in hearts? And when we turn our heart outward — we in turn bear testimony to the loving existence of God, of the body of Christ right here…
I pick one coneflower out her apron, twirl it between fingers.
Do I tell her that all this loveliness does this too: All this good makes me grateful, and my own heart needs this — a filling of His great-fullness.
Gratefulness is always to Someone and when I am grateful, isn’t it always evidence of God — a filling with awe of His great-ness.
For all this world’s sureness of the benefit of gratitude, how can we then deny that there is a Benefactor?
There is never nameless gratitude, but every instance of gratitude gives away what every skeptic really believes: every breath is a gift and if life is a gift, there is a Giver, and if there’s a Giver —- all’s grace.
When all’s grace — we give, because a gift never stops being a gift to be given…
“It’s God, isn’t it? — All this loveliness…” She says it to me smiling, picking out one of the coneflower to inhale deep…. her picking up the scent of God.
She didn’t need me to say anything.
There are things that need no words.
His love clearly manifest in the everywhere problem of good.
In every cone-flower curling itself into a megaphone of mercy.
This one long echo of evidence —
A loveliness lingering….
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…
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