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Philosophical/theological problem: evil in the Church

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality' started by InnTee, Jul 4, 2017.

  1. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    I've been struggling for years with a theological problem that I can't quite see through. It's this: why would God ever allow evil to be done in God's name?

    There are a number of examples of actions by those purporting to act in God's name that seem positively evil. These include recent history (clergy abuse scandals), somewhat older history (Inquisition, Crusades), and Biblical history ("bad" kings of Israel). It's possible to quibble with any of these, but I think the general proposition stands that some very bad things have been done, publicly, in the name of the Church. So I throw these out not for specific debate in this thread, but just as examples of the sorts of problems that trouble me.

    My concern is that it does not seem that a loving and kind God would allow humans to publicly misrepresent him by doing evil in his name. So does that mean God is not loving and kind? Or God does not exist (or does not have the power to lead his people)? Or that God values humans' free will even more than the integrity of his "body" in this world, the Church?

    If anyone has thoughts or can point me to thoughtful resources in this area, I'd appreciate it! Also, if this has been extensively discussed already in some other thread, please feel free to post a link. My searching hasn't unearthed much...

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts!
     
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  2. EpiscipalMe

    EpiscipalMe Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is an age old question - If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then why do bad things happen?

    I do not have the answer, but can share two thoughts that I have come across (unfortunately, I cannot remember the references):
    1) Bad things are a consequence of the free will that God has given us.
    2) Bad things are all a part of God's plan that we cannot fully understand.

    I have a couple of books on my shelf in line to be read. I hope they will be enlightening.
     
  3. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    Yes, you're right, it is related to the problem of evil in the world generally. However, my question is a more narrow one: why would God allow evil perpetrated in God's own name?

    Let's say God will allow evil to happen in the world, even though as you're right it's an omnipresent paradox. Even in that case, why would he allow some of the worst offenses to be perpetrated by people who purport to be his representatives here on earth?
     
  4. EpiscipalMe

    EpiscipalMe Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My understanding at this point in my study is that these people act out of their own free will contradictory to God's teachings. God "allows" it to happen because he gave us free will.

    However, as I mentioned, I need to study this more. These are issues that people have been debating for millennia and there is no absolute answer.
     
  5. chevyontheriver

    chevyontheriver Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Imagine for a moment that God would prohibit every member of the Church from even being able to sin. The Church would thus have no problem with bad popes, greedy bishops, nasty priests, thieving televangelists, and lax lay members. Everything would be perfect. Except that the good we could do would not be our own. It would be compelled. It would not be out of love. We would be robots.

    I think we have a dilemma. We are free to do good, and thus free to do evil. If that freedom is taken from us the Church would not have members do evil in God's name, but we would not be doing good freely out of love of God either. I think the freedom to do good or to do evil is absolutely necessary. The consequence is a Church that is both gloriously the Bride of Christ and at the same time full of human scandal and crime.

    I look at it as a wonder that there are saints. They are the evidence of something profound that God is doing in the Church. The rest, that's just normal sinful humanity acting out as expected. If it wasn't for those saints who respond to the love of God with their own loving obedience, it would only be normal sinful humanity acting out as expected. Having existed for almost 2000 years is a proof to me that God is real and His Church is the Bride of Christ, human warts and all. Otherwise it should have collapsed long ago of it's own weight.
     
  6. rockytopva

    rockytopva Love to pray! :) Supporter

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    I believe in the seven churches as ages...

    Ephesus - Messianic - Beginning with the Apostle to the Circumcision, Peter
    Smyrna - Martyr - Beginning with the Apostle to the Un-Circumcision, Paul
    Pergamos - Orthodoxy formed in this time... Pergos is a tower... Needed in the dark ages
    Thyatira - Catholicism formed in this time - The spirit of Jezebel is to control and to dominate.
    Sardis - Protestantism formed in this time- A sardius is a gem - elegant yet hard and rigid
    Philadelphia - Wesleyism formed in this time - To be sanctioned is to acquire it with love.
    Laodicea - Charismatic movement formed in this time - Beginning with DL Moody, the first to make money off of ministry

    In which we all have our issues. I am Pentecostal, but it seems that the wonderful revivals are a thing of the 1900's. I like Methodism, but it seems that the wonderful revivals were a thing of the 1800's in that movement. More so than not there is a sea of grey hair in this day and time for the churches that still have services on Sunday night.

    But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. - Matthew 13:25

    There are tares that gets sewn by the enemy in every congregation.
     
  7. dysert

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    I'm currently of the opinion that it all comes down to free will. God doesn't need to be defended or even appropriately represented. He is God, and those that seek Him will find Him. But woe to those who misrepresent who God is. Seems to me that it can only be explained by putting free will above (almost) everything else.
     
  8. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    First, realize it's not a new problem.
    The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. -- Romans 2
    And of course we see the issue of Ananias and Sapphira.

    But the problem of "evil perpetrated in God's own name" is all on us, and Roger Williams wrote of the reason why it happens (particularly on large scale) 'way back in 1644.

    The Body of Christ is comprised by those who have been enabled by the Father to accept the Son.

    Jesus did say that such people will have laid down their earthly lives to follow Him. That happens because the world naturally rejects such people (1 Peter lays down the mechanics of that rejection) because they don't fit in the structure of the world, just as Jesus does not fit in the structure of the world. Being a Christian is supposed to be socially disadvantageous. There is supposed to be a social cost in this world to being known as a Christian. Only the faithful will pick up a cross.

    But when the world learned that Christobabble could be made to serve world fiction (the way "technobabble" forwards the plot in Star Trek), that changed. Worldly kings set up Christianese organizations that would support their interests, and the kings required their subjects to join these Christianese organizations. Kim Jong Un is doing that right now in North Korea (having discovered it impossible to exterminate the Body of Christ, with all the efforts of his father and grandfather to do so).

    What Roger Williams pointed out is that when the government makes it socially advantageous to sit in the pews of the church, then the pews will be packed with people who are there only for the social advantage.
     
  9. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    Thanks to those who have already responded! Good food for thought.

    So far, unless I'm misreading anyone's replies, I think the only answer offered to the core question of "why doesn't God do something about it?" is that God holds our free will to be of utmost importance, even in this situation where we are putatively acting on behalf of him. I'm not convinced by why that would be, but hey, convince me! :)
     
  10. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    It's not "free will" for the sake of "free will" (and I'd argue that "free will" is denied by scripture anyway).

    But there is a purpose.

    Do you not know that we will judge angels? -- 1 Corinthians 6

    The concept of "judge" here is "lead," as the Judges of Israel were leaders in the book of Judges, but it does include judgment of right and wrong as part of that "job description."

    If that is to be our eventual and then eternal role, is that something that can be done by the innocent who know nothing about right and wrong? Wouldn't the training to such a spectacular role not be just as arduous and painful as the role is spectacular?

    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -- Hebrews 12
     
  11. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    So, just so I'm clear, is your contention that God allows humans who are leading the church (his body on Earth) to lead it astray, specifically so that they will become better leaders?
     
  12. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    No. See my post #8
     
  13. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    I must be missing something, then. Unless I'm misreading it, your post #8 seems to be about what people do, but my question is about why God allows it.
     
  14. Chesterton

    Chesterton Whats So Funny bout Peace Love and Understanding Supporter

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    On the importance of free will - it's not just something we have, it's what we are. We are wills, we are agents. Humans have a lot in common with other kinds of matter, with rocks and trees and animals, but it's this that sets us apart. Asking God to constrain our wills is like asking God to destroy us as humans, to make us something we're not, like kitchen appliances where you just push a button and they do what they're "supposed" to. So will is not just an important thing, it's everything.
     
  15. EpiscipalMe

    EpiscipalMe Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My interpretation, and I am interested in others' thoughts, is that God allows it because he has given us free will. If He did not allow it, that would negate free will.
     
  16. InnTee

    InnTee Earnest Explorer

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    Interesting perspective; I like it. I'd argue though that free will is not and does not have to be an absolute.

    For example, the ability to make a particular choice exists within the boundaries of the reality that we each inhabit. I can't, for example, choose to make the sun and moon switch places. Natural laws (or scientific facts, if you prefer) provide one constraint on the exercise of free choice.

    Another constraint on the exercise of free will occurs when I act for another person (say, as an agent, representative, or fiduciary). In that case, the person I'm acting for can control what I do, in that capacity only. If I'm a lawyer, my client can tell me what to say or not say about the client publicly; if I'm an employee, my employer can tell me what to work on; etc. It doesn't mean that I don't have any free will, just that there are limits on my free will when representing someone else.

    Similarly, why wouldn't God prescribe any boundaries on people's free will when they purport to be speaking on behalf of God, doing God's work, leading God's chosen people, etc.?

    EDIT: fixed typo
     
  17. Chesterton

    Chesterton Whats So Funny bout Peace Love and Understanding Supporter

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    I agree with you, and I certainly don't say will is absolute or unlimited. I would point out however that unless your job title is "slave" you still have the choice whether to do another's will. :) I'm also willing to believe God may interfere with our wills at certain times, but in general and on the whole, He cannot not do it all the time or else what's the point?
    I think I understand the question but I kind of don't. Why would God treat those humans differently? Because they're doing what he approves of? But if you're kind to a stranger, if you help someone in need...lots of things are "doing God's work" even if you're not a priest or whatever.
     
  18. -V-

    -V- Well-Known Member

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    But "free will" (in regards to the statement "God allows free will") NEVER meant "absolute" free will in the sense you refer to.

    It never meant that we aren't bound by physical laws (your sun/moon example). It never meant that we can't follow guidelines of behavior (as in your acting-as-an-agent-of-another example). Although, you have to note that while acting as a agent of someone else, you are not FORCED to follow those guidelines. You can still choose to break those rules and abuse your position at any time. There may be consequences (you can get fired, or possibly face legal action), but you can still choose to break the rules.

    God *DOES* prescribe boundaries. The New Testament has several passages about leaders of the church having high moral guidelines. But "prescribing guidelines" doesn't mean God forces people to follow them without free will. They still have the choice to violate those guidelines and abuse their position.
     
  19. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    "Free will" is a concept developed by Greek philosophers long before Christ. Free will means that a moral agent's choices of action are not constrained and don't have consequences imposed by any other moral agent. Free will is a restraint or threat of consequences of a moral agent by another moral agent.

    If you hold a gun to a man's head to force him to do your bidding, he no longer has free will. If you go into debt with an obligation to pay with the proceeds of your labor, you no longer have free will.

    Scripture denies "free will" by asserting that your master is the one you serve (Romans 6), and everyone serves something or someone. Moreover, scripture asserts that all anyone ever has is a choice of masters, and that choice only by the grace of God. Scripturally, everyone is a slave.

    Aquinas and Augustine--in an effort to dispute that Christianity is morally deterministic--revived the earlier Greek concept of "free will," but their concept is what -V- describes in post #18...it's a "limited" free will.

    But "limited" free will is not free will, that's only a selection of choices. The condition asserted by scripture is that one has only a "choice of master," not free will.
     
  20. RDKirk

    RDKirk Alien, Pilgrim, and Sojourner Supporter

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    A lot of people claiming to be acting in God's name are lying.

    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ -- Matthew 7

    Why does God allow any evil at all?

    The Lord God said, “Since man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil...." -- Genesis 3

    I think in order to "judge angels," it was always necessary for us to gain that particular characteristic of God. But no characteristic of God could not come cheaply or easily, even though He intended it from the beginning.

    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -- Hebrews 12

    That's a lesson, I think, that must be extremely difficult and painful to learn.
     
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