Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gloria and I made curry vege for lunch.
Shu made eggs and we had Krispie Kreme donuts after.

Gloria says I sound depressed on my blog. Do I? I always thought my posts were hopeful.

ahh well, life is beautiful.

Friday, March 18, 2005


The danger comes when I don't guard my heart, when I allow it to trickle away foolishly to places where it doesn't belong. Then, the arms of a cheesy love song suddenly find strength to waltz me to death and all within the framework of truth and consequences.

I won't ask any to leave.
God is ever-faithful.
Even when I'm not.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I suspect that I've learnt to love.
Now teach me discipline, that I might love freely.

Alongside all this, I want to be in tropical singapore, clad in white cotten capri pants and a white lycra spaghetti top, doing yoga and being pretentious somewhere in raffles city. Afterwhich, me and my chic clique (if you please) will head over to the long-bar for martinis and shallow conversation. And even though I cab home, I would only afford to have thoughts that are three-inches deep to spare my bewildered self the pain of my sorry existance.

I think I'll stop at yoga. And coffee.

The moment behind the lense

Is still trying to die.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The problem of pain and evil can never be resolved. Evil �is not a scientific problem that might be solved by further observations, or a practical problem that might be solved by a decision or an action�. Hence religious discourse holds no solution or meaning to the suffering individual. Reconciling evil with a good God has does little for a woman who has lost her child, or for the man who is hungry. There are many modern day Jobs who suffer innocently, further realizing and expressing the problem of evil on a level that no theodicy can reach. The Christian tradition then responds with faith. Faith in a good and omnipotent God, who freely blesses His people with the strength and resources to deal with the pain of evil, moment by moment, while they struggle together, as a universal whole, upward through grace toward the realization of the Kingdom of God.

No matter how many Curts there are in the world, words will never be enough.
Let us bleed a little in silence.

It's been a day.

Monday, March 14, 2005

24 hours.
Raise the dead in me.
The concept of 'fairness' bugs me. It seems that people in this society are brought up to believe that fairness is a right. Highly dangerous, how can human beings proport to legislate such cosmically complicated notions in things like articles and charters.
Really. Life is unfair. get over it.
We would do well to strive for fairness, but we ought not to expect it as a fundamental human right. We're only asking for trouble.
Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
~God. Who loves.
And not by our standards.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

God is Good, both on paper and in practice.

Relg 202 paper: How does evil exist in a world created by a good God?

The problem of evil permeates every plane of human existence, from the cosmological to the personal, the natural to the moral. The issue of darkness in relation to infallible light has been an age-old struggle for man. The issue seems to be particularly dumbfounding in the context of the monotheistic Judeo-Christian tradition that has been adopted, in varying degrees, by the west, institutionally, spiritually and intellectually. How does the Judeo-Christian faith explain the phenomena of evil? To suggest that I would be able to provide a theodicy that would �solve� this polemic would be ridiculous. Instead, in exploring Jewish and Christian explanations, I would like to suggest that the practical problem of evil is not to be solved, but rather to be dealt with constantly not just individualistically, but on the level of the bigger cosmic picture that humanity finds itself in.

Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of evil is pain, be it either physical or emotional. One does not have to experience much in this world to acknowledge evil, and to deny so �would plainly contradict common experience�. The intellectual conflict however is�[derived] from monotheism, [the] belief in one God, often a good and powerful deity who theoretically can stop evil, but practically does not�. But it is the power and goodness of this single God upon which the foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith is built. Nelson Pike states that �The statements �God exists� and �There occur instances of suffering� are logically incompatible� and presents his readers with a summation of Philo�s challenge of �the inconsistent triad�:

1) The World contains instances of suffering
2) God exists � and is omnipotent and omniscient
3) God exists � and is perfectly good.

The inconsistency lies in that any two out of the three statements can hold together, however the addition of the third statement would create a break down in logic. It is toward this concept of �inconsistency� that the Judeo-Christian faith provides all manner of theodicy in an attempt to defend itself, and its God.

The God that is presented in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles is a paradox. One who, on one hand, caused every foreign woman married into Israel to be brutally removed, with her innocent children, from the community, and yet who blesses Ruth, a Moabite, who later becomes the great-grandmother of King David. In several instances, God is seen to have willfully perpetrated evil against human beings as in the case in Exodus; where God decides to �harden Pharaoh�s heart� while inflicting horrible plagues on the nation. The most puzzling text is that of Job, which exemplifies the problem of the suffering of the innocent. However despite all this, the authors of the Biblical texts all seem to believe that God is nothing short of wholly good. Despite being perfectly good, God inflicts, or allows for the infliction of evil on His creatures, without being in anyway apologetic. Neither does He seem moved to provide any answers. The closest to an answer would be His declarations in Isaiah:

As the heavens are higher then the earth,
So are my ways higher then your ways
And my thoughts then your thoughts.

God here firmly communicates that it is impossible for mankind to fully understand His nature, including His dealings with Goodness and Evil. However this text, when contextualized in Isaiah 55 is not meant to instill despair, but rather is reassuring and comforting. The message is not that human beings are hapless victims to incomprehensible forces, but rather that God�s goodness is manifest in ways that are beyond our discernment. And it is from this relationship between infinite God and finite Man that Judeo-Christian theodicy finds its roots. This by no means suggests that mankind is absolutely incapable of understanding the nature of good and evil in this cosmos, but rather we ought to be suspicious of any claim to the comprehension of the absolute truth about the nature of God.

Any attempt at analysis on the problem of evil would entail an exploration of the nature of God�s goodness and that of Evil. This essay will proceed to explore the First and Third notion of Pike�s �inconsistent triad�, holding to the assumption that God is indeed omnipotent and omniscient. One way that the goodness of God is manifest is through the concept of the �oneness of God�. By the 1st century, the notion of Shema became central to both Judaism and Christianity. This text in Deuteronomy 6 implies that the �oneness of God echoes the demands for the oneness of humanness�, reflecting unity, integration and wholeness. This sets the Israelites apart from their surrounding polytheistic neighbours, where the Divine was fragmented and divided along lines of Goodness and Evil within itself. Here monotheism removes these fractures and allows the Judeo-Christian God to be presented as perfectly good. This can be seen in His inclination in Genesis to bless his creation through fertility, space, food and dominion for human beings. These aspects in the creation narrative can be understood as fundamental natural blessings that flow out from the Creator-God. Here God creates and blesses out of His own free will and He delights in doing so. He did not need to champion the death of the powers of chaos like in other parallel creation stories that existed in the ancient Near East, but rather, with decrees, �called into being the ordered world, the visible kingdom that those decrees continue to uphold and govern�. Here, the narrative of Israel�s Creation story, in its historical-cultural context, resonates with the dual-declaration that their God is both perfectly whole, and perfectly good. Thus giving truth to the Third notion in Pike�s �inconsistent triad�: God exists � and he is good.

However it is also from the concept of creation that the first notion of the �inconsistent triad� seizes authority: that the world contains instances of suffering, i.e. Evil exists. In this conscious act of creation, God created �beings that really, really exist. Not just imaginary beings. Not just projections of God�s own thoughts�. Hence in establishing the cosmos, God created a �not-God, an outside, a place for beings to exist� independently, apart from His original being. Here we find the roots of evil, that by creating an �other� to Him, God risks the allowance non-perfection and non-goodness; or simply �evil�. According to Robert Adams this is precisely the case. He refutes the logic that �if the actual world was created by an omnipotent, perfectly good God, it must be the best of all logically possible worlds�, and claims that �even if there is a best among possible worlds, God could create another instead of it and still be perfectly good�. Indeed in the light of the infinite-finite relationship that God sustains with man, attributing a less-then-perfect world as a reflection of a less-then-perfect God would be illogical because humanity, as noted above, is incapable of understanding the �thoughts� and �ways� of the infinite God. Further more, as illustrated in the book of Job, the relationship between God and Man is set up in such a way that man is in no moral or natural positioning to judge God by any measure. The religious texts can also be interpreted to support the claim that the perfect God had indeed created a less-then-perfect universe, though no moral fault of His own as �The Jewish story says the world as created was good, even very good. But it didn�t say perfect�. In summation of this argument, the Creation Narrative in Genesis provides the basis for the assertion of notions One and Three of Pike�s �inconsistent triad�, while holding fast to notion Two, that God exists - and is omnipotent and omniscient.

Having established the possibility of the co-existence of Evil and Goodness, Jewish and Christian-based theodicy continues to expand on the concept of �Evil�. Ancient Hebrew tradition displays a gradual evolution of evil from its weak sense ra (meaning worthlessness) to the Satan figure that permeates contemporary Christian belief. There seems to be a gradual shift also, in the focus of these faiths: to the ancient Hebrews �evil was never a metaphysical principle in opposition to God� as this is antithetical to the ideology of monotheism. However, as �evil� in their context took on new symbolism (the breaking of the Abramic Covenant, trespassing social norms, disruption of order, impurity, and the breaking of man�s relationship with God), Satan soon showed up in the picture, having been included into the institutionalization of evil as �The accuser�. The historical-political context of the Jews had a heavy hand to play in the evolution of the Satan figure. It was during the Babylonia Exile in 520 BC that �the Jews had been influenced by Persian Dualism, and so� [viewed] the world in terms of good and evil� or in terms of God and Satan. However, the role of Satan has undergone evolution itself. The term �Satan� started out in Hebrew tradition not as the name of a person, �but the function that a person carried out�. Satan is derivation from a Hebrew word that means �to oppose�. In the Book of Job (written around 400 BC), Satan takes on the role of �The Accuser� but is also sometimes understood as a �Son of God� who is under the command of God and does not personify Evil. In the inter-testamental period of 350 BC- 50 AD, Satan becomes synonymous to evil and �is the one who disrupts the relationships between man and God�. This dualistic apocalyptic world view was inherited by the Christian tradition as evidenced by several references in the New Testament. In general, the New Testament speaks of Satan as a willful entity whose motives and being cannot be anything but evil. In short, how humanity engages with, and attempts to reconcile the problem of evil has evolved. Our understanding of evil is a result of the dynamic construction of the historical and cultural mosaic of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

In light of these observations, how does theodicy portray the relationship between two seemingly mutually exclusive entities, God and Evil? On issue that poses a problem is language, as �our thoughts on evil [and good] are to some degree constrained and directed by the language we use�. This has been clearly illustrated in the previous discussion on ra and Satan. Even the goodness of God, though clearly experienced cannot be dealt with within the boundaries of language. As Theodore Drance laments:

It makes little or no sense to call God �Perfect�, for we lack any system of standards in relation to which such a use of the term could derive meaning. We have no way to grade God.

Hence we must again be aware of the infinite-finite dichotomy that we are locked in, rendering much of what we seek to undercover, incomprehensible. We must also be aware of our preexisting assumptions of goodness and evil and allow for the very strong possibility that our assumptions are wrong. The contemporary concept of God�s goodness seems to suggest the need for the absolute cessation of evil. This has already been refuted by the Creation story in which in the act of creating not-God, evil is introduced without affecting God�s goodness. Therefore, goodness and perfection are not seen as evil-less, but rather as evil being held under the dominion of God. This is expressed in Psalm 104, where the author praises and speaks of God forming the Leviathan, a great sea monster that, in literarily terms, parallels Tiamat, believed by Israel�s pagan neighbours to represent chaos and, to a certain extent, evil. Here we see that God was directly involved in the creation of this monster and yet is in direct control and dominion of it as seen later in verse 29. This then is the pretext for Goodness: that God Himself is the God of evil, not in the sense that God is evil himself, but as in that he Lords over it.

Evil then does not nullify God�s goodness, but rather has a specific place in His good creation and perfection. This concept is reinforced by juxtaposing Blessings and Curses. The former has been dealt with above representing fully, and is evidence for, the goodness of God. Yet this God who blesses naturally is also seen to rain curses on His creation. However in the Genesis Story of creation, the curses that God inflicts are reactionary, being divine consequences of human iniquity as understood by both Jews and Christians. God is also �firmly in control of all blessing and cursing� as exemplified in Numbers 22- 24, where Balaam finds himself unable to curse Israel as God would only allow blessing to be uttered upon Israel. Curses were also incorporated into Israel�s tradition, as a reaction to disobedience and social rebellion as exemplified in Deuteronomy. Curses are �the other side of the same coin as God cannot abide by wickedness�. Goodness then, has to deal with the issue of evil and subdue it, in order to be good. Goodness, then, is �not a fuzzy kind of west-coast niceness. Goodness is something rather hard-edged and rather brutal in its own way�.

The next logical question would be then �if God is Lord over evil and if He is good, why does he not eradicate evil completely?� It seems logical that a perfect God would want a perfect world. However, we would do well to be aware that our contemporary western socio-cultural paradigm is heavily influenced by Grecian frames of thought. Our concept of Goodness and Perfection would then draw heavily upon Plato�s description of �The Good�. While perfection for Plato is based on Justice and Order, there seems to be lacking �the moral ideal.� In the Judeo-Christian tradition, that ideal would be grace. Because creation is not-God, evil is a possibility within the cosmic matrix. Mankind, having been given free-will (as adamantly believed in the Christian faith), has the possibility of engaging with evil, allowing it to manifest in creation via suffering. This is no doubt far from perfection, but �a creator�s choice of a less excellent world need not be regarded as manifesting a defect of character. It would be understood in terms of his grace, which is considered an important part of perfect goodness�. God not only does not eradicate evil, but also refrains from forcing His created beings away from engaging with evil. God interfering with such engagement would be disrespectful toward his creation, to deny them their nature to function freely and responsibly without being puppets of some divine hand. He does, however, act in a reactionary way, as explained above, in the form of curses. Hence, to destroy evil would be to destroy all creation (as suggested by the Flood story in Genesis) as it is always engaging with evil, while not necessarily being evil itself. Grace then, is manifested in the continued existence of the physical world of His creation. As expressed by Ted Peters: �Grace is God�s favour, and God favours the world�.
Grace not only explains the retention of the present world, but also allows, for creation, a way out beyond evil, establishing further, the goodness of God. This way out is redemption. This notion is singularly Christian and founded in the person and death of Jesus Christ. The Gospels speak of the crucifixion as allowing man to reach God, and completes God�s call to humanity. McLaren suggests then that �instead of history being driven by the past� history is constantly being invited to receive the gift of the future�. In eschatological terms this would mean �The Kingdom of God�. This �Kingdom� is spoken of in the book of Revelation in the Christian texts as a world of perfect goodness, which is only possible if God reigns supreme. Here then, God is actively redeeming creation toward goodness and refrains from destroying it by virtue of his Grace, with the knowledge that, because of his omnipotence and goodness (again, 2 and 3 of Pike�s triad), creation would ultimately be restored according to His Goodness. This is the cosmic understanding of evil and goodness, that God gave humanity free will to exist in a universe that, by nature of its creation, gives rise to the possibility of engaging with evil. God does not force mankind out of evil. But out of goodness and power, He calls out to mankind to be restored into his Kingdom and Reign. This means the acknowledgement of the sovereignty and lordship of God over every area of the cosmos by every existing entity, including evil itself. This is expressed in the many references in the new Testament saying �The kingdom of God is at hand�. This is God actively calling creation into restoration, into the realization of perfection and goodness where evil is subdued. This on-going process accounts for the human dichotomy of goodness and evil in this universe, that �some parts of history respond [to this call], but others resist or rebel. But God keeps calling�.

Despite all this, and despite every other possible theodicy conjured, the problem of pain and evil can never be resolved. Evil �is not a scientific problem that might be solved by further observations, or a practical problem that might be solved by a decision or an action�. Hence religious discourse holds no solution or meaning to the suffering individual. Reconciling evil with a good God has does little for a woman who has lost her child, or for the man who is hungry. There are many modern day Jobs who suffer innocently, further realizing and expressing the problem of evil on a level that no theodicy can reach. The Christian tradition then responds with faith. Faith in a good and omnipotent God, who freely blesses His people with the strength and resources to deal with the pain of evil, moment by moment, while they struggle together, as a universal whole, upward through grace toward the realization of the Kingdom of God.