Taking a Deeper Look at the Problem of Evil: The Cross

              Finally, I end by covering the cross and our eschatological hope as Christians. Jesus agonized the nastiest evil that can be thrown at him: denial by his own adored people, in the streets of their capital city; abhorrence from the authorities in his own religion; unfairness at the hands of the Roman court; unfaithfulness and disloyalty from two of his closest friends, Judas and Peter, and desertion by the greater part of the rest of his followers; the public disgrace of being stripped nude and mocked as outrageous “King of the Jews”; anguish in the superb agony of crucifixion; and the continuous weight of the lure to despair altogether, to crash these unappreciative beings with the shocks of heaven, to recommence with a new race, to assert himself and perform like a god. Instead, Jesus performed like God and remained there, embracing himself the sins of the world, keeping himself in position as his foes wreaked their most terrible. He perished, and the pain stopped.[1] “God absorbs the pain. God bears the shame. God swallows the anger and opens up the divine arms to us again.”[2] Our faith in a good God is sensible, because Jesus suffered on our behalf, and took the punishment that we deserve. Jesus suffers an agonizing death, with a divorce from the Father. He understands what it is to suffer. He has lived there. Various theologians similarly think we ought to view God the Father suffering with us also, as a potent manifestation of his love and dedication to humankind. Dorothy Sayers highlights this argument nicely:

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine…He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death…He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.[3]

The cross was a world-altering occasion where the love and compassion of God dealt efficiently with the immensity of human sin. His death and resurrection show evil is trounced, and death has been slain. Contemplate the many implications of the atonement: Jesus is the Victor, he has paid our ransom, God’s wrath has been satisfied, and Jesus is the substitution for the offenses we have perpetrated.

As if that is not enough, the Christian narrative ends with faith in the future where complete justice will be done, and all evils will be made right. When Christ returns in the last phase of the celestial narrative, he will not once more give in to mortal agencies and quietly accept evil. He will come back to deliver justice. The crooked will be made straight as the Jewish prophet Isaiah prognosticated hundreds of years prior to Jesus’ birth, and each person will look at the obvious existence and strength of God as Jesus makes everything just. The Bible’s definitive solution to the problem of evil is evil will be dealt with. Satan and every one of his angels, and everything that works counter to shalom will be eliminated. The faithful deceased will rise with new bodies for the pleasure of the new life God has ready for them. God will create a new heaven and a new earth for persons God has loved so long and so good. In this state, persons who suffer will be consoled and repaired. The nasty will be converted into the lovely; the feeble made into the potent. The lonesome will be liked, and the divided will be unified in perpetuity. This is the core of our faith in God in the middle of pain and suffering. The Christian gospel extends what no other worldview or philosophy does or can – the extermination of evil and sin (1 Corinthians 15:53-58, Hebrews 12:1-2). If he will revenge all wrongs and make a home where there will be no evil, then the evils of this life can be survived. All things work together for good for those who believe (Romans 8:28) for the life to come presents the ideal reality for which we all want (Revelation 20:11-15, Matthew 25:31-46, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).    

[1] My paraphrase of John Stackhouse Jr., Can God Be Trusted? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 138.

[2] John Stackhouse Jr., Can God Be Trusted? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 135.

[3] Dorothy L. Sayer, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” in The Whimsical Christian (New York: Collier Macmillan, 1987), 12.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: