Sunday, September 2, 2007

The problem of evil, pain and suffering

Albrecht Einstein is undeniably the greatest scientist of the last century. In all of his genius though, he found himself struggling with reconciling the idea of a personal God that was all good and all powerful. His dilema? Human suffering. He could not reconcile the idea of a good God who would allow suffering and pain. Considering what the Jews had experienced at the hands of Adolf Hitler, Einstein reasoned (like many do today), that an all good God who was all powerful, would not have sat idly by watching people endure and suffer through what the Jews had to endure.

Reportedly, in 1942 Einstein arranged a tea party in the parlor of his home, to which he invited three clergy men. Some of the conversation went thus:

Albrecht Einstein: "And so, I have come to accept that the universe had a real beginning in time. But what are the consequences of this discovery? Does it have any metaphysical, or even religious, implications?"

Rabbi Hertzen: ..."So you believe in a creator?"

Albrecht Einstein: "I have said before and I will say it again: I believe in Spinoza's God, a deity revealed in the orderly harmony of the universe. ...But what I cannot accept, is the idea of a personal God who punishes or rewards people. My religion has no dogma, no personal God created in man's image. A real scientist must be convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation, and he cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events. You say God is a being of absolute goodness and righteousness. But think of this. If he is the one ultimately responsible for our actions, then he is behind all the harm we do each other. In giving out punishments and rewards, he is in a way passing judgment on himself. God himself is the source of the very evil he supposedly judges."

Father McNaughton: "But we have free will."

Albrecht Einstein: "This I do not believe, science reveals a universe utterly bound by natural laws, a rational universe. There is simply no room left for causes of a different nature."

Reverend Hartman: ..."Religion doesn't make any claims about the world known by science. Genuine religion is a feeling of dependence on the Absolute."

Albrecht Einstein: I know you to be a progressive, forward-thinking man, Reverend. So how do you explain away the problem of a God who causes evil?"

Albrecht Einstein's greatest barrier to Christianity was not the question of whether God created the universe, but the problem of evil, pain and suffering. Einstein's premise was faulty from the start, and a faulty premise all but guarantees a faulty conclusion. Presupposing that a person's actions are pre-determined, Einstein declared that if a person made a choice to do evil "in God's eyes he cannot be responsible" for his behavior any more than a stone is responsible for where it flies when someone throws it. Consequently, if a person is not responsible for their actions, then God himself must be responsible for evil. Like Einstein, many people still blame God for the evil, pain and suffering that happens in our world today.

This causes them to see God as either less than all loving or at the very least not all powerful. The truth is though, that there is an antithesis to God, because the Bible teaches that all good and perfect gifts come from God, and in Him there is no evil. I want to pick up on the big ideas relating to the problem of evil, pain and suffering, so make sure you stop by tomorrow. While you're here, let me know what you think about the problem of evil, pain and suffering.