By Elton Higgs
Rumination # 1There is something to be said for the non-believer who manifests a common-sense, pragmatic positive approach to life. Such a one may admit that he does not perceive designed reasons for his existence, but nevertheless he or she says, “Even though I don’t see the point in the God thing, I can focus my attention on the good that it is possible to experience in life. Although I have to recognize that I live in an imperfect world, I might as well make the best of it, without being bitter.” Thinking thus is compatible with either agnosticism or a sanguine kind of atheism (as opposed to militant atheism). But one who accepts life without bitterness and tries to live it constructively in spite of its downsides has already given a nod in the direction of the objective existence of good and evil and has tried to make a responsible choice between them. He/she is manifesting a kind of stoical common-sense decision to accept the ambiguity of the world at face value without feeling persecuted or mistreated.
On the other hand, there is also some sense to be made of a person with faith in God, or at least in Divine Purpose, who is willing to deal with the philosophical complications that such faith brings in order to be in touch with mysteries that enrich life beyond merely “making the best of things.” That, too, is internally consistent, and it shows once again a responsible choice to exercise discernment toward the mixture of good and evil in the world.
There is, however, a third position one often encounters which is totally inconsistent, i.e., angrily indicting God for cruelty or malice and making that a reason for refusing to submit to Him. It is ironic when one believes in God’s existence only to have someone to blame for the ills of the world.
Rumination # 2
It is interesting to contemplate the idea that if it were not for evil, love could not be fully manifested. Extreme love can be seen only through a willingness to incur hardship for the benefit of the beloved. If people had no impediments to their happiness and no bad character traits, what significance could be attached to their being loved? One may ask whether God Himself could have shown supreme love had it not been for the needs of sinful mankind (the idea of felix culpa, or “happy fault”). And since supreme love involves sacrifice, what was God to give that would be a real sacrifice for Him, since He is wholly sufficient within Himself? He could only give a part of His own nature—His Son. God’s love is most fully reflected in us, not when we love those who are easiest to love, but when we show the love that sacrifices even for the unworthy.
And a Couple of Aphorisms
• No one can be ill-tempered if he is convinced that God loves him.
• The way people justify their behavior does not always explain it.
• Christian living begins in creative despair.
Image: “Think” by R. Frasser. CC License.