a reflection based on Church Dogmatics II.2
The existence of evil remains one of the most often stated objections to the existence of God, or at least the belief that there is a loving God. “How can there be a God if. . .” “How can you tell me God is loving when. . .” There is no simple answer to a question like this. There is no convincing argument against the problem stated in this way. In the face of such things it seems all the more outrageous, offensive even, to claim, as Barth does, that everything depends on grace:
“There is no such thing as a created nature which has its purpose, being or continuance apart from grace, or which may be known in this purpose, being and continuance except through grace.” C.D. II.2 p.92
Often the argument against the existence in God, or belief in a loving God, continues by pointing that if God is God and God made everything God must therefore have made “evil” as well. This more often than not assumed to be the decisive “gotcha” that must finally demolish any rational or moral claims for the existence of a loving God. Evil exists and God must be held responsible for it. A lot of effort is expended by Christians, in apologetics, to get God off that hook, as if God could need human justification! Typically Barth resists arguing on behalf of God from a human perspective. Indeed he consents to the accusation that God must in some way be responsible for evil:
“Even sin, death, the devil and hell – works of God’s permissive will which are negative in their effects – even these do not constitute any exception to the general rule.” C.D. II.2 p.92
Not only does Barth accept that evil is part of what God has made, he goes on to claim that this too is a product of God’s grace! God’s grace is that God chooses to be our God and chooses to create the world as we experience it, evil included. There is no knowledge of God except that by grace God chooses to be known. But by the same token there is no true knowledge of creation, our experience of the world as it is, except by grace. That we can even recognise evil for what it is, is a product of that same grace. The God who Christians believe in, the God who we claim to be real, is a God of grace. God stands before, during and after everything that is. And that God is the one who makes Himself known in Jesus Christ, who shows there that He has chosen to be our God, and chosen us to be his people. The answer to the problem of evil is not to attempt to acquit God of creation, but to state that God has already given his answer in the reconciliation that He has made with us in Jesus Christ.
God of grace, we only know you, because by grace you choose to make yourself known to us. The presence of evil in the world confounds our faith in you as a loving God. Help us to see that even that knowledge of evil comes from you. Help us to trust in the answer which you have given, the peace that you have made with the world and with us through Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.