Monday, July 30, 2007

Forget ECT, what about TCT? Why does God Allow Evil?

A Pain That I'm Used To
Image via Wikipedia

Byron asked a great question on my message board.  He  said "Forget about Eternal Conscious Torment?"  why does G-d allow "Temporary Conscious Torment"?- IOW all the suffering we  experience in this world.

Here's my attempt at an answer.


TCT is an endless subject.  I've read book after book on it.  And there is no single, pat answer.

But, here's how I deal with it, in a nutshell.  Ready?

In order to experience any growth or maturity, we have to experience some lack, some need, some imperfection.  Imagine a world where everything you wanted, desired or even thought about was instantaneously provided.  The entire world (Universe) would be nothing but an extension of you.  You would have no concept of "self" because a concept of "self" requires a concept of other.  We need differentiation to experience anything.  Hot isn't really hot unless there's something cold to compare it to.  Sweet isn't sweet without sour.   If there were other creatures in this imaginary world, they would really only be extensions of you because they could only do what fell into your will.  Let's call this a perfect world.  What type of person would you be?  Would you have any maturity, any appreciation, any ability to love, have any sense of gratitude?  (Would it matter?) Think about the most spoiled child you've ever known. What kind of person was s/he?  You'd be far worse than that.

Now, let's say you wanted to experience self.  You wanted to have the opportunity to love and/or serve.  You'd have to do something a little different with this world.  In order to serve someone, they must be lacking something that you can provide to them, that they cannot provide to themselves. In order to love someone, they have to be a real person, different from you.  Some amount of lack or disharmony (from the individual's viewpoint) must be introduced.  This we would perceive as "pain" or "evil".  No matter how minor this pain or disharmony, it would not be something we would desire.

So, it's very easy for me to see why G-d didn't create a "perfect" world. Basically, it could only consist of one very narcissistic individual.  Put a second person into this world (with his own will) and the world is no longer perfect.  It may not be intoleable. But, it's no longer absolutely pristine and ideal.  There is potential for conflict and for your will to be thwarted.  This could be perceived as evil or suffering.  And, I submit, it would be perceived that way.

The big question becomes why there is "so much" suffering.  I look at that this way.  Whether we perceive suffering as a lot or a little is relative.  Again, look at a small child. Take a toy away from him.  He screams bloody murder. It's the end of his world.  Or watch a little kid get a cut.  They think they're going to lose their limb. It's the worst pain imaginable.  It's unbearable to them.  As we get older and we realize there are lot worse things that can happen than losing a toy or getting a cut, we begin to relativize pain.  We think to ourselves, this is bearable.  But, that is only because we know it could be much worse. But, we continue to  think that the "worst" is unbearable, unbelievably cruel and maybe even unthinkable.  I think a lot of people think pain and evil in this world are without limits. But, if we really think about it, there are limits.  There's only so much pain the body will withstand before we lose consciousness.  We can destroy a man's body, but we can't destroy his soul.  Death comes to all.  Sickness doesn't last forever.

Imagine this if you will.  Let's say there was world where we did experience perfect health. What would happen the first time some got a headache or stubbed toe?  What if G-d were there to complain to?  Don't you think we'd go running to Him to say "What is this?"  "How could you allow this to happen?"  I think no matter what amount of pain or disharmony G-d allowed in the world, we would complain about it.

I'm not saying this as consolation to anyone or to minimize the painful and very real experiences we have. This world is full of pain and a lot more than I think I'd allow if I were G-d.  But, then, I am a limited creature and I'd think this no matter what the pain level was.

OK. That was longer than I intended but as short as I could make it.  I hope it made some sense.

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