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The Best of All Possible Worlds

There are two reasons I start writing tons of blog posts during finals:

1) It's a way to procrastinate yet still feel I am doing something edifying

2) I am being forced to boil-down all of my ideas for my papers and exams, and all of the sudden great mysteries become succinct bloggable topics in my mind.  And I can't pass up the opportunity to record them before they disappear into Christmas sloth.  

That said, I am about to write a blog post about the single most intimidating and mystifying idea that has ever crossed my mind or anyone else's in the history of sentient beings:  the problem of evil.  So no, obviously I haven't boiled this one down to a "succinct bloggable topic," but I did have an idea in class now that stopped me in my tracks, so I want to record it. 

Our final class period for my Aquinas course was as follows:  We were presented with the question, "Is this the best of all possible worlds?" and the class was divided in two teams, negative and affirmative, and we were to seek this out in the form of a disputed question.  The affirmative side listed 5 pre-written arguments and then the negative side did the same - traditionally whoever goes second doesn't sit there trying to come up with on-the-spot rebuttals, but instead delivers their own prewritten arguments.  There is a "master" who listens to both sides and then comes up with a solution, ideally.  

I'll post the arguments at the end if anyone wants to read them, but right now I have on my mind one main issue.  God will one day create a new heaven and a new earth, so this seems not to be the best of all possible worlds because a new, presumably better, one is coming at some point in the future.  There is all sorts of sin and evil in this world, and there are infinite ways to imagine a world that could be better than this one (see "The Grand Inquisitor" - a chapter of The Brother's Karamazov that summarizes this argument excellently).  

However:  there is the issue that all of creation is inseparable from the narrative of creation.  Creation be definition requires the progression of time, and the ordering of events.  This world was created, and then there was a fall in heaven and a fall on earth, and then there were all sorts of horrible things that needed to be fixed, and then Christ came and gave things at least the possibility (debatable) of being made well, and someday all things shall be well when the new heaven and the new earth are created.  

It was proposed in class today that this narrative, wrought with suffering and evil as it is, has the distinction among all other imaginable narratives (even those in which there is less or no evil and freedom can still exist) of being the one that God chose.  God brought about this world and will bring about the perfect end of this world, both of which were good.  

But what about what happens in the middle?  This is where we fall into traps of saying that God must also then have "brought about" the evil that happens in the meantime, and no lover of God can say that.  

I can't answer that question, but I can propose another one:  could it possibly be that God has willed a world in which even He does not always get His own way?  

When you picture Christ pleading with God in Gethsemane or questioning God while dying on the cross, you have to wonder how this split can happen when God and Christ are one.  How could their wills be divergent?

Anyone with any theological sensibility at all will have many good reasons to refute this point, but I am at the very least contemplative about the fact that not getting your own way is often extremely virtuous sacrifice.  Of course it is right and good to fight for what is righteous, and a human who sits idly by while injustice thrives is either ignorant, blind, or a coward.  

But consider Christ's silence at His own trial and His willingness to give up His own life (which He clearly did not want to do) for the sake of something that was better.  Could the Son be not merely obeying but imitating the Father?  Does the existence of evil imply somehow that God the Father once sat silently and, despite His supreme power, did not enforce His own will because it was somehow better not to do so?  

We have no account of the fall of Lucifer; how do we imagine God's action when this rebellion was under way?  Is it reasonable to think that he watched this manifestation of evil the same way Christ faced His own execution?

I already see several essential doctrines upon whose toes I am stepping right now, but for this instant the  implications for my own life give me reason enough to maintain this notion with the hope of one day being able to think through it more clearly.  Any time I can say to God, "Not my will, but thine," I am at my human best.  We see this even in the mutual submission in good interhuman relationships.  So wouldn't God, too, be at His best with this attitude in His heart?  But to whom would He say, "thine"?  There is evidence to support that he could say this to Himself.  

I am left at this point with many questions, but with only one prayer of which I can never be reminded enough: "Not my will, Father, but Thine."


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