Page 5, 17th February 1984

17th February 1984
Page 5
Page 5, 17th February 1984 — Confronting the problem of evil

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Confronting the problem of evil

I SPEAK of war in a particular way. I speak of the last two world wars, the second of which brought with it a much . greater harvest of death and a much heavier burden of human sufferings. The second half of our century, in its turn, brings with it — as though in proportion to the mistakes and transgressions of our contemporary civilisation — such a horrible threat of nuclear war that we cannot think of this period except in terms of an incomparable accumulation of sufferings. even to the possible selfdestruction of humanity. In this way, that world of suffering which in brief has its subject in each human being, seems in our age to be transformed — perhaps more than at any other moment — into a special "world": the world which as never before has been transformed by progress through man's work and, at the same time, is as never before in danger because of man's mistakes and offences.

Within each form of suffering endured by man, and at the same time at the basis of the whole world of suffering, there inevitably arises the question: why? It is a question about the cause. the reason. and equally. about the purpose of suffering, and. in brief, a question about its meaning. Not only does it accompany human sufferihg, but it seems even to determine its human content, what makes suffering precisely human suffering.

It is obvious that pain. especially physical pain. is widespread in the animal world. But only the suffering human being knows that he is suffering and wonders why; and he suffers in a humanly speaking still deeper way if he does not find a satisfactory answer. This is a difficult question, just as is a question closely akin to it. the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? When we put the question in this way, we are always, at least to a certain extent, asking a question about suffering too.

Both questions are difficult. when an individual puts them to another individual. when people put them to other people, as also when man puts them to God. For man does not put this question to the world, even though it is from the world that suffering often comes to him, but he puts it to God as the creator and Lord of the world. And it is well known that concerning this question there not only arise many frustrations and conflicts in the relations of man with God, but it also happens that people reach the point of actually denying God. For, whereas the existence of the world opens as it were the eyes of the human soul to the existence of God, to his wisdom, power and greatness, evil and suffering seem to obscure this image, sometimes in a radical way, especially in the daily drama of so many cases of undeserved suffering and of so many faults without proper punishment. So this circumstance shows — perhaps more than any other — the importance of the question of the meaning of suffering; it also shows how much care must be taken both in dealing with the question itself and with all possible answers to it.

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