These two questions linked to a post in the Back2Basics section:
Q1: Do we thank Him for good and not evil?
Q2: Do we attribute causality for the good and not the bad?
Do we thank Him for good and not evil?
No. We thank Him for everything because we believe He is present with us in both the good and the bad. We believe that He works all things for good and can take that evil and work good from it, even though it wasn’t His will.
Do we attribute causality for the good and not the bad?
My gut instinct was, to be forthright, discomfort with answering this as ‘yes’. I was afraid of it indeed sounding like a cop-out, but when I meditate on it, I still think the answer is yes.
Why? Because God’s will is always for goodness and joy in Him. Anything “bad” is actually a straying from His will. So when things are going good, yes, I can thank Him for that because it’s going as He planned and intended and willed for us, when it goes bad, it’s when there’s been an aberration of it because of where human will and God’s will collide. This is a very important concept.
Let me give a weak but useful analogy: let us say that a kind daddy put money aside for his daughter to go to college. He taught her tons of stuff as a kid, invested in her, helped her with homework, got her tutors, sent her to all sorts of sports teams, ballerina pageants, mission trips to africa, all to increase her profile and make her well-rounded to get into med school. In 2nd year pre-med, a drunk driver hits her, she’s paralysed, none of the school (in our imaginary scenario) can accommodate her. Is it the dad’s fault? Of course, you’ll say ‘no’. Was it the girl’s fault? You can philosphise and say she didn’t look both ways, but let’s say she did everything right. It was that drunk guy who was at fault, not the dad. If the accident never happened and she got into medschool, should she be thanking the dad? Yes, absolutely! I could give another scenario where SHE messes it up. But I think this is enough to illustrate the plan. The father/God had a plan, the plan is good. Now the daughter/humans have the ability to walk according to it, or they don’t (God’s will vs. my will). Then there’s this third factor, external evil. That is evil that cannot be controlled or attributed to the father.
So, I don’t feel uncomfortable saying, “Yes, I will attribute good to Him and not the bad”. Because the general plan for all is always good. The comfort is that He is with us in the hardship.
The concepts that I think are related to this are:
– Proper goals in a Christian concept
– Aversion to discomfort
4 thoughts on “Do we attribute causality to God for good and not the bad?”
Absolve me Abouna. Regarding the story of the father and his daughter, yes that father had no control over the drunk driver, but the Heavenly Father does. And the question raises itself, why He didn’t stop the driver or any similar evil that happens in our life, even to people who love God fervently, sometimes even more so to these people than others. Would you please shed some light on the topic “God allowing things to happen, is this part of His plan?”
+Christ is risen!
I think the answer depends on whether or not we believe in a God who respects our free will. If God stops one drunk driver, then that potential victim is very happy. Should He then go and stop all drunk drivers from driving? If He does, then why should I bother worrying bout getting drunk, God will save me from anything harmful and stop the driver from doing anything dumb. Moreover, if He prevents all the drunks from killing people. should He not stop all potential harm from the mistakes of all people, since all of those things can hurt people in some for or another? If He is doing that, then where exactly does my free will come in? Why bother having it at all? We hate to be puppets but we resent our free will. But it comes back always to that free will being a response of love. His Omnipotence doesn’t outweigh His Justice.
Aside: This question I think is also pointing in the direction of grace, of helps that we get, of gifts that we have that save us from something or prevent something from happening. How God manages His grace, is something that frankly, we don’t know. I plan to post something about grace soon, as it is related.
Your whole premise seems to ignore natural evil completely. As if the only evil in the world is caused by free willing humans. What about people who suffer and die because of Earthquakes, hurricanes etc. Were these natural disasters also a consequence of free will ?
Thanks for your comment!
Just want to clarify some things before I respond, though, and I say this in love.
First, when “you say my whole premise seems to ignore natural evil completely“, it is important for you to understand that this is a blog. This is not a dogmatics course, nor a philosophy course. I write blogs based on a bunch of things: things that are on my mind, stuff that me and my friends have been talking about a lot, a major event etc… So it’s important you don’t treat things dogmatically that were never claimed to be dogmatic. Nor can you take my thoughts that went into one blog as my complete and total thought and understanding of a topic. This would be unjust.
Second, I would, say, that I consider “natural” evil as still “extrinsic evil” in the analogy that I was using. That the person did not get the good thing because of factors our of her own control. So, I do see it as addressed.
Finally, I’m writing from an Orthodox Christian perspective. So there’s an underlying belief here that there is a God, that He created the world, and that He made it with a purpose. This is very important to the discussion for Christians.
It’s hard for me to tell from your writing if you are being sincere or being sarcastic, or both, but I will assume that you are not being sarcastic. Given that assumption, if you are neither a Christian or Orthodox, then some of this will be irrelevant to you, but this wouldn’t be the best place for discussion in that case. 🙂
The short answer to your question is “yes“. I know that is not palatable to some people, but it is still yes.
The long answer, however, needs to look at two things, and I won’t be able to write you a book on this subject here because this is not something that one can talk about in a paragraph or two conclusively.
Let us say for example, that human beings pollute like crazy and we cause something like “global warming”. Global warming has a bunch of effects, one of which may be flooding. Such an event means death and grief that was a result of human decision. My point is just to say that some “natural evils” are not actually totally and completely natural. That’s one important point to bear in mind.
The second part of this yes, is that as Christians, we do not believe that God randomly made the world. We believe that He made it “good”, and that suffering and death were never part of His plan. They resulted from sin. Not sin in the legal sense of “because you made mistakes” but because we divorced ourselves from Goodness and Life. The source of peace and goodness was the Creator Himself, and in going against that, there was a disconnect between that Goodness and ourselves. Sin was the introduction of something foreign to the body, and this introduction brought about changes from what it was designed for. Natural evil is a consequence of a mutation of the natural world. It was not something willed or intended, it’s something that went astray from its original design. The source of that wrongness, was us. So, I will affirm again, that yes, we are responsible collectively for natural evil.
I hate, however, for the discussion to stop there, because it’s extremely negative and actually misses the point to just say “we are responsible”, because it makes it sound like there’s a blame discussion going on that is not going on. Maybe it is to some of us for various reasons, but I have never seen God in the New Testament pointing fingers saying ‘this is all your fault’! I do not see it in the gospels. I just see Him fixing people and things. This is very positive and transformative, not negative and derogatory.
Also, such a discussion makes it sound like “death” today is a bad thing. It is not. At least, not for Christians. We don’t really believe in death being a big deal to the person who “died”. Again, there’s an underlying assumption that the inquiry is coming from an Orthodox Christian. So, yes there’s death and there’s natural evil, but sorry, it actually in the grand scheme does not matter one bit. It does not matter because as just said, there is actually no question of blame! Yes, people die, but God is not angry that people are physically dying, it’s simply an event in the whole life of a person. We hate death because we seem to care a lot about living here. He hates sin and injustice, yes; personal evils with poor intent He does not have joy over. But we are having a discussion about all these evils as though there’s a need to point fingers, when we’re not being held accountable for anything other than our own actions, for which even those He is merciful as a father. We only get worked up because we want or do not want certain things. Those things may be right or wrong, they may be beneficial, vain or neutral, but they are also irrelevant to the Purpose. My point is that, what one calls “evil”…I’m not certain that it actually is intrinsically an evil, or if we perceive them as evil because to us, they are disagreeable.
If as a result of the fall death and disease entered the world, our Lord remedied them in the Incarnation. All we’re asked to do is struggle for relationship. In other words – in the analogy above. If the girl does not become a physician, the dad is not angry with her, whether her fault or the fault of anything/anyone other than her. He just loves that girl, and wants that girl to love him back. All he desires for her is always good. He will not force her to love back.