Tag Archives: the problem of evil

Jayber Crow and the problem of evil

This is the problem of evil:

So is this:

I think about this more than is probably healthy.  How can there be a benevolent God and such suffering still exist?  My answer is there can’t be.  A God.  When I am tempted to faith I remember these children and can go no further.

Is there a solution to the problem of evil?  The brittle contortions of philosophers fail to satisfy and science shrugs its shoulders.  Mystics ask for faith and churches ask for donations and poets preen in pretty verse.   Does nothing for the starving child stalked by a vulture, nor explain how she got there.

But Wendell Berry, speaking through the mouthpiece of the character Jayber Crow in the novel of the same name, has a stab at the ancient antimony:

Christ did not descend from the cross except into the grave.  And why not otherwise?  Wouldn’t it have put fine comical expressions on the faces of the scribes and the chief priests and the soldiers if at that moment He had come down in power and glory?  Why didn’t He do it?  Why hasn’t He done it at any of the thousand good times between now and then?

I knew the answer.  I knew it a long time before I could admit it, for all the suffering of the world is in it.  He didn’t, He hasn’t, because from the moment He did, He would be the absolute tyrant of the world and we would be His slaves.  Even those who hated Him and hated one another and hated their own souls would have to believe in Him then.  From that moment the possibility that we might be bound to Him and He to us to one another by love forever would be ended.

And so, I thought, He must forebear to reveal His power and glory by presenting Himself as Himself, and must be present only in the ordinary miracle of the existence of His creatures.  Those who wish to see Him must see Him in the poor, the hungry, the hurt, the wordless creatures, the groaning and travailing beautiful world.

Could the problem of evil be solved by beautiful literary passages, it would be done.  As it is, I remain unconvinced.  But if the problem of evil has a heavenly solution, perhaps this is it.