We've been pondering the Problem of Evil. How can a good God allow evil to exist? I think the solution is right there in opening pages of the Book of Genesis. According to the Bible, after six days' labor, God needed to rest to regain his strength. When God is enjoying some necessary down time, then evil takes advantage and spreads. Is this a convincing argument?

This argument is a variation on solutions that assume a non-omnipotent God. If God doesn't have the power to prevent all evil, then the fact that there is evil would be no surprise. This version's variation is just that God gets tired and sometimes has to rest.

For the moment, leave aside the point that this is far too anthropomorphic a conception of God for most theologians' tastes. And leave aside that at least some theologians would say that anything less than an omnipotent god doesn't deserve the label "God" to begin with. (I'm sympathetic to the first point, less so to the second.) Ask instead what patterns of evil we might expect if we accept this explanation. Suppose there's a flood and people are drowned. Is the idea that if God hadn't been napping, they would have been saved? Suppose some crazy person walks into a school with a gun and kills a bunch of people. Are we suppose to say that they would have been saved if God hadn't been tired?

It's probably safe to say that at every single minute of every single day, there's something bad happening somewhere. Is God always asleep? Or is the idea that, since thousands of years are but a blink of an eye to God, God has been asleep since humans appeared on the scene, though from the cosmic perspective, that's almost no time at all?

Assuming God exists, maybe there's something to be said for the idea that God is limited and doesn't have the power to prevent all evil. No reason to add the speculation that God needs to spend time chillaxin. But even if something like this idea has a place in a proper theodicy, some of the more traditional responses seem, well, more interesting. Suppose God is up and about when the flood crashes through the valley. Should we assume that in that case, God will suspend the laws of nature and save everyone in harm's way? Maybe. But maybe not. There's a lot to be said from a lot of points of view for a world with stable laws of nature. And again, if God is paying attention, is the idea that whenever any of us are about to follow through on an immoral decision, God will step in and stop us? If so, that would presumably mean that free choice is quite a bit more limited than one might think a God would want it to be.

It's a big topic. For those who believe, the limited God idea has some advantages. But for those who believe, there's also a point in approaching the problem of evil from the most challenging assumption: suppose that God isn't limited. On that assumption, what can be said about evil? Whatever the cosmic facts may actually be, my guess is that there's more to be learned if we start there.

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