December 22, 2010

Evil & Suffering IX: Poverty, War & Social Evils

Of all the topics to consider when dealing with theodicy, one of the thorniest has to be the issue that encompasses poverty, social evils and war. There are innumerable variables that play into the complex systems that govern humanity and we could only scratch the surface in this twenty-seven (27) part study. Since these systems that govern the social interaction of humanity en masse are so complex it only takes them getting out so sync just slightly to have a catastrophic end result. The three primary evils, poverty, war and social evils generally have their inception in moral evil (man caused) but once started they can take on a life of their own totally independent of their initiating force (mankind). I originally wanted to place this under the natural evil section but it stands to reason that poverty is avoidable by people doing the right thing to fix the problem. If people work together with a biblical mindset to help stamp out this type of problem, it would not exist. The fact that poverty, war and social evils still exist points towards the fact that either (1) enough action hasn’t been taken to prevent it or (2) a choice has been made to do little or nothing about it. Regardless of which reasoning we use they both stem from a choice or choices of mankind making all of these derivatives of moral evil and thereby caused and of mankind.

Tied directly into the poverty issue is a nearly symbiotic association with rulers or states (countries or powers). For most of recorded history areas have been either ruled of under jurisdiction of some type of controlling power. These powers have the ability to make things better for their populaces or they can make them hell on earth. Nation-states have been the promoters of some of the greatest goods to advance mankind like the prosperity of the United States in the 20th Century or they have been the biggest perpetrators of evil like Nazi Germany of the 20th century. In the case of the Nazis, not only do we see mechanized warfare on a global scale we also see genocidal exterminations nearly as efficient as ones told of in the Old Testament. Case-In-Point: We saw Assyria used as a tool of God to nearly annihilate His own people while simultaneously Assyria commit these acts of evil under their own volition thereby condemning and dooming themselves to God’s wrath and judgment. Assyria believed they were destroying enemies under their own power but it was really God allowing them to gain the victory (ies) (Carson 49). To definitively try and pinpoint exact reasons for outbreaks of social strife or wars is an effort in futility. What we do know for sure is that God uses and has used the evils of war just as he uses all the otherevils to move history forward for His purposes. We know this is true because God is sovereign and he knows everything that happens in His creation…and either allows it or causes it. We see examples of this all over the Old Testament. God using Assyria as mentioned. He also uses Pharaoh/Egyptians, Babylonians, civil war, etc. The evils and wars are allowed by God but not caused by God. Often we see horrible atrocities arise out of these armed conflicts but we also see good things arise out of these same conflicts. We see medical and technological advances for humanity due to the need to better treat injured soldiers or reach an expedient end to the conflict. We see a more earnest attempt at some form of legitimate peace after an atomic end of World War II that saw the dropping of two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities in 1945.

As for poverty there are multiple types and they should at least be noted individually to understand the differences (Carson 52-57).

The Unfortunate Poor:
People that are the product of unfortunate situations / circumstances. Drought has ruined the crops or disease has stricken the moneymaker in the family. The family then becomes destitute or without resources for money or food. There is sin involved here but is against the backdrop of mankind’s fall in Adam.

The Oppressed Poor:
Poverty that is the direct result of malevolent intent, extortion or exploitation of others. Usually we see it is the rich exploiting the marginally poor or poverty-stricken. It is also in this form of poverty that we see the creep or the influx of moral evil since it is the perpetration of a sin or misdeed on one human by another. It is also this type of poverty that draws the Lord’s wrath on the perpetrator.

The Lazy Poor:
I believe the best way to address this form of poverty since it is a poverty on one’s own doing should be addressed with Scripture as this type of poor is easily avoidable if one adheres to biblical principles or presuppositions.

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4

“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” Proverbs 13:18

“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” Proverbs 14: 23
Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger. Proverbs 19:15

It is clear within Scripture that we are urged to avoid laziness wherever possible. We see in Genesis that we were in fact created and put in the garden of Eden by God to “work it and keep it” (v. 2:15). As we were created to glorify God it is evident that God intended man to glorify God through this “work”. My guess is that it is because the act of working was an emulation or imitation of what God had done during the act of creation. Furthermore we see an additional allusion of work/rest in the seventh day where God rested from his work and He, “blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” God did not rest because He was tired but it was a sabbatical instated for man (to emulate).

The Voluntary Poor:
This one’s a no-brainer. These are the poor that live in poverty by choice. It is usually those who take a vow of poverty. I do not view this as an evil as it is poverty by choice.

To surmise the issue of poverty for cases other than laziness and voluntary poverty we need to realize that they are preventable if society at large (or governments) that are in charge would address the problem. Instead we often see just the opposite down through history in the Bible and outside of the Bible. Instead of helping the poor we often see governments and leaders oppressing the poor or “bleeding them dry”. We have an obligation to help the poor as they are often society’s most vulnerable.

“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. Exodus 22:22-27

When people turn a blind eye to the poor ignoring the widows, children and the weak or disenfranchised of society we know that God frowns upon this and He will judge it. Through Moses we see God establish clear guidelines when dealing with the poor (and widows and orphans).

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

God does not judge these people souly on their ignorance when it comes to turning a blind eye on something such as poverty, he judges every sinner with the same amount, and looks at everyone as an equal in their wrong doings, it doesn't matter what their punishment on earth, god does not punish them, for he has already inflicted the pain of every living and dieing persons sins on his own son. this does still not make turning a blind eye to poverty right in anyway, but no one should be blamed or accused in doing moree damage then another, everyone should just simply work together and do their best at trying to reduce and fix these problems, not so they look good, or the world is a 'happier place', because there is always something to frown upon, but so everyone having this kind of promblem can be lifted up towards the hand of god, and lead on the path to a happier life.

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