Part Seven: Reflections and Observations
What this section is intended to be is a free-floating running set of observations and reflections on this issue...no particular order, and I don't plan to integrate these comments into the body of the discussion (so far)...
I intend to organize this in "log" fashion, with more recent entries at the bottom
June 6, 2000
1. One MAJOR element that is not included in my discussion is the amount of suffering 'absorbed' by our Lord on the Cross. Christian theology understands the act of Jesus on the Cross to be one of 'ransom' and 'sacrifice' and 'substitute' and 'wrath bearer', and to have done so for a much greater number of humans than just for Himself. Those that end up in heaven/immortality do so on the basis of that substitution. Since He bore our punishment, we don't have to...But this means that the larger the number of folks that make it to heaven, the greater amount of suffering He actually 'moved from the universe' to 'upon Himself'...Although we don't know much about how the equivalences were made, we know that "by His stripes we were healed". What this implies is that the universe has a significantly lower 'amount' of suffering (at least that which would be due to punitive consequences of God-the-treachery-avenger and that due to natural consequences turned back upon ourselves), that it would have had without the event of the Cross. This is a staggering concept, and one in which the good-heart of God is clearly visible...He bore our pain, creating rest and space and beauty and health within the universe, by transferring it outside it to Himself somehow.
2. Scripture affirms that God is long-suffering, and that ONE of the reasons evil, treachery, malice, and negligence is allowed to continue (without decisive intervention or just-in-time judgment) is to give the perps time to change their minds and to open up their lives to God. For even person that does that (the deathbed salvation of the Theft on the Cross), the overwhelming amount of good that floods into the universe (via their establishment of a life-giving relationship with God) might likely dwarf the evil they might have accomplished up to that point. So, the visible horror of evil done by individuals in human history (besides having the effect of arousing or moral outrage and creating a civil or cultural response against that), is--in certain cases--massively offset by the good achieved via their new lives (and post-death experiences, obviously). These goods would not have occurred had God removed them from history at the first crime--a real-time judgment scenario...His patience seems to open doors to greater 'amounts' of good even in those situations/lives.
3. I strongly suspect (but do not have the statistics to prove this, of course) that the number of attempted crimes outnumbers the actual crimes by a couple of orders of magnitude. My intuitions are that 'normal' in-built characteristics of humans (both personal and social) work together to cause more attempts to evil to fail. I think of fear of community response, I think of fear of self-damage, I think of fear of social rejection, I think of conscience, I think of "last-minute" compassion. I wonder how many of these failures might be related to God's doing ALREADY, through the means of the common in-built structures of human life. Although I would be first to agree that the actual number of evil acts is GREATER THAN the number of those so reported, I would also argue that the number of failed or abandoned attempts is GREATER STILL than even the sum of the reported and un-reported crimes.
4. Even some 'self-inflicted' or 'self-caused' suffering may be recompensed by God in some way. [I had argued above that the biblical data suggests that God will somehow 'pay back' in equivalents (?) for innocent oppression. But God may also "pay back" for the suffering we incur under His correction. Consider the locust/drought punishment on Israel in Joel 2:25:
Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you.
God will "make up to them" for the loss they brought upon themselves! If the correction would be heeded, the nation would not only recover back to status quo, but also received the 'loss amount' as well...(Of course, this only works if they return to God--if they continue their hard-heartedness toward God and others [2.12]; otherwise God will just "speak a little louder"--to paraphrase Deuteronomy...smile).