We all ask “why” questions – Why did they act that way toward me? Some may question why so much evil exist if God truly loves. The problem of evil is one main reason people indicate why they don’t believe in God. There may not be a satisfactory answer for many, but how we answer this question for ourselves can determine whether we believe in God or in the midst of suffering wonder if God truly exist. It doesn’t matter if you accept my explanation but rather any explanation that allows understanding in difficult times.
Thomas Oord in his book The Uncontrolling Love of God offers the best explanation for me at this time to this age old question. Freedom is the only path to authentic relationships which brings the most joy in relationships. There is no greater feeling than knowing your partner, child, or friend love you because they want to and not because they have to. The Creator is certainly powerful beyond imagination but not even an almighty God can force true love. God like parents had a choice – to not create or create knowing loved ones may experience suffering or true intimacy. Even humans know “controlling love” is an oxymoron and not love at all.
Humans, unlike God, are tempted to control to avoid pain for themselves or others. It is impossible for God to create without freedom or to create and control. God’s nature instead is love which never controls. Since God’s love is uncontrolling, God can’t stop evil resulting in so much suffering. What God’s love can do is prevent evil through the free decisions of other to change or intervene in the lives of others. God can influence in all the appropriate ways, but divine love limits divine power. It is impossible for God to create without the possibility of suffering.
This explanation for many may make God seem less powerful. Another perspective is that a parent’s love may actually be greater when they don’t control their child. God’s love is greater than the greatest imaginable. If I don’t stop my children from hurting themselves or others, it may be the only hope they have to eventually freely choose good and experience the joy that comes from that. I hesitate to compare because God, unlike humans, is incapable of controlling. God can no more control thus prevent suffering than God cannot love.
The uncontrolling love of God is a better explanation than God “allows.” When we say God allows, the impression is that God stands by when God could stop evil. Who admires people who stand by in the name of freedom while people’s rights are being violated? How can we justify God doing nothing if God could control evil in the first place? God cannot stop evil, thus act controlling, except by intervening in the lives of others without violating their freedom. God can no more control others than God can choose to not love others perfectly.