Will All Be Beautiful in the End?

My previous post was a review of N.D. Wilson’s excellent book, Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl. While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I would have addressed the problem of evil in a different way.

Wilson used art as a metaphor to understand why there is darkness in God’s world. He talked about the necessity of both shadow and darkness in a good painting, otherwise you end up with something that has no depth or color. Without black, you are left with a perfectly white painting, and perfectly blank.

In the same way, he says that when we see the shadows of life, we must understand that the painting of reality is a potpourri of shadow and light, resulting ultimately in beauty.

Wilson also makes an appeal to our limited perspective. Because our perspective is limited, we simply have to accept that this is the best of all possible worlds (for now):

If we live in art, struggling in the boundary between the shadow and the light, how can we begin to judge? How can we presume to talk about a better painting, a better novel, when we only see a single line, a single page, and it brings us grief?

I think we can talk about a better painting because God has given us glimpses into a what that looks like. Will the new heavens and the new earth be a lesser work of art because there will be “no more tears”?  The analogy breaks down badly at this point.

The scriptures are filled with tradgedy and pain and our lives hold potential to have horrible suffering that can’t be explained.  But there will be beauty in the end, and God will crush such evils under his feet–in fact, he is already active in doing that now and invites our participation.

For me, the problem of evil in the world is not about just wanting my own position “a little more comfortable.” When I struggle with it, I’m not thinking of the aches and pains my body carries around with it every day.  I’m thinking of the most horrific evils in the world and how they can be permitted to happen when God is perfectly good and powerful.

I cannot brush off the fact that children are sold as sex slaves by saying that my perception is limited, and if I could just see things from a higher view it would make sense. I’m not convinced that such evils can make sense. Perhaps the better answer is that we are supposed to struggle with them and not just accept them as a part of a larger tapestry that will look beautiful in the end.

Perhaps our hope in the face of such evils is that God has invited us to participate with him to set captives free and “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

3 responses to “Will All Be Beautiful in the End?

  1. I concur. Rob Bell’s current tour “Drops Like Stars” promotes his new book release in which he addresses the “problem of pain” from a similar angle as Wilson in Tilt-A-Whirl. I think just such an angle of understanding leaves us little leverage on life and hope. It is rather a watery and abysmal dismissal of the good Christ did in His particular suffering, redemption and resurrection (not to mention, the aftereffect we now enjoy of longing and looking forward to the restoration of all things to their right and proper purpose). Such a perspective offered by both Bell and Wilson also leaves Christianity by and large a bit wanting in its waiting, because it keenly omits a necessarily redemptive characteristic of pain, suffering, and evil which is, namely, that evil has no explicable validation for existing in the first place. Said purposelessness of pain (as Lewis would have told it) is very part and parcel to evil’s core identity and thus we have the “hope filled tragedy” of the cross. My point, if we are to vitally maintain our hope (as Christians) and to offer hope (in a Godless and hopeless world, steeped in its own sin and suffering), then we must help paint a more accurate (albeit less picturesque) portrait of both evil and redemption, and altogether eliminate with earnest outrage the incredulity of a Yin and Yang causality (which is most post-modern and yet altogether ancient in origin).

  2. I think your point is well taken . . . and Wilson’s metaphor involving light v. dark shades of color is badly mistaken. Wilson asks (presumably rhetorically), . . . How can we judge? On the contrary, how can we not judge? Wilson looks at the world as a picture and (apparently) says We’re not the artist . . . so we shouldn’t presume to change a thing. But evil should always be opposed, shouldn’t it? Does Wilson argue we should be ambivalent about evil because God needs the darkness to make His picture pretty?

    The problem of how/why evil exists in a world created by a loving God has been the subject of a good many books and sermons over the centuries; whatever the solution to that problem is, it cannot be that we simply sit back and mutter . . . Hey, I can only see a single line, a single page . . . so how can I even begin to judge how to make this world a better place . . . or me a better person?

    Returning to Wilson’s metaphor, this world is beautiful in spite of the darkness . . . not because of it. God does not need the darkness to make His picture beautiful; rather, He is the ultimate artist who can use the darkness to bring light to his creation. How and why, we don’t know; or need to know. But we should never believe His ability and willingness to sometimes use the darkness to bring forth shades of light is evidence he somehow wants the darkness to be on His palette.

    Keep up the good work. Interesting stuff.

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