On Evil and Atomic Bombs

My esteemed and returning guest blogger today is Naomi Noguchi Reese, PhD student in theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a native of Japan.

Those who may remember my last post, “An Easter Meditation,” can probably guess that one of my long-time interests in theology is evil and suffering. Certainly, the problem of evil has raised (and continues to raise) many challenges to theism. Most of us would accept the following propositions: 1) God exists 2) God is all good 3) God is all powerful 4) Evil exists. Yet many find these four propositions difficult because one must conclude, “Therefore, God must allow evil to exist.” From a philosophical perspective, some draw the conclusion from these that God cannot exist, because He would not allow evil to enter His world. However, Christians need not be dismayed. Alvin Plantinga’s famous “free-will defense” provides one possible philosophical answer to this dilemma. To roughly summarize Plantinga’s argument: Having given libertarian free will, it is impossible for God to guarantee that His free creatures will always choose what God wills them to do. In other words, it is logically contradictory that libertarian free will can be causally determined by anything other than an agent’s own free will. Thus if God grants free will, there is always a possibility evil can be chosen.

Despite this convincing argument, I still wonder why there is evil in this world. Perhaps my problem is not so much related to theology (or philosophy), but rather the nature of humanity. I grew up in Japan. As many of you know, Japan is the only country that has experienced the devastation of atomic bombs. I still remember gazing at a book in the corner of the library in my elementary school. There was a picture of a boy whose face was burned beyond recognition due to the powerful heat from the bomb. A skeletal domed building stands in Hiroshima, speaking silently to us about the utter devastation of that day.

All of this causes me to question, “What is man?” “How are we capable of causing such reckless evil?” The Bible says that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and came to know evil. This evil is surely in me as well. What is more troubling is that I am beginning to see that in many cases, evil may be carried out in disguise, in the name of good. Man is so easily deceived by his/her own pride, sense of righteousness, etc., that he/she may not realize that evil is about to take over what was first intended to be good. Harry Truman’s public address to the nation on the eve of the bombing of Nagasaki, unsettles my mind. “Having found the atomic bomb we have used it. We have used it against those who attacked us without warning at Pearl Harbor. . . . We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans.” Tomorrow is the 64th anniversary of Hiroshima (and the 9th is Nagasaki). I pray for world peace and those who still suffer from these tragic days in the history of humanity.

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