How Being a Dad Improved My Theology…
Especially in regard to: “The Problem of Evil”
June 2, 2012. The Day I Became a Dad.
I was so excited to meet him. I mean, I felt him kicking, and heard his heartbeat, but I just wanted to see him (Dads, you know what I mean). I just wanted to meet him face to face. Benaiah Daniel Ritz was born June 2, 2012, and my theology has not been the same ever since.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s for the better. Benaiah, who is now 3-years old, and his little brother Judah, who just turned 12-months, have confirmed that we are born totally depraved, and that demon-possession in infants normally occurs around 3:00 a.m.
My boys have taught me a lot about hamartiology (the study of sin), anthropology (the study of man), and diaper-ology (the study of stank!), but they also have helped me to grasp what it means to call God my “Father,” and the joy it is to know that He, in return, calls me His son. As a Father, I know the feeling of singing over both my boys before laying them down at night (Zeph. 3:17)… I confess, my eyes are rarely dry when I sing to them. I’ll tell ya, fatherhood has made me such a softy (especially during Hallmark commercials).
Being a Dad & the Problem of Evil
I love being a Dad. I love my boys. Actually, I’ve even thought at times that I was a more loving Father than God Himself… You heard me right. My wife and I only have two children, but we’ve been pregnant four times—once before Benaiah, and once before Judah. (Like Job says, “The LORD gives, and He takes away…”)
After each of our miscarriages, I was sick to my stomach, mad at God, and contemplating how in the world He thought it was a good idea to take my babies! People would try and give me a good reason or purpose for why this happened, but it only increased my anger. This was my first time personally wrestling with the classic question of “The Problem of Evil”:
Why would a God, who is all loving and all Powerful, allow there to be so much evil? I thought He was supposed to be a Loving Father?
There are so many people whose faith has been shipwrecked do to this reasoning: “If God were all-powerful, then He could do something about evil/suffering, and if He were all-loving, then He would. Since there is still evil in the world, God is either not all-loving (He doesn’t want to get rid of it), or not all-powerful (He wants to, but can’t). Christianity’s omnipotent and omnibenevolent God, as described in the Bible, cannot thus exist because of the presence of evil and suffering.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, this sure is a lot to cover in a short blog post, and you were probably hoping for more pictures and less words…
Well, don’t go back to scrolling through your newsfeed just yet. I believe God is completely sovereign (in control of all things) and all-powerful to do as He wishes. I also believe that God is all-loving and does not delight in our harm, and yet I recognize there is evil and suffering in this world. However, I absolutely do not see any contradictions in my beliefs about God and His good character. Why? Because God is a good Father!
Here, let me go ahead and paint a picture for you that really has helped me as a Dad understand how God could still be good and yet there still be evil in this world.
Three Needles & a Father’s Love
A few weeks ago Judah had his 1-year “Well-Baby-Check-Up.” He was smiling on the car ride there. We gave him snacks, and in the waiting room, he played with books and toys (yes, there was a train set and those weird looking wires that you move the wooden pieces and shapes around like a roller coaster… I see those in every doctors or dentists office).
Everything was fine, until the nurses came in with three sharp needles that would go into his legs. Each painful needle contained in it harmful diseases and viruses that if given at higher doses could kill my son! Why on earth would I allow my son to go through such pain, and not only allow these two women to inject viruses in him but actually aid them in doing it?
As I held my crying son tightly, so that he wouldn’t hurt himself grabbing at the needles, I thought, “Judah is probably thinking, Dad, get me out of here. Dad, I don’t want to be here. Dad, don’t let them hurt me. Dad, I know you are powerful enough to stop them. Why wont you get me out of here and back to playing with trains? Why would you let this happen to me? I thought you loved me.”
I felt terrible. But, what can I tell him? He’s only 12-months old. He can’t talk. He doesn’t have the vocabulary or the comprehension for me to explain that the two women with sharp objects are “nurses,” that I could stop them, but I’m choosing not to (and actually brought you here for them to do this). Those sharp objects are not knives, they are “needles,” and they contain just enough virus for your body to build up antibodies to fight off the virus and become strong enough to do it again down the road. This momentary pain, and small dosage of evil, will in fact produce a greater good. There is purpose to your pain, son. Daddy would not have brought you here, nor would I sovereignly force you to go through this, if it wasn’t for your ultimate good. I love you.
Were the sharp needles going into his poor little legs painful? Yes. Is pain a good thing? No. Did it contain viruses? Yes. Are they in and of themselves good? No. Was there evil and suffering in that doctor’s office that day? Judah would tell you, yes! But was there also a powerful and loving Father in the room as well? Exactly. The two can co-exist. Evil and suffering does not necessitate the absence of a sovereign and loving God. In fact, the Gospel contains both.
There Is a Good Purpose and God’s Presence in Suffering
I don’t know why you have gone through the pain you have. I don’t know the ultimate good that God is going to accomplish through your suffering. But, if God, the ultimate loving Father, could send His Son to die on a cross for your sins then you can know two things.
LOVE: God has proven His love to you by giving His only Son for you. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)
PURPOSE: The ultimate evil and suffering (The Cross) brought about the ultimate good that you and I could have ever dreamed of (Our Salvation/The forgiveness of sins).
I may have held Judah tightly and forced him to go through the pain of his vaccinations, but I also held him long after—until the pain subsided and his tears gave way to a smile. I comforted him. I sang to him the songs I sing over him at night. Trying to speak he and I’s personal language that communicates I still love Him and that I was still right there. As his little body sat in my big lap, I tucked my head down next to his hear and whispered, “Daddy’s here…It’s ok. Daddy’s got you.”
One day, when Judah’s brain is more developed, I will explain all of this to him.
Until then, I will need him to trust me—to know that I love him, to know that I don’t delight in his harm, and to know that his pain had purpose, and that I was and will be, right here with him through it all.
One day, when our brains are fully glorified, God will explain my miscarriages to me and your suffering to you as well.
Until then, we will need to trust Him—to know that He loves us, to know that He doesn’t delight in our harm, to know that our pain was not without purpose, and that He was and will always be, right here with us through it all.