By Rev. Fr. C. J. Collins, C.S.P.
If God is Power, Love, and Justice, why did He create this kind of world? If He is powerful, why does He permit evil? If He is love, why does He tolerate hate? If He is Justice, why does He allow unrighteousness? These questions have been asked by everyone whose eyes have been and whose mind has known the terrible contrast between the sin of the world and the goodness of God.
In order to answer this question correctly it is important first of all to remember that this is not the only kind of world that God could have made. He could have created ten thousand other kinds of worlds where there would never have been struggle, pain, virtue or sacrifice. But this is the best possible world God could have made for the purpose. He had in mind. An artist is to be judged not so much by the masterpiece he produces as by the purpose he had jn mind in creating the masterpiece. The architect is not to be judged a poor architect because he designed a bird's house instead of a Cathedral, for his intention may have been to build only a haven for the winged creatures of God and not a dwelling place for God himself. In like manner, God is not to be judged only by the particular kind of world which He created, but by the will and intention He had in making it.
What purpose, then, did God have in mind in making this kind of world? The answer, very simply, is that He willed to construct a moral universe. He willed from all eternity to build a stage on which moral characters would emerge. God might, of course, have made a world without morality, without character - a world in which each and everyone of us would sprout .virtue as an acorn sprouts an oak - Or a world in which each of us would become a Saint with the same inexorable necessity that rain falls to embrace the earth. He might have made a world in which we would be as so many sticks and stones guided by the same necessity that fire is hot and ice is cold. God, I say, could have done this, but He did not, and He did not because He willed a moral universe where, by the right use of the gift of freedom, moral character would emerge.
THE BASIS FOR MORALITY
Suppose, now, that it is granted that God chose to make a moral universe where morality is possible. What condition would have to be fulfilled? If God chose to make a moral universe, He would have to make man free that is, He would have to endow man with the power to say "Yes," or "No," the power to determine his own destiny. Sticks and stones, plants and animals have no words. Why? Because they are not free to be anything but what they are. We do not praise stones for being hard, or condemn ice because it is melted by heat.
We do not praise monkeys because they hang from trees by their tails or blame pigs for rooting up the ground with their snouts. Praise or blame can be bestowed only on those beings who are free masters of their own wills. Only human beings have the power to act in accordance with or against the best interests of their nature. It is only the man who has the power to say "No" who can have so much charm in his heart when he says "Yes". Take this quality of freedom away from man and it is no more possible for him to be virtuous than it is for an insect crawling about at my feet.
Take the quality of freedom away and there would be no more reason to praise or blame a man for his conduct than there would be to praise or blame ice for being cold or fire for being hot. Take away liberty and where would be the concern in how children will mould their lives and write their eternal destiny in the invisible ink of their own free choice?
We have said that God chose to make a moral universe, but He could make such a universe only on condition that He make man free.
This being so, we have the answer to the question, "Why does God permit evil ?" The very possibility of evil is in some way bound up with the freedom of men. Since man is free to love, he is also free to hate. Since he is free to obey, he is also free to be bad. Since man is free enough to be praised for his goodness, he is also free enough to be blamed for his badness. Virtue, in this present order of things, is possible only in spheres where it is possible to be vicious.
Just as there can be no heroes on the battlefield without, the possibility of each one becoming a coward and no patriots in a country without the possibility of each one becoming a traitor, so there can be no saints in this world without the possibility of each one becoming a devil. And since there are always some who choose to be vicious and not virtuous, and since there are always some 'who choose to be devils and not saints - there is always the presence of sin - which is moral evil. If, then, the possibility of evil is in some way involved in human freedom one can see immediately the absurdity of condemning God for allowing evil to continue.
How many there are who say, "If I were God I would immediately destroy all injustices and evils". To ask this, however, is to ask God to contradict Himself. You ask that God should create a thing free to choose between good and evil, and yet oblige that thing to choose good. To ask God to create man free to choose between justice and injustice, and yet force him always to choose justice, and never be unjust, is to ask an absurdity.
It is asking God to make a man free and not free at the same time, which is a contradiction in terms.
THE USE OF FREEDOM
Freedom is the modern man's greatest boast. You boast of your freedom to do as you please, yet when others use their freedom to do as they please at your expense, you blame God for not destroying human freedom. You boast of your freedom to violate everyone of God's Commandments, yet when nations begin to violate these Commandments on a big scale, thus causing a global war, you blame God for letting men do as they please. You boast of your freedom to go into a divorce court and there violate your sacred promise to love husband or wife unto death, and at the same time you blame God for leaving Dictators free to break their sacred promise to live at peace with other nations.
Of course, you have power to violate any law, Divine or human. You can ignore the Ten Commandments. You can rob your neighbour and shoot his chickens with a machine-gun. You can steal, tell lies and be adulterous. You can drink yourself "pink-eyed-drunk," shake your fists in violent hate, murder your wife and run away with your secretary (if she is stupid enough). You have the power to do all this in violation of the moral laws just the same as you have the power to jump out of a 'plane without a parachute in defiance of the laws of gravity. But you OUGHT not to do these things, for in so doing you are acting against reason - against conscience - against the best interests of your nature - against God.
There are those who ask, "If God knew that I would sin, why did He make me?" The answer is this: In so far as you are a sinful being, God did not make you. You made yourself. You are a self-creating being. God gave you power, but you are free to decide the manner of man you will be. Hence your success or failure is in your own hands and you are responsible for the outcome. God has implanted moral laws in conscience and in His Church. To obey these laws or rebel ' against them in your freedom.
If you choose to rebel and act as though you were your own and Christ had never bought you with His Precious Blood, , and if you find yourself eternally in the congregations of the damned, to blame God will be useless defence.
- Malaya Catholic Newsletter, July 2, 1950 (1950.pdf pp7)