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"Suffering cannot be 'justified'; but it can be used, accepted--and, through this acceptance, be transfigured.  'The paradox of suffering and evil,' says Nicolas Berdvaev, 'is resolved in the experience of compassion and love.'"

I quoted this in a longer excerpt from Bp. Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Way, chapter 3 on Creation a while back, but I think it deserves special comment.  I believe that what Berdvaev says is rather profound.  First of all he doesn't shy away from paradox.  Christians, in their haste to clear God of any charge of contradiction, are often sorely tempted to rationalize suffering and evil.  Theodicy can quickly turn from explaining the existence of evil in a world created and upheld by a holy God to trying to explain, and make sense of the evil itself.  But Berdvaev is right to recognize that suffering and evil itself is paradoxical.  It is absurd, self-refuting and always collapsing in on itself.  It does not make sense.  It is like a black hole.  And we Christians are not called to make sense of it, but to recognize it for the obscene absurdity that it is.  

But at the same time, Berdvaev recognizes something about the place that evil occupies in our lives.  Evil does not make sense, and is not to be made sense of.  Nevertheless (notwithstanding the Augustinian question of whether evil has existence in itself or is merely privation of some good), it stands in relationship to us, and impinges upon us, and that relationship is susceptible to exploration without overstepping.  Thus Berdvaeve's observation is appropriate.  (Note that it is an observation, not a justification.)

What Berdvaev notes that I find insightful is not the means by which evil and suffering is resolved (i.e. compassion and love, which I find to be somewhat unsatisfactory due to its vagueness-- note that Berdvaev was a universalist), but the fact that evil and suffering is resolved.  Evil is not justified.  It is not explained away or tucked under the rug.  It is resolved.

Here are some of the definitions of the word resolve: to come to a determination; make up one's mind; to resolve on a plan of action; to break up or disintegrate; to be reduced or changed by breaking up or otherwise; Music: to progress from a dissonance to a consonance.  In it's etymology the word means to loosen, undo or unsettle.  I find the musical understanding perhaps the most helpful.  Ultimately, while evil itself is broken up and disintegrated, the experience of the relationship between myself and a world mixed with evil moves from dissonance to consonance.  

I admit, I find this hard to even put into words, evil being such a perplexing thing.  But there is something right in seeing that evil is resolved.  If we think of redemptive history as a great symphony, we see that evil introduces a tremendous bit of dissonance into the music, but ultimately that dissonance will be resolved into consonance as God (and we to the degree that we have been called co-laborers) break up, disintegrate, and unsettle evil itself.  The answer to the problem of evil is not that evil is not real, or that it is secretly for our good, or that someday it will all make sense, but that God will ultimately resolve the music into glorious and splendid consonance.  

Perhaps the takeaway is that if we see reality as a great symphony, we must recognize that while God, the master conductor, offers to train us in the art of skillful playing, and even to play our parts for us when we fail, if we refuse the help of the Master musician he will eventually remove us from the symphony altogether.  The dissonance will be resolved.




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