Listenings: What’s Going On?

The second questions which Evelyn Underhill responds to is this: When we consider the evil, injustice, and misery existing in the world, how can we claim that the ultimate Reality at the heart of the universe is a Spirit of peace, harmony, and infinite love?

Obviously, this is the problem of evil, which Underhill calls “the crucial problem for all realistic religion” (p. 123).

Turning to Baron von Hugel, Underhill confesses that Christian spirituality does not have an “explanation” for evil and suffering.  This is a mystery “beyond the reach of the human mind.”

And, it is clear that the world as we know it does not look like the kind of world a loving heavenly Father would make.   Something has obviously gone wrong.

But the question is, “Where has it gone wrong?”  And the Christian faith asserts that the failure has occurred on earth, not in heaven.  It is the result of humanity’s defection, not God’s.  This doesn’t solve all the problems or answer all the questions.  But Christianity does seek to locate the problem, even if we’re still left with it.

The answer to the question, “What’s going on?” comes in relation to the person and work of God to redeem and restore the fallen world.  God is at work to provide (by grace) such things as purity, holiness, self-sacrifice, and love (p. 125).

So, when we attempt to deal with injustice and evil, we have to also account for the ongoing quest for mercy and goodness.  To use contemporary computer language, the “default button” is set to restore the positive things, not to maintain the negative ones. We believe that the One who sets that button is God, and that God does so in relation to His own nature and intention for the world.

So….what’s going on?  God is going on—despite the fact that we humans declared early on our belief that we could get along without Him.  God is going on—to work for peace where there is war, healing where there is illness, and redemption where there is sin.

Underhill ends her response by saying that the world’s “Creator is the one supreme Source and Object of love that will triumph in the end” (p. 126).


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Listenings: What’s Going On?

  1. Judith Warren-Brown says:

    Sometimes I think that the reason there is so much evil in the world is because we are NOT God who is the source of all goodness, peace, and shalom and, of course, LIFE. It is our acceptance of and our decision to enter into the Life of God through Christ’s redemption and the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives that we participate in the Life of God, and thus have true Life and Shalom.

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