Written By: Hope Taylor

Encountering Evil. A review of two Authors 1. David R. Griffin 2. Brain Swimme Five options in theology by six very prominent theologians. Author David R Griffin John Knox Press Alanto 1980 Page 101 Creation out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil – David R Griffin. 

Contemporary theologians who accept the evolutionary hypothesis and yet hold to the hypothesis of divine omnipotence have a lot of explaining to do.  Most centrally, they must explain why God, whose power is essentially unlimited, would use such a long, pain filled method, with all its blind alleys, to create a world?..Why did God take so long to get man into the act.  The hypothesis of divine omnipotence must commend itself by its explanatory power.  Each unanswered question reveals deficiencies in that power.

Griffin believes God’s power is necessarily persuasive.

Why did God create us so that we are so susceptible to physical pain and psychological suffering? To have the good is necessarily to risk the chance of the bad.

After a long discussion the writer concludes why God simply cannot prevent the major types of evil that usually lead people to question God’s goodness or even reality.  God acts in the world by seeking to persuade individuals to actualize the best possibilities that are real possibilities for them.  Evolutionary change occurred only gradually until relatively recently on our earth.

Accordingly, if the behaviour of one or more of these individuals is causing destruction of its environment, God cannot do much quickly to change things.  For example, if cancerous cells have invaded your body, God cannot lure them to leave voluntarily.

Human beings have much power of self-determination, and have many more real possibilities open to them than the lower creatures.  On the other hand these creatures have tremendous power to deviate from the divine aim for them. e.g. There is no way God can stop a bullet speeding toward a heart of a man too young to die.  There is no way God can stop the car with a speeding driver from crashing into other cars.  There is no way God can prevent that aggravate of molecules called a hurricane from devastating the towns in its path.

Griffin stresses the limitations on God’s prevention of evil.

1) Those things which cannot deviate much from the divine will also cannot be influenced by God very quickly.

2) Those things which can be influenced by God quickly can deviate drastically from the divine will.

3) Those things which can do nothing on their own cannot be influenced directly by God at all. (e.g. rocks etc).

All things in which faith is opposed to reason is rejected.  Reject all ideas based on ?revelation? that are self-contradictory. All Christian doctrines are human attempts to formulate the significance of experiences taken as revelatory.  E.g. It was never shouted down from heaven, or even whispered that God was triune, or that God is omnipotent, or that God is perfect love.  Fallible human beings guided but not controlled by the divine spirit, tried to express their understanding of God.

The results of the historical critical approach to the Bible that has been carried out in the last two centuries make it very difficult to accept the Bible as an external guarantee for any particular doctrine.  The same is true for the church.  The authority for the church and its theologians is virtually non-existent.

Genuine evil does abound, much due to freedom abused.  Some of the theologians agree with Griffin, some don’t.

We cannot experience life as a blessing if we have no hope.  We cannot believe in God unless we experience life as a blessing.  We cannot have hope unless we believe in God.


This book is 176 pages of many different points of view.
Brian Swimme’s book The Universe is a Green Dragon has a chapter Evil from Cosmic Risk, Starting from page 71 is a magnificent discussion on violence and how to handle the problem.

To begin with, understand that humans are not unique in having to suffer. Nor are humans unique in being violent.  We live in a violent universe.  Violence fills the cosmos in various forms, and human violence is only one of these.  The great mystery is not violence, but beauty.  We note the violence, all the more amazed that such stupendous graciousness and beauty should exist anywhere at all.

The biological world knows all sorts of violence. The same urge that draws the lion to the river for water draws it on to kill the wildebeest. There is danger in the natural world, a constant challenge, excitement, violence, risk, and terror, but out of this emerges the wonder of the Earth. 

With the human a new quality of violence enters the Earth System, one coming from the power of self-reflexion. This new awareness is a risk as well as an achievement of the life process.  In a sense, the earth wounded itself when it took on self-reflexive sentience:  There appeared new powers of creativity, new dangers of destruction. The question hanging in the solar system today is this: Will the Earth benefit in beauty by risking human self-reflexive awareness?  Or will the Earth suffer new and permanently crippling violence?

Can earth sustain our violence?  Can a great beauty grow from the ruins we leave?  Concerning this question, it is important to understand the temporal nature of the Earth’s creativity.  The Earth at one time was able to create life, but that time has gone.  The first life forms consumed the very conditions that enabled life to emerge. The fertility of the Earth is different now.  If the higher life forms disappear, they cannot be re-created.  When life-forms vanish, they vanish forever.  The situation is similar to a young child raised outside human language communities: after its first few years, the child will never be able to develop language.   The Neuro-physiological connections needed to carry the language functions are present only during the first few years, then disappear.  If language is not developed then it cannot be developed in the future.

More than the great whales, humans are creatures of the depths: the depths of all things.  We are the space in which the universe can be cherished in a new and intense manner.  So the question remains: Can this voluptuousness be contained within the human vessel?  Can allurement bear the knowledge of its own essence?  Or will the tensions this creates shatter any self?

The history of life can be understood as the creation of ever more sensitive creatures in a universe where there is always another dimension of beauty to be felt and savored.  Think of yourself that way, as a supreme power of sensitivity surrounded by magnificence.

Humans are especially created to respond to the depths of the magnificent reality of the universe.  Therein lies the supreme challenge to live as a mature human. 

Each individual person has the power to participate in the transformation of the whole Earth.  The evil that reaches you after so many millions of years of existence can be absorbed and transformed.  You have the power to accept the suffering, to refuse to pass it on to another, to forgive, to end the needless torment, and, most of all, to transmute evil into energy for the vitality of the whole. 

The task of maturing into a human being requires tremendous power.  It is a matter of authenticity.  What powers enable you to achieve your own authenticity as a member of this vast adventure?  What powers enable an oak tree to achieve its own authentic function in the living world?  What powers enable a star to integrate its processes and initiate its vital creativity?

From the Universe is a Green Dragon. A must read for every Earthling.