For centuries, Christians - from theologians to those of simple faith - have wrestled with the question of evil. Whenever we are faced with senseless disasters, the question, "Why does God permit evil?" is renewed. It's asked by children. It's asked by adults. And history shows that despite centuries of wrestling with this question, no universally satisfying answer is agreed on.
When we turn to the gospel records of Jesus' teaching, we don't find anyone asking him, "Where does evil come from? Why does evil happen? Yet he encountered the irrationality and fierceness of evil often during his ministry. His life was threatened by violent storms and violent mobs. He was faced with reports of the death of children and friends and those suffering from incurable disease. He experienced betrayal and hatred as wielded by Herod, Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and others.
It's Jesus' interaction with these elements of evil that is most interesting and thought-provoking. When Jesus was faced with imminent crucifixion, Pilate, swayed by the currents of fear and hate culminating in the public's insistence that he act, asked Jesus, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:10, 11).
The only power Jesus acknowledged was the power of God. And he placed himself under this power fearlessly. Throughout his ministry, this power delivered people from disease and death, freed them from the snares of sin, calmed storms, brought evidence of divine care and provision at times of great need. And in his greatest struggle, in the garden of Gethsemane, he valiantly prayed, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). And his words continue to carry a sense that the fruit of God's will is good.
Evil, its sense of power, and its effects disappeared in Jesus' presence. The gospels suggest that his oneness with God excluded any evil.
The human intellect can observe these things but still persists in its question, "Why does evil exist?"
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," knew how loudly these kinds of questions knock at the door of thought. She rebelled against many of the long-standing theological answers to these questions. Her spiritual instincts wouldn't drop the conviction that God, who is good, who is divine Love itself, could not include or permit evil. For, as she reasoned, if evil was any part of the divine consciousness, it would be eternal. And if that were so, she reasoned, it would deny the fundamental hope offered by the life of Christ Jesus.
Mrs. Eddy knew how much the human heart yearned to resolve this question of evil. She devotes one of her works to this subject. It's called "Unity of Good." Here the reader discovers a radically different approach to the question. In essence, she wrote that we can't think our way through this question. We have to live our way through it. She wrote that we need to dig deeply into the nature of the divine, and allow our life and thinking to be shaped by it. Or, as the Bible states it, to bring "every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Cor. 10:5).
She explains that we need to follow Jesus' example in living - in living a life that is conscious of God's presence and power. A life that appeals to God when faced with danger or distress. A life that begins to learn of His goodness and power. She writes that the answer to this question of evil will come to us gradually through spiritual growth and spiritual experience. She cautions, "No stubborn purpose to force conclusions on this subject will unfold in us a higher sense of Deity; neither will it promote the Cause of Truth or enlighten the individual thought" (pg. 5).
It may be startling to find that we have to live out an answer. But in many ways we can see that this is how the disciples grew in their understanding of what Jesus taught. The disciples didn't quickly grasp what he said. But as they experienced his life and grew themselves, their understanding was opened. Is it surprising that we may need to follow their example if we are to gain any understanding of the deepest, most advanced spiritual questions that we need to answer? Spiritual living, Mrs. Eddy writes, is key to solving this great question.