I took down a small, green volume from my bookshelf recently (it belonged to my good father), my intention being of course, to read it. This book is called "The Consolation of Philosophy", and it was written in the 6th century AD by an ancient and esteemed man of letters, a Roman, by the name of Boethius. In his extraordinary discourse which sets sail across the pages of five entire books, Boethius expatiates upon subjects such as eternal life, the character of evil, suffering and justice, and perhaps, most challenging of all, the thesis of God's foreknowledge, and the associated idea of man's free will.
Early on in his commentary on the vicissitudes of life, Boethius makes this intriguing comment concerning the processes of causality. He asks two exacting questions, namely:
1."If God exists, whence comes evil?" and
2. "Yet whence comes good, if He exists not?"
Now, at first glance, the fundamental meaning of these two intersecting questions eluded me. Was Boethius, in effect, saying that (conditionally) God exists (and in the act of that existence, He allows good)? Yet, if this be true, then by process of deduction, that is, if 'good' argues the case for the sure existence of God, how is it that this God, this bounteous and beneficent God, in the act of his existing, also allows the fact of evil? This hypothesis surely brings us back to the age-old argument which has been rattling at man's intellect since time began, that is, does the God of our universe allow evil to exist alongside good? And if so, why? Why does the God who rules the universe, the God who loves us and created us, allow the concurrent existence of good and evil?
Well, I sat down by the fire last evening, and I got to thinking on this topic - it stuck like a surly puzzle in my brain. I thought about the condition of man, and what it is that makes us human. I thought long and hard, glancing between the bright wings of the fire as it danced ever lower in the grate, and I decided this:
We are creatures of reason; yet we are also creatures of emotion - how else could we express that most sublime and provocative of emotions we call love? We humans (creations of the Divine) can wrestle with concepts of logic, and make well-reasoned assumptions - even those projecting into the abstract future; we can manipulate not only ideas, but whole worlds within the greater framework of our environment (alas, sometimes to our certain detriment) and why is it we can do all of this? It is because we possess the greatest gift of all, and that gift is the freedom of choice, dictated under the auspices of free will.
God gave us, his beloved creation, the freedom to choose and more than this, the ability to know that without this specific freedom, our invention (and therefore our worth) would be less in every sense. Yet the freedom to choose is a gift which comes with a price tag, and that price tag has the potential to cost dearly if the choice we make is wrong. In exercising our ability to choose, we demonstrate God's greatest gift to us, his most extraordinary creation. God is saying: I love you so much, that I will risk everything to have you - I will risk your exercising a choice ( that penultimate companion to free will), even if in effecting that choice, I stand to lose you.
If you can choose good, you can choose God.
God wouldn't be what He is, a good and just and loving God if he did not allow us that extraordinary indulgence of choice. In allowing us to choose, between right and wrong, between good and evil, between a life in God and a death without Him, He has demonstrated Himself to be everything, and indeed more than we might imagine the King of all Creation to be: He does not disappoint us with His love.
So next time, when you are faced with that eternal question of the problem concerning the (apparently) parallel existence of good and evil, think on these simple lines: if you can choose good; you can choose God.
He gave you that choice in Love.
And now I must return to my book, and settle in that chair that resides so pleasingly by the fire, and between further gentle perusals of such questions, watch the sparks fly up into the chimney and away into the night, and ask you, my dearest reader, to consider this: the life of choice resides not only in the human brain, but in the human heart.
If you can choose good; you can choose God.
These questions were important to Boethius all those centuries ago, and they still resonate with us today; look into your heart, illuminate that choice, praise your loving God and find your freedom.
2010 Laura Swindon-Ross
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I'm a teacher and Christian writer.