Tale of the Five Army Officers
With several threads going on about why God would let Satan live, the discussion if logically God is Right, etc., I remembered this fine thinking material originally copied from H20.
If nothing else - it puts into mental pictures our quandry of our mental understanding of God's understanding and actions towards us.
The Tale of the Five Officers (2000)
When Ms. K. was slowly raped and murdered by a common thug over the
course of 1 hour and 55 minutes, in plain sight of five fully-armed
off-duty police officers who ignored her terrified cries for help and
instead just looked on until the act was carried to its gruesome end, I
found myself facing a personal crisis.
You see, the officers had all been very close friends of mine, but after
hearing about their inaction, I found my trust in them shaken to its
core. Fortunately, I was able to talk with them later on, and had my
doubts laid to rest.
"I thought about intervening," said the first officer, "but it occurred
to me that it was obviously better for the murderer to be able to
exercise his free will than to have it restricted. I deeply regret the
choices he made, but that's the price of having a world with free agents.
Would you rather everyone in the world was a robot? The attacker's
choices certainly weren't in my control, so I can't be held responsible
for his actions. Besides, I needed to give the attacker enough time to
prove to all the onlookers that crime and violence is truly wrong, and
that obeying the law is the best way of life."
"Well," said the second officer, "my motivation was a little bit
different. I was about to pull my gun on the murderer when I thought to
myself, 'But wait, wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity for some
unarmed by-stander to exercise selfless heroism, should he chance to walk
by? If I were to intervene all the time like I was just about to, then no
one would ever be able to exercise such a virtue. In fact, everyone would
probably become very spoiled and self-centered if I were to protect
everyone from rape and murder.' So I backed off. It's unfortunate that no
one actually showed up to heroically intervene, but that's the price of
having a universe where people can display virtue and maturity. Would you
rather the world were nothing but love, peace, and roses?"
"Personally, I didn't even consider stepping in," said the third officer.
"I probably would have if I didn't have so much experience of life as a
whole, since Ms. K's rape and murder seems pretty horrible when taken in
isolation. But when you put it into context with the rest of life, it
actually adds to the overall beauty of the big picture. Ms. K.'s screams
were like the discordant notes that make fine musical pieces better than
they would have been if all the notes were flawless. In fact, I could
scarcely keep from waving my hands around, imagining I myself was
conducting the delicious nuances of the orchestra."
"Look, there's really no point in my trying to explain the details to
you," said the fourth officer, who we had nicknamed 'Brainiac' because he
had an encyclopedic knowledge of literally everything and an IQ way off
the charts. "There's an excellent reason for why I did not intervene, but
it's just way too complicated for you to understand, so I'm not going to
bother trying. Just so there's no misunderstanding, though, let me point
out that no one could care about Ms. K. more than I did, and that I am,
in fact, a very good person."
"I'll let you in on a secret," said the fifth officer. "Moments after Ms.
K. flatlined, I had her resuscitated, and flown to a tropical resort
where she is now experiencing extraordinary bliss, and her ordeal is just
a distant memory. I'm sure you would agree that that's more than adequate
compensation, and so the fact that I just stood there watching instead of
helping her has no bearing at all on my goodness."
By now, it had become clear to me that there was no difficulty
reconciling my friends' goodness with their behavior that one day, and
that anyone who disagreed must be doing so for love of evil over good.
After all, anyone who has experienced the officers' friendship in the way
I have knows that they are good. Their goodness is even manifest in my
life--I was in a shambles before I met them, but now everyone remarks on
what a changed person I am, so much kinder and happier, and possessed of
the inner calm that everyone so desperately seeks. I am ashamed that I
ever doubted their entitlement to my loyalty and my love.
As I was getting ready to leave, the first officer spoke up again. "By
the way, I also think you should know that when we stood there watching
Ms. K. get raped and stabbed over and over, we were suffering along with
her, and we experienced exactly the same pain she did, or perhaps even
And everyone in the room, myself included, nodded his head in agreement.
So what's your point?
In addition, were there five realities in that scenario, or was there only one?
That pretty well covers all scenarios about why any God would allow such suffering in humans. And why the whole thing just doesn't make sense any way you look at it.
Thanks for the thought provoking post.
I see that it was the humans who cause the suffering and humans (officers) that allowed it. People can truly be evil as well as complacently evil.
I see so many today blame God for the evils that humans impose upon one another. Do these that blame God have a direct link or channel of communication with God, so they know exactly that God is the one causing and allowing the suffering?