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A Christian Understanding of Evil from Elie Wiesel’s “Night”

Though the problem of evil is perplexing, Christianity has a unique answer to understanding suffering: Jesus Christ.

Though the problem of evil is perplexing, Christianity has a unique answer to understanding suffering: Jesus Christ.

I’ve been reading Elie Wiesel’s classic autobiographical account Night which details his early orthodox Jewish lifeandexperience of living in Auschwitz concentration camp, and then Buchenwald.

I remember first reading his chilling yet inspiring memoir in Ms. Axelrod’s 9th grade English class in 2005. Day after day, we would read a new portion of the book, and I was astonished by the inhumane abuses humans subjected others to.

At that time, I hadn’t known evil, but this book opened my eyes to grave horrors in history.

Evil acts including humans in crematoriums, vile living conditions without proper sanitation, and even firing squads were realities witnessed by Elie Wiesel while under siege.

This second time reading the book, I’ve noticed the most atrocious evil imaginable by Wiesel: innocent babies dumped into furnace flames. While he’s being processed at Auschwitz, he sees this heinous act and is utterly paralyzed.

Before his departure to various Nazi concentration camps, Wiesel was a pretty devout Jew that dedicated himself to the studying of Kabbalah, attended the weekly synagogue, and wanted to study Jewish mysticism. However, after he witnessed the slaughter of the innocent ones, his faith is rocked.

In the novel, many of the people sat in the barracks and speculated about God and why the events and horrors were transpiring. In contrast, Elie declared:

As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.

In our finite humanity, I think that’s an honest doubt from Wiesel. Not only doubt but also the question of does God exist if widespread evil and suffering persist is a natural knee-jerk reaction too.

The objection goes something like “If God is all-loving or all-powerful, sure He could or intervene at any time to eradicate evil.” Yet, there’s no easy silver bullet answer that will please objectors to this age-old question on suffering and evil.

The way I’ve always understood the objection is through the Christian faith. Christianity has the privilege of having a moral law-giving God and the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, to truly fathom the depths of this profound mystery.

Because there’s objective morality and we all know things are evil, so it flows that there must be a concept of good. Because of this universal higher law, we need a lawgiver.

This moral law didn’t spring into action by chance or coincidence, so what is its origin? This moral law is given by God, the Transcendent lawgiver.

God never commands “do evil and you’ll prosper.” On the contrary, He declares, “Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever” (Ps. 37:27, NRSV-CE).

Because God is omnibenevolent, infinite goodness, He wants us to do good. Conversely, even though evil mishaps occur, God can bring about a greater good. In our evil and tainted world, herein lies our only hope: through the cross.

The most unfathomable evil occurred, the crucifixion of God. Jesus knew this would happen to him. In fact, he taught this to his inner disciples plainly during his ministry (Matt. 16:2120:17–19).

Further in Matthew’s account, Jesus knew suffering was planned for him and in the Garden of Gethsemane even asked, in his human nature, to let it pass. Instead, he perfectly aligned to his Father’s will by pleading “ yet not what I want but what you want” (Matt. 26:39).

That’s the key to the problem of evil. Only when we’re in communion with God does vast suffering make sense.

Through the vicious death and illuminating resurrection, God is capable of showing His redemptive nature to alter the abhorrent to glorious, odious to victorious, depraved to triumphant.

Indeed, one of the most difficult aspects of our existence is the rampant evil around us! However, Christianity has a great answer to this difficult question.

Through God’s great abundant mercy, may we strive to get closer to our Creator and trust that indescribable events allow us to depend on His wisdom.

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