Question: Why has God allowed mankind to continue since Adam in spite of the evil that has prevailed: wars, murders and other sins. Yet God still creates us. For that matter, why did God create the heavens and the earth in the first place?
— Victor Bunton, via email
Answer: The general speculation as to why God created anything at all is not that he was lonely, but that love is effusive — it pours itself out to share its happiness and joy with others. God, who is love, expansively shares his glory with creation and his joy and love with the human person. Using the image of the “big bang,” we can creatively say that we are living in the ever-expansive explosion of God’s love, going out in every direction and gaining speed as it does.
As to why God allows mankind to continue despite our often cruel sinfulness, it should be recalled that cruel and sinful though we can be, we are also loving, always searching for truth, seeking justice and possessing many other virtues besides. Along with the sinners in our family, there are many saints as well. Add to this the progress we have made technologically and even morally over the millennia. Our earliest years were fierce, brutal and short. But gradually in our conversation with God and in response to his grace, we have come to a greater understanding of what is right, what is good, true and beautiful. We have codified justice into law, accumulated great learning, technology, medicine, sciences and the like. It is true that our own age, like all, has its errors and cruelty. So I would argue that your description of the human family is a bit too negative.
A further insight is that sin exists as a necessary condition of freedom. Since God seeks a relationship of love with us, love, by its nature, cannot be compelled. Hence God permits his children to say no, because without freedom, there cannot be love. God seeks the “yes” of some that he is willing to endure the “no” even of many.
Fear of the Lord
Question: Why does it say in Scripture that we should fear the Lord? If Our Lord is all-forgiving and all loving, why should I fear him?
— Chuck Matthews, via email
Answer: The kind of fear that is counseled in Scripture is not primarily a cringing fear, but a fear rooted in love and a disposition that holds God in awe. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” If a cringing fear of punishment is all you have, go with it. But as love matures, we increasingly avoid sin because we love God, and we hold him in awe, and we fear offending him who has been so good to us. And this is what is most fully meant by the “fear of the Lord.”
Your statement, however, that God is all-forgiving and all-loving needs a distinguishing reminder. While we live here on earth, it is a season of grace and mercy for us. God sends us every help to turn away from sin and to turn to him. However, at our death, our decision for God or against what he offers is forever fixed, and God will judge with justice and show no partiality (cf. Rom 2:5-11). As we saw in the question above, God does not force us to love what or who he loves. If we say no to God, we bring a just sentence upon ourselves. Grace and mercy will finally yield to God’s perfect justice. We should all avoid the sin of presumption, which is so common today. God is ultimately serious about needing our “yes” to his will and way.
Two Johns and Pauls?
Question: In the first Eucharistic prayer, why are John and Paul mentioned twice in the list of saints before the consecration?
— Mary Rice, Novi, Michigan
Answer: The John and Paul mentioned in the lists of saints in the Roman Canon are different individuals than the apostles John and Paul mentioned earlier in the same list. According to tradition, John and Paul lived during the fourth century. They were beheaded by order of Julian the Apostate in Rome on June 26, between 361 and 363. Little is known of their lives, but they were honored among the first Roman martyrs mentioned in the canon.