A Cinematic Tour of the Problem of Evil

"what difference do you think you can make, one single man, in all this madness" ~ Sean Penn, Thin Red Line

“What difference do you think you can make, one single man, in all this madness?” ~ Sean Penn, Thin Red Line

For those of you who have seen the Thin Red Line, Sean Pean’s character typifies modern man’s struggle to grasp meaning in the face of evil & suffering. What and how, can man resolve the chaos that evil brings to life? And even more than that, to what end is evil being allowed within the world from a Divine point of view.

All these questions have been wrestled with in the history of literature, of more recently, cinema. Without ranting any more, let me introduce Matthew Becklo’s A Cinematic Tour of the Problem of Evil, in which he goes through a variety of movies that wrestle with this very theme.

“This problem – known to philosophers as “the problem of evil” – is as old as the book of Job. Many theologians and artists, from Augustine and Aquinas to Dostoevsky and Thornton Wilder, have grappled with this fundamental question. In fact, we can survey the theological problem, its emotional gravity, and its strongest resolutions by looking at a handful of excellent films.

Oxford mathematician and philosopher John Lennox has often emphasized two very important things about this classical problem from the outset. I’ll follow his lead here.

First, we have to first acknowledge that there is both an intellectual and emotional component to the problem. Secondly, both components amount to one of the best (if not the best) arguments against God that there is – and believers need to be humble enough to admit it.

With those preliminaries in mind, let’s take a look at seven films that wrestle with this problem: The Virgin Spring, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Seventh Seal, Signs, The Tree of Life, and Shadowlands:”

~ http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/a-cinematic-tour-of-the-problem-of-evil/4944/

Kristallen den fina by Orphei Drängar

Take the lyrics with a grain of salt (from youtube), but I find this Swedish folk song so haunting and beautiful. I am no expert on music, so I can only give my “emotivist” take on it haha. Never the less, enjoy!

As the crystal shines
in the light of the sun
and the stars twinkle in the sky.
So this girl, outstanding in virtue, shines,
this girl in our village.
My friend, my friend and my flower of love!
Oh if only we could be together.
And you would be my love and I your lover.
You most noble rose and golden chest of treasure.

And if I did travel to the end of the world my heart would cry to you.
And if I did travel to the end of the world my heart would cry to you.
To you my friend and my flower of love …

On Pagan Scruples and Christian Horrors


One thing I find fascinating (in its horror) is the level of callousness within pre-Christian Northern Europe. “The Age of Vikings” by Anders Winroth does a good job at dispelling many myths regarding the Vikings, and the author is sympathetic and showing how much of the violence is “normative”, if not on a smaller scale than the conquest of men like Charlamagne or the Ummayad Caliphate (of the same era). Continue reading

Suffering, Death, and the Undying Lands Part I.

Aragorn's death

So I was browsing through First Thing’s Facebook page when I saw an article by Anna Mathie called “Tolkien and the Gift of Mortality“. I have always been a huge fan of Tolkien’s work, starting on Lord of the Rings when I was in 3rd grade (so I think that put me at 10 years old?) before I discovered he wrote a much easier introduction to Middle Earth, ala the Hobbit, years later in middle school. Unlike CS Lewis, who wrote a more explicit allegory for the Christian Faith, Tolkien shirked from such allegorical pieces, instead desiring to give forth a narrative that was “freed from the domination of the author”. Continue reading

Just making it up as I go along

Make it Up

While St. Gregory Palamas is an enormous influence on my theology, I always have a little chuckle when folks state that the Energy-Essence distinction just came out of nowhere in the 13th century. For those of you who are ignorant of what the E/E Distinction is, in a simple way, it affirms paradoxically God’s absolute transcendence (in his essence) and his utter immanence in creation (his energies, or uncreated activities). The two are never separate, for they are faculties of the persons of the Trinity, but they are metaphysically distinct. Anyhow, going through St. John of Damascus primer on the Orthodox Faith when lo and behold, I read this. Continue reading

The Isolation of Self


It’s been a while, as school has taken an enormous amount of time (sorry Gregory N, I shall get to you soon). But while I am at it, I thought I share a post by the Ochlophobist (since his return to Orthodoxy). Needless to say, the blog resonated well with me and things I was experiencing a couple semesters ago and oddly enough, the past couple days. Continue reading

Adventures with St. Gregory of Nazianzus

St. Gregory of Nazianzuz

Switching gears from debating the ontology of meta-ethics, I have been able to get a little bit of downtime in between school work, club activities, and living in the library praying the Lord comes back before my midterms begin. In that free time, I decided to journey the halls of the library and lo behold, I discovered another book by Fr. John McGuckin. Continue reading

Good Facts, Good Beliefs, and Good Taste.

Objective Morality? No one got time for dat

Objective Morality? No one got time fo dat

In my experience going through the university system, limited as it may be, I have encountered a popular belief of sorts regarding ethics and morals. Such a belief is simple and seemingly innocent way to defuse the conflicts among persons who differ in moral beliefs. What is it? Continue reading

Prayers in the Night

St. Ephraim and his praying routine.

St. Ephraim and his praying routine.

While I do enjoy discussing ethics and theology, there is something to be said of prayer. I was reading part of the The Philokalia (a good book(s) to read on Eastern Orthodox spirituality) when I saw this quote by St. Peter of Damaskos (Damascus). Continue reading