Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Beyond Our Powers of Comprehension

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Beyond Our Powers of Comprehension

Article excerpt

ON A GRAY EVENING last week, when spring was not as soft as it should have been, a friend pulled into our driveway and headed toward the door. He looked troubled. Come with me, he said. There is something you need to see.

So he drove me around the block and along Lockwood Avenue, which is the main street in our town of Webster Groves. There, at the big white colonial funeral home, I saw the long slow-moving line, two abreast, teen-agers in suits, adults, small children, the whole stretching from the door, down to the sidewalk and there all the way to the parking lot and deep into it. A light rain was beginning to fall.

The people were there to pay their respects to Jennifer Sprague, who along with a schoolmate at the Webster Groves High School named Michelle Yoder, had been killed in what we can think of as a freakish auto accident. They had been returning to St. Louis and there had been a terrible rainstorm. Where there had been a highway, suddenly there was only water, and what followed had left two exemplary young women dead and many to grieve them.

Those who study the problem of evil in the world often divide it into two kinds. One is natural evil, which occurs through no act of human will or malice. The tornado that destroys a town, causing widespread death and suffering, is an example of what is called natural evil. I would place the senseless deaths of these two young women in this category.

The other is moral evil, which results from the actions of people driven by hate or jealously or any of the other base motives of which we are capable. Both kinds have confounded theologians and philosophers who have tried to reconcile the concept of a good and all-powerful supreme being with the existence of evil, manifested all around in the profound suffering of individuals and entire peoples. If God is simultaneously benevolent and omnipotent, how can evil be permitted?

Some of the theories and schools of thought are highly metaphysical, but for many people the simple conclusion that Job reached suffices. At the end of his suffering, he came to realize his own incompetence at knowing God; and so he chose to deepen his faith in a being whose purpose surpassed his understanding, in "things too wonderful" for his own apprehension. I would suspect that there is comfort in Job's faith for some of those left behind by Jennifer and Michelle.

Now also last week there was a vivid evocation in St. Louis of a moral evil so great as to defeat the imagination. This took place at a dinner attended by doctors from Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who heard a physician from California discuss the medicine of Nazi Germany.

The doctor from California is named Michael Franzblau, and his particular quarry is Dr. Hans Joachim Sewering, a former president of the German Medical Association and a still a practitioner in - of all places - the city of Dachau. …

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