Once in a while you get a strange convergence of ideas. Seemingly disjoint ideas blend together to provide insight. The signposts of life start pointing in a certain direction. Christians often interpret this as the leading of the Holy Spirit, but care must be taken in doing so.
Recently Boxer sought a Christian discussion of theodicy. I attempted a response and the result was speaking past one another. I’ve since been musing and meditating on the topic, considering how to respond. As an Anabaptist, my view on the topic of theodicy is perhaps different than the views from other denominations. Yet, I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to say anything truly meaningful.
I always seem to take theological positions that differ from almost everyone else that I interact with. I’ve questioned many of the sacred cows of Christian patriarchy, I don’t vote, I don’t say the pledge, and I reject all violence. My recent debates at Deep Strength and Sigma Frame on headship reflect this tendency.
In a seemingly unrelated series of events, I’ve been increasing my exposure to both Catholics and anti-Catholic thought. Last year I debated Catholicism/Protestantism with Tyler Graham, a former-Protestant-turned-Catholic, at Tyler Journeaux. I wrote “On papal infallibility and cognitive dissonance” in response. This led me to the anti-papal writings of a former-Catholic-turned-Orthodox. Meanwhile, I started following a number of Catholics on Twitter in the wake of the sex scandals. I’ve since gotten into debates with a Catholic priest and with Earl (@deux_raymond). Then I listened to the debate between Tim Staples and James White and wrote “Sacred traditions of the Old Testament” in response. During my research for that post, I discovered Timothy F. Kauffman’s Out of His Mouth blog.
Kauffman writes about Bible prophecy. While I won’t go into his views in depth, there are a few key conclusions. First, the early church were the original “protestants”, the true church of Christ. Second, the Roman Catholic Church was formed in the late 4th century upon which most of its false doctrines were established. Third, the books of Daniel and Revelation predicted the rise of Roman Catholicism (the beast) and the papacy (the Antichrist). Fourth, the 1260 years predicted is the period of the Augustinian Consensus (when the RCC used violence to compel belief and executed non-Catholics).
For a number of years I’ve spent a lot of time, online and offline, around atheists. What I’ve found is that problem of evil is, perhaps, their most critical issue. Time and again they raise the objection: Christians commit atrocities just as much as or more than any other religion (or atheists). My typical response to this is that I’m an Anabaptist and we, as a church, do not commit atrocities. We eschew all forms of violence, including military. While this helps me sleep well at night, it does not do much to defend Christianity as a whole.
However, when considering Tim Kauffman’s position, that perspective changes. Defending Christianity as a whole is precisely what I cannot do. The vast majority of “Christian” violence is at the hands of Roman Catholicism (the beast). We also find that the magisterial Protestants were also guilty of using violence. So violence in the name of Christianity is not rare, but it isn’t universal (e.g. Anabaptists). The church of Christ is seen through its fruit. Don’t follow the trail of dead bodies, but instead the transformed lives.
Tim Kauffman noted that the remnant of the true church retreated to the Alpine region:
“Our point here is that during the 1,260 years that Rome retained the power and authority of the emperor, and wielded the sword for the punishment of heretics, there was also a movement that rejected the characteristically Roman Catholic doctrines that had emerged in the latter half of the 4th century…That protestant movement was consistently found in the Alpine Valleys between France and Italy until 1655 A.D. when the Waldensians were finally extricated from their refuge and dispersed throughout Europe.”
The protestants lived among the Alps from ~398-1658 AD before before being flushed out at the end of the 1260 years. It is interesting that areas around the Alps are where early Anabaptism took root among the Swiss Brethren in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. Various Anabaptists (including the author of the Martyr’s Mirror) have traced their apostolic origins through the Waldensians, who shared similar doctrinal beliefs.
Jesus taught that the way was narrow and few would find it. The peaceful Anabaptists closely reflect the teachings of Jesus, yet the Anabaptists hold views that are rare among Christianity. Even among the Christian manosphere where divorce is the enemy, no one considers that the Anabaptist way is the true way, despite the ultra-low divorce rates among the traditional Anabaptist faithful.
There is so much evil and suffering because people (including Christians) are not following the way of Christ. While almost every denomination has said “we are the true church”, how many have said “you’ll know us from our fruit?” If you want to understand why there is so much evil and suffering, it is because there are so few Christians. The problem with evil is that there are not enough Christians to overturn it… yet.
I can’t deny the existence of evil and these musings are not a full answer to the problem of evil. Perhaps these thoughts will coalesce into a meaningful and illuminating view on theodicy in the upcoming months (and years?).
 Some historians do not consider the Anabaptists to be direct successors of the Waldensians. That they are separate groups does not actually matter: it is a fallacy of Roman Catholicism that Christ’s church must follow a single unbroken line of direct episcopal succession. The Anabaptists considered themselves to be fellows of the Waldensians, acknowledging their shared doctrines. They shared such an affinity because they read the same Bible. Waldensians were also very similar to Baptists, an independent, but related, group.