The Problem of Evil: A Perspective From The Dentist’s Chair

Okay you health nuts out there. The Deeper Waters blogger is not the best in the area of health and today, I spent my first visit in the dentist’s chair to get some cavities filled today. It had been awhile since I had to got to go to a dentist when I moved and when I did, I found out that I had eight cavities. Joy! Four of them were filled today.

Greg Koukl has written about saying before that the dentist’s chair is a great place to think about the Problem of Evil. Apparently, it runs in the history of apologetics. C.S. Lewis even once said that people say they believe in a God of love and don’t understand pain. He wanted to know if any of them had ever been to a dentist.

So there I am sitting in the chair and frankly, I have no idea what’s going on. I thank God for the numbing agent they give beforehand, but I see my dentist trying to tell me to open as wide as I can and honestly, I don’t think I can open any wider. Finally, something was used to make sure my mouth would stay open. The same commands were repeated to look a certain way a number of times and I’d realize after awhile that I had tensed up.

It’s amazing how many motives you can question at that time and it is clear to me then that my reason was not in charge but my imagination was. Blaise Pascal once said that you could take the most astute man of reason you could find and place him on a plank of sufficient size and put that plank over a huge chasm and you can be sure, his imagination will take over his rationality. 

There were many times I’d see all these tools and some of them gave the impression of “I’m not getting a filling! I’m getting that tooth yanked!” Had my reason been functioning properly then, although one could have interpreted the scene that way, I would have realized that having a tooth yanked instead would have led to a huge lawsuit and no dentist would risk that. The reason is not kicking in though. It’s all fear.

One thing that makes it difficult is that I had no idea what my dentist was doing. I saw all these implements being stuck in my mouth and not sure what they were all doing. I am quite sure that at one time I had four things stuck in my mouth and here I can’t even see what they all exactly are or what they are all exactly doing.

Yet I’m allowing it and sitting here. (Okay. A part of me wants to jump up and run, but I didn’t.)

Could it have been explained? Maybe, but it’s not likely I would have understood the terms of modern dentistry. All that I had to do was realize that I had come to have a service done and that I should trust that that service would be resolved properly. Do I have any reason to think that my dentist doesn’t have my best interests at heart. The only reason is the present pain and awkwardness.

Notice something in our dealing with the Problem of Evil there. I had to look at something outside of the pain as an explanation. In dealing with the problem of evil, if all I had to deal with was evil and pain, then yeah, I can see how someone would be an atheist. I live in a world though of pleasure, beauty, and goodness. A world that is designed. I find other arguments for God’s existence and I find the evidence for the resurrection of Christ compelling.

Just like being in the dentist’s chair, I can’t let the pain I experience when evil strikes be the only aspect I consider. I have to look and see if there are aspects I’m missing. It is at this point that I look to the nature of the one who I have come to and have to think “Even though I don’t have a clue what he’s doing and he’s not telling me and it hurts and feels awkward, I have to trust.” (For those concerned, the hurt was not screaming in agony pain, but more a sensation that wouldn’t be considered pleasant, but numbing agents do work!)

One final aspect I would like to mention was what I was thinking about and asked my dentist about afterwards. I asked if he the reason he was drilling also was that the hole that needed to be filled had to be made bigger before it could be filled. He said “Yes.” I realized then that I truly had a blog I could write about tonight.

There are times that our problems are allowed to get worse. There are times the darkness is allowed to get darker. There are times the situation is allowed to get more grave. That’s often though so a greater good can come. Lazarus was allowed to die so that God’s glory could be revealed. Christ himself was allowed to go to the grave so we could all be sure we wouldn’t stay in it either.

In conclusion, as I consider it, I am well today, although still a bit numb and avoiding that side of my mouth for meals, but I realize I can trust my dentist. I don’t have to understand all he did or why he did it, but I realize that I must keep the goal in mind. It was the greater good.

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