Thursday, April 27, 2006

Do you ever...


wonder about evil…
For instance, where does it come from?
Maybe God created it. He could have I guess. If He did that would explain a bunch of stuff. Maybe He created evil to give us an option. Like how would we know how good God is if there is nothing to compare Him to. If there was no such a thing as evil we could have all the free will we like but what would there be to choose from/between. Without evil in the mix, we wouldn’t even have a sense of something being better than something else (confusing?).
But if He did create evil – well then can we really call Him good? We would have to be suspicious that He was only playing a game with us.
Maybe Evil existed before or at the same time as God. This is a really tough one to get your mind around--especially because we believe that God existed before everything. Yikes. But at least we don’t have “God-the-Joker” in this case. This idea makes God out to be the ultimate hero who makes this world to somehow ultimately defeat Evil. We become God’s big scheme to rid the universe of evil. Which leaves us with some problems. We end up being pawns in God’s big war against evil. Not much fun.
We are also left with this nagging sense that maybe evil is bigger than God. Like maybe there is some question about whether He’s gonna win in the end.
Maybe this one of those things that you’d rather not think about and that’s fine but maybe you’ve got some ideas about where this one makes sense for you…

16 comments:

Jan said...

Or maybe evil is just simply the lack of God and good for that matter....?

Incoming... said...

so it doesn't really exist?

Jan said...

Hmmm... I don't know anymore!?

Jerry said...

Here's one I've been playing with:
Maybe evil is literally "nothing" and created by God, and only hurts life when life comes in contact with it.

Clinton said...

Or is evil simply the byproduct of freewill? God creates life, including mankind, which He declares is good. God establishes principles of conduct which, if adhered to, will protect and benefit His creation. God gives mankind freewill, without which we cannot have relationship with Him, ergo this is good. When we exercise our 'good' freewill and choose not to adhere to His code of conduct the result is evil. That which takes away life, which negatively affects life, which estranges relationships, etc.
just off the top, early Saturday morning, I'll think on it some more

Incoming... said...

Jerry you are gonna have to expand that one a bit - it's interesting for sure.
Clinton, you raise an important issue to what extent is the existence of evil related to our own existence as humanity. And if I am right you have made evil intrinsically related to morality which is an important consideration.

Jerry said...

I don't know what you need. I could provide synonyms: "non-existence," "vacuum," "void".

I suppose I'm begging the question: "How does life come in contact with this evil I'm describing?" or "Who brought life and evil together?"

Then there's these questions: "Can evil be material as well as spiritual? Or is 'spiritual' some sort of abstract material reality (like thoughts) anyway?"

I love playing with this stuff! I hope the questions make sense. Articulation is one of my greatest challenges.

Teach said...

I see the point about evil linked to the existence of humanity BUT how do you explain the fall of the angels before the creation of man, was that not the first recorded emergence of evil?

Incoming... said...

jerry you made me smile
I was told the other day that i am quite famous for not being articulate on these things as well...
i used to think i was just fat
now I am articulately challenged as well...
your ideas and questions are fascinating.
I am wondering how a nonexistent evil could in anyway come in contact or interact in any way with anything else?

Incoming... said...

hey james
i think it is interesting that you refer to it as "first recorded emergence of evil". i wonder how much of that is a lense with which we are choosing to read the Scriptures.
As for the angels - - the accounts that you are referring to are the ones in the OT. the rebellion that the angels committed had to have had some basis.
Clinton would suggest that this was simply becuase they had a choice. but then we are left with a problem. Because how could you have a choice if you did not know that another option existed? So then did evil pre-exist the angels rebellion? at least in the form of a choice i suppose. hmmmm. Still wondering....

Clinton said...

Good point about the fallen angels. I warned you it was early while I was writing/ thinking. It seems that 'we' are referring to evil as an entity, as some force or course of action which can be chosen, acted upon or engaged in. Here's a thought, what if evil is none of those. Evil seems to stand in opposition to righteousness. If righteousness is Godlikeness, being in right alignment with God, right relationship with God, does it follow that evil is the absence of those things. Like Jerry wrote, 'evil is literally "nothing'. The absence of God and all that His presence signifies. Choosing to seperate ourselves from God, and all that entails, aligns us with 'evil'. If so, my contention would be that God did not create 'evil', God permits the choice to refuse His presence. We can choose 'good' or 'no good'.
perhaps no more lucid than early morning, but a slightly different angle :)

ryan said...

the problem with any sort of explanation of evil which makes it instrumental (i.e., the way in which God teaches us, brings about certain goals etc) is that instances of genuine evil seem extremely difficult to incorporate within such a model. I find it very difficult to think that some of the truly horrific things that human beings are capable of are just part of the process whereby we learn how good God is. To say that evil is there so we have something to compare God to seems offensive, or at the very least insensitive to anyone who has ever experienced the effects of evil.

I don't see how we can get around the fact that the introduction of evil into the world represents a genuine instance of something happening in opposition to God's will. Of course this has all sorts of implications with respect to the nature of God (the extent of his knowledge, power etc), but in order to do justice to our sense that God is good, and the world is not what it ought to be, I don't see how it is avoidable.

As to what evil actually is, that's a really tough one. Again, saying that it's just the absence of good doesn't seem strong enough. Would we feel comfortable saying that Rwanda or Darfur are just examples of the privation of good, or would we want to make the stronger (and I think more accurate) claim that it really is EVIL. Evil has to be an actual property of the world in order to do justice to our deeply held convictions that it is something to be DEFEATED. To say that it is just a lack of goodness implies that we just don't understand it properly, and that one day, when our minds are no longer darkened by sin, we may come to realize this. This doesn't seem to reflect the biblical notion that evil will be judged and defeated. In order to make this claim, it has to be an actual thing, not just a lack of something else. Whatever it is, it does seem to be related to human freedom somehow, but as to how it emerged, or how it is transmitted throughout history, I remain puzzled...

Incoming... said...

thanks right for articulating this well. I too think that evil can't be more than just the non existance of evil but...
But to what extent is evil only the opposite of the intention(s) of God (who we claim to be good) and in what way does it perhaps possess its own agenda and authority. you know a legitimate force to be conquered rather than just something us dumb humans can't really understand...
I too remain perplexed...

Clinton said...

"Again, saying that it's just the absence of good doesn't seem strong enough." Perhaps it doesn't seem strong enough, not because we don't have an adequate appreciation for the magnitude of the effects of evil, but rather because we don't have an adequate understanding of the effects of the presence of God.

We're willing to acknowlege the devasting effects of malnutrition. No poison needs to be introduced to a persons system, merely withold adequate nutrition and the person undergoes an excruciating death. Drought, devastating in it's own way is merely the absence of rain. Withdraw all good from humanity and you encounter depravity without measure.

Can this be reconciled with the conviction that evil must be defeated? Permit me to suggest that the moment a being or movement sets itself to the purpose of starving mankind and the world of Godness, something which needs to be defeated comes into existence. Lucifer chosing to rebel against God and his attempts to thwart the plans of the Almighty puts cause to the need for something to be defeated.

Perhaps, rather than 'evil' being the absence of God, 'evil' might more aptly be described as the intentious attempt to deprive mankind of God. I am loathe to attribute to God the creation of evil. I am equally loathe to ascribe to Satan the power to create anything.

Incoming... said...

i think it is interesting that the discussion has turned toward the nature of evil. Maybe any discussion about evil has to include ideas about it's nature. Essentially we are left with the question of how to reconcile what is with what ought to be.
what is clear to me is that the origin and nature of evil is somehow intrinsically tied up with our existance as humans.
I'm not comfortable with a view of evil as the default mode of reality that when unattended succumbs to the absence of good. If evil is really nothing or just the absence of good as some of you have suggested I am left with a nagging question about why we tend to gravitate toward evil naturally. Why would we not naturally choose the good over the bad? Whether it's the story of the fall or our own encounters with evil desires and actions - i think there is something intrinsic to evil and that is: evil is intentional.
So maybe God did not create evil. And maybe we need to redefine God a bit better. Because maybe words like omniscient, and omnipotent are really kind of meaningless in the first place.

(sorry, not sure if youll be able to follow any of my train of thought at all---)

mark said...

"...one hardly opens the Bible before he encounters humanity coping, or more frequently failing to cope, with guilt. Adam and Eve's rebellion led to shame and hiding. Cain's jealousy let to murder and banishment. And before long, the entire human race was afflicted. Evil abounded and the people grew wicked. The heart of man grew so cold that he no longer sought relief for his callused conscience. This brought on man's inability to cope with sin." Max Lucado.

Maybe this is how evil came to be?

I read this last night and thought maybe it applied to this topic. I didn't having any personal thoughts but this made some sense.