After publishing my last essay, Twittering on the Divine, on another website, a reader named John responded with a pointed assertion. I responded and off we went, on a fascinating and, I believe, important debate on the nature of evil.
What do you think of the points each of us raised? Post your own thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.
True, it doesn’t make sense to blame God when someone uses their freewill to commit murders. But then it would be incorrect to thank God when governments and aid groups use their freewill to help starving people. So then God isn’t helping at all.
John, anyone who believes God is not good and doesn’t care about us will find your mindset quite valid. I prefer not to have such a hopeless perspective and my viewpoint is backed up by the fact that God gave every single person in this broken world a gift – Jesus.
My attitude toward God is also framed by this passage I found in the Bible: “First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” For me, Jesus is proof of that love and I respond in kind.
I can see how the gift of Jesus could account for God’s creation of evil, that is to say God created evil in humans, but he also gave us Jesus so we can redeem ourselves. But I fail to see how that can account for the existence of evils not caused by humans, such as natural disasters or diseases. A father who gives his children expensive gifts is not necessary a good father.
Thank you for continuing this conversation, John. I’m enjoying the exchange of viewpoints. A couple of things:
1. Did God create evil? As with my last comment, anyone who doesn’t believe God is good and doesn’t believe He cares about us might lean towards that position, but I do not. And the reason can be found in my previous comment.
2. Biblical Christianity – which I accept as true – states we cannot use Jesus to redeem ourselves. Jesus’s death and resurrection redeems anyone who believes in Him and follows Him. Jesus does the redeeming (the ‘heavy lifting’); our obligation is to believe and trust. The difference might be subtle to some, but it is significant.
3. While I cannot explain diseases (if I could, I would be God and that responsibility is a little big for my shoulders), but as for disasters, we humans only call them that because we are in the way when they happen. If nobody is killed and no property/infrastructure is destroyed by an earthquake, do we still call it a disaster?
Since evil exists, wouldn’t it have had to been created by something? If God exists and created all, then he would have had to create evil, for if he did not then whence came evil?
I did some research on your question about God creating evil, so I could answer it credibly. The website gotquestions.org asserts that God did not create evil – it is not a ‘thing’, after all – and evil is simply the absence of good, just as cold is the absence of hot and darkness is the absence of light.
Obviously, God allows evil behaviour to exist and even to flourish. Why? Because if He didn’t, then He would be snatching back His gift of free will. It’s that simple.
In the end, if you want to think about evil being a ‘created’ thing, then it is created by us – you and me, John, when we drop the ball, when we miss the mark of what God created us to be and when we ignore opportunities to do good.
I think the analogy between light/dark and good/evil is a flawed one. Darkness is certainly the absence of light, that’s easy. Suppose you put yourself in a windowless room without any light sources, then certainly the room is dark. Darkness is then our zero point, our natural state of the universe.
Now put yourself in the same room and ask yourself: are you doing any good? If you say no, then by your analogy you are doing evil, since it is your zero point evil is the natural state of the universe. I fail to see how sitting alone in a dark room can be evil. I would suggest the zero point is simply neutral, doing no good and no evil, with evil below it and good above it. Hence God created good and evil.
You could say that sitting in the room is doing good since you’re doing no evil. But then we would have to consider good as our natural state and your analogy becomes reversed. Now evil is simply the absence of good, and good was never created, but evil was.
Let’s consider the light/dark analogy from this perspective, John: evil is the absence of God.
Where God is not acknowledged, where His will for humanity is ignored, where His love for every single person who ever lived – stretching from Osama Bin Laden to Mother Teresa and *proven* through His gift of Jesus Christ – is ridiculed, then evil is the inevitable consequence.
Sometimes, that evil comes from what you’ve referred to as the neutral of simply sitting in darkness. Does that sitting in darkness include the neutrality of doing nothing to stop someone from getting hit by a car? After all, you’re not driving the car and you’re not the dope who stepped on the road in front of it, so you haven’t done anything wrong (or right) by simply letting events unfold, correct?
But our exchange of views is getting very esoteric, John. The bottom line that I was making in the blog was we have been given two extraordinary and costly (for the giver) gifts: free will and Jesus Christ.
We’re free to spit on those gifts through our actions (and inactions), through our stubborn rejection of all that Jesus has done for every single person who decides to believe in and follow Him. Where do you stand on those gifts, John?
There’s no doubt that evil CAN come from what seems to be a neutral state, but there’s no doubt that there is a neutral state like sitting in the doctor’s office.
As for now changing the question from good-evil to acknowledging God-evil. Acknowledging God is simply respecting what God has given everyone ie. life, freewill. Now you’re sitting alone in the doctor’s waiting room, you’re certainly respecting everything God has given you. So the absence of evil is acknowledging Gods will, so evil is again shown to have been created.
The bottom line that I’m making in this debate is that if you want to believe in God, you must accept that he created evil. The only way to believe that He did not create evil, is to not believe in God. Which is one of the many reasons I chose a life without a god.
John, I simply can not and do not agree with your premise. As far as I’m concerned – and I’ve thought a lot about this, and read lots of books & blogs about this – free will is God’s invention and evil is humanity’s “invention”.
If I believed God “invented” evil (rather than allowing it – a significant difference), my life would become superficial and hope-less. That’s the kind of life I see lived by so many people who have no faith and unknowingly follow all the marketing and lifestyle mantras our society pushes on us.
I was fortunate in that I came to see and embrace the gift of free will, and the gift of Jesus Christ, without some sort of huge, often negative event forcing me to re-examine my life. Will that be what it takes for you to do that re-examining? I deeply and sincerely hope not.
I have argued well enough to show that if you believe in God, you must accept that He created evil. I can accept that evil is humanity’s creation because I’ve rejected the idea of any god.
If you insist of believing in God, then you must believe he created evil. Which really is a contradiction to your beliefs so, of course, your life would be hopeless since you’re living a lie. That’s the kind of life I see lived by so many people who have faith and unknowingly follow all the ignorant ideals and beliefs religion pushes on us.
Well, John, I guess we’re going to agree to disagree. I believe we’ve debated well; my hope and prayer is anyone reading these comments will connect with the hope-filled, positive viewpoint.
I hope readers will also recognize that with some spiritual things, there are no absolutely definitive answers. We can know many things about God (thanks to the Bible), but in some ways, He has been – and will always be – a mystery, whether we like it or not. Rather than frustrating me, I find this mystery is an important reminder that God is God and I am NOT.
In the meantime, John, I hope you don’t mind if I pray for you.