Wednesday 21 November 2018

Ultimately, where does evil come from?

It is a classic, and in my view powerful, critique of mainstream Christian theology to find it to hard-to-understand where evil come-from if God is omnipotent, created everything-from-nothing and is wholly Good.

The - apparently unavoidable - implication is that since God created everything, then God created evil. But then God can't be wholly Good...

The best answer is that God wants Men to have free will/ agency; and evil is the price to pay.

However, this answer still leaves open the question of where evil ultimately comes from - how come there is any evil at all in a reality wholly made by a wholly Good God?

Where does that evil even come from? (Where, if not from God?... but then why did God create it?)

On the other hand; I regard creation as a work-in-progress; and each man and woman as having an eternal origin separate from God's creation.

So it is no mystery what evil is, nor where where evil comes-from: evil is that which is opposed to God's creation; and it comes from an agency of free will that is uncreated by God.

God does not need to invent and implement evil; it is something that just happens when Beings choose to act against creation.

The spiritual war is between those who align and (ultimately) ally with God and creation; and those who oppose God and creation.

The alternative to dwelling in God's creation is unorganised chaos - but chaos is not evil, since chaos has no purpose. From the Creator's perspective, chaos is the 'raw material' of potential creation.

But from the perspective of those who align with God, those Beings who purpose to reduce creation to chaos are evil.

And that is the origin and nature of evil.


Chiu ChunLing said...

"Evil" is best understood as a negative concept, like "dark" or "death" or "privation".

"Evil" is the absence of some good. It might be a possible good, it might be an expected good, but I don't reject out of hand that a state of affairs in which good were neither expected nor even possible would still be evil.

Evil is more apparent, and to some extent more evil, when the absent good is one that would not only be expected, but is reasonable to expect. Thus, when you encounter a person with the capacity to do what is right, and they instead do what is wrong, the evil of that lack of right doing stands out as it wouldn't for, say, a rock.

But consider whether it would be a morally neutral act to turn a good person, full of benevolence and love, into a rock. No, that would be evil. Because a rock is less good than such a person. We don't expect much of rocks, we take the lack of goodness in a rock for granted. But that doesn't mean that there is no such lack that would become obvious to us if a good person turned into a rock.

Thus it is unnecessary to understand why evil exists. All that is necessary is to understand why the good that would obviate that evil is not particularly and specifically present.

Of course, this view naturally posits that reality is inherently evil by default. The glass is empty unless you add something else that is not the glass itself.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - I am familar with that 'evil is privation' view, but I find it inadequate, and it is inexplicable (or just plain false) to most people.

(Also it's an abstract, elite, evasive kind of thing to say!)

Thus, my view that evil is about intent, the intent to destroy Good (God, creation)- *that* is much easier to comprehend, and in line with experience. And true.

So we need to explain where evil-intent comes-from in a creation made by a Good God. Hence the post.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

When I was child I often wondered how the devil had become evil if he was once an angel. I had imagined that the devil was enticed to fall by another being which was always evil; a more-than-devil, like the Slavic Chernobog. I've often thought about this idea,and whether descriptions in the Bible of God combating primordial monsters were less poetic than they interpreters usually assumed.

- Carter Craft

Bruce Charlton said...

@Carter - My current understanding is that some Beings are evil-inclined from the beginning; but as spirit children we live (as it were) immersed in God's love; so the evil only 'emerges', or acts, when either the spirit child is separated from God or incarnates.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Evil is very obviously not just the absence of good. A lie is not just the absence of the truth (silence would be that); it's a positive act. The fact that so many of the commandments are phrased negatively ("Thou shalt not" perform this particular bad action) should make that clear enough.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The greatest evil doesn't hate God and Creation, it is merely indifferent to both.

And to Lucifer as well, whom it recognizes as deserving the emotion called "pity", but does not understand nor experience such a feeling.

That is to say, the ultimate evil is morally neutral in ordinary terms.

But moral neutrality is evil. It is the greatest evil.

An evil Satan cannot match nor comprehend.

As such, I think it is well enough to say that it is beyond humans. Humans should be concerned with whether they are for or against God. I suppose it would be right to say that they should be for God, but some will be against God, and that is their choice.

Tupla-J said...

Evil is the choice to oppose God.

Its existence is a logical result of being able to make any moral choices at all. The alternative is omniderigence, which I'd hardly call good.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Wait, if the absence of any moral choices at all would also be contrary to God, then opposition to God needn't be a choice to be evil.

I think that it is reasonable to say that good consists of choices that align with God's will, and that anything else is evil. However, I hesitate because God doesn't use such a definition.

God clearly asserts that His will is aligned with good, not that good is aligned with His will. Just ask Him.

I'm not going to deal with the question of whether God can be trusted not to...mischaracterize His position. That's a matter of careful and conscientious consideration of a vast body of evidence, or just taking God's word on faith. So far, I'm pretty satisfied that the evidence backs God being honest, with men, women, and devils being responsible for most of the deceptions that occur. But I can't present the full evidence for that in 4000 characters.

It is all well and good to say that the distinction isn't practically important.

But if we were talking about practicality, then why worry about the ultimate origin of evil? We only need to consider the proximate/immediate cause outside ourselves and the personal cause within. The ultimate source hardly matters except as a theological question.

But sometimes people use theological difficulty as an excuse for not confronting evil at all, and that makes it a practical question.