PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON - EVIL AND ITS ORIGIN: CAN GOD BE BLAMED?
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EVIL AND ITS ORIGIN: CAN GOD BE BLAMED?

 

PASTOR ALLWIN JOHNSON

 

1. Introduction

            One of the professors in my secular college talked about the origin of evil in the Moral education class. He told, if God is everything, then evil should be a part of Him. He denoted some god's statement in Hindu scripture, “I am the good and I am the evil, there is nothing else other than me.” He also said, “if there is an evil power against God, then God is not the God.” His words kindled my mind to think more about it. In fact, this is the confusion of most of the theists (all religions) today. So it is necessary and compulsory for a theologian to dig out and find the real truth. Let us examine it.

 

2. Evil: Definition and Meaning

            In Hebrew the term evil is ra', meaning bad, evil, wicked, sore. The root of this term is disputed. Some scholars believe that the Akkadian term raggu ("evil; bad") may be related. Some scholars derive ra` from the Hebrew word ra`a` ("to break, smash, crush"), which is a relation of the Hebrew ratsats ("to smash, break to pieces"); ratsats in turn is related to the Arabic radda ("to crush, bruise"). If this derivation were correct, it may imply that ra` connotes sin in the sense of destructive hurtfulness.

 

            In Greek the term evil is Ponēros, kakos, “A term designating what is not in harmony with the divine order.”kakos stands for "whatever is evil in character, base," in distinction from poneros which indicates "what is evil in influence and effect, malignant." Kakos is the wider term and often covers the meaning of poneros. Kakos denotes what is useless, incapable, bad; poneros denotes what is destructive, injurious, evil.

 

            “Evil is not a being, thing substance or entity.” “Evil is a bite of non-being which leaves its mark on every creature.” “Evil is the absence of good. Philosophers prefer to speak of the privation of good... The term 'privation' is better than 'absence'; it implies that something is not only absent, but is missing when it should be there.” So every absence of good is not an evil. “Every finite being, coming from non-being, retains a kind of affinity with non-being; he is mutable, corruptible, fallible. The tendency towards non-being is inseparable from the very root of its being.”

Evil and Devil: Evil is not a created being whereas the devil is a created and existing being. Evil is a non-being existing on creatures but devil is a fallen angel (Lucifer) who is possessed with evil. Evil itself has no powers whereas devil has powers entrusted by God. Evil is embodied in a personal being, the devil (Satan). Satan is the personification of Evil. In modern context, Christian people use the word evil and devil interchangeably. However, theologians should be aware of the exact meaning and usage.

 

3. Kinds of Evil

            Evil can be divided into three distinct categories: moral evil, physical evil and natural evil. Moral evil is evil that results from an act, or failure to act, of man. (E.g., Adam's wrong choice) Without the action or omission of an action by a human agent, moral evil would not occur. Moral evil could be intentional or accidental or ironic. Eating a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not an evil, but transgression of God's law is evil.

 

            Physical evil is the consequence of the moral evil (sin). Sin and sufferings are inseparable. Man is the unity of soul and body. “If the soul becomes alienated from God by sin, the body will become alienated, too, and experience pain and death as sin's inevitable consequences. Spiritual death (sin) and physical death go together because our spirits (souls, consciousness) and bodies go together” (Genesis 3).


            In contrast to moral evil, natural evil arises through no fault of man. Man has no control over natural evil, and he is completely powerless to prevent its occurrence. Sickness, birth defects, earthquakes, floods, volcanos, hurricanes, drought, disastrous epidemic diseases, etc... are the few examples of natural evil. . Some scholars argue that neither God nor humans are responsible for these things, but that fallen angels cause them. Devil has got the powers and as a part of his rebellion, he uses it against the creation of God. So God has no role in the cause of natural evils.

 

4. One logical formulation and five different views

            When the problem of evil is connected to God, there seems to be some logical contradiction in the following assertions pertaining God.

·       God exists

·       God is omnibenevolent

·       God is omnipotent

·       Evil exists

 

If we think logically, the statements contradict and lead to deny any one of them.

u    “If God exists, wills all-good, and is powerful enough to get everything he wills, then there would be no evil.

u    If God exists and wills only good, but evil exists, then God does not get what he wills. Thus he is not omnipotent.

u    If God exists and is all-powerful and evil exists too, then God wills evil to exists. Thus he is not omnibenevolent.

u    If 'God' means 'a being who is both all-good and all-powerful', and nevertheless evil exists, then such a God does not exist.”

 

            According to Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, in the light of the above formulation there are five different views.

a)   Atheism denies the proposition of existence of God but accepts the reality of evil.

b)   Pantheism denies the proposition of omnibenevolence of God.

c)   Modern naturalism and ancient polytheism deny the proposition of omnipotence of God.

d)   Idealism denies the reality of evil and says that evil is an illusion of unenlightened human consciousness.

e)   Biblical theism accepts all four assertions and denies any logical contradiction in it because it does not see evil as a created being or substance or thing.

 

5. Origin of Evil

            As we could see, evil exists in the world. People confuse themselves with the question “where does the evil come from?” Atheists use this existence of evil to disprove God's existence. But in Christian atmosphere, some theologians say “God is the creator of the evil” and some others say “evil is the result of moral choice.” Let us analyze the arguments from both the side

.

5.1. God is the author of evil

5.1.1. Logical argument

 

Argument 1

·       God is the author of everything.

·       Evil is something. (Substance)

·       Therefore God is the author of evil.

            If evil is something, then it should be part of everything. God is the only source of everything, so evil is originated from God. This argument considers that evil is something, but in fact evil is not something to be created. It is a non-being, so God is not the author of evil. We can restate the above argument as

·       God is only the effective cause of every finite substance (and nothing else)

·       Evil is not a substance (either finite or infinite)

·       Therefore, God is not the effective cause of evil

·        

Argument 2

·       God is the supreme power

·       Evil also has power

·       But evil cannot be an alternative for God

·       Therefore God created evil and gave power

            In my opinion, this argument is baseless because evil is a non-being, has no power. The power we see today is the power of the devil or Satan (the fallen angel). Evil is the intangible quality working through the power of the devil (which also can work through a human). God gave the power to Lucifer, and evil, works through him. Therefore God did not create evil.

 

Argument 3

·       God gave free will to his creatures

·       Free will is to choose good or bad

·       Therefore God created good with bad.

            If there was a free will to choose, then there must be two choices—good and evil. Therefore while God created the good creations, he also added the evil. In my opinion, this argument misunderstood the creation of God. When God created the earth, he found everything good as he is. Imperfectness cannot come from perfectness. Evil is not a creature. Therefore God is not the creator of evil.

 

 

5.1.2. Scriptural Argument

            William Fitch uses some scriptural references to make a statement “God is the creator of evil.” “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God... men may know there is none beside me... I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” God says through the inspired lips of the prophet Isaiah. Fitch argues, “'I created darkness ... I create evil.' In these words God accepts responsibility for the presence of evil in the midst of His creation; and this is a revelation which we dare not lightly nor explain away.” He further adds to his argument, “God never suffers evil to get out of hand. He controls it; He restricts it... God is not helpless amidst the seeming ruin of His creation... God will use evil to His glory.” In summing up, Fitch argues that evil is not out of God's hand, it is created, controlled and restricted by God.

 

            Fitch misinterpreted the Verse “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster.” The vivid interpretation is, when God formed the light darkness came into existence, without light there would not be any darkness. For instance, cheese holes exists because there is cheese. One can bring a plateful of mere cheese but not the mere holes. Like the same, when God formed the light darkness came into existence. So Fitch's argument is not at all a valid argument to say God created the evil.

 

5.2. Evil is the result of free moral choice (Free will defense)

            Evil is not a thing and things are not evil themselves. For example, a sword is not an evil. Even the stroke of the sword that cuts off your head is not evil in its being. Here, where is the evil? “It is in the will, the choice, the intent, the movement of the soul, which puts a wrong order into the physical world of things and acts.”

 

            Freedom is the first cause of evil. “The ultimate cause of metaphysical evil is moral; the cause privation is pride. Without the freedom of the creature to exalt itself as the greater good, there is no explanation of the origin of evil.” Augustine suggests, “Sin is indeed nowhere but in the will and justice holds guilty those sinning by evil will alone....” Both Lucifer and Adam misused their free will and that resulted the first existence of evil in the world.

 

            Alvin Platinga has developed the free will defense argument, which clearly explains “How God is not responsible for the existence of evil?” Clark summarised the whole and puts it succinctly,

            “A world containing creatures who are significantly free(and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but he cannot cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if he does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore he must create creatures capable of moral evil; and he cannot give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong on the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against his goodness; for he could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.”

 

            Free will defense argument is clearly demonstrating a logical defense which disproves the allegation “God is the creator of evil.” During the the creation God judged everything as good. Human beings too were created good in this sense, but not perfectly morally good. Since God wanted man to be a free moral instruments, He must have created him as morally neuter creatures.

 

Conclusion: Evil is a non-being, so it has no origin. It is an intangible quality characterised by human behaviour. Evil was introduced by Lucifer's misuse of his freewill and later Adam conceived evil by his wrong moral choice. Through Adam, the world with the whole human race suffers evil. Both the fallen angel (Lucifer) and Adam had the free will (as we have). Physical evil and natural evil are the consequences of moral evil. Therefore we can clearly say that evil is the result of moral choice and God is certainly not the origin of evil.

 

6. PRESENCE OF EVIL

             Today in the world, obviously we can see moral evils—envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, God-hating, insolence, arrogance and pride, physical evils—sufferings and pains and natural evils—Sickness, birth defects, earth quakes, floods, volcanos, hurricanes, drought and disastrous epidemic diseases. So no one can refuse the existence of evil in the world. The question here is “why did God allow evil in this world?” Atheists often attempt to disprove God's existence using this question. However biblical theism has a strong answer to this question.

 

6.1. Why God allowed Evil?

            Atheists always argue that if God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient, he should have destroyed all evil in the world. “Geisler gives Pierre Bayle's logical argument:

·       Evil Exists

·       An omnipotent God could destroy evil

·       A benevolent God would destroy evil

·       Therefore, since evil is not destroyed, then either

a)   God is omnipotent and hence malevolent in some way, or

b)   God is benevolent and hence impotent in some way, or

c)   God is both malevolent and impotent, or

d)   There is no God at all.”

 

            Theists completely reject this atheistic argument and say, “though it seems everything is bad, God works everything for good.” Theists believe “God is working in the problem in the best way to handle evil, and he will eventually destroy it. This is not the best world, but this is the best way to achieve the best world.” While Davis talks about the Free will defense, he says, “All the evil that exists in the world is due to the choices of free moral agents whom God created, and no other world which God could have created would have had a better balance of good over evil than the actual world will have.” He does not mean that this is the best possible world, but is not the worst possible world. God is ahead of us, producing a morally, physically and naturally perfect eschatological world. If God attempts to destroy (washout) evil from the world, then the whole humankind and the world would not stand because the Bible says, the whole earth and its people sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Evil is at the mercy of God and the existence of this present world is because of His grace.

 

6.2. Evil as a weapon of goodness

            The result of moral evil is physical and natural evil. God allowed these as a punishment for the moral evil (Genesis 3). Everybody in the world believes and accepts that there should be an appropriate punishment for breaching the law. Wenham quotes Mortimer, “A total absence of punishment would lead to chaos, would in itself be unjust, and would result in more bad men and fewer good men.” Remember, God's curse on the disobedient in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. God can not be blamed for these sufferings of the curse because man's evil (disobedience) results in evil (sufferings of punishments). God used evil as His weapon to punish the people like a father spanks his child with a stick. The lack of punishment to Adam and Eve would lead to the raising of a million Lucifers. The human mind cannot comprehend this because it is Divine.

 

7. END OF EVIL

            Evil has no origin but it has an end. God determined the end for evil and its personification (Satan). An end to Satan would spell a full stop to the whole chapter of evil (because evil works with the power of Satan). Atheists mock that evil is out of God's control, but God always plans, controls and restricts the evil. He is not the Roman Emperor Nero, to watch and enjoy people suffering with evil. He began to work His plan of salvation even from the fall of Adam.

 

7.1. The salvation plan

            The plan of salvation could be traced out from Noah's ark to the second coming of Jesus Christ and the plan which follows. The climax of cosmic conflict between good and evil focuses in human history at Calvary in Christ's crucifixion, where God himself battles it out with the powers of evil. He is apparently overcome by evil as he is subject to death, but he is able to live again; death cannot hold him for he has never been subject to sin, of which death is the consequence. Concerning the crucifixion, Kreeft claims, "...the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world ended up resulting in the very best thing that has ever happened in the history of the world" Jesus Christ gained the victory over Satan to provide salvation to His people. Those who believe in Him shall be justified and sanctified by grace through faith and will inherit a place in the forthcoming evil free best world. The kingdom of God has already come and in due time it will be established.

 

7.2. Judgement on Devil

            As we have seen already, evil has no power and it is working with the power of a fallen angel, the devil. According to the Bible, God has a judgement for both devil and his followers (those who been captured by devil). The son of man is entrusted with the administration of this final judgement by God the Father (Matthew 3:11-12; John 5:22; Romans 2:16). God will seize Satan, bind him and lock him in the Abyss for thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). After Christ's reign of thousand years, Satan will be released and will be defeated in a battle with God (Revelation 20: 7-10). Then Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is the eternal punishment for the unsaved human spirits and the fallen angel and his hosts  (Revelation 20: 10,15). The new world with complete goodness of God will appear after these incidents.

 

8. CONCLUSION

            While it is our duty to obey the injunction, "Be still and know that I am God," we should not blaspheme against God with our limited knowledge. Evil appeared by itself by creature's wrong choice and it defiled the whole human race. However, God initiated and is working out His plan to save the fallen human race from the evil. The grace of God, which has never been shown to angels, given to human beings. As Geisler said, This is not the best world, but this is the best way to achieve the best world,” God is working with this world to create a new and better world. Since God is in His perfect plan to destroy evil and to save humans, God cannot be blamed for the origin and existence of evil.

 

            “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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