What’s the problem with Evil? (Part 1)

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1. EVIL!? What is [it]?

It is most likely a coincidence that some of the most profane and profound words……………… in the English language only have four letters; more than likely several words come to mind — words that, nowadays, form a part of General English Usage. Here are three others that may not have immediately come to mind: ‘evil’ ‘love’ and ‘pain’. All three of these words have a connection. Love can cause both pain and have bad consequences — even evil. Pain is often thought to be the result of evil (NB:Why Pleasure?)— the opposite to good (another four-letter word) i.e. Natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, monsoons etc.). We might say: Disease is by or inflicted, by God. We might even conclude that any illness etc. may have been maliciously and unfairly inflicted on us or those close to us. Few of us would consider the possibility that disease was the result another party as an act of malevolence…

Evil could be considered a kind of generic term for many of the world’s ills. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘Evil’ both as an adjective and as a noun: Adjective: (a) deeply immoral and malevolent. (b) embodying or associated with the devil. (c)  extremely unpleasant Noun. (a) extreme wickedness and depravity, especially when regarded as a supernatural force. (b) something harmful or undesirable.

  • The problem of ‘Evil’ is an insurmountable hurdle for many people; for those who may, most Christians—at least, affirm the notion that God is Good, the evidence, from the (human) perspective, for that goodness remains rather elusive—something the apostle Paul described as ‘looking through a mirror that’s distorted/dark etc. (1 Cor. 13:12). But Scripture declares that God is Good.
  • The Problem of Evil is most certainly a barrier to faith i.e. the problem of how it is possible for God to have allowed for the evolution of life on earth and to retain his goodness—remains a mystery-for most. However, ‘the problem of evil’ is not usually perceived as a personal problem—something related to me personally—that ‘I’ might, in some way, be culpable. Doctoral dissertations and bookshelves are replete with titles such as ‘Evil and the Goodness of God’, ‘Goodness, Omnipotence and Suffering’, or ‘God is not Great’ etc.

God, it seems to me, has had too much bad press at the hands (computers) and from the mouths of those who think that God is unjust or simply cannot exist as the contradictions are far too great.

Regarding human behaviour though, we often say that this or that action is not acceptable, that it is morally reprehensible; recent events:………  We make all kind of moral pronouncements.  There does seem to be a kind of universal, give or take the odd differences, sense of ‘right and wrong’—almost as if God, at some time in our evolutionary development, had instilled into our actual DNA the knowledge of the difference between good and not good—evil even. We know instinctively when human behaviour has exceeded the boundaries of acceptability though we are keen to move the boundaries as we become increasingly disconnected from our creator. Moreover, we so often ignore the symptoms that are a sign that death rather than life is at work in us. Evil for so many of us, professing Christians included, is something unrelated to us; we see it as an abstract thing that has no connection with us or with the rest of the human race.  We seem to have been affected or rather infected by the idea that humanity is not perfect but OK; that there is nothing really wrong with ‘Adam’s’ race that ‘time’ won’t or can’t deal with. However, should the effects of another’s moral failure/ineptitude enter into our own world we may have a different take on the matter. It would then be up close and very personal. It is when it (evil) ‘shows up on our doorstep’ that we may ask the ‘Why Me’ question — a question directed at the mysterious notion of ‘deity’— especially the God of Abraham.

2. Evil[s]

where-are-you-god
‘Natural’ Evil

Natural Evil can be described as all the harms that bring about pain, distress, unhappiness and death. As far as the none-biological world is concerned this can refer to: the effects of the ‘weather’ (tornados, monsoons, flooding etc.) Earthquakes (plate tectonics).

Owl & mouse [Pred&Prey]

As far as biological/ physiological harms are concerned this can refer to all those things that bring pain and discomfort—bring stress pain and premature death. This doesn’t mean to say that all the effects experienced are the result of a world in which a God induced evolutionary process is culpable; NO. Not at all. There might be other factors we’ve not considered: man’s technological advancement—the DEVIL

Is it OK if we live in a first-world-country, live the dream and die at a reasonable age—say 90 – but that, in most other places the quality of life and life expectancy bear no comparison?

Moral Evil might be described as the effects of actions by others [deliberate or otherwise] that, somehow, produces similar effects to the above—producing depravation and death to other species, the masses or to individuals.

 

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Moral Evil

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Excursus

the thing about bacteria:

ebola
‘Natural’ Evil

Ian Hutchinson (2011) refers to the dangers of a hospital environment. Hutchinson comments that one reason hospitals are such ‘dangerous places’ is that:”…the environmental pressures on the bacteria there (in hospitals) are such that they rapidly evolve resistance to the various anti-bacterial agents that hospitals use.” Within the evolutionary ‘framework’there are a quite remarkable amount of life-forms, some of which might be considered unnecessary intruders, or the kinds of creation that God would ‘surely not have conjured-up’–because they seem to prove a contradiction in terms when one maintains a particular understanding of what a ‘good’ creation would look like. Bacterial life-forms are, as Hutchinson infers, endemic–not only in hospitals but in the whole of the biosphere. ‘Some’ are, in fact, essential to the whole of the history of the biosphere. Bacteria are an essential ‘fact of life’. However, it is possible that there are some that are not a ‘necessary part’ of  God’s design for life–or of the outcome of a ‘natural’ evolutionary process.It is possible that other ‘agents’ have, since the genesis of creation, affected/infected life on earth–and that they continue so to do.

NB. Michael Behe (2007) refers to statistics offered by workers at the University of Georgia who estimated that about a billion billion trillion (1030) bacterial cells are formed on the earth each and every year.

3.The Problem with Apples: 

The Genesis Fall & Implications…

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‘Eve’ Deceived?!

C.S.Lewis:

Then in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which would say ‘I’ and ‘me’, which would look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgements of truth, beauty and goodness…We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become gods…They wanted some corner of the universe of which they could say to God. ‘This is our business, not yours.’…We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of fruit, but the question is of no consequence. C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain 65-76

Michael Lloyd suggests that the hypothetical assertion that natural evil is the result of the distortion of creation brought about by the angelic fall does not need evidential support at this precise point if it can be shown that it is organically related to a world-view which is coherent and carries evidential support at other key points:

…the doctrine of the Fall implies that creation is fallen, that it does not reflect the self-giving love of God that we meet in Christ, and that the God we do meet in Christ is the sort of God who gives creatures that freedom to reject God’s purposes without which love is meaningless. If we understand ‘godless’ to mean ‘having turned away from God’,…

Indeed, the expressive free will of both angels and men are at the root of the problem of moral evil—the effects of which are, as yet, not fully comprehended. As Lloyd has stated, and as is agreed with here, Free Will is a necessary part of the outworking of God’s creative purposes. If this is the case then there must be some cause and effect resulting from free will decisions.

4.Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons

Peter S. Williams offers, what he describes as, a set of proposed ‘explananda’:

  1. The majority of humanity believes in angels.
  2. The majority of philosophers believe in angels.
  3. There are various paranormal phenomena that would be coherently and economically explained if demons exist.
  4. There are multiple historical and contemporary reports by evidently honest and intelligent eyewitnesses (including psychologists, psychiatrists and clergy) to the reality of Angels and demonic possession (including Satanic possession).
  5. The Bible teaches that Angels and demons (including Gabriel, Michael and Satan) exist (and we have good reason to trust what the Bible teaches).
  6. Christian tradition teaches that Angels and demons (including Satan) exist.
  7. Jesus teaches that Angels and demons (including Satan) exists (and we have good reason to trust what Jesus teaches.
  8. The hypothesis that demons exist provides a partial explanation of how it is that God and evil are compatible realities.
  9. Given the existence of God, there is a continuous pattern of hierarchy in creation that seems to come to a unique, aesthetically abrupt and unexpected end, unless angels exist. (P. Williams 2002, 142-143)

It is therefore reasonable to suppose that it is the case that Angels exist and that they have a continual influence over both good and bad outcomes. It is also the case that God allows such creatures the freedom to choose either good or bad—to love and serve God or to deny God any allegiance whatsoever.

The universe and all that is in it was created by God – the Triune God. Angels also were created but not as a part of the physical universe.

Regarding the existence of the angelic hosts John Lennox (2011) refers to the ‘unannounced arrival’ of the serpent in Genesis 3—a creature that was clearly opposed to God: “A creature that could be described as an ‘alien’— not a biological entity but something extra-terrestrial in origin.”  J.Lennox

Unlike biological entities, angels do not appear to have a ‘shelf-life’—they seem to be much more durable than the normal created entities, such as humankind, and may, as they are incorporeal (unless ‘inhabiting some other life-form),not subject to the effects of entropy as experienced by carbon based creatures.They don’t ‘rust or decay’—they just exist in another realm in the cosmos or—even in a ‘dimension’ as yet undetectable by man or machine. Somehow these ‘creatures’ are given access to this space/time continuum and seem able to do both good and evil—to produce ‘good outcomes’ and ‘harmful outcomes’.

The point here is that such creatures are unlike, anything else in all creation, capable of powerful influence within the physical universe—especially here on earth. Paul Ewart (2009) provides good reason why perceived random events do not eradicate the notion of sovereignty, id est God’s ability to bring about his purposes:

The necessity of chance is seen to be not just an accidental outcome of the laws of nature but an intentional aspect of God’s creating process that preserves both our freedom and his freedom to act. (Ewart, 129)

Lucifer - Estrela da Manhã
Lucifer (aka Satan)

Peter Kreeft (1995) refers to Lucifer as, ‘the Light-bearer’—the greatest of all creatures, highest angel, Top Guy next to God—and he rebelled and invented evil—many of the angels rebelling with him:

Their war was a real war. It is not symbolic language. It was not a physical war, because angels don’t have physical bodies, but it was a real war, a war of wills, of minds, like a war between paralysed telepaths. The military symbols we use for it are not too strong but too weak….The war was more passionate, intense, and terrifying than any physical war or any physical symbol can convey. (Kreeft, 118)

you are here

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth,and his angels with him .(Rev:12:9)

Psalm 24:1 says: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” However, Fallen Angels–the rincipalities & Powers of darkness continue in their quest to defy God’s eternal plan of redemption for the creatures made in His image.However, the offensive is against the followers of Christ–against all and any who might turn to Christ for rescue and redemption.

Fallen Angles/Demons: Incorporeal Creatures and their ‘influence’ on Carbon-Based-Life:

 Jude 9 (pretty powerful). Matthew 13:38,39 (sower). Acts 5:3 (in the heart). 1 Peter 5:8 (a roaring lion). Job 1:6ff (afflicting disease); 2:7. John 8:44 (a liar and a murderer)The devil is obviously a ‘being’, not an abstract concept. He isn’t ugly either.  (2 Corinthians 11:14) Ezekiel 28:11-19: eleven (perfect in beauty) ; fourteen (ordained an arch angel); fifteen  (used to be blameless – until; seventeen (thrown down to the earth)

So, there [IS] another force[s] operating  in the world.

  • Satan, the “god of this age,” 2 Corinthians 4:4,
  • He’s the ruler of the kingdom of the air,” Ephesians 2:2,
  • He’s the author of horrible plots and crafty schemes, Ephesians 6:11
  • He blinds the world and threatens to destroy it, Colossians 2:8.

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“As from 1600 hours today, we are at war with Germany.”(Winston Churchill)

⊕End Part One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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