Evil from a theologians point of view
By textbook definition, evil is "What is morally wrong, what hinders the realization of good" (Webster). If that is evil, then what is good? It's "what is morally excellent, virtuous, well behaved, dutiful." (Webster) Philosophers have argued over what evil is and why it exists for thousands of years. They have raised questions like 'How can there be a God if there is evil?' These questions were raised due to God's nature: he is said to be all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. If this is the case, why doesn't he stop evil? And, since people are supposed to be created in God's image, why are they capable of moral evil? If one believes that God exists, there can only be one answer: evil exists because God allows it, and moral evil exists because God has given us freedom of choice.
Evil has been looked at in many different ways throughout the years. Philosophers like Socrates and Plato believed evil was a matter of ignorance. Ancient Persians saw good and evil as two principles, "engaged in a perpetual struggle."(Collier) In reality, evil is merely the absence of good. "The essence of all reality is good, evil is merely the faulty reflection of reality found in a world of particulars."(Funk & Wagnalls) There can be many different types of evil. Two of such types are moral evil and natural evil. Natural evil consists of things like pain and suffering, while moral evil consists of making 'bad' decisions. "Moral evil depends on the exercise of human will; natural evil is independent of this." (MacGregor) The main difference between these two evils is that people are unable to control natural evil, while moral evil depends on their will. Some people even say physical evil is a human necessity; "Without the evil of pain, man would not be warned of illness and of danger". (Colliers) In life, there are times where 'bad' people are better off than 'good' people. Why is this? Some say it is a test for the soul, and rewards await us. "The human family is as one, and its members help one another by their good actions as the also cause suffering to one another for their faults"(Collier). As an example, take what happened to Jesus. He suffered for all sins of mankind, and through this saved them all. But what of moral evil, which consists of things like murder, which people can control? Why does God permit it if the consequences are undesirable?
To understand why moral evil exists, the concept of free will must be understood.
Freedom of choice, or free will is "the power and exercise of unhampered choice." (Webster) Therefore humans are capable of making their own decisions and doing whatever they please. Freedom doesn't mean an absence of influences, rather that these influences do not force a person to decide in a certain way, and he/she can choose between these influences (e.g. A man thinks a walk outside would be a good idea because he needs fresh air. But, the man is tired and doesn't really feel like it. He must choose which 'path' to follow ) People don't always know the influences that act upon them all the time; some of these are subconscious. Certain people would say that if they knew these subconscious motivations, our behavior could be explained and free will would be nullified, since our behavior would always be predictable. "Advocates of free will do not deny that these unconscious causes exist, simply that it is a positive casual influence added to the equation." (Royce) Let's say, for example, a person wanted to hurt another. This person might not know why, but can still choose not to. Therefore if a person's moral character is well known, his decisions are most likely predictable and not random. Thus, free will is not random, not completely determined, but necessary for the development of moral character. That is why moral evil exists. It is a side-effect of free will. "Christian philosophy has always attributed the presence of evil in the world to the actions of a man's free will." (Collier) To understand, the situation must first be analyzed. Since God is all-good, 'doing' good would be doing something which God himself would do or approve to. Therefore doing evil would be the opposite; doing something which God wouldn't do or approve to. Going back to a previous question, why would God want us to be capable of moral evil?
"if it is not a logical impossibility for man to choose good on one or even
several occasions, then there is no logical impossibility for man to choose
good on every occasion", "If it was open to an omnibenevolent God the possibility of creating beings who freely choose good, and He did not take
this opportunity, this would prove that He is not omnipotent.", " If God is
all-powerful He should have made human beings perfect. A perfect God
should create perfect beings." (Mackie)
To answer all of there arguments, one must look at God's relationship to people
and what his motives are. What God really wants is to have people like him and to have a close relationship to him. If God created people so they chose good on every occasion, he would be the cause of their behavior. God is known to be 'the source of what good', good itself. Therefore the best choice a person could make would be to have a close relationship to God. However, if God created humans always to make this choice, they would not be free compared to him. Why would he want us to freely choose to have a close relationship to him? "Free will, though it makes evil possible, is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having." (Lewis) There are many examples that can prove this. Let's take one of true love. In case one, a man wants to marry a woman, but knows she isn't interested in him. He forces the woman to marry him and tells her that she will love him. Deep down, this man knows she resents and probably hates him. Now in case two, a man asks a woman to marry him, and she says yes because she loves him. Their relationship is one where their love is genuine and can grow. Now, apply this to God. Because he loves us, he gives us the choice to decide whether or not to follow him.
"To have created men without freedom would mean that man could not
freely love and serve God, or in any way contribute to his own salvation." (Collier) "You have the freedom of choice to accept God, which
is to love Him, or to reject Him, which is to decline to love him."
Despite all opposing arguments, God is all-good and all-powerful. Moral evil is in part caused by free will and free will is the only way that allows true love and good moral character to grow. Some may say that they don't agree with this statement, and, by exercising the gift of free will continue to separate themselves from God. But, if God is the greatest good, why would one want to distance themselves from him? If God is the greatest good, an appropriate response would seem to get to know Him.
*** really sorry, but I lost the bibliography ***
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