Defining Evil

000“There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.”  Edmund Burke

An atheist professor told his class that he was going to prove that God doesn’t exist.  Standing on a platform he said, “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform.  I’ll give you 15 minutes.”   The professor kept taunting God down to the last couple of minutes, saying, “Here I am God.  I’m still waiting.”   A Marine, recently released from active duty, and newly registered in the professor’s class, walked up and hit the professor full force in the face, sending him flying from his platform.  The professor, obviously shaken yelled “What’s the matter with you?  Why did you do that?”  To which the Marine replied, “God was busy, so He sent me!”

That God permits evil to exist is taken by nonbelievers as an inarguable sign that there is no God.   After all, if God existed, why would he permit evil to exist?  That question has occupied the minds of great Christian thinkers since the beginning.   St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) rationalized that the answer to that question was a question –  What is evil?

Is there any convincing evidence that a good God exists?  If independent evidence leads us to conclude that God exists and is good, then He would be incapable of creating evil.  So what is the source of evil?    Augustine observed that evil always injures, and such injury is a deprivation of good.  If there were no deprivation, there would be no  injury.  Since all things were made with goodness, evil must the privation of goodness.  “All which is corrupted is deprived of good.”

Good has substantial being; evil does not.  It is like a moral hole, a nothingness that results when goodness is removed.  Just as a shadow is no more than a hole in light, evil is a hole in goodness.   Evil therefore must be something real, but not a ‘thing’ in the conventional sense.  Evil is not a created thing, but spoiled goodness made possible by the free moral agency of rational creatures.  Evil is not something present, but something missing, a privation.   God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim.   Evil is the absence of God, just as cold is the absence of heat and dark is the absence of light!

Being good or evil is a conscious choice.   God is not a dictator. “. . .for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” [Rev. 4:11]  God created mankind with free will so that we may enter into a loving and intimate relationship with Him, made possible through Christ.  Although free will makes evil possible, it is the only thing that makes possible a true loving relationship with God.

What we see happening around us today is the downward spiral of self-destructive choices  resulting  from the rejection of God.   Every cause has an effect, every word is intention manifest, every action leads to an equal and opposite reaction.  God created a universe with His moral law as its foundation and there are natural consequences in rejecting that moral law.

Moral Relativism teaches that values are subjective,  there is no moral standard by which to judge others therefore, we must tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.   How does one define evil when moral relativism rules the day?   Does bad only become evil when it serves a purpose?

Whether we realize it or not, moral relativism is the air we breathe, the background noise in our culture. Tolerance has become the ultimate virtue, not truth.   When morality is reduced to personal taste, people exchange the moral question, what is good, for the pleasure question, what feels good.  Instead of morality constraining pleasure, pleasure defines morality.    If society is the final measure of morality, then all its judgments are moral by definition.

For evil to exist there must be some things that are objectively wrong.  Evil as a value judgment marks a departure from some standard of moral perfection.  But if there is no standard, there is no departure.  Moral laws suggest a moral law giver. A personal God who provides an absolute standard of goodness offers the best explanation for the existence of morality and since  morals are not material principles but rather  commands, a violation is not just a broken rule, but an offense against the person who made the rule.

Some will argue  that they do not need God to have morality.  They can live a moral life even though they do not believe in a divine being.   But shouldn’t the question be why should they go to the inconvenience of denying themselves anything in the name of some standard that exists only in someone’s  imagination?

A moral atheist is like a man sitting down to dinner who does not believe in farmers, ranchers, fisherman, or cooks.  He believes the food just appears, with no explanation and no sufficient cause. Which is silly.  Either his meal is an illusion or someone provided it.  In the same way, if morals exist then some cause adequate to explain the effect must account for them.  God is the only  reasonable explanation.

Morality grounded in God explains our hunger for justice, our desire for a day of final judgment when all wrongs are made right, when innocent suffering is finally redeemed, when all the guilty are punished and the righteous are rewarded.  This also explains our own personal sense of guilt caused by sin.  We feel guilty because we are guilty.  We know deep down inside that we have offended a morally perfect Being, who out of His love for His creation, has given us the ability for restoration and regeneration; but only if we desire to partake of it.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”   Rev. 3:20


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