Recently, an acquaintance of some of us at RenewAmerica died in a tragic house fire. The man--an unpretentious, widely-admired retired small farmer--was 96.
His wife, also in her nineties, died a few days later from serious injuries suffered in the tragedy.
The cause of the fire was an old wood-burning stove that malfunctioned. The farmer and his wife had lived in their modest frame house for several decades, had raised an outstanding family (many of whom lived nearby), and had become one of the best-liked couples in the quiet rural community in which they spent most of their lives.
To many, the tragedy was shocking--not to mention senseless.
Consider that many years ago, this remarkable man had lost the family farm while he and his wife were in Europe doing volunteer charity work. It seems that while they were gone, their sons persuaded them to mortgage the family's land to launch a sheep operation that went sour. The man and his wife lost nearly everything.
How could such a good man suffer such tragedy?
Evil can take many forms. Among things that could be broadly classified as evil are the following:
"Acts of God," so-called.
Sinful or intentionally-hurtful behavior by others.
Sinful of self-destructive behavior by ourselves.
The first two are often labeled "adversity" by those who suffer them--and may not necessarily be considered literally "evil" (that is "wrongful") in the Biblical sense of the term. They may be considered simply expressions of unwanted or extreme hardship, pain, suffering, or other serious trouble that besets us.
The second and third, of course, are simply personal error or sin.
Whether evil is defined as wrongful behavior or just the consequences of unforeseen calamity--from whatever source--evil is anything that hinders, harms, frustrates, diminishes, or otherwise unpleasantly diverts us in our chosen pursuits.
If "good" is that which maximizes our happiness (as most of us would probably concede), then it follows that "evil" is that which impedes it.
It is this meaning of evil that the dictionary describes in these words: "Evil: anything that causes harm, pain, misery, disaster, etc." (Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition). The other common meaning of evil--"anything morally bad or wrong"--could actually be considered a form of the first, since sinful behavior is ultimately injurious to those who commit it, as well as to others in the way.
A few centuries ago, the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz developed a theory upon which our modern term "optimism" derives. Leibniz believed that the evil that exists in the world can be explained--as well as justified--by asserting that God has created the "best of all possible worlds" for His purposes.
Consider that idea.
Is it possible that the "evil" (hardship, misery, suffering, calamity, pain, death, etc.) that exists on earth is something God allows--and sometimes directly causes--in order to help us, refine us, teach us, humble us, etc., for the intended purpose of giving us opportunity to grow?
We may not like to think of such adversity as a blessing, and we can certainly cite examples of people who seem to have become worse for the experience, but is it possible that it is our attitude toward adversity--not adversity itself--that determines the ultimate effect of such unwanted hardship?
Is it not possible, also, that adversity constitutes God's main way of "helping" us? How could He make us like Himself without giving us the kinds of refining experiences--that is, trouble--that causes us to come to grips with ourselves, our weaknesses, our foolishness, our pride, our lack of submissiveness to his will?
Such issues are worth pondering.
The evil in us
This leads us to the issue of human nature. Whether we consider man fundamentally evil or fundamentally good--or something in between--the self-evident fact is that all human beings possess at least some measure of intrinsic evil in their hearts. For a well-intentioned person, this fact is motivation for a lifelong pursuit of continual improvement, through seeking to please and emulate God.
In a sense, we're back to last week's Question of the Week. But with a different slant. The challenge this week is to define not so much how we can become good, but how we can overcome the evil within us. That's a significantly different perspective--even if the outcome of the second coincides with the first.
How do we rid ourselves of the evil that causes us to hurt ourselves, our loved ones, our fellow beings? What is involved in such transformation--and is it really possible to achieve it in a substantial way? We're not talking about "divine perfection," just the need to overcome what the scriptures call the "natural man"?
Do you have a pessimistic view of your own evil--or an optimistic one? Apparently, Leibniz believed that "good will ultimately prevail over evil." Do we believe that about ourselves?
And do we hold such optimism toward the world around us? Do we really believe that the truth and goodness of God will ultimately prevail over the evil influences in this present environment in which we live--and does this belief give us hope for doing something about it?
We'd like to know your thoughts on our . . .
Question of the Week
December 7, 2003
Last week's Forum asked what it means to be good. This week, let's look at the flip-side of the issue and consider what evil is--what it means, why it exists, what it does to us, what (if anything) God has to do with it, and how we can overcome it, personally and as a society. As we do so, let's consider the perspective of the German philosopher Leibniz, who considered this world "the best of all possibilities" for its divine purpose and believed in the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
What do you understand the word "evil" to mean? How does it differ from the term "adversity"--or are they basically the same thing? Why did God, being good, create a world that includes the existence of evil? What is your response to those skeptics who say that the existence of evil is evidence of God's nonexistence, since--they claim--a good God would not create such an evil world? Does the existence of evil in our world have intentional value for good--paradoxical as that may sound--and how can that be? How does our ATTITUDE toward the evil (or adversity) we experience influence the possibility for any good that might come from such suffering? How do you explain the evil that exists in each of our hearts, and how do we overcome such personal evil? What can we do, personally and individually, to ensure the triumph of good over evil in our society--and how can each of us "overcome the world" that may persecute, hinder, frustrate, or tempt us? Finally, how did our Founders view such fundamental questions of human existence, God, society, and personal duty?
For many years, I have been fascinated by the fact that "evil" spelled backwards is "live". My contention, therefore, is that any action, desire or intent that goes against and disallows the primary requirement of "live", living or allowing to live as God intended must necessarily be evil...
1. Sher - NM - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 09:44:30 am Central Time
First of all, my condolences to the RenewAmerica staff on the loss of their friends.
The question, "Why did God, being good, create a world that includes the existence of evil?" is built on an error. God did not create a world that includes evil - He created it "good" and "very good" (Gen. 1), but within his creation were/are moral beings. Moral beings have the capacity for evil. After Man sinned, that capacity became a propensity.
I also respectfully disagree with the definition, "evil is anything that hinders, harms, frustrates, diminishes, or otherwise unpleasantly diverts us in our chosen pursuits."
These common usages of the word "evil," reveal a very short-term and nearsighted view. The overall arc of your question is correct; that even hardships and adversity and 'trespasses against us' which would fall under this narrow definition of evil, will redound to God's glory and can be of eventual benefit to us.
The ultimate example of this was the cross. The execution of Jesus was the most evil thing ever perpetrated by men. It was an absolute rejection of all that is good and a crowning of Self as idol-god. But God had planned it. He was using/allowing the sinfulness of Man to bring about good beyond imagination.
To address your "application" question - the evil within - this cannot be conquered by reforming our warped sinful nature. It can only be conquered by acquiring a new nature, and submitting, moment-by-moment, to the Giver.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone." (James 1:13)
2. Dan Popp - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 09:59:20 am Central Time
I consider evil to be harmful acts against self or one or more other persons that are committed by choice, whether as primary actions or as reactions to a perceived previous and worse evil suffered by the perpetrator.
Advesity, on the other hand, means hardships suffered as a result of circumstances which are not the result of conscious, chosen acts of other persons. An example is illness in the family. Another is suffering caused by loss of a job or business due to economic slowdown. Andother is a physical handicap a person was born with or suffered as a result of an accident.
If we assume that God created this world of evil, His plan must necessarily have been some sort of testing ground, giving mortals the opportunity and responsibility of choosing between good and evil throughout their lives. The result could be the kind of place inhabited by souls for eternity. The alternatives are (1) that God could have created robots, incapable of doing evil (which is what many men would have done); or (2) that this is a world of Satan's creation, not God's.
Evil in this world does not disprove God's existence. That the created could not have created itself is self-evident. The only question is, What is the nature of the Creator? Even without the support of the Bible, I believe that nature to be Good. I shall explain why below. But skeptics and believers both should consider whether this world and this universe are the sum total of all that exists. What about other dimensions?
How do I explain the evil that exists in each of our hearts? By two things: (1) the needs and desires of the flesh, and (2) our mortality, or human vulnerability. These are interrelated.
Our flesh makes us WANT, and our mortality makes us afraid. Fear is, in my opinion, the chief source of evil. "Perfect love casteth out all fear." Then, it must follow that imperfect love involves fear to varying degrees. Most evil is caused by reaction to perceived prior -- and, of course, worse (so we always judge)-- acts of evil suffered by us. We must "pay back." Sometimes, we do this only because it makes us "feel better." And sometimes, we do this in self-defense of some kind. The most important words Jesus uttered as a precept are: "Resist not evil." There is absolutely no way we can resist evil without committing further evil. If are to be morally good, the buck must stop with us. But it is very hard to turn the other cheek and experience suffering, injury, or even death of self or loved ones. That is why supreme courage is the sine qua non of morality. And there is certainly no way one could get an entire nation to "turn the other cheek." So morality must exists solely in individuals. The morality of the group can never reach the level of one moral person. One cannot achive the same level of morality as a member of a group that he can alone. One final word on this score, being a "reactor" makes us subject to the will and acts of the "actor," which means subject to evil.
How do we overcome the evil in our hearts? By not resisting evil. We need not fear what will happen to evil. There will always be other evil people or groups or nations that will do the resisting, so evil is always self-canceling. Each evil entity SEES the evil that exists elsewhere and (thinking itself the good) combats it. The naturally good entity, meanwhile, concentrates on doing positive acts of good. (of course, in speaking of "good" entity and humans in the same breath, we must speak in relative terms, since none of us achieves perfect morality in the world of the flesh.) The "original sin" must be the adopting, the wearing of the flesh.
How can we "overcome" the world? We can't. We can make a decent job of overcoming our own fears, the chief cause of our evil, if we try very hard. To do that, we need not only courage, but we need a refined sense of values, a sense of what is really important -- not merely in this world, but in eternity, assuming this world is, in fact, a training ground. I'm one of those folks who believe we are already eternal beings. The question is not whether we shall survive this mortal world, but where our next and permanent home will be. Jesus said, "My Father's house hath many mansions," which I interpret to mean worlds or dimensions. I rather suspect that our eternal "rest" will be taken with souls who are pretty much like us, of our own moral category. The question we must all askourselves with perfect honesty is whether we would be happy in a world of "uses." (That's my plural of "us.")
From my readings, it doesn't appear that the Founders explored all these questions in public speech or print. Rather, they evinced a simple faith in a Supreme Being, Who has a plan for his Creation, that plan requiring individual freedom to work itself out. I'm sure the Founders pondered these matters deeply but wished to inject in political matters only the simplest statements of belief that could secure general agreement. What I have written above, for instance, will engender many differences of opinion. The Founders were wiser than I.
The Founders, rather than getting bogged down in theological questions and arguments, concentrated on individual's need for freedom to secure his life and liberty and pursue happiness for himself, his family, and his posterity. Their position was that these are natural rights granted by God, which can only be guaranteed and secured by a Constitution.
Now, the bible aside, why do I believe that God is Good. For starters, He has no fears or vulnerabilities. If "Perfect love casteth out all fear," the the total absence of fear must be Perfect Love. God respects us. He gave us freedom. God first had faith in us, before asking us to have faith in Him. In humans we sense everywhere the need to "control." This need stems from impotence and fear. Those who fear the most control the most. Hence, governments tend to try to control every aspect of our lives. Governments are in constant fear -- fear of their incapacity to govern, fear of political opponents, fear of the electorate, fear of domestica and foreign enemies. "By their fruits, ye shall know them."
Anyway, these are my beliefs.
3. William W. Bayes - Simi Valley, CA - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 10:01:49 am Central Time
According to the American Dictionary, "evil" is defined as: "Morally bad or wrong; wicked." By definition then, any immoral act is bad, or wrong. However, by what yardstick do we measure what is immoral, or bad?
Here is where the real problem is, because in our society, people have adopted different value systems. The liberal left has decided that it is not wrong to murder babies by abortion, whether or not the woman's life is endanger. There value system allows them to do this with little or no pang of conscience.
The liberal left, sees no wrong in having their president, Bill Clinton, commit perjury, and then use the powers of government to go after those who did not share there point of view. Their value system fully supported their decision in this in this area.
The acts of terror being conducted today are viewed as freedom fighters by those who support their cause, and terrorist by those opposed to it. How then, can one develop a value system that will allow one to do good, and not commit immoral, or bad acts?
Perhaps one of the first steps is to establish what is right, or truthful in our points of view. If our position is incorrect, then we need to change it if we are not to do what is evil, immoral, or bad.
Today, mankind has a tendency to accept the personal philosophy of other men, rather than to accept God's point of view that is found in the Bible. No amount of rationalizatio can change the truth, only our point of view. It is this kind of rationalization that allows people to murder unborn babies via abortion and justify it in their own minds.
Why do people find it so hard to accept God's point of view, and yet find it so easy to accept man's point of view? To this day, evolution is a theory unsupported by facts. Darwin himself said in his own writings that if the missing link could not be found, his whole theory would collapse. Yet his theory in one form or another is taught in our educational system to this day.
In the Book of Proverbs it makes an interesting point. "There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward." This is so very true, and in the case of abortion, it is consider right in the eyes of many, and the end result means death to the unborn children.
What is good or bad, right or wrong, morally correct, or totally immoral cannot be decided by government, or a political party. What is morally correct must come from the source of all life, the Most High God. His principles of truth have been given to man so that a proper value system can be developed. What is morally correct, good, or right can only be established by using His Word as a guide, and not the word of man, whose thinking is flawed, not to mention self-centered.
If man chooses to rely on the opinion of men, then he will suffer accordingly. He will feel the pain of divorce, the deep sense of loss when members of his family die because of a drug overdose, or the pain when they discover that the one they love has also shared their bodies with others and have been unfaithful. God would save us this pain, but man rejects God's point of view and in it's place does what he wants.
The choice then is ours. What path will we walk? What values will we fight for in this world that is opposed to God and His principles of truth? Wwhen God does decide that it is time to intervene, on what side of the fence will we find ourselves standing?
Our future depends on the decision we make. Both for the immediate time period, or the time period to come. Out lives and our happiness is at stake. It has been said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it? Man has a little over 6,000 years of recorded history. What have we learned from it? Only time will be able to reveal the answer.
Again in the Book of Proverbs it says: "The understanding heart is one that searches for knowledge, but the mouth of the stupid people is one that aspires to foolishness."
Since this is a discussion of good and bad, or good and evil, it is interesting that Proverbs also shows a very personal reason for our taking this issue seriously. "All the days of the afflicted one are bad; but the one that is good at heart has a feast constantly."
Perhaps, if only for selfish reasons, we should take God's point of view seriously. It can no only favorably impact our immediate life, but the life to come.
Kenneth Sherman Palmdale, California
5. Kenneth Sherman - Palmdale, California - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 12:37:01 pm Central Time
What can we do to conquer evil? My number one heartache in this whole debate is christians themselves. We need to quit giving lip service to God in the pews and as soon as we are out the door..bammm..we are pro-choice, pro-euthanasia, etc...doesnt anyone catch on to the media thrill when another Catholic votes for the killing of the unborn..they make sure we all know who the Catholics are and how they vote. As Christians I feel we owe allegiance to God first not some "party".
6. Mary Ellen Daubenberger - Dubuque, Ia - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 01:06:56 pm Central Time
The Holiness of God Unbesmirched by Evil Happenings
RenewAmerica Forum, The problem of evil in light of the perfections of God is often called "theodicy." The first thing we must acknowledge is God's absolute providential rule. Any view of the problem of evil that does not take His absolute rule into account is missing the key factor. Scripture proof for that is in many portions of Scripture. Examples--He "works all things after the counsel of His own will."Eph 1:11 This is one place in Scripture where "all" means literally "all" rather than "all" as used in entirety of certain limited and particular categories. Proof: Psalm 135:6 "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places." Note that this is an Old Testament text and that it fully agrees with the New Testament text of Eph.1:11 cited above. That truth is also valid for things which are difficult to bear (which some call cross providences.)Examples: "Shall there be evil in a city and the LORD has not done it?" Amos 3:6 Isaiah 45:7: "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the LORD do all these things." Job 37:11,12 "He scatters His bright cloud; and it is turned round about by His counsels, that they may do whatsoever He commands them upon the face of the world in the earth." This is His absolute providential rule over nature's forces. Again--"Fire and hail; snow and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling His word." Psalm 148:8 After acknowledging His providential rule, we next need to realize That God's motivation in an event may be altogether different from the motivation of wicked people who are involved in the same event. Joseph's brothers purposed evil against him--cast him down into a well, then later sold him into slavery in Egypt. This was, to man's eyes, wholly evil, yet God's motivation was just and pure (see Gen. 50:20) as are all His ways. See Gen.37:18-50:20 for the entire episode. Christ's work of atonement is another example of men doing evil while at the same time, God's just purpose is being accomplished, but the motivations of those who slew Him were different from God's motivation. Again, it could be said that they "meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." Gen.50:20 Therefore, though men view an event as only evil, nevertheless God created it and His holy purpose is in it. Neither does the fact that evil men were active in a certain providence mean that God was in someway tainted by that association. God did not tempt them with evil.He merely removed His restraint upon their evil nature. That restraint which He earlier exercised being gone, they immediately fell under the weight of their own evil nature into that evil to which He had given them up. See Romans 1:24,26,28 and Psalm 81:11,12. Neither was it evil of God to give them up to the evil in their hearts. God's restraint upon evil men is a gift to them of His common grace, His unmerited favor to them of which they are not worthy. His grace is His to dispense as He pleases. If He witholds it and men act according to their own nature, the fault is not in Him. It is certain that in every matter, God is active and His purpose is just. For every point made, there are a host of other proof texts which I did not use for the sake of brevity.
7. Ralph Earnest - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 02:19:41 pm Central Time
I see evil as the opposite of God's love. Anything that goes contrary to God's will and his Commandments for our lives is evil. The founding fathers just wanted there not to be a national religion ie. Methodism or Catholicism, but not to exclude God from the foundation of government. All of the founding fathers believed in God.
Evil includes homosexuality, Islam, false religions, and trying to remove evidence of the one true God from the public square. People want to think that they can sugar coat evil and make it OK, but God knows and he will judge us. "Call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
8. Martha Brothers - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 03:13:28 pm Central Time
William (#3) brings up an excellent point. Evil stems from fear. Those who trust in God and do His will need not fear; they know that they're heading to the rigt place.
Jules has stated that his Biblical views tell him we need to fear. Disease, competition, the need to drive on an interstate, are all, to Jules, requirements to accede to those who seek control over our lives. He fears trusting the individual's God-given abilities as our Founders did.
Fear of somebody else making a bad decision gives us the rationale to coerce everyone. We are wise, and they aren't, so we need fear and control their foolishness. Where did we get the hubris to deny God's spirit operating in somebody else while having the absolute certainty that our own need to control accurately reflects God's will?
Politicians use fear all the time -- fear of the other party being elected; of somebody else getting rich; of having to take responsibility for our own decisions; of somebody else consuming an herb; the list is endless. Fear and control are to the pols one and the same.
Is the person who promotes fear after fear doing evil? Is a building full of over a half thousand fearmongers an institution consonant with Biblical values? Just asking.
9. David Hines - Pittsburgh PA - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 07:20:41 pm Central Time
What Evil Is Not Evil is not the opposite of good. In fact, in early Christian times it was considered heresy to say so. The Manichees (who gave their name to the modern expression, "a Manichean struggle," to mean a fight between good and evil) argued that there was a distinct force of evil (the devil) in the universe opposing a distinct force of good (God). The early Christians realized that the implication of this doctrine was that if evil was the equal and opposite of good, then evil must have existed alongside good at the creation of the universe. In other words, the doctrine sets the devil up on an equal plane with God. But it seems to me to be obvious that evil is not the equal and opposite of good. Borrowing an argument used by C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity", evil is neither creative nor exists in itself. All evil ever is or can be is a perversion of the good which God created. In Lewis's words: "You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong - only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him....Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness." At this point people are usually searching their memory banks for some senseless evil to prove that it does exist in itself. The name Adolf Hitler invariably comes up. But did Hitler do all of the horrible things he did out of a desire to be evil? And did the German people follow him out of that same desire? Of course not, Hitler appealed to the pride, patriotism, and desire for a better life of the German people. All of these are good things in and of themselves, and everything that was done in Nazi Germany was in service of them. The implication of all of this is that evil is not the equal and opposite of good. The devil is a created being who has no power other than to twist other created things in an attempt to distract our attention from the ultimate good. Thus he used human pride (in small, healthy doses an unquestionably good thing) to engineer the fall of man. And he continues to twist positive goods like desire for a better life, pleasure, patriotism, and convenience into the false gods of greed, hedonism, flag worship, and a right to choose whether an unborn human lives or dies. Finally, on the question of optimism, I can only say this. Temporal success is not an indicator of rightness. We may win the cultural battles raging around us, or we may be in the Collusseum facing the lions tomorrow. It doesn't matter, my faith will not waver, for my optimism is not directed toward this world.
10. sam - tx - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 04:32:24 pm Central Time
I can't get away from the concept of God's will. But then again, I doubt there is any escaping it anyway.
When one opens the Bible to page one, Book of Genesis, they read a story of creation, but within that story is one of the most important lessons and central themes of all the Bible. We learn that God created a paradise that was all for Adam and Eve to enjoy however they wished. There was only one thing in all creation that was not for them, and was God's. That was the forbidden fruit. Everyone knows this story, there's no need to repeat it. However, I feel that emphasis is usually placed on a part of the story that's not the most significant. That is the fact that Adam and Eve disobeyed God's only command. The more interesting part of the story to me, is the reason that the CHOSE to disobey God's will. It was the empty promise made by the serpent, that they could be as gods themselves if they ate the fruit. They were not content to just enjoy what God had given them and to follow God's will. They wanted to be as gods themselves so they could be omnipotent, and make up their own rules, and shape the world to their liking.
For this sin, the first sin, the very introduction of evil into the world, all of humanity was punished. There would be forbidden fruit everywhere and a constant struggle to follow the will of God, and to not give into the temptations of the varied forbidden fruits.
This appears to be what the socialist left is doing to us. They are turning the country away from God. They are trying to replace God--to replace His laws and morals, to act as decision maker for the course that the entire world will take. They are damning us all because of their arrogance and disregard for God's will for us. The path of following God's will is the path of least resistance, but the hardest thing is getting started, for that requires us to give up our foolish sense of control, and our pride and ego that falsely tells us that we know what's best. This is the serpent talking to us. We need to know who to listen to--who has our best interest at heart. -----------------------------------------------------------
God is just.
There were a few things in TQOTW that Dan Popp mentioned that I also questioned. But actually there were some of the answers there within in the question.
I sincerely believe that God is just. That God's justice is the ultimate fairness. One very weak argument that many atheists give is, "Why would God allow so much badness in the world?" This view, I believe, has the wrong perspective. Much of the "success" philosophy today, tells us to see the bad things that happen to us as challenges. We are told to perceive those challenges as good, and as experiences that allows for growth--that teach us needed lessons in life. I can buy into this. The changed perception of seeing bad things as challenges and lessons that help us is more useful to us. It also gives me the feeling that God is showing me what I still need to learn. I don't feel that it's a good perspective to think that God punishes us just for punishment's sake. He wants us to grow. He want's us to be closer to him, and for our faith to become deeper. It is in this sense that I say that God is just. What is seen by bad or evil by many could be also seen as opportunities to grow, it all depends on perspective.
I believe God teaches us the right lessons at the right times. When my head is screwed on right, and one of these "challanges" occur, I can almost welcome it.
11. Brendan - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 04:45:38 pm Central Time
Such an important thing to discuss this evil. I recall that before George Bush began using the word "evil" to describe the terrorist acts of 9-11, there was very little use of that word in the public square. I imagine that it's because it's a word that could make some people feel uncomfortable, and the PC police couldn't allow anyone to be offended. I also imagine that the concept of "evil" was of concern to the postmodern police as well, because if there's evil, then there must be good as well, and they don't like absolute terms like these. They don't even believe that there is such a thing as absolute good or evil.
Now that I mention it, you don't hear the word "sin" much anymore either. I wonder if that one will ever come back?
12. Brendan - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 04:50:50 pm Central Time
RenewAmerica Forum, according to the Bible, God made us free moral agents; so OUR OWN CHOICES cause both good and bad things to happen to us. Of course, when the bad things happen to us, or when we commit evil deeds, we still have the wonderful privilege of repenting and asking God to forgive us, as well as to forgive those who commit evil against us...IF we are children of God (if we have obeyed His commands). We also have the privilege of asking him to help us fight against evil.
In my opinion, evil is anything that is done in opposition to God's revealed will. That is also the definition of the word "sin". If we go against God's word, we sin... we have committed an evil act. Those who don't believe in God or His word deny that the bad things they do can be called sin. They made wrong decisions; but, to them, they haven't sinned, because they don't possess a sense of moral responsibility.
When good things happen to us, we tend to feel that we have earned them, and take credit for them. On the other hand, some people call those good things "miracles". But if they study the Bible, they will understand that miracles, as such, don't happen on earth now. What we might CALL miracles are really answers to prayer...not miracles.
When bad things happen to us, we can't blame God...or think he allowed them to happen, or caused them to happen in order to punish us. IT'S ALL ABOUT OUR CHOICES, whether we like it or not. We are free moral agents, and responsible for our thoughts and deeds, be they good or evil. Of course, some evil acts can happen to us as a result of the choices of those who commit the evil acts against us. We can only try to defend ourselves against such, and ask God to help us. But the fact that they happened is not God's fault...or ours, necessarily.
15. Nancy - Posted on Dec 8, 2003, at 07:43:42 pm Central Time
It’s a challenge. Almost all of us wrestle with a mean streak. Good people, being pious, keep their dark side on a short leash. At times, too short, when it would be nice to let it loose for good cause. In an evil world of manipulative, opportunistic schemers, is it a dubious strategy to always turn the other cheek? Mostly, some schemer(s) will victimize you for showing such ‘weakness.’ Mercy is often abused and scorned. People grow more and more callous. Many use the power of darkness for unfair advantage, for evil. It’s hard to not blatantly break rules and willfully mock conventional civility when you see the materialistic rewards accrued by those who do.
Children struggle with deciding to work in McDonalds or to deal drugs at great risk for high reward. As we’re all enslaved to an addictive dependency on money, it’s very difficult to rebuff being bad.
1. What do you understand the word "evil" to mean? “Evil” connotes specific odious intent for me. Attaching a “d” onto the front of evil yields the word devil. Coincidence or not, it keeps me focused on the distinction that separates evil from “adversity,” bad luck and the like. Evil intent implies premeditation to commit some evil act(s), usually to inflict harm. Committing evil to inflict harm usually is a losing proposition for the victim.
2. How does it differ from the term "adversity"--or are they basically the same thing? Natural adversity originates from circumstances that befall us, fatefully. It forces adaptive people to learn. If you’re smart, you use adversity and the resultant experience to shift/upgrade your paradigm for living. And, this does not mean ‘Do unto others before they do unto you!’
When adversity brings a fatal accident, there is no coming back. That’s a tragedy. But, humankind –with each person’s human spirit potential for an immortal soul and eternal life– can’t live forever earthbound. Such fatal adversity steps us closer to Heaven -- as in the case of the good, decent, righteous people the Forum Editor cites in the preamble.
It’s interesting that this Question happens now. I read many things today. As usual, I forgot exactly where half of it was — even though I recall the idea. Here’s an idea for this Question. “If you’re ultimately going to Heaven, then life on earth is the worst hell you’ll know. If you’re not going to Heaven, then life on earth is as heavenly as it gets.”
Miss passage to Heaven ~ get bound to evil and, on a good day, mere adversity. What a hereafter.
3. Why did God, being good, create a world that includes the existence of evil? This returns, to an extent, to our discussions about God-given human free will. We’re not the only beings that God endowed with free wills.
I still believe that greed is the greatest root cause of evil. Yes, greed is one of the seven sins. But, greed of sex is lust. Greedy hoarding of your time to idle away doing nothing is laziness and often breeds slovenliness. Greed of food is gluttony. Gluttony even applies to money and power; politics and business. Greed is like the material of the umbrella. Other sins are spokes. Here’s my point.
God created other beings, gave them free wills and made them responsible to run local affairs in part of His universe. But, their greed for power over their ‘charges’ (us), their greed to be god-like took over. Satan and Lucifer and their minions became the ‘evil’ ones by trying to woo humankind away from God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The rebellion/battle they started has escalated into today’s current events.
They probably believe they’re justified. Law enforcement professionals who go undercover are known to suffer identity crises. They start to relate to those they investigate. They encounter the bad guys’ rationale to do evil, and get immersed in it. Kind of like liberals spinning twisted thinking to justify perversion, socialism, thought control, huuuuuuge big-brother gubmint. theft of liberties, freedoms and inalienable rights. Some fools mistakenly reason that this good. For us? Them? Who?
Trying to turn us away from God is super-faulty intellectualizing. Do the bad guys offer eternal life? No. Do they offer Heaven? No. Do they peddle anything of lasting value? Yeah, if this counts: decades of nihilistic hedonism. Losers buy into that.
4. What is your response to those skeptics who say that the existence of evil is evidence of God's nonexistence, since--they claim--a good God would not create such an evil world? God doesn’t merely “exist.” He lives. The world isn’t evil. It’s a place God loans us to live. Odious beings make it seem evil with the living conditions they establish. Their miniscule minority makes the rules for the majority of us. Their rules are often oppressive, seemingly evil to us overtaxed victims who are forced to subsidize their wealth redistribution schemes. The devils used to have to be everywhere; in every village, town, city and nation. As earth shrinks into a global village, it’s easier to inflict humankind with unholy anti-God ‘laws.’ Control is made easier for the bad guys.
Meanwhile, get some perspective. We experience an ‘evil world’ for a human lifetime. To timeless infinite God, a human lifetime might be as brief as a glimmer in a flicker of light. Blink and miss it. Since God is omnipresent, He doesn’t. Other non-omnipresent timeless beings/devils could. (Still with me?) 2000 years or 5000+ years of ‘civilization’ are like the blink of an eye in the estimated 4-5 billion years the earth has been here. In God’s grand universe, the existence of evil on earth is barely a blip -- except earthlings crucified Jesus Christ. Despite our brief history, we’re on the map.
In time, the Lord will put down the insurrection. He will banish evil.
Those who say God does not exist say so because their extreme micro minds can’t conceive the possibility -reality, really- that on a cosmic scale, the Satanic/Luciferic rebellion we’re enduring is rather small. It’ll run this phase of its course within the next 30 years (consult Bible prophecy), ultimately culminating/resolving in about another 1000 years.
NOTE: The Question 2 weeks ago asked if we believe we’re in the ‘end times.’ I didn’t answer then. I believe within 30 years the Rapture will happen, earth & human remnants will suffer tribulations and Armageddon, and we will ultimately rejoice at the return of Our Lord and His 1000 year reign. Why 30 years? Jesus was born 6 B.C. and lived here until about 30 A.D. There’s a sacred justice in giving humankind 2000 years to flail its way into conflagration. Before 2030 is just about right.
5. Does the existence of evil in our world have intentional value for good--paradoxical as that may sound--and how can that be? It’s like tempering steel, only humankind is partially forged in the crucible of evil. It’s the old cliché that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. In God’s greater plan, humankind from earth has a part. Perhaps our part depends to an extent on our exposure to and experiences dealing with evil.
6. How does our ATTITUDE toward the evil (or adversity) we experience influence the possibility for any good that might come from such suffering? Don’t become a sour-tainted product of your environment. Learn from encounters with evil and adversity. Get better at “heading it off at the pass.” Use “lessons learned” to implement “damage control” as best possible to minimize immediate negative impacts and lasting effects. Believe that you can overcome evil, with God’s grace guiding you. See evil as a foe you must always beat.
7. How do you explain the evil that exists in each of our hearts, and how do we overcome such personal evil? Achieving a balance between the power of light and darkness is, so far, a personal undertaking. Maybe when humans who develop immortal souls graduate from nursery school (earth), we’ll learn a better way to be naturally good all the time. For now, it’s a struggle to resist striking out against bad guys.
I like to think that on a level battlefield, I’d push my will to defeat the devil in combat. We don’t have a level battlefield. Further, evil knows which weaknesses to exploit into vices and/or ongoing evil behavior in each of us. It’s pure evil to exert a formula that chains you and those like you, the varied formula that enslaves others in different ways, the formula that does in me, etc. We’re all tempted into evil of some kind.
We discussed the “lesser of two evils” more than once. The best way I can see -again, so far- to overcome personal evil, is to harness it for outbursts that produce positive results. (example: Months ago, Jules mentioned fighting with insurance companies whose sworn mission is to screw we-the-insured. He said their statistics show that 85% of people give up in frustration. Insurers screw their insured. That’s the insurance business. Better to pitch a fit [let loose your bad side] in a controlled way to force the insurer to be honorable.) If we can confine venting of evil to finely directed bursts at other evil entities, to achieve success against such enemies, makes sense to me.
8. What can we do, personally and individually, to ensure the triumph of good over evil in our society--and how can each of us "overcome the world" that may persecute, hinder, frustrate, or tempt us? Besides practicing what I preach in answer 7 (above), good folks must band and act together.
9. Finally, how did our Founders view such fundamental questions of human existence, God, society, and personal duty? The Founders were prayerful for good reasons. They believed in the Lord, Heaven and most probably, life hereafter. They prayed for guidance. They humbled themselves before the Lord. Etching out lives in a largely untamed land (by western European standards) was a humbling struggle for survival. They prayed for good bounty and were thankful when God granted it to them. They fulfilled their familial duties. Many raised big families. They had to because mortality rates were worse back then. They needed more able bodies in their largely agrarian society.
By contrast, modern man takes for granted the materialistic things our Founders toiled to produce. We don’t have the type of humbling struggle to merely survive that they had. We have time & cash for tattoos, body piercing in many bizarre places, blue & green & pink spiky moussed hair and other stupid self aggrandizements. We can be irresponsible, so that each can “do your own thing.” Many are disrespectful to elders -- a main source of wisdom & knowledge in past generations. Many don’t make time to pray and truly appreciate the magnificence of the Lord’s creations for us here on earth.
All peoples must have a spiritual awakening and return to fundamentals.
18. Antarcticn - Posted on Dec 9, 2003, at 02:03:14 am Central Time
RenewAmerica Forum - Without the existance of evil we would not know good! There would be no example of the opposite.(I hope I have that spelled right)? The reality of our purpose here is to chose on our own between the two. We are most unique with our free will. We are different than the Angels and many other creatures. The things of this life are intertwined with paradoxes. The freedom of choice makes us a unique species in Heaven. That is why evil is here in our reality and society.
20. John Feyen - Lahaina Maui USA - Posted on Dec 9, 2003, at 03:33:42 am Central Time
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