Friday, December 07, 2001

The meaning of bad

Out of the gate, Philosophy 101 hits the freshman minds of aspiring philosophers with some elementary, yet significant philosophical questions.

One example is: "Can God, who is all powerful, create a rock which is so large that He cannot pick it up?" But this type of question is simply a trick for the student. Even these questions lubricate the mind into thinking; these are not significant over time.

Another classic question regards evil. The question leads in like this:

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. We know this is paraphrase from John 1:1 is true, and it implies that in the beginning there was a time when there was nothing but God in his triune self.

Because in the beginning there was God, we can assume there was no evil, as God is good and there was nothing but God. Evil must, therefore, have been created in the time between the beginning and the present day. We know that God created all things. Is evil a creation of God?

Well, young scholar let me tell you, this simple question and prelude kept many a conscientious, Christian thinker staring at the ceiling for hours on end. After all, how could a good God create evil?

Shortly, it is plain that this too is a sort of trap, meant to spin the cognitive cogs in the mind. This question, however, can be extended far beyond that. Let's play the game for a minute.

The problem is the contradiction. Indeed, all things were created by God if we stay within the Christian framework, and we will. But, then, we also know that God is perfect and good - and surely creating evil is an evil in itself.

Here are some possible resolutions:

(1) The universality of God's goodness makes all his actions inherently good. Even an act we might understand as evil would by definition be good because the actor was God.

Pro: It does solve the problem. God just created evil, but it was okay because it was God doing it and all things God does are good, so He is spared from an evil act.

Con: This position allows God to continue in evil and exist in inconsistent contradiction to His very character. We know this is not true.

(2) God created Satan, who as a good angel, elected through the powers given him by God created for himself evil as a mechanism through which he would overcome God's throne.

Pro: The problem is again solved. Satan created evil. Satan is not God and God therefore did not create evil. God is absolved and Satan is condemned.

Con: Allowing for God to grant creative powers to Lucifer, this still does not explain how a creature who has never known evil could create it. Scripture suggests that there was no evil prior to the sin of Lucifer. How could a good mind conceive of something that has never existed? It cannot, unless it is infinite, a characteristic solely God's.

(3) This will be my last example. Evil is an ambient force that permeates all things. In the beginning was God, but in the beginning was evil or at least potential evil, simply unexercised.

Pro: This solution is closer to the actual conclusion than anything. After all, it solves the problem - giving evil an eternal presence that waxes and wanes in accordance to those who would or would not act upon it.

Con: There is no room in a construct of reality for more than one eternal entity. If God is indeed infinite, we understand His nature to then be not only eternal, but omni-everything. He is timeless because he transcends all things, but how can one thing transcend all things when there is something else that transcends all things? It is impossible. If God is infinite, it must be that there was a "before" when there was nothing else.

This is some serious stuff to ponder. Most commute-to-work Christians would have come up with one of those three solutions and would have been quite satisfied to spend the rest of their lives under their conclusion.

Why does it matter to have to correct answer?

First, it is important that on matters where God is silent, having the "correct" answer is very difficulty. Indeed, most is conjecture, and a bulk is mere faith. This open ground leaves plenty of room for you to believe one thing and me to believe another.

An answer needs to have certain characteristics to be considered correct.

First, it must be in concord with the Bible. If the Bible is silent on the topic, it has to, at least, not be in contradiction with it on any other points. Note: many false teachings can be phrased in such a way to not contradict the Bible, but still remain false.

Second, it must make sense to the mind. If it is absolute foolishness it will serve no good and cannot be built upon to derive further truth. Note: many false teachings can be phrased in such a way to makes sense to the mind, but still remain false.

Third, it must play out in practice. If the notion is sensible, but in practice is implausible, then there is no place for it, as you must take it to the end, and keep it only if it works. Note: many false teachings can be practiced in everyday life successfully, but still remain false.

Forth, it must not be in conflict with the heart and soul. God implants in each Christian His holy spirit which guides and convicts his children. Our conscience alone alerts us to what is right and wrong, but the holy spirit within confirm the supernatural. Note: if our desires are strong enough we can fool ourselves into believing what is wrong is right.

Fifth, it must equally lay on the minds of the Christian fellowship. Pastors, counselors, lay people, friends and spouses are all given to us as methods through which we can test the truth. If Christian counsel cannot support it, then suspect it. Note: a large number of people may be deceived through their personal desires or simple misunderstanding.

Remember that the five validators can each be confounded to say that what is false is true, but all in concert they can be trusted.

Take a truth in your heart and apply it to the five. Does the Bible agree? Does your mind agree? Does it work? Does your heart agree? Do fellow believers agree?

There are many things that can be confirmed through this method and give confidence to any believer.

So, let's come up with a solution to the freshman Philosophy 101 question that is meant to trap young minds into thinking hard on new concepts.

Did God create evil? I will answer as swiftly as I can on such a heavy topic.


Of course He didn't. Creating evil is an evil in itself; it must be. Creating evil would require consideration of even the greatest sin, and a crafting of a mechanism to allow such an evil. God, perfect and good, can do no evil. God cannot sin. Sinning is evil. Creating evil would be an evil. God did not create evil.

Now, for a classic philosophical response, "that begs the question."

Begging the question is a way of saying that what was answered cannot be accepted until yet another question is answered.

The other question is, "Then who created evil?"

No one created evil.

Here's something rather difficult to grasp when it is first said, but stay with me if you can. Evil was not created by anyone because evil does not exist.

If you are like me, suddenly many horrible events from your past and the history of the world came to mind and you simply cannot believe that they were not evil. They must be. Evil therefore must exist. Right? Not necessarily.

I am not mincing words here. This makes sense when it is thought out completely.

Let's talk about evil for a second. This might clear things up.

Consider with me what evil looks like. Is it big, tall, fat, thick, wide or deep?

Well, in a figurative way it might be deep, I suppose, but to say that evil is tall or wide is rather silly. Would you say evil is 10 feet tall? Maybe it is 100 feet tall? How tall would make sense? No height would make sense. In fact, any height at all would not make sense because the concept of height and evil don't couple.

The reason we can't say evil is tall or wide is because those are physical characteristics. Even if we believe evil exists, we can't believe that evil could stand in the room with us and watch us type. If we did, we would dress it up however we envision Satan, if Satan had physical characteristics. Even still, to say evil could "stand in the room," a physical action a body would make doesn't fit with anything.

We believe evil exists because we believe Satan exists. Satan does exist. Usually we consider Satan the embodiment of evil. We consider Satan evil in itself, but that cannot be.

When a child is in the nursery and cries for attention, that act is an evil act because selfishness is evil. When you lie to your parents what about you have or have not done, that act is an evil act because lying is evil.

God tells us that Satan will tempt us. We know this is true because we read how he tempted Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Even and her action was evil, but her action was not Satan. It was evil. Satan convinced her to act, but he was not what she did. Evil was what she did.

Satan promotes evil but cannot be evil. It does not make sense that he could be. The child in the nursery does not do Satan, nor did you do Satan when you lied to your parents. We committed evil, and maybe Satan was there to spur us on.

You might think that a question is being begged. After all, how could Eve, the baby or any of us commit something that does not exist?

We do it every day.

Consider opposites. When your heart stops sending blood to your brain, it becomes oxygen deprived and eventually ceases to operate from lack of fuel. When this happens, your heart also stops any attempts to send blood to the brain. This cascading effect ensures that the dead don't wake up.

When you become dead, you actually become nothing. What you become is the opposite of alive. But when you were alive you were nothing either. You were operational, but that is just a synonym that plays word games. In reality alive means nothing other than the opposite of dead.

When the required calories for operating your organism are depleted, internal systems look to your stomach for more fuel. If you have none, signals are sent that create the sensation of hunger. You are hungry.

Though hunger is very real, it has no height or width, though it does have intensity. Hunger is really nothing other than the opposite of not hungry. In most ways, it is not the direct opposite of being full.

Nonetheless, hunger and death are more of states than things. You will never be able to hold a hungry in your hand, and dead will never have a specific weight.

Now, try to consider evil like you consider hungry and dead.

Evil is a state of being, a state that describes many characteristics about the participant, but nothing about the state itself. The state has no measurable except perhaps duration (which would include beginning and end) or intensity (which would include frequency).

Now, we have an English language problem.

You cannot commit a hungry or a death, but re-word it to "move into the state of being" and it works just fine. You can move into the state of being evil. You can move into the state of being hungry. And, yes, you can move into the state of being dead.

Now, let's consider who created hunger.

We have to differentiate between the cause and the effect. We know that God created the body. We know that God created the food. We know the signals the brain sends out announcing hunger to the body are also a creation of God. We have to stick with the state of hunger; we have to stick with the effect of the causes.

When I am alerted that it is time to eat, God created those mechanisms. But while I am hungry, I am in the state of hunger. Hunger is nothing but a state in which I receive continued reminders from my brain. Those reminders cause the state of hunger, but the state itself is nothing but a blanket description of the events.

The same is with death. God created the soul and its incarnation in the human body as consciousness. The conscious and healthy human body is alive. Sometimes it is alive and well. When the body fails, the soul must embark for eternity, and the body is no longer alive, it is dead. Again, it has become nothing at all. It has simply changed in what state it resides.

Now consider yourself. When you are in a state of good you are not in a state of evil. You can move from state to state, and in neither of the state are you evil or good, you are simply in the state of it.

Now consider God. He has described Himself to us. He has but one state. He has the state of good. He simply cannot move to a state of evil. The reason is simple. The reason resides in the definition of evil.

So, what is evil? This is a complicated question, too, but here's a simple answer.

Evil is anything that is contrary to the character of God. How God is good and all else is evil. There is no neutral, because there can only be like God or not like God. There is nothing that is mostly like God, because mostly like God means - in reality - not like God.

This definition of evil is more nebulous than many, but it is undeniable.

How can God be different than himself? It is as if I could be Abe Lincoln. I cannot. I have a state of being Jerry Nixon and can never be in the state of being Abe Lincoln. God, alike, can never be in the state that is not His own. He is good and evil is all that is not the state of having the character of God.

When Adam was in the Garden of Evil, before taking the apple, he was not evil. The Bible is telling the story to show us the first sin. If it was the first human sin, then before it, we were without sin. Sin is an act of evil. Evil is an act outside the character of God.

God did not tell Adam why he should not eat of the tree, only that it was not what God wanted. When Adam ate of the apple, he was aware of what he was doing. Adam was consciously deciding to act how God did not want. What God wants is good because his character is good. Acts that are not good (evil) cannot be desired of God.

So, can God be in the state evil? No.

It is important to remember that evil is the state of being outside the character of God. Good is not defined as being God. Good is being inside God's character.

Because of this distinction, you and I can be good without being God.

The question at hand remains: "Who created evil?"

Because evil is not a thing, because evil is merely a state of being, it did not need to be created. Apparently God did not restrict the actions of the angels in heaven. When Satan elected a course that was not God's course, he moved from a state of good to a state of evil. At that moment, Satan became the first being (as far as we know) to move into the state of evil.

We do not know what motivated Satan to convince the other angels to follow his actions. Perhaps Satan really believed he could win in a battle against the Almighty.

When Adam took the apple, he moved from a state of good into a state of evil. His actions were not longer a reflection of the state of good, that is, good actions. His actions were not reflections of his new state of evil, or evil actions.

What Adam did was an evil action. What Adam did was counter to the character of God.

St. Augustine thought Adam might have eaten apple to retain his relationship with Eve, who had already eaten of the apple. However, goodness added to evil remains evil.

Who created evil. No one created evil. Why? Because, evil does not exist. Evil is simply something counter to God's character. It is not a thing that needs the miracle of creation to exist.

Evil does not exist, and it has not existed for all time.

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