My goal is to write articles that go against the flow to pique discussion, offer a different perspective and connect some dots.
Many people today cannot deny that there is evil, but explaining why there is so much of it has been a debate that has been going on for quite some time. For some, the existence of evil can only mean that a good God does not exist or there is no God. Others have become angry because it has provoked something in them because they see the effects of poverty, violence, disease and disasters in our world today.
If God is an all-loving God, why would He allow such evil things to happen?
The paradox of how a perfectly good God allows evil is a valid question, but it is definitely not an easy one to tackle. Everyone makes their own rationalizations and arguments through the lens of their personal experiences.
In the realm of theism and atheism, there is a locking of horns on what reality is. There are many instances of those who once followed the ideologies of believing there is a God, but then choose to abandon their faith. On the flip side, there are those who found God and walk a life of faith.
The concepts of good and evil can create great discussion whether they believe in God or not. Everyone has a story to why they have come to their conclusions. When discussing these matters, it is important to convey them in a rational, logical and reasonable way.
We must understand that words are just concepts. It is not a tangible object that we can put in an envelope and send it to someone at a particular location. However, although we cannot see the wind, most equate good and evil from their observance observe that have an effect on things that we can objectively see. A cool breeze on a hot summer’s day or a hurricane’s devastating aftermath can be defined by its cause and effect. It may be also defined as good or evil within the context of one's belief system.
The chart below may give come insight in what may be the influence behind an individual's beliefs.
Here are some questions some have asked when considering the existence of the God in the concepts of good and evil:
Wouldn't God, if He is all-good destroy evil rather than allowing it?
Wouldn't God, if He is all-powerful destroy evil?
The problem with these two questions is that we cannot prove God; therefore, asking the question is making an assumption based on our own rationalizations of these concepts. It is an assumption to assume that if God is all-good, all-powerful and He does exist that He would destroy what our concept of evil is on our terms.
When it comes to what we define as good and evil, are we the ones who make the standards for them?
To one person good and evil is cut and dry, while the other it is malleable to what society dictates. We should always have an open mind when it comes to understanding our moral existence and not fall into a 'case closed' category because in our search for truth there is always more to discover.
If we belive that there is a God, then we must understand that we have limitations and allow Him to prove Himself to us so that we understand the standard He has given us.
There are those who do not have faith in God and will object to the concept of spirituality, but we must all understand that a belief is either true or false, but it depends where they derive their 'truth' from.
Does it come from within ourselves or an external influence?
The answer from a theistic perspective is that an all good God will destroy evil that He has allowed in this world. Objectively, we can see the effects of evil everywhere in the world because God has allowed it for His purposes.
Who forms light and creates darkness, Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these. - Isaiah 45:7
There are those who believes in the concept of good and evil through a different lens. They define moral behaviours based on the concept of empathy. Through the survival of the fittest over time with passed genetic traits, the concepts of good and evil are relative.
The assumption that a good God would destroy evil because we want Him to is not valid. It puts a limitation on God to fit our own personal preferences. God’s purposes are not yet finished and we can see that the effects of evil have not been removed yet.
If someone was putting a race car together for a big race, but it was only assembled half-way, would it be reasonable to assume that the car is not ready for race day?
To say that it is completed, when objectively it isn't would give the impression that the person making the decision needs more knowledge and understanding of race cars before diagnosing whether the vehicle would be a good contender in the race. In the same way, God’s purposes for evil have not been finished.
In most culture today, we want things right now and have no patience to wait for them. We want instant gratification and demand proof without honestly taking on the task ourselves of seeking truth that will take time and patience to resolve.
If the concept of evil is in opposition to God, then why has God allowed it to continue?
Maybe God has had patience and mercy for all mankind up to this point without squashing most of us out of existence, but allowing us to make decisions based on our own free will.
Could there be a reason?
Some believe there is.
For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. - Psalm 1:6
The problem with the concepts of good and evil comes from who or what we allow to define the standards and their terms.
Is there a standard for what is pleasant, unpleasant, painful or not?
In the same way, both good and evil are often defined in the context of the one who is experiencing the effects. For most pain will determine whether they avoid something that may hurt or kill us.
Can evil be properly defined in terms of whether someone has pain, does not like something or whether it does not make them feel good?
Is our own personal preferences and opinion the determiner whether there is or isn't a God?
To appeal to a code of standard one must point to the maker of the code for the true meaning and standard of concept; otherwise, the default is relative to our personal opinions and empathy standard.
There are many accounts of skiers or snowboarders in search of the ultimate rush of laying new tracks in fresh virgin powder. In this pursuit they often take a risk by going into the out of bounds areas of the mountain. They are willfully ignorantly defiant of the rules and standards that have been posted. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon in the news headlines these defiant individuals who have fallen and are stranded down a rock face with a broken body limb fighting for their lives. Fortunately, some were able to rescued while others tragically ended up dying in the freezing mountain temperatures before rescuers could locate them.
If going through the pain of surviving and learning a valuable lesson of the consequences of self-destructive behaviour of going out of bounds can we say that is evil?
Are we to blame God for being evil for allowing the stranded one to die by freezing to death without rescue?
Is it good or evil for the winter enthusiasts to have the freedom to obey or disobey the rules of the mountain?
Is it reasonable or unreasonable to say that because someone chose to go out of bounds that something nasty or tragic might happen as a result?
If something bad happens does that mean God is not good?
Could it be that because the choice or decision on the part of the winter enthusiasts that a consequence will the result based on their own free will?
Many believe that because they do approve of the way God's does things is justification that He is not good.
What if we decided to play God and the only people in the world that were allowed to exist were the ones we chose to approve of?
In our world today there are people who torture for fun. Babies are aborted because of inconvenience and extremists strap on explosives to kill others in the name of their religion.
What you may believe is evil behaviour may be deemed good to someone else. The effects of what is good and evil is based on perspective and interchangeable based on man's standards.
Can good and evil be just relative terms or could it be that there may be an absolute standard for these concepts?
Do we really have the clout to decide that God may be right or wrong for allowing something that we don’t approve of?
Can we really know or fully understand why a good God can kill and destroy?
Is something terrible just because we say it is?
If God allows something, is He answerable to you?
Is God evil because He does not answer to you?
Do we assume to know all the reasons for what an all-knowing God does?
Is there a reason to why God allows evil?
From what Scripture has revealed about God, He uses evil test us and as a consequence for our actions and behaviours.
Can we conclude that God is wrong because we disagree with His purposes?
Without good, there would be no standard to what the concept of evil is. The concept of evil is dependent on good as the measure of what it is. In the realm of all-good, the effect of evil ceases to exist. Evil is not the opposite of good, but the lack of good.
God has allowed evil for a good reason. Evil is the thing that separates us from an all-good God.
Because of our separation from God, we must examine our condition and reconcile back to Him.
The key to understanding the concepts of good and evil is finding out what is of God and what isn't. The default position will be relative from one person to the next.
Here are some character traits that many consider good, but also can be used for evil.
The paradox is that what are considered good traits can be used for the purposes of evil. It could also be said that it takes the power of what many call good traits for evil to be accomplished. From this perspective, evil would no power to do anything without good.
Why do people strike against the hand who feeds them?
Why do people strike out against the one who is trying to rescue them?
We may not fully understand the reasons why God does things, but we can try to understand that it is necessary and for our benefit.
Pain is necessary in teaching us the understanding of what is beneficial or not.
The following sentences below can be good or evil in the context or perspective of how someone reads them.
His suffering kept him from becoming prideful.
When he saw the starving boy, he gave him bread.
The wounded soldier limped to safety because he was not alone.
The men put the woman and children in the safety raft ahead of themselves, and then they drowned in the frigid waters as the ship sunk into the depths.
The man was disciplined for his actions, but learned a valuable lesson.
We may come to appreciate some things that happen in life that happen for God's purposes.
Without a wound, what would heal?
Without bondage, who would know freedom?
Without sin, who would forgive?
Without lack, who would appreciate abundance?
Without imperfection, who would know perfection?
Without error, who would know about correction?
Without dependency, who would know a necessity?
The definition of good and evil are commonly based on the assumptions derived from our own experiences. Our realities are often based and motivated from these conclusions. Good and evil are not as cut and dry concepts as many think they are.
There are two paths one can take. Either there are absolute truths or there is just a relative concepts based on what we feels is right or wrong.
What we believe about good and evil can be true as it is false. Exploring further in the concepts what is good and evil may give understanding of our purpose of our lives here on earth. and why God had allowed it.
‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ - Jeremiah 33:3
- The Concept of Evil
There is a common deliberation over evil, either God created it, or He didn't. This leaves the question to the origin of evil if God is all-good. If God did not create evil, then who did?
- Is True Reality, the Immaterial Influencing the Material?
Science has concluded that our reality is only influenced by our five senses. There is some true truth to this statement, but cannot be promoted as fullness of truth.
© 2011 PlanksandNails
Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on March 04, 2016:
Here's a handy way to discern the practical day to day differences between good and bad: if our actions are not based on love we have acted badly.
Chasuk on May 18, 2011:
@PlanksandNails: I doubt that we will ever have universal -- or even local -- harmony. If we eventually achieved it, I don't know that I would want to live in such a world. First, because, speaking personally, it is the differences that make life satisfying more than the similarities. Second, because I can't think of any way in which it might be achieved that wouldn't compromise our freedom. I value freedom more than harmony.
As far as conviction goes, I don't believe that all convictions are equally created. I judge by the fruits of conviction.
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" (NIV, Matt. 7:16).
PlanksandNails (author) on May 18, 2011:
Sorry Chasuk for the unintentional error, no disrespect was intended.
Thanks for your showing your perspective here. I appreciate the honest and stimulating dialogue.
To have *harmony* in perfect agreement, there would have to be a precise understanding of all the words used, with their exact definitions. We can only use the exception to the rule, because in reality, how do we really know what constitutes the perfect ideal environment that conforms within the perfect measure of human rationality? Although, within this uncertainty, there are some competence models that have been applied from cognitive considerations, but they are not all sufficient. The problem is that the degree of error could only be determined by having an omniscient perspective and knowledge of all models, which is unattainable.
Conviction is attained when proven otherwise, but comes differently to each person.
PlanksandNails (author) on May 18, 2011:
I'm glad if this hub provoked some more thought to the questions you have been pursuing yourself. Thank-you for the kudos, fan mail, and perusing this hub.
Chasuk on May 18, 2011:
@PlanksandNails: My nickname is "Chasuk," not "Chasuck." :-)
When humans debate -- which is what we are doing here -- they are (at the very least) engaging in a logical argument. Logic is the codification of the principles of reasoning and inference, and we accept it a priori. Most non-trivial discourse depends on it. Pragmatically, then, we accept that logic is universally applied. If we didn't, then the interaction we are having now would be pointless. Of course, this interaction may indeed be pointless, but I have to believe that it isn't before I invest time or energy on it.
I'm not saying that I don't enjoy exchanging opinions. Not every exchange has to concern factual claims. I prefer author X to author Y, and film X to film Y. For reasons that I haven't analyzed, the mutual sharing of this information -- of opinion -- is deeply satisfying.
I am an atheist, but I don't deny that God exists. Your phrasing -- intentionally or not -- gives the theist the advantage, in the form of the rhetorical presupposition of God's existence. I don't disbelieve in God, but I don't believe in him. The difference is subtle, but -- in my opinion -- important.
To be more precise, I am an agnostic atheist.
I remain agnostic on literally all claims of fact, although for practical reasons I do accept most scientific claims. However, I only accept them provisionally. I happily discard them if a later theory is better supported by the evidence. I would discard heliocentrism with sufficiently convincing evidence.
I'm not concerned with what might be objectively true in another galaxy, only this one. I also don't believe in anything spiritual or immaterial, except in a metaphorical sense.
Thank you for the exchange.
William R Bowen Jr from New Bern, NC on May 17, 2011:
For several years I have also been interested in the question of whether evil is the opposite of good or merely the absence of righteousness. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Chasuk on May 17, 2011:
@Apostle Jack: I'm not sure that you were addressing me, but I'm going to proceed as if you were.
I don't believe in your supernatural world. This doesn't mean that they don't exist, of course, but it does mean that I discount them in intellectual dialogue.
We are our bodies. There is no soul, and no spirit. There are no demons.
Apostle Jack on May 17, 2011:
You left out spirituality.
Good and evil is a spiritual matter.The mine and heart is made of matter, and is interpreted by scientific equations of DNA,ATOMS,neurons,elements and cells.
There is no such equations in a spiritual concept of who we are and how we exist in this world.
Demons is spiritual and so are their affects within our bodies of existence.The mind and heart have Separate functions within our terrestrial bodies.
Just for the record.
Chasuk on May 17, 2011:
Gottlieb's first mistake is in dividing knowledge into only two categories: Realist (there is one correct answer), and Perspectivist (there are multiple correct answers).
For all questions of fact, there is one correct answer. For all questions of opinion, there are multiple correct answers.
God either exists, or he doesn't. This makes his existence a question of fact.
When we argue questions like the problem of evil, we are arguing claims about God, not the question of his existence. We are presupposing his existence for the sake of that argument. Any conclusions that we draw are conditional upon that assumption.
If I claimed the existence of an entity called an Ethyrgylmpus, arguing about its behavior might be entertaining, but it could not answer the separate question of the Ethyrgylmpus's factual existence.