God, Crashing Airplanes, and War, Part 2

If evil is necessary for good to be known, where did evil begin? And if God created evil, doesn't that make him evil?

The argument can be made that evil is a necessary component in God's world. At this point I could go off on just what defines "evil" but that would take us down a long and winding road. Maybe it is enough to say that not all "evil" is actually evil. For example, what about a forest fire? Biologists affirm that fires are necessary for certain plants to grow, and for certain environments to recycle. Turns out they have good consequences. But what about when they are started intentionally? or burn down houses, and even take lives? 

The example of the forest fire is meant to show defining evil is not easy. Philosophers suggest there are categories of "evil" like natural evil (fires, floods, etc) which are necessary evils. Then there is "human evil" which can be either intentional (terrorism) or unintentional (drunk drivers who kill others). In either case, the evil begins in the heart of a man or woman when they decide to do what others recognize is contrary to God's best design for human behavior. But, if we go too much further with all this we will find ourselves muttering nonsense syllables in some smoke-filled bohemian coffee shop in Berkley!

So, back to the question of the origin of evil. Augustine, the 4th century churchman and philosopher suggested a plausible explanation. He posited that darkness is not a commodity; rather it is the absence of light. All that is necessary to bring about darkness is to withdraw light. Likewise, evil is not a commodity, but the absence of virtue. All that is necessary to bring about evil is for virtue to be withdrawn. And, since it cannot be shown that the withdrawal of virtue is itself an evil act, it become possible for God to bring evil into being without himself creating evil simply by withdrawing virtue. Whew! Take a deep breath, or even go back and read that again.

The truth is we don't know how God remains perfectly holy and yet included evil in his plan for creation. Certainly we understand that evil entered time though the sin of Adam, as the Bible explains. Further, sin was a virus in the operating system of creation, and has replicated itself over and over so that our hearts and world are riddled with it. This explains the consistent appearance of evil today, both natural and human. 

So, why can't God just keep the evil things from happening now? While we would all like to see evil banished, let's think about it for a minute. Who gets to decide what is evil? 

For example, we might think God allowing more and more children to be born into desperate third-world countries devoid of clean water, medicine, and basic needs is evil. But should God then deprive those couples of the pleasures of having children? And how far do we take that? Do we decide just how wealthy or healthy or sane or good people have to be in order for God to allow them to have children? 

Do we really want God to expunge all evil? How about when you and I break the speed limit? Do we want him to make that impossible? And what about overeating, or eating junk food, or being deceitful? Do we really want God to make all evil things impossible? 

The fact is, we don't want God to eliminate all evil. If he did, we would lose the freedom we now have as individuals to choose right from wrong simply because there would be no "wrong." We would truly be automatons, not free moral agents with decision-making powers. To be free, we must be able to choose evil.

Lastly, Is there coming a time when evil will cease? Or are we locked into this never-ending, tragedy filled life forever? 

The good news is God's at work bringing all history to a purposeful end. One day Jesus Christ will return to settle all the accounts, and put all things to rights. What the first man - Adam - brought into our world through sin, the second Adam - Jesus Christ - will forever cleanse and set straight. 

The Bible promises those who understand and shoulder their responsibility to God, obey his directives, turn from their sin, and follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, will live in a reformed world, where only righteousness will dwell, completely above even the possibility of sin. 

Now that's a hope that brings real purpose to life. It means evil isn't random. While tragic, evil has a purpose. It sets off God's grace, and serves to remind us this world is not paradise. It also calls us to see this life as merely a prelude to the next, and to live it accountable to God, who loves us, forgives us, and wants to shine his grace and glory through us.