Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Where Did Evil Come From?

Q - Not why, but How did evil come to be, if God is everything and everywhere and evil wasn’t created how did it come to be. The absence of God is evil but can the opposite of everything really exist….. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but the basic question is How can it even exist?

A - Thanks for the question! First, I need to be precise - god is not "everything" though he does hold every thing in being. But, that is a side-point.

For others who may not quite following what you are asking, I will do a bit of background. Evil is not something, but rather an absence of something - good. Just as dark is not a thing, but rather an absence of light. This is why the apostle John often contrasts light / darkness and good / evil. God did not create evil, but it sprang forth from the actions of man, who lacked that which is good in their actions and thoughts.

Now, let us discuss the will of God and creation. The Catechism teaches that God created all things from nothing out of love. He created them for the ultimate purpose of being united to Him and to bring Him glory. It also teaches:

306 God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan.
So, we freely can cooperate with his plan. But, what if we don't cooperate? Then this is where evil enters in. God's will can be divided into two different kinds of will, the active and permissive. The active will is that which God chooses to happen - which always does. All things God's actively wills are good. The permissive will of God is when he allows things to happen, although he does not desire it, - and thus he allows evil in order to allow us freedom.

From this, we can see that God does not ordain evil, although he allows it. But, then other questions arise - couldn't he just get rid of evil? Yes. Then why doesn't he? Because we would not be free to not choose him if there was no choice.

The Catechism discusses all these issues.
310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world "in a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.
311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:
For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.
Then, it addresses the mystery of evil and good.
324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.
Therefore, the reason death and physical suffering exist is because there is spiritual and moral evil, caused by human beings. The cause of suffering and death is ultimately man's sin. Because of our disobedience we suffer, in both body and soul. What we have earned by our sin is suffering and death for eternity.

This also helps us to understand the eternal love of God for us.
"But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." -Romans 5:7. 
Even though what we merit by our evil is death and punishment, we are forgiven.

The amazing thing about this paradox of love overcoming evil is that it leads us to the answer of why God allows evil. The answer is found in the cross.

Suffering and physical death are not good, but neither are they evil in and of themselves. In fact, through the cross, suffering and death can be redemptive. That is, they can help us to re-capture some of the purity, love and holiness that we are called to. The cross is God's answer to evil. In it, He conquers and shows us how to overcome it.

From this the questions might be turned on their head. We can now understand why bad things happen to good people, but why do good things happen to bad people? It is once again because of the love that God has for all people. Not just the "good" ones. God loves all His children.

Furthermore, suffering and death, when united to the cross, can lead to holiness and union with God. Therefore, it isn't as evil as we make it out to be. It is the eternal death of the soul we should be afraid of. All of this perfectly explains the reason St. Paul could write these words to the Romans:
"For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
- Romans 5:17-21
But, in the midst of suffering all of the reasons still don't necessarily make suffering easy.

I hope this helps.

There really is no easy answer, but that is where hope and faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross help us understand that we have a God who can sympathize with our suffering.
Hebrews 4:15 - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin."

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