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Problem of Evil

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hyungkim9

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Origin of evil
« on: October 17, 2014, 11:20:16 am »
I believe in the existence of God and find the arguments for the existence of God (including the morality argument) very compelling. Therefore, I also believe in absolute/transcendent morality. However, I am struggling with the origin of evil.

God created everything out of NOTHING, i.e. NOTHING existed before God created us and this world. God could not have created evil. Then where does evil come from? If I try to trace back the origin of evil, the bible leads me to Lucifer. But where did Lucifer's pride come from? How did the concept of pride emerge in this world in the first place? Did God create "pride" so that Lucifer had a free choice?

Some, including Dr. Craig, argue that evil is the "privation" of good or the "opposite" of good. But is the privation of "love" really "hate"? Couldn't it be just "indifference"? Where did the concept "hate" or "jealousy" originate from? Let me give you another example. What is the opposite of homosexuality? Is homosexuality the privation of heterosexuality? Where does homosexuality come from? God clearly didn't "create" it?

One may argue that all the variations of sinful or evil nature are consequences of our original sin. But what is the origin of our original sin, going back to my Lucifer question?

Thank you.


 

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Vimbiso

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2014, 06:31:21 am »
I believe in the existence of God and find the arguments for the existence of God (including the morality argument) very compelling. Therefore, I also believe in absolute/transcendent morality. However, I am struggling with the origin of evil.

God created everything out of NOTHING, i.e. NOTHING existed before God created us and this world. God could not have created evil. Then where does evil come from? If I try to trace back the origin of evil, the bible leads me to Lucifer. But where did Lucifer's pride come from? How did the concept of pride emerge in this world in the first place? Did God create "pride" so that Lucifer had a free choice?

Some, including Dr. Craig, argue that evil is the "privation" of good or the "opposite" of good. But is the privation of "love" really "hate"? Couldn't it be just "indifference"? Where did the concept "hate" or "jealousy" originate from? Let me give you another example. What is the opposite of homosexuality? Is homosexuality the privation of heterosexuality? Where does homosexuality come from? God clearly didn't "create" it?

One may argue that all the variations of sinful or evil nature are consequences of our original sin. But what is the origin of our original sin, going back to my Lucifer question?

Thank you.

Rational creatures such as angels and human beings are endowed with moral agency. For moral agency to be real, one must possess the ability to freely choose to do the good. To freely choose the good means one must be able to choose to do good of their own accord without external determinants such as undue influence or force. Given that we are not the standard of moral goodness, we also possess the capacity to reject the good. Now God could have created us with the inability to reject good but then it would be indiscernible to us whether we chose good of our own free will or by virtue of our inability to reject it. Therefore God, for whatever reason, decided to make our free will the only reason we choose to do good which leaves the door open for us to reject to do good.

Now you may ask, does God's inability to reject good mean He does not have free will? Not at all. You see the moral argument asserts that God is the basis for morality meaning God's very nature is what we call "the good". If His nature is the good, it therefore follows that whatever He wills is good. God has no external determinants such as force or undue influence that cause Him to choose good. Rather His nature is moral perfection such that when He chooses to do something, He freely does so and it is good.

Now back to your question. Where does evil come from? Evil comes from the fact that we have the capacity to do evil via our active moral agency i.e. we freely choose to do evil. God created creatures from which He demands moral responsibility but for that to be actualised, the creatures must be able to freely choose good. In order to freely choose good, all other determinants such as natural instinct, force or undue influence must be removed so that the choice for good must be purely down to free will. If that is the case, because man is not by nature the standard of moral goodness means he is also capable of rejecting good. Remember Adam was not created morally good but only morally innocent. Adam had to freely choose good and that is why God commanded Him.
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hyungkim9

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2014, 03:33:35 pm »
Thank you very much for your response. I really appreciate it.

I understand the free will argument. God gave us free will to choose between accepting and rejecting God, or between good and evil.

But in order to have this choice, I must have both good and evil available to me as options. Where did this option of evil come from, if God created the world out of NOTHING? Did God create evil to give us a choice and free will?

Not choosing good, does not automatically mean choosing evil, in my view. This is what I was trying to illustrate by saying that the opposite of love does not necessarily equal hate. Instead, it could be indifference. Rejecting good doesn't necessarily lead to doing evil. It could simply mean NOT doing good. So my point here is that evil has so many variations (e.g. hate, pride, false witness, to name a few) that it must have been created. It is hard for me to see evil simply as a rejection of good. Where do these variations of evil come from? Who invented or created these concepts?

I am not trying to disprove the existence of God with this question. As I said, I believe in the existence of God. I am simply struggling with this question of evil.

Thank you.

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Vimbiso

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2014, 03:43:06 am »
Thank you very much for your response. I really appreciate it.

I understand the free will argument. God gave us free will to choose between accepting and rejecting God, or between good and evil.

But in order to have this choice, I must have both good and evil available to me as options. Where did this option of evil come from, if God created the world out of NOTHING? Did God create evil to give us a choice and free will?

Free will is not the ability to choose between two contrary options. Free will is the ability to choose without external determinants such as undue influence or force. Imagine you have been offered the choice between a cash prize or flying first class. Both options are not contrary yet when you pick one you would have done it of your own accord. The operative phrase is "of your own accord". It must be you and you alone making the choice. Therefore God has given us free will so that when we choose Him, we do it of our own accord. However that leaves the door open for people to reject God because if you can't choose God of your own accord, then you must reject Him.

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Not choosing good, does not automatically mean choosing evil, in my view. This is what I was trying to illustrate by saying that the opposite of love does not necessarily equal hate. Instead, it could be indifference. Rejecting good doesn't necessarily lead to doing evil. It could simply mean NOT doing good. So my point here is that evil has so many variations (e.g. hate, pride, false witness, to name a few) that it must have been created. It is hard for me to see evil simply as a rejection of good. Where do these variations of evil come from? Who invented or created these concepts?

I am not trying to disprove the existence of God with this question. As I said, I believe in the existence of God. I am simply struggling with this question of evil.

Thank you.

In situations in which the options are "do good", "do evil" or "do something amoral" then not choosing good does not mean you have chosen evil. But think of a situation in which God has commanded you not to lie. If you choose not to tell the truth, what is the other option that is not equivalent to lying, if refraining from giving information is not an available option? Evil is simply the position of being contrary to good. An amoral situation is not contrary to good therefore it is not evil.

You say, "the opposite of love does not necessarily equal hate. Instead, it could be indifference..." You know that is false. You know from your basic English lessons that the opposite of love is hate. Indifference is simply the quality of lacking care, concern and/or sympathy. Now if you think about it, indifference is amoral only in situations in which no moral obligation is binding e.g. You could be indifferent to whether a particular sports team wins or not. You are not morally obligated to support that sports team therefore your indifference is amoral. Now imagine, say, your child is ill with a potentially fatal disease. Do you think indifference in that situation is neither good nor bad?

Now those that say evil is a privation of good maybe onto something. I say evil is simply the rejection of good. Think about it: if you reject good what are the alternatives? It's either you live a totally amoral life or you live an evil life. It's impossible to live an amoral life therefore if you reject good you are accepting evil. God is the paradigm of moral goodness so we know from where good comes. Evil is moral badness which is contrary to moral goodness. It's not as if God created hate, pride, lying etc but that by creating finite moral agents with the capacity to reject Him, it became possible for what is contrary to good to be actualisable.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 05:47:54 am by Vimbiso »
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hyungkim9

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2014, 07:56:24 am »
Thanks again for taking your time to respond.
I think you are close to answering my question, but I think I need more clarification.

Could you elaborate on the difference between evil and amoral? It was a little confusing to me. And why is it impossible to live a totally amoral life? I am just not familiar with the distinction between evil and amoral.

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Vimbiso

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2014, 08:53:46 am »
Thanks again for taking your time to respond.
I think you are close to answering my question, but I think I need more clarification.

Could you elaborate on the difference between evil and amoral? It was a little confusing to me. And why is it impossible to live a totally amoral life? I am just not familiar with the distinction between evil and amoral.

When something is amoral, it means it is neither morally good nor morally bad i.e. it is morally neutral. Using the example I gave, you are not morally obligated to support a sports team therefore if you support it, you have not done "the morally right thing" and if you choose not to root for that team, you have not done anything morally wrong.

The reason it's impossible to live an amoral life is because we are moral agents with moral responsibilities and every single day we face moral situations. As a thought experiment let's build a character who is recluse and does not interact with any human beings at all. For that person to live a morally neutral life, their thought life needs to be amoral. Thinking, "I exist," would be true and thinking true thoughts is morally good. Any propositional statement that person thinks would either be true or false. Morally neutral thoughts would either be questions, which don't have truth values, single word thoughts that don't refer to any feature of reality, made up words that have no meaning or incoherent sentences like, "Dog come they" which are unintelligible. Not much of a life is it? Now if living alone that person can't live amorally, why think they can do so once we introduce a second person. Each time they meet they would have to refrain from doing anything bad to each other and refraining from doing bad things to each other is morally good. This is before we list what they are morally obligated to do for each other. Even if you pass someone on the street without looking at them or even noticing them, the fact that you have not lied to them, insulted them or hurt them is morally good. Last but not least: the fact that we are moral agents means we have moral obligations to discharge therefore attempting to live an amoral life would entail not fulfilling your moral obligations, which is morally bad.

The only creatures capable of living amoral lives are sentient creatures that are not moral agents (basically animals). Lifeless objects are not living so they are automatically amoral.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2014, 09:08:35 am by Vimbiso »
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hyungkim9

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2014, 01:32:45 pm »
Thank you for the explanation.
I see your point. Your point is that for us, moral agents, the only alternative to good is evil.

There clearly are concepts, such as telling the truth vs. telling lies, where A vs. Not A equals good vs. evil, i.e. the alternative of telling the truth can only be telling a lie. But in some cases, the alternative of good does not necessarily mean evil.

I guess my struggle is with the vast variety of evil in the world. Homosexuality is one example. What is homosexuality a privation of? Where does it come from? Did people really not have any other alternative but to be homosexual, as they reject "good"?

That evil is a privation of good is a reasonable explanation, but I think it is not a good enough explanation.

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Vimbiso

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2014, 03:39:05 am »
Thank you for the explanation.
I see your point. Your point is that for us, moral agents, the only alternative to good is evil.

There clearly are concepts, such as telling the truth vs. telling lies, where A vs. Not A equals good vs. evil, i.e. the alternative of telling the truth can only be telling a lie. But in some cases, the alternative of good does not necessarily mean evil.

I guess my struggle is with the vast variety of evil in the world. Homosexuality is one example. What is homosexuality a privation of? Where does it come from? Did people really not have any other alternative but to be homosexual, as they reject "good"?

That evil is a privation of good is a reasonable explanation, but I think it is not a good enough explanation.

Privation simply means lack of the basic necessities or comforts of life. Therefore by saying evil is a privation of good, I assume it means evil is a lack of good. So here evil is defined with reference to what it lacks rather than what it is. Maybe this is the source of your lack of satisfaction with this definition of evil.

A simple dictionary definition of evil is the quality of being immoral or wicked. Immoral means not conforming to accepted standards of morality. Wicked means evil by nature which is circular. So the long winded definition of evil would be the quality of not conforming to accepted standards of morality. The question is who determines or who is the authority on what these accepted standards of morality are? If it is society at large then we have a problem. Many different cultures have differing standards of morality therefore what is good in one society is evil in another which renders this type of morality relativistic. Objective morality on the other hand defines a morality which is obligatory for all persons, of all cultures and at all times in history. If objective morality does exist, then it can't be any one people group or even humanity as whole that is the ultimate authority on objective morality. From a Christian point of view, God is the basis for morality making Him the ultimate authority therefore evil would be not conforming to God's standard of morality. Of course in secular terms evil is being extremely immoral e.g. by God's standards, stealing $1 is evil but not on secular standards of morality.

As for your question on homosexuality, I'll leave you with Romans 1 vs 26-27, "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." (NIV) Of course it goes without saying that secular morality does not accept this explanation.
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hyungkim9

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2014, 07:42:16 am »
Thank you very much. Your responses have been very very helpful.

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jayceeii

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Re: Origin of evil
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2020, 05:29:51 pm »
I believe in the existence of God and find the arguments for the existence of God (including the morality argument) very compelling. Therefore, I also believe in absolute/transcendent morality. However, I am struggling with the origin of evil.

God created everything out of NOTHING, i.e. NOTHING existed before God created us and this world. God could not have created evil. Then where does evil come from? If I try to trace back the origin of evil, the bible leads me to Lucifer. But where did Lucifer's pride come from? How did the concept of pride emerge in this world in the first place? Did God create "pride" so that Lucifer had a free choice?

Some, including Dr. Craig, argue that evil is the "privation" of good or the "opposite" of good. But is the privation of "love" really "hate"? Couldn't it be just "indifference"? Where did the concept "hate" or "jealousy" originate from? Let me give you another example. What is the opposite of homosexuality? Is homosexuality the privation of heterosexuality? Where does homosexuality come from? God clearly didn't "create" it?

One may argue that all the variations of sinful or evil nature are consequences of our original sin. But what is the origin of our original sin, going back to my Lucifer question?

Thank you.
hk: I believe in the existence of God and find the arguments for the existence of God (including the morality argument) very compelling. Therefore, I also believe in absolute/transcendent morality. However, I am struggling with the origin of evil.

jc: In asking for faith in God, Jesus really should have specified this meant worshipping the Opponent of Desire. Without this proviso humans fly into their most terrible rage upon hearing the slightest word about what God really expects from entities of intelligence. It should have been known at the outset that the angels are reverse-men, with spiritual rather than material motivations, and that while angels might befriend God, humans being the reverse of the divine offend Him with every thought, word and deed. This is the true religion, the God that cannot be reached. In this forum there is constant talk about God’s “infinite goodness,” but there is no practical discussion what it means.

hk: God created everything out of NOTHING, i.e. NOTHING existed before God created us and this world. God could not have created evil. Then where does evil come from?

jc: You don’t know the mechanism of creation, in particular the generation of the angels. The souls do not start out pure, and it is their impurity and lack of serious spiritual power that sends them into evil ways. A soul is a real thing, not merely the product of imagination. If you think the soul can be made easily pure, you have not seen the soul.

hk: If I try to trace back the origin of evil, the bible leads me to Lucifer.

jc: See, this bothers me, that people hear the name “Lucifer” and it is like a cartoon in their minds, but they don’t care if it is a cartoon. The Bible is extraordinarily vague in this region, giving warnings of hellfire but dropping the ball at any realistic description. In general humans are quick to accept there is an “evil one,” though basically it is them.

hk: But where did Lucifer's pride come from? How did the concept of pride emerge in this world in the first place? Did God create "pride" so that Lucifer had a free choice?

jc: The trouble of Lucifer is that any being with real power is going to be gentle and good. The idea of Lucifer can only be promulgated in the human realm, where the minds believe there is “fun” in doing evil and creating harm, and since they believe it to be fun they readily imagine a powerful being agreeing with their assessment. They’re in rebellion against the external God, even theists denying and wanting to kill the real God. Lucifer is only a symbol of humanity’s secret rebellion against harmony and love for the neighbor that God and any real angel supports and expects. However if a human could be made powerful while still impure, he might seem to be a demonic figure, like this guy. Lucifer is the “snake oil salesman,” knowing best among mortals how to pretend to care, for his selfish benefit.

hk: Some, including Dr. Craig, argue that evil is the "privation" of good or the "opposite" of good.

jc: He’s correct in this. The realms of true goodness require power and purity. Lacking these the souls mill about in dark regions, taking false joys that harm creation rather than supporting it. When I say angels are reverse-men, I mean what gives angels joy brings pain to men, and what gives men joy brings pain to angels. All are trying to move toward what they perceive to be a better state for themselves, but the humans tend downwards.

hk: But is the privation of "love" really "hate"?

jc: You have to think carefully about the meaning of this term, “privation.” Hatred doesn’t arise as a simple negation or denial. These are entities INCAPABLE of love. As they hate, it is their uttermost skill, not the reverse pole of a better position they could have taken. In general hatred arises when the impure souls feel that desire is threatened, and in general a man feels everyone outside his family threatens his joys, therefore he is suspicious of all. Human have set up their society as constant competition, because of this root suspicion. Again, it can’t be overcome by asking for love, for it’s beyond their skills.

hk: Couldn't it be just "indifference"?

jc: You can’t ask humans to love their neighbor, and so the religions were built in pursuit of toleration instead, and in this they’ve been relatively successful. This is why Jesus couldn’t finish His sentence, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” by mentioning this means treating the neighbor as well as the children are treated, which is the place people really should be looking to see where they are coming close to this ideal. To fill out the thought some more, this would have meant a poor man could expect a house and an education, not merely a cot on cold nights and one meal a day. The language to end poverty is easy.

hk: Where did the concept "hate" or "jealousy" originate from?

jc: Hatred and jealousy do not know themselves. Every man feels righteous! Unfortunately the effect is universal. As one man cuts himself off in isolation from his fellow men, saying, “They deserve to be hated,” they are simultaneously cutting themselves off from him. This can be called one of God’s greatest challenges, the created souls don’t like each other and don’t have the higher intelligence for a harmonious world.

hk: Let me give you another example. What is the opposite of homosexuality? Is homosexuality the privation of heterosexuality?

jc: To answer this will invoke intense hatred in many, but in general this is the correct assessment. The key is that God never makes a mistake, in assigning the souls to bodies.

hk: Where does homosexuality come from? God clearly didn't "create" it?

jc: Again the answer is impurity and lack of power in the souls. No one wants to hear it.

hk: One may argue that all the variations of sinful or evil nature are consequences of our original sin.

jc: Men were left without a useful definition of original sin in the religions, meaning there is little to no meaningful ideation about it. In general what we have been discussing can be called original sin, which is man’s mutual mistrust and hatred that led to a world of competition instead of a world of cooperation. Men are cantankerous, born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. If it’s a predictable state of the soul they still bear responsibility.

hk: But what is the origin of our original sin, going back to my Lucifer question?

jc: It can be called a wrong perception. The angels see that all are created souls, and delight in working alongside the Maker to generate a situation of beauty and harmony. Humans by contrast see a world of material objects, in which the other people are little more than “moving objects” hence considered more valuable as more prowess is required for domination. To get the right vision of creation the soul must be witnessed, not just heard about (that leaves the heart unchanged). One must learn to rejoice in another’s joy.