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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Wednesday, March 10 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

The problem of evil

Some people may have the impression that "the problem of evil" is a response to President Bush's seeming to like the word "evil," or it's about his invoking the "axis of evil" in his speeches after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But the phrase is an ancient basic ingredient of the study of both theology and philosophy. In theology, the "problem of evil" is expressed in these terms: How can evil exist in a world that is under the control of a good or just all-powerful God? The question was brought to public consciousness in recent years through the emergence of a blockbuster best-selling book by Jewish author Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

The way the question of the problem of evil is addressed is one of the main attractions to the Judeo-Christian stream of religious teaching, and specifically Christianity. It has two vital facets: 1. Christian doctrine accounts for the presence of evil in the world and its source ("the fall," which refers to the introduction of evil on the earth by Adam and Eve's disobedience to God). 2. Christian doctrine has a solution to the problem that millions of people find rational and worthy (the incarnation and victory over sin in the person and work of Christ). There are competing teachings in other religions. For example, I am given to understand that the Christian Science religion (which is neither "Christian" nor "scientific") teaches that there is no such thing as evil; which, by extension, says that all illness is in your head; if you don't believe in it it can't hurt you. I have also been taught that this doctrine of the supremacy of goodness appears in different iterations as a tenet of Hinduism and still other iterations in "New Age" teachings.

When a Presidential candidate on the primary elections trail said a month or so ago that his rationale for supporting civil rights for homosexuals is that God created homosexuals so their sexuality couldn't be wrong, he was displaying basic ignorance of biblical teachings. God is not the creator of evil or anything evil, nor anything that He calls evil. He is not the creator of disease or death; sin—Adam's sin—is.

In order for obedience, virtue, and love to have meaning, they must have opposite possibilities. For Adam's love for God to be meaningful, he was given a choice to follow God's instructions or follow his own curiosity by seeing where deviating from God's prescribed way would lead. Adam (which is the Hebrew word for "Man," as in mankind) chose his own way instead of God's. This is "the fall," in Judaic and Christian teaching, and its consequence is that every descendant of Adam finds it necessary, if he wants to restore a right relationship with God, to overcome his own will and subsume it to God's will. This is not only the cause of inward sins in the form of willful choices, but of everything out of kilter in our less-than-Edenlike world. If a child is born with a physical deformity, he has Adam to blame, not God, for all the deformity in the world has been perpetuated by Man's assertion of his own will against God's will. God's "norm" for His creation was and still is perfection; anything abnormal or less than perfect is a reflection of human striving for independence from God (which actually is a desire to become a god).

So in a nutshell: evil and all its permutations, deformities, diseases, dispositions exist because God loved Adam enough to let him defy God and play god, and mess it all up. And it has a cure because God loved the world so much that He sent the Second Adam, His Son, to put it back together again, one redeemed life at a time.

This present world is not inherently just. Every achievement of justness requires human effort in the form of letting go of our own way and putting ourselves into God's way and will. Just rolling with the flow, as the Presidential candidate suggested, will lead to more falls rather than social healing and justice for all.

I'm not saying homosexuality is evil. Homosexuality, as a recognized condition—and as a word—is only about 100 years old, named and defined by Sigmund Freud. The condition, of course—erotic attraction to members of the same sex—is clearly described in the Bible, Greek and other ancient texts, and in sexual psychology predating Freud (notably, Kraft-Ebing, 1840-1902). Like most Christians, I believe the "condition" as described by the scientists, is real and part of the fall. Like all the other effects of the fall from birth defects to allegies, sexual predispositions are manifestations of the "law of averages"; everyone has a cross to bear up the steep ascent to reunion with God.

Comments, questions, responses welcome as always.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Steven Wrightisms

25. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Lenten thought for today

A servant of the Lord stands bodily before men, but inwardly he is knocking at the gates of heaven with prayer.

St. John Climacus,
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 525-606 A.D. 

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