December 21, 2010

Evil & Suffering VIII: Moral Evil

For us to understand moral evil from a consistent view we need to understand that it is based in man. Mankind, who is sinful and totally depraved. We need to properly define what man is or should I say what God intended him to be and how he ended up. We must understand mankind’s capacities at the moral level as designed by God under the pretext of freewill. As Feinberg states it: We must understand the “constituent ontological parts” of human beings. I will list them as I understand them in a grocery list format.

• A being with the capacity to reason. This capacity varies between individuals (humor intended)
• A being with emotions
• A being with a will that is free or they are free to make choices
• A being with desire(s)
• A being with intentions (formed from desires and/or reason)
• A being with the ability to move around
• A being that wasn’t intended to be like every other of its type.

The best conclusion that can be made is that human beings were created with an intention that they were to be finite (not gods) both metaphysically and morally. God appears to have intended to create humans, not Gods or super-humans. We were to go through our life in non-glorified bodies. What we must also keep in mind is that even though mankind became subject to the Fall, the Fall did not negate the features originally built into the human race as listed above. They only became distorted or knocked out of order and made dysfunctional. On top of these facts we must also understand that God does not cause our actions nor does he perform them. As stated multiple times in this paper, human beings do them of their own volition and are responsible for their actions even though God can work through them whether they are evil or good (Feinberg “Many Faces of Evil” 167-170).

So how does evil arise in this system of thought or this reality? The Book of James does a nice job addressing this question and it warrants quoting.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13-15

According to God through His inspired word we see that moral evils come from human desires. We see in James 1:15 that somewhere between the conception of the idea entering the head of the human and an actual act, the human’s attraction to moral evil becomes so overwhelming that that person commits an act based on the thought that had its inception in their head. This absolutely squares with what Jesus said at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

It has been posed to me in some of my reading and some of my classes in Valley Forge Christian College that desires themselves are not bad. God gave humanity things like sexual desires and a freedom of choice. They allow for good plurality, good diversity, everyone likes their coffee black and a black 66 GTO Tempest with a red interior. What we often forget though is that God also gives us a moral standard to live by and to do anything other than follow that moral standard is disobedience. So what we see is: Desire is okay in God’s creation and/or the plan God intended for things in His creation. It is after the Fall that we see a twisting of the original intended order and the misappropriation or misuse of the desires God gave mankind. Desire becomes evil/sin when the intent of the heart of a person committing an action is in direct violation to God’s ordinances/moral codes. When actions come into conflict with God they become sin and/or moral evil. What I have purposely avoided so far in this portion on moral evil is direct implication and accusation of the devil and his acolytes. As humans we must first be assured that evils that are being perpetrated are not immediately cast on or blamed on “evil spirits”. To me this is often just a deferral of blame and an unwillingness to take responsibilities for one’s actions. We know for a fact from Scripture that the devil and his helpers are limited and finite in power and number. They are not omnipresent and omniscient. Logic dictates that if this is true they cannot be in all places at once so…they cannot always be responsible for my own or an individual’s regress into sin which was my/their own choice. Once we have deduced that evil or decisions for evil by humans were not wholly their own or not theirs at all, it is then that we should begin to implicate the “powers and principalities, or evil spirits” that are clearly at work (deviously) in this world. We know from repeated narrative in the Bible that this happens quite often.

To assure that I do not go off on a tangent I would like to abbreviate and conclude this portion on moral evil refuting the idea that, since God is sovereign and all-powerful, He should stop moral evil in the world. This would be impossible from a logistical point of view and still allow man to have free will. It would also erase all traces of humanity and choice from mans universe thereby making it a monochrome hell.
  1. The first option open to God is to remove or eliminate human beings. This is clearly not beneficial to humanity and is not in harmony with the pattern outlined thus far from Scripture when dealing with God, God’s purposes and His creation.
  2. Second, God could eliminate all objects of desire. There would then be no desire for humanity. This would be in direct contradiction to the nature that God created man. God create man to work in Eden. The implication here is that God inbred or made intrinsic to man a desire to work. This will not fly either in terms of logic or based in a Biblical worldview.
  3. Third, we see the need to eliminate all human desires. Again, this is counter to God’s initial creation which is a being created with desire and an ability to choose. What I believe we begin to see when we combine the second and the third idea though is a shadow of what is to come in the Kingdom as outlined and prophesied in Revelation 21 and 22.
  4. Another plausible explanation for the use of desire to a good end is this. God could allow desires to exist but enact a system in which they can exist where they will not be aroused to the point of producing evil. If they can be aroused to that extent have a checks and balances system that allows for negation of the ill effects or minimizations of said evil. In other words: A system of redemption, repentance. This is what we see as the modus operandi of the Bible. God creates a creature capable of free will (in His image). Some of these beings go “rogue”. God in His omnipotence and sovereignty allows these rogues and anomalies in His system to: (1) use it to help fix the system and (2) allow free will to continue to exist and still have a system in place to save those who sin (everybody) from their own actions thereby bringing God glory on all accounts.
It is a Win-Win for God and a Win or Lose for mankind based on the outcome of their own salvational choice.

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