“Darkness is the absence of Light; Evil is the Absence of God” -Albert EinsteinWe have all had bad things happen to us. You’ve heard the saying “bad things happen to good people.” Technically, bad and good things happen to people. I just read a very sad story in the news, about an 18-month-old child who was shot and killed the day after his parents were killed by the same man. The first question that came to my mind is: why? When we learned about the man who shot and killed all those people in Las Vegas, we all said why? All the hurricanes and storms claiming our cities – our question, where is God in all of this? Even though we are people of faith, we might find ourselves asking the question: if God exists, why did He allow these evil and terrible thing to happen? Why is there so much pain and suffering in our world? Is God abandoning us? As a rule, we feel justified when we fight off evil in the form of corruption and immoral behavior. But why does it have to exist in the first place, if there is a loving God? What is evil? There are two kinds, moral and natural. For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on moral. Moral evil consists of sins including murder, rape, abuse, terrorism, or genocide, to name a few. A survey was sent out by a group of ministers across the US, asking the question, “If you could ask one question of God, what would it be?” The overwhelming answer was, “If you are all-loving and powerful, why do you allow evil and suffering to exist?” Scripture tells us that God does not create us to be evil. God is all-knowing, but at the same time, He does create us to be sinners. Pain, suffering and death is the result of man’s sin.
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is, limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death. He had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with His creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When he was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile. (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos?, 1949, p. 4)In Matthew 27:39-44, Jesus is taunted, "Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God." If Jesus was the Savior why couldn’t He save himself, let alone save all the Christians. We now know why He didn’t; he suffered and died to save us from our sins. His motive was perfect love! The key to the answers must lie in the truth that God created us with a free will, the ability to choose between good and evil. Evil, therefore, is the result of man's free will. Is there wisdom in allowing us to choose between good and evil? Essentially, we have the power within us to choose good or evil.
“In each of us, two natures are at war --- the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them and one of them must conquer. But in our hands lies the power to choose --- what we want most to be we are.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)Sam Harris, a neuroscientist disputes this.
“In my view, the reality of good and evil does not depend upon the existence of free will, because with or without free will, we can distinguish between suffering and happiness. With or without free will a psychopath who enjoys killing children is different from a pediatric surgeon who enjoys saving them. Understanding the true causes of human behavior does not leave any room for the traditional notion of free will.”Someone needs to remind Mr. Harris that he has the free will to believe this notion. For Christians and Catholics, I think, it is accepting faith that God will enlighten us about this mystery one day. The ultimate happiness will come when we are with God. God tells Job, for example, that his virtues by themselves will not ensure his happiness on earth. Evil things can still occur even though he is good. It is ultimately through Jesus as our source for salvation that we will be truly happy. God knows we will sin. He knows we will make choices that could be evil. In order for the world to act morally good, we must be free to make those choices, even bad choices. I like to view this in terms of the analogy of parenting. As parents, we know that if we have children, the role of parenting will come with much joy, much love and much happiness. We also know that we will have difficulties, there will be challenges, and there will be hurt and sometimes frustrations. Knowing that does not stop us from becoming parents. God knows we will sin, but He wants us to ask for forgiveness and accept that when we know Jesus in the long run it is then that we will join Him in His kingdom. Is it that we are all basically good inside and are haunted by dark and evil thoughts? Is it that we all have a corrupted side to our nature and must learn not to act on it? In either instance, a person of faith will want to gravitate towards choosing the non-evil option.
“And this is the forbidden truth, the unspeakable taboo – that evil is not always repellent but frequently attractive, that it has the power to make of us not simply victims, as nature and accident do, but active accomplices.” (Joyce Carol Oates)Sometimes it is hard to distinguish evil! I give you, for example, a description of a war hero: he loves dogs, is affectionate with children, rarely drinks, is very close to his mother, is a vegetarian. He is Adolph Hitler. The Bible is the Word we use to answer so many questions regarding choices that we make. At the end of the day we know that the answer will not always be made clear to us. We have to rely on our trust in God and His Son Jesus (remembering that God is all wise) and that ultimately these answers will all be provided when we are with Him.
“And I must believe that man has the power to know the right, to choose between good and evil and know that his choice has made a difference …” (Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon)
Copyright 2018 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh
About the Author
Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh (Cathy) completed her education in Special Education and English and now works as an Agent in the Insurance Industry. A mother and Grandmother, Cathy grew up in a large Catholic family and has spent the last 30 years as a caregiver for her husband, Jack. She is a cancer survivor which inspired her to begin writing six years ago.