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(Existence of evil...)


       The existence of evil raises a familiar essential question: How can the omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient Being - Being of perfect goodness, power and knowledge allow evil in the world? Or how can God's supreme beneficence be exonerated in the face of evil? And the standard, yet, simplified resolution to the problem of evil has been the following: Since God is a Perfect Being, He cannot act contrary to His nature (and purposes), effectuating everything in an infallible way, and accomplishing it for the highest spiritual good of all, and thus permitting evil must be essential in reaching this objective as well. God's perfectness and unsurpassable mercy in other words, cannot allow anything to happen which has not first passed His scrutiny, and was confirmed as being imperative for one's ultimate perfectibility or highest spiritual benefits.

       Many find the existence of evil, and the existence of the God of Christian theism entirely incompatible, and being incapable of establishing reconcilement between them, reject theism as altogether unreasonable. Bringing into existence a world with free and fallible beings however, brings about an undesirable infliction - it ineluctably brings forth the unpalatable - bitter admixture of evil. Hence, the more pertinent question should be - Why do some need reasons in order to find faith in God reasonable? As Michael J. Murray pointedly argues, "Why should we think that the theistic God would reveal to us the reasons for all or even most of the particular evils we encounter? It is hard to see how one might argue that God is obliged to do so... an omniscient God may well have reasons for permitting certain evils, reasons that He could even explain to us if we asked. But... His doing so would provide no guarantee that we would be able to understand the answer or how that answer justified God permitting the evil that He did" (God and the Philosophers, p. 66). An imperfect grantee cannot receive fitly answers from a perfect Grantor; they are bound to be apprehended incorrectly, since in order to ensure mental approval of the appositeness of such answers, there would have to exist utter compatibility between the grantee and the Grantor; the grantee would have to possess likemindedness, and other attributes of the Grantor as well as the ability to act in accordant ways with the Grantor (God). When the truth is not known in its fullness, the answers received are bound to be misinterpreted through an imperfect vessel (i.e., human mind), rendering their meaning inexact or ambiguous. (It is as though one would attempt to pour the contents of a bigger vessel into a smaller capacity vessel).

       Good dramatists do not present the compendium of the drama at the beginning of the written scripts. Instead, they achieve their literary goals through suspenseful maneuverability, relating the connected episodes of a dramatic progression, and forming a coherent story in ways that maintain excitement, varied emotional effects on the reader, and anticipation regarding an outcome. They implement all sorts of strategic actions to guarantee active involvement in order to gain a specific end, or attain optimal results. An analogy can be drawn with respect to the Supreme Scenarist, perfectness of His designs was planned for perfectiveness of all, everything having potential perfective aspects for our individual and collective future. Perfection of divine wisdom (and perfection of God's love) is explanative of "divine hiddenness" (i.e., not revealing all possible reasons as to what end, evil and sufferings are permitted). By revealing all truths of faith, divine providence would not remain infallible and perfect, for a complete revealment would be spiritually disadvantageous; exemplarily, it would deprive us of our freedom and our privilege to exercise choice. God cannot act contrary to His nature, and thus His designs are not adversative to human favorableness or human best interests. Disclosure of reasons for the existence of evil, all at one time, would make it impossible to procure the purity of intention, leading to unsuitability of motives in carrying out the divine demand. The revelatory insights would prompt one to fulfill God's will - not necessarily, (and exclusively!) because of the love of God, but due to other calculative considerations, presenting an impediment in making morally meaningful choices - in achieving some moral objective or acquiring specific understanding. Purity of heart is synonymous with the highest level of edification and hence is of greatest value to God, of which humanity would be deprived of, if God chose to be more lavish in His divulgement. Revelation of this kind would be against His nature and purposes; it would be against our true enlightenment, and in opposition to the greatest human moral advantage.

       The relationship between God and a human being is analogous to that of a parent and a child. Conscientious and skillful parents are quite cognizant of the fact that commendable behaviors and values are internalized not when their children are provided with the entire rationale beforehand, but rather they artfully orchestrate opportunities for their children to learn in order to achieve a desired overall edifying effect. Children acquire desirable behaviors, and reach satisfactory and correct solutions to problems through trial and error until an unacceptable conduct is either sufficiently reduced or eliminated; they learn through experience - through active participation in activities not just through instruction or authoritative direction to conform. Providing children in advance, that is, prematurely or untimely explanatory and justificatory information can be quite counterproductive, since it is taking away from them the chance to exert their own efforts to search for answers and resolutions, and thus it becomes an obstacle in the internalization of both valuable standards and proper behaviors. Being counseled and advised inordinately trains one in nonperseverance, and in intellective and spiritual inertness; it robs one from the need to inquire, and search for truth. Being told the truth in its fullness, deprives one from the necessity to seek after truth, and being merely told the truth means not truly knowing the Truth.

       Can good be appreciated rightly unless we deal with evil too? Is it possible to become virtuous unless there is evil to confront and combat? Can there be justice unless there is punishment? Would love have any meaning if human beings were created to love without the exertion to discover love, which always involves the risks of being rejected or hurt? Can a perfect and merciful Being provide support (whether be financial or any) in a manner that the development of one's talents and virtues would be decisively jeopardized? Is the divinatory care such that it may curtail a person's learning to trust and love unconditionally? Can a perfect Being grant possessions and prestige that in actuality poison our souls? Why should God give us something that would not be good for us? That would go against the principle of perfect love. God could have created beings that would never transgress or act in reprehensible and unrighteous ways but would this complete obedience be at all meaningful if they would act in an upright manner because they were programmed to do so? The transcendental freedom to accept or shun is a gift, which is imperative in obtaining genuine strengths, virtues or in discovering the meaning (or meaninglessness) in anything that may be experienced and undertaken. Accordingly, there exists an agreement between philosophers and theologians that evil is necessary for good, and is perceived as evil solely from a limited viewpoint, for if the entire reality could be viewed from an eternal and ideal perspective, the existence of evil would be regarded as absolutely essential in fulfilling our destinies. Every single incident that is allowed or the things that are disallowed by God must have highly educative purpose, and all human ailments and afflictions are permitted by divine providence so that "the works of God might be manifest," above all His unfathomable mercy and wisdom. Drexelius (among others) distinguishes between what is known as THE ORDAINING WILL and THE PERMITTING WILL of God. According to him, there exist two kinds of evil: first entailing those things that effect loss, trial, pain, disgrace, such as imprisonment, disease, death, poverty; and the second involving evils pertinent to all kinds of sins or transgressions, which naturally God never wills, but permits them however to procure the most beneficial results. The former evils, Drexelius declares, are truly willed by God either for purposes of correction or as a form of punishment for the depraved - though God's mercy does not want it, yet His perfect justice demands it.

       The omnibenevolent or perfect God does not permit evil unless by allowing it He effects greater good - good that is brought forth even out of the greatest evil for as Drexelius inquires, "...what great thing is it if you have produced good from good? But it is great indeed if you produce good from evil" (Heliotropium, p. 20). In a similar fashion, Saint Augustine declares that "God has judged better, to work good out of evil, than to allow no evil" (op.cit., Heliotropium, p. 23). By means of allowing so many sins, the holiness of others is strengthened, for "this is the will of God, your sanctification" (Thess. 4:3). Saint Isidore argues that God very frequently does not hear human requests and prayers according to human will, but according to our deliverance from the power of sin. What is often regarded as punishments is in fact only God's medicine to make us whole and well again (Saint Jerome). "Virtue alone bestows joy, which is perpetual and unshaken" (Heliotropium, p. 152), and therefore by permitting evil in the world, God can exercise our virtues and thus raise our rewards. Drexelius declares that, "God never would permit the wicked will of another should devise any evil against you, if it were not for your good, provided that you yourself do not become a hindrance" (Heliotropium, p. 25), concluding that the shortest way to obtain patience and serenity is not to complain about human beings who inflict the injuries, but to regard God and His divine permission instead. Evil thus, fulfills an essential part in implementing the purposes of God, that is, "the mirror of evil can also lead us to God... we can see through it to the goodness of God" (Eleonore Stump). All moral evils cannot maintain their power if the human heart beholds the benevolence and mercy of God: "If we taste and see the goodness of God, then the vision of our world that we see in the mirror of evil will look different, too... start with a view of evil and a deep taste of the goodness of God, and you will know that there must be a morally sufficient reason for God to allow evil" (God and the Philosophers, p. 242).


Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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