What is Human Evil? (By GhostontheNet)

August 6, 2006

(Incomplete as of yet)

Of all the philosophical questions which have arised, the problem of evil has been one of the most perpetually reappearing arguments against the all-good, all-powerful God of Christianity. Extrapolated into formal logic (rather than with the typical emotionalism that leaves the argument incomplete), it runs something like this:

1. God exists (premise)
2. God is omnipotent (premise)
3. God is benevolent (premise)
4. Benevolent beings are opposed to all evil. (premise)
5. Benevolent beings will act immediately with no delay. (premise)
6. God is opposed to all evil. (conclusion from 3 and 4)
7. God can eliminate evil completely and immediately. (conclusion from 2)
8. Whatever end result of suffering, God can bring about by ways which do not include suffering. (conclusion from 2)
9. God has no reason not to eliminate evil (conclusion from 7.1)
10. God has no reason not to act immediately (Conclusion from 5)
11. God will eliminate evil completely and immediately. (conclusion from 6, 7.2 and 7.3)
12. Evil exists, has existed, and probably will always exist. (premise)
Items 8 and 9 are contradictory; therefore, one or more of the premises is false: either God does not exist, or he is not both omnipotent and benevolent or there is a reason why He does not act immediately.
(From Wikipedia: Problem of Evil. Although in its present shape the article at present appears to have the problem that affects Wikipedia of “fan-bias”. Know that it isn’t the end-all of the subject, of course)

Naturally, because the argument depends upon premise number 5, with special emphasis upon the word “immediately”, the dismantling of the argument must rely upon the dismantling of this premise, from which the following premises will fall. I will make no pretension of responding here to every aspect of every aspect of every formulation of the problem of evil. For the present essay, I will focus exclusively upon the question of “what is human evil?” (and by extension, that of fallen angels like the satan), so as to deal with why God would allow it to arise, and why He wouldn’t simply dispatch it and everything surrounding it including its consequences immediately.

First and foremost, as pointed out by the moral argument for the existence of God (even though I don’t think it by itself is proof, merely a statement of implications), if everything is in fact reducible to atoms and natural laws, than this bears the implication that “evil” can in fact be reduced to either “that which I don’t like or wish was true” or “that which society doesn’t like or wish was true” (A loose paraphrase of a great many secular theories of ethics), with no metaphysical (that which comes before physics) basis other than these things. In other words, insofar as one cannot say a property of an atom is “evil”, and therefore likewise no combination of atoms will hold the property of “evil”, good and evil are would be mental conceptions with absolutely no metaphysical basis in reality, in actuality fully as much of a group delusion for as the atheists say God is. Hence, even on the atheistic conception there is no “thing” called evil, which is why it lies on the other sphere of Stephen Jay Gould’s somewhat true, somewhat questionable concept of “Non-overlapping magisteria” of topics science cannot interact with, and hence the sphere which atheists technically deny the metaphysical truth of. If the atheist wishes to delusionally believe in the existence of good and evil, that’s ok, but he maintains neither the foundations to speak of the existence of any “evil” or “good” with which to make this argument in the first place.

Now, as a Christian, I do indeed believe in the metaphysical existence of good, which does indeed open the possibility of the question “What is evil?” By extension, this would then lead to actual reality of the question “Does the Christian God exist?” hinging upon the existence and nature of evil. Drawing the implications from my arguments above, whatever evil is, it would not be a “thing”, because evil is not a property of substance, but rather some kind of state of being on the mental level. One common objection to the book of Genesis’ (whatever view one takes of it) account of the way humans came to have “evil” is the conception that merely giving humans the imperfection of the ability to accept the possibility of choosing to be evil is itself evil.

The question then becomes “What is perfection?”, for which, to help pin the concept down, I will turn to geometry. When I, as someone who is no artist, draw a circle, the thing that most leaps to my mind is its imprecision. What I have drawn is most assuredly a circle, but it is definitely not a “perfect circle” which is perfectly precise in equally divided roundness and lack of straightness. When I ask someone who is an artist to draw me a circle, I find it is closer in nature to being a perfect circle, but upon closer examination I still find certain things which give it a lack of even roundness and linear qualities. When I create a circle upon a computer, a mathematical device free of the little imprecisions of the human hand, it appears I have something even more like a perfect circle. However, when I use the computer’s own tool, the magnifying glass, I then discover what I was truly looking at – a relentlessly linear and somewhat uneven object which only appeared to be perfect from a distance, but which in reality was anything but. From this, we may conjecture that a true perfect circle would require an infinite amount of particles getting progressively smaller while cancelling out the uneven roundness and linearities of the circle. In essence, the dimensions of a perfect circle would by infinity by infinity as required by an infinite amount of defining matter.

However, if the demensions are truly infinity by infinity, why is it that in any circle, the mere definition of its shape means that a square of the same dimensions will absolutely encompass the entirety of the circle. In other words, even if it is possible to mentally concieve such a thing, a perfect circle is an impossibility merely by being a circle. As relates to God, because God in an absolte and actual infinity, it bears the implication that for exactly this reason that because an actual infinity is all-encompassing, therefore there cannot possibly be any rival infinity that is not in fact simply the thing itself. For this reason, the old atheist canards about “Can God create a stone so heavy even God can’t lift it” or “Can God create a square circle” are just as meaningful as the question “If the universe has an infinite amount of pencils, can it also have an infinite amount of apples?”

So, what does this have to do with human evil? First, if the definition of “perfect” is actually “to be an actual infinity”, God by definition can no more create a perfect being than he can create a stone so heavy he cannot lift or create a square circle. If God possesses infinite attributes, any “creation” posessing infinite attributes would in fact simply be God Himself – it would be like adding members of the Trinity.

For this reason, for God to create something that is not Himself, he must limit its attributes to give it individuality with which a thing can be defined as seperate from God, even if at all times its existence is sustained by God. The Bible itself backs up this assertion when it writes “‘Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error;” (Job 4:17-18 ESV) and “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ESV) Because there is no indication in Scripture of any angels who had decided to sin and yet remain serving God in heaven. The fallen angels exiled for their rebellion who became demons, who hence never show any desire of serving God henceforth, the only exception being the satan acting as accuser of men before God, although this is most likely out of desire to watch man suffer however possible, both through justice and injustice. [1]

So then, we have it that even angels, the direct servants of God are capable of making errors even if the ones that did not fall one way or another no longer have any desire to sin. For example, we may imagine an angel daydreaming while being spoken to God, or perhaps an angel tripping over his robe and causing an angelic domino effect while practicing for “Worthy is the Lamb” as seen by John in the Book of Revelation. It would be patently absurd for God to kick these angels out of heaven for these kinds of mistakes, although something a of a rebuke would be in order. Once more, such things as this would be a result of limited attributes – a limited wisdom and limited mind with free will that would choose to focus more upon cool memories rather than what God said, or a temporary lack of mental synchronicity between the motions of the legs an the motions of the robes resulting in a much different kind of hosts of fallen angels than people tend to normally think of (^_^). The distance between angels and God can here be described as having a “safe distance” from the limitless completeness of God – distant enough to be their own entity and hence also making mistakes based upon limited attributes, while close enough to God’s own attributes to not sin, i.e. be disloyal to the service of God’s will which is generated by His infinite wisdom.

So, what does this have to do with human (and angel) evil? Well, one of the classic solutions to the problem of evil, referred to as theodicy, was proposed by St. Augustine. What Augustine said was that evil is not so much a thing-in-itself as it is the absence of a thing, namely good. In modern times, this is compared to cold, which no matter how much of it we experience, particularly in times of winter chill, does not happen to exist as anything except the slowing down of the electrons that make up heat – there is no cold, only the absence of heat. For this reason, we see a great deal of words in our own language concerning evil which deliberately make themselves either the negation of something good like in-justice or un-fair, or we make terms of entropy like corruption or decadence. Of course, this by itself does not solve the entire problem, as we have the additional steps of why God would allow the onset of this “coldness” that is evil, and what exactly this “coldness” really consists of.

(To be continued)

[1] John Milton explores themes like this in his work Paradise Lost, though contrary to language arts teachers whose professions have made them immune to real exegesis and Milton’s Paradise Regained, the satan is as much the “hero” of Paradise Lost as Hitler is the “hero” of Germany.

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