Evil: flaw in God or necessity for our sake?

Published 07 Jun 2017

The question of why God allows evil is extremely difficult to answer if we ask it in terms of classical Christian theology. Indeed, if God is not only omniscient and omnipotent, but also the kindest in existence – why does he allow evil and suffering? For the sake of argument, we shall accept the Christian position: that God takes an active position in humanity’s lives, and that he, in his infinity, knows and cares about individual lives, not treats them as we would treat cells of our own body – with care, but a disinterest in each individual cell’s life.

There are a number of classical explanations to the phenomenon of evil in this context. One of them, expounded upon most by the renowned John Hick, is the so-called “soul-making theodicy”. It states that God created not slaves to live, not dolls, but children that evolve – and children must be taught. As anyone who had to deal with children can tell you, there must be two ways of education: the whip and the candy, bitter and sweet. Only in balance they are effective. If we are not playthings to have fun with, but indeed Children of God, then we must go through all of the lessons we can.

If we are Children, then we live through God’s own experience, to get closer to infinity with every one. In Christian theology, God allowed his son to partake of human pain and fear – indeed, a mirroring process to what happened in the beginning, when God allowed humans to partake of his own worst qualities. When God created children, he gave them the ability to learn – for what else could free will be? – a place to learn and grow, and the necessity to do so. Indeed, the best of circumstances to aid us in rising to his level. To be like God, to be above all of creation, even the angels, we must know all aspects of his existence – including evil.

How can evil exist in a perfect creature, for surely, perfection denies evil? In my humble opinion, to deny God evil would be to limit him. People always seem to forget for some reason that a truly infinite being would not only be the kindest in existence, but also the cruelest. God is infinity, he is beyond good and evil, he is beyond cruel and kind. He is always both. He is the spectrum itself, not any of its ends. He is the merging of opposites, something we, with our thoroughly dual perception, cannot comprehend.

People have always wanted to place shackles on infinity, as on anything we cannot understand. Even in math we must work with limits to somehow appraise it, to use it. Yet, humanity fails in shackling infinity time and time again, because we are finite in ourselves, however we may try to go beyond our finiteness. We are attempting to bind reality with illusory chains, and are utterly unsuccessful, though we may at times amuse ourselves with false tales of victory. “The ways of God are incomprehensible” – so goes the classical quote. Indeed, we can have no idea of what goes on within the mind of a sentient creature so far beyond us, however much we wish to. We have no idea what he might consider good or useful, or how he perceives things. If we take Christian theology, we can know for certain that he can think at the human level – Jesus being proof – but wherever did humankind get the idea that this human level is the most important? God is a creature with his own plans, and while they both concern us and with us, it is not necessary that the latter outweigh the former.

Even if he cares for us more than for the rest of creation, we persist in our anger. Though we, in thinking logically a bit, know that evil that we perceive may be lesser, or not evil at all, when looked upon from the grander scale of things – and if God is all-kind, he surely works to prevent evils that are too great for us to work with, as a student is given progressively tougher exercises. Yet, like a child from whom a too-dangerous toy may be taken away does not understand why the parents act as they do and is angry, so are we angry with a God who, by definition, knows better in his omniscience. We are not angry with him for saving us – but when he goes against the illusion we have built ourselves of him.

As we can see, God has no reason to be kind. He is infinite, and he can be as cruel or kind as he wishes, as he is, in truth, beyond that – or not infinite. He does not owe it to us to care about us. Yet, even if we presume that he cares about us, we can see that evil is absolutely necessary for our growth, for us to expand and learn more of both God and ourselves. And last, as a point to think about, does not Murphy’s Law state that something can always get worse? We have no idea what God is truly preventing from happening to us – indeed, humans likely might have died out all too long ago. Yet we exist – thanks to this great balance of duality, which is truly necessary for our ongoing life and evolution.

End Notes

  • John Hick’s Official Web Site, August 5, 2005.
  • The Three Initiates, The Kybalion, August 5, 2005.
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