Good vs Evil (discussion)
In a recent conversation on another blog the topic of Good and Evil was discussed. I bring this subject here for more discussion. I invite anyone who would like to discuss their views of Good and Evil. In this discussion there is no right or wrong answers.
Phelonius at Sciolist Salmagundi said...
I always like the take on evil by Thomas Aquinas. He basically stressed that evil was not a 'thing' or even anything necessarily personified by a spirit being or a physical being. His claim was that evil is the absence of good. In other words, if a person accepts his or her responsibility (and the joy) of living to the good as much as possible, then the place for evil is very small indeed.
This argument was primarily aimed at the dualist theologies in which the creator God created both good AND evil. If there is not a real thing, good, that is pursued, then the absence of good is ipso facto evil. In this understanding, one cannot really embrace evil as much as one 'avoids' good.In the case of a complete madman, I think Thomas would have argued that he was impaired to the point that he did not know the value of pursuing the good. To your point, John, then this guy cannot be demonized in that sense. That does not mean that the responsibility is not his, and his alone, it just means that we cannot guess what the Maker's judgment will be.
I think Milton's Lucifer falls under this category rather well. The absence of loving the supreme God is to love the self as supreme instead. That, the sin of pride, is considered by Milton as the chief of all sins. That was why his Adam fell from grace, as he was tempted and fell from grace by wanting his own good rather than that of God.
I tend to agree with that, i.e. evil being the absence of good.It's logical.
John, along the lines of evil being the absence of good...Darkness is the absence of Light. I can agree with that.and James, I agree that we cannot know the judgement Cho will face. We do not know what motivated this young man to commit such a heinous act.
Also, I do not believe that God created Good or Evil.
Kelly, interesting.That is a lot like the tradition of "Deism." Would you be willing to elaborate on the cause of good?
Though it may have elements of "deism" my belief is that God is involved in our lives so far as we will permit.I believe that God IS good. I also believe that He allows evil to be present to allow us to choose between good and evil. If we are forced to choose good, are we really good?
Pardon my reference again to the Book of Mormon, but it is key to formation of my understanding or rather belief of the nature of God and good and evil.
"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...,righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. "
I present this as my personal beliefs on the subject and by no means expect anyone to see it as I do.I like this debate.
That is the basis of deism, in a sense. It is not the hard deism of Thomas Jefferson, where God creates that world and then steps away to watch his creation run like a clock. There is a link between this line of thought and that of Aquinas. Thomas would not agree that God allows evil to exist, per se. He would agree that God allows us a free will so that we can choose between Him and hell, so to speak.There is a difference between definitions of evil. One person may say, why does God allow disease and hunger, floods and earthquakes?
Those things, in Thomistic thought, are better represented as accidents of nature than evil. The reason is that nature presents trials to us as well, but these are not brought about, necessarily, by any kind of rational or irrational choice. They happen because nature exists and nature is based on rude survival.True evil, as you also represented, is based upon the choice of a being that has the ability to choose. God, being all Good, is one choice. One can choose God or "Not God." The reason that that is evil is that all things that are "Not God" are by definition, evil.
This is the basis of salvation. If a person were an object that is truly evil, then there can be no forgiveness of sins. God cannot forgive an earthquake because an earthquake is acting out the natural forces of nature. A lion eats what it kills because it must. Humans, on the other hand, are the only creatures that are truly capable of choosing between a good and a "not good," so there is still room for a redemptive act.
"One person may say, why does God allow disease and hunger, floods and
How we deal with adversity is another part of the equation. Do we turn bitter or do we rise above. Many have turned against God for things that have 'happened' to them by way of nature.While at the same time, many have become great because of the choice they made to make lemonade out of lemons.
"True evil, ..., is based upon the choice of a being that has the ability to choose. God, being all Good, is one choice. One can choose God or 'Not God.' The reason that that is evil is that all things that are 'Not God' are by definition, evil."
Exactly!I also agree that Mankind are the only ones who have the ability to choose between these two dichotomies.
"Why does God allow bad things to happen?"
That's not some profound theological mystery that takes a lifetime of exegetical study to glean out of The Bible. It's spelled out quite plainly in the first book (Genesis): Live in this paradisical utopia (i.e. Eden) under One Rule and nothing bad will ever happen. Choose to break the One Rule, however, and you're on your own (and don't blame God for what happens).
So, what do you think....?
I think I killed your blog here....
It's not dead, yet. I have a friend who thought about commenting on this subject but is very apprehensive about commenting at all because she is afraid that she will appear to sound stupid or dumb.
I sometimes feel that way on other blogs.
Hey, YOU did not kill it. In the last few months I have had more comments than in the entire life of my blog to that point. So, hey, I'm happy.
She is afraid to sound stupid?
After what I was writing??
I have always appreciated your comments...even when they are a bit off the wall.. ;)
Seriously, I think we all think that what we say may come across as less than brilliant. I am surprised that anyone pays visits to my blog.
I remember when I first set up my blog and then ventured into the blogosphere for the first time. I think one of the very first blogs I visited was Republicus. I made a small comment about how good it was to see someone else who saw things as I did, but could articulate them way better than I could.
Over time I got comfortable with John and could say just about anything I wanted in his blog. I even got someone else temporarily kicked off his blog (which he NEVER did before or since) because of something that person said about me that made me not want to be there.
I still step into a blog gingerly until I know the person on the other end and know how I will be received.
I think I can say what I want on your blog now, as well. :D
As long as the owner of the blog is good with me I don't care what other visiters think.
I really wish this friend felt more comfortable sharing her views or at least contributing to discussions.
Anyway, don't be afraid that your comments are being laughed at...unless you are trying to be funny.
I like having political, philosophical and religious discussions...as well as other bizarre meanderings.
Off the wall is what I do best I think.
James, so why do you think I visit your blog?
Now look what I started.
Oh I hope you come to our blog because you want to have something to do that does not involve thinking too much. Sal was saying that he thought that there was somebody else participating in that last go-around of madness.
Salmagundi is a place where we go in order to free ourselves of intelligence and sometimes taste. It is a writing outlet, pure and simple. You will be always welcome there.
That last go around of madness was hilarious. I had a lot of fun pretending to be you all. he he he.
My brothers did that to me one day. They got on msn messenger and were able to pretend to be me. It took me a bit to figure out which one was which brother. But they do have their oddities that make them unique...but I wouldn't tell them how I figured it out so as not to give away my secret.
Good discussion. I'm a Deist but not like either Aquinas or Jefferson. Aquinas lived before the seventeenth century Enlightenment and therefore still thought of God in a slightly primitive and superstitious way. Jefferson, who was the epitome of a post-Enlightenment man, almost had it right but he still thought of God as separate from man.
The fact is, if God is omnipresent as we believe, then He is present in us and we are part of God not separate from God. I believe not only that God exists but that ONLY God exists and we are all one with God. Good is when we are aware of our oneness with God. Evil is when we deliberately separate ourselves from His goodness and love.
Patrick, Thanks for your comments.
I tend to think of God with his influence reaching out to us. It's like the Mom who is in the room with a young child. If the child leaves the room he or she can feel the absence of its mother.
Of course that analogy cannot be taken completely as it stands. But I do not believe that He is omnipresent.
But I believe that his presence and influence can be felt...and most especially when we are 'closer' to Him. I guess that can be compared to your assessment that we are all part of God.
This is fun, isn't it?
I am not sure that omnipresence is saying that God is therefore one and the same as His creation. I DO think He is onmipresent, though.
I tend to think along Thomistic lines that God is present at all times and everywhere and at every moment in the act of creation. He wills us to be at every instant. That is, if He wanted to stop us from being all he would have to do is 'think' that and we would cease to have reality.
I think the reason that we are 'made in His image' is so that we share with Him the ability to make decisions. Unlike Him, we frequently make bad decisions, and so we cannot really be one and the same as God. However, having a free will also means that we can get very very close, and with grace we can become perfected. I do agree with you that evil is the act of free will, and nothing less.
I think it is in the act of salvation that we will become, for all intents and purposes, that singular unity that you are looking for in this life.
"evil is the act of free will, and nothing less."
I tend to think that when we choose to act (using our free will or agency) contrary to that of God, that is evil. Free will, in and of itself, is not evil.
2 Ne. 2: 27 (B of M)
"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself."
More on the nature of God...
Alma 30: 44 (B of M)
"...The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."
The very act of creating the human in His image meant that we were endowed with the ability to choose.
The will is not evil by definition. It is the part of God that we were created with that is most like Him. We were created with a body. In Thomistic thought, matter and those things that are created as material things are seen, as in Genesis, as "good" in and of themselves. We are also created with a mind. That thing which, by itself, is not evil. The mind can know things and learn things. Then, lastly, we are created with the thing that drives both the body and the mind. That is the "will."
The will is the thing that can drive men to evil, because it is in that very place where we recognize the truth or we do not. We obey the Maker, or we do not. Christ told us that it is not the things enter our bodies that make us good or evil, but those things that we issue forth that make us good or evil.
Likewise, it is not temptation that makes us evil, but the giving into it that is. When we choose to follow it.
Even Christ was tempted.
...I have more to say on this subject, but it is late. So, I will get back to this tomorrow.
I am glad this subject is not dead. :D and see, James, you didn't kill my blog.
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