The battle between the good and evil has always fascinated people’s minds. Millions of books were written on the clash of the two forces, thousands of movies were shot to disclose the scale and the grandeur of this fight. In fact, many religions include a description of the absolute good and the absolute evil, the former being typically referred to as God, while the latter having countless number of names: devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Baal, and so on.
On the one hand, the latter seems a complete abomination and, therefore, does not deserve the right to exist, which is emphasized especially strongly in Christianity. The evil embraces a variety of ideas and concepts, yet it is always considered as something to get rid of once and for all. Hurting and destroying evil, however, does not seem to follow the basic principles of Christianity, which is founded on the concept of love and forgiveness.
Therefore, there is only one way to handle the concept of evil, which is to embrace it. Despite the fact that God and the Evil are traditionally opposed in Christianity, the only possible way of handling the evil should be viewed through the reconciliation of the two, since the former, as the alpha and omega of the universe, spawned the creation of the latter and is, in fact, related to it.
While the existence of the evil is confirmed by the Bible, one might still find it quite controversial that God, who, according to the Bible, represents the most just, the most virtuous and the kindest entity actually allows for the evil to exist. The very idea of God allowing for evil sounds surreal enough. Indeed, according to the basic Biblical premises, God punishes sinners, i.e., the people who do evil things.
However, it is still undeniable that evil is an integral part of the universe, which picks the question whether the two are supposed to battle with each other or to reconcile. There are several answers to this question. According to one hypothesis, the fact that the evil and God coexist can be explained by the fact that there has to be dynamics between the good and evil; otherwise, the world as we know it would have ceased to exist.
As Jacobs explains, most of the misunderstandings concerning the origin of the evil and the relation between God and the Evil stem from the lack of understanding of the true meaning of Good and Evil (Jacobs, 2003, 311). Another objection against the fact that God has control over the evil concerns the absence of any actions against the evil from God.
There is no record of any struggle between God and Satan in the Bible, there is no mentioning of any miracle happening in order to prevent the historical evil doers, numerous massacres, genocides and other hideous crimes against humanity have been committed despite the fact that God Almighty watches over the human race, according to what Christians say.
To solve the given conflict between the Biblical principles and the reality it will be required to explore the specifics of the Christian religion a bit closer. Among the answers to the given problem, Augustine’s Solution is mentioned most often. According to Augustine of Hippo, evil could not come from God – instead, it had to exist as a separate substance.
Augustine argues that the goodness is the natural state of humans and that evil is foreign to the natural state of existence: “Evil is contrary to nature; in fact, it can only do harm to nature; and it would not be a fault to withdraw from God were it not that it is more natural to adhere him. It is that fact which makes a withdrawal a fault. That is why the choice of evil is an impressive proof that the nature is good” (11.17). (Schuler, 2008, 33)
Therefore, according to Schuler, Augustine’s argument is perfectly viable. As Schuler explained, “Thus, evil can be identified as that which works against the natural inclinations of human beings, and for Augustine, as for all Christians, humans were created to be naturally attracted to God” (Schuler, 2008, 33). Truly, the given argument deserves to be mentioned as a full-fledged concept of good and evil in the Christian religion.
On the other hand, it should also be kept in mind that, according to the Christian religion, Lucifer, who practically is the evil himself, is a fallen angel, i.e., a has-been element of the Heaven and, therefore, the good (Scudder, 2001). As the recent theosophical researches say, the origin of Satan gives a lot of food for thoughts and, therefore, questions the origin of evil, allowing to suggest that the evil was spawned from the goodness.
Even though the evidence concerning the origin of the evil in general and the Satan in particular is rather vague, it is still worth mentioning that in most sources that can be defined as credible, Satan is mentioned as a has-been angel, i.e., a former resident of heaven, who decided to use his cunningness to rebel against the Lord.
There are many interpretations of the given story; as far as the traditional Biblical interpretation goes, there is no exact statement concerning the Satan being a former angel, yet the following line can be interpreted as the proof that the Satan used to reside in heaven once (according to the King James version of the Bible): “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).
The fact that the Lucifer was referred to as the “son of the morning,” as well as the mentioning of his fall, proves the idea that he used to belong in Heaven. Consequently, it can be assumed that the Evil was spawned from goodness and virtue; logically, these two must have something in common – and, in fact, they do. Both represent the farthest extremes, both have little to do with anything related to the human world due to their extremeness, and both are magically intertwined in every single person.
Hence, it will be reasonable to assume that, when intertwined, the two neither clash, nor annihilate; instead, they represent a human being, with his/her faults, assets and moral principles. Therefore, the good and the evil cannot be considered completely incompatible; on the contrary, they mix into a peculiar meld of sin and virtue.
Hence, evil should not be fought against until it finally vanishes without a trace, for it is a completely unattainable goal; instead, the good and the evil should be reconciled. Hence, admitting the existence of evil, one will inevitably ask oneself a question concerning what the evil is needed for. There are many ways of determining the role of the evil.
From Jacobs’ point of view, the two primary roles that the evil plays in the Biblical stories are 1) the concept that serves as the foil for the Goodness to evolve; 2) the concept that helps one define the line between the moral and the immoral. Without the evil as an element of the human world, it would be impossible to figure out what is good and what is bad.
The evil serves as a reference point for people to draw the line between the moral and the immoral, thus, becoming able to turn into virtuous believers (Pachuau, 2007). Without the evil, one would not be able to define the concept of good actions and virtuous behavior. As a result, evil actions would be carried out eventually. The evil can be considered an element that the world needs to have as a marker for the territory that must not be trodden (Browning & Reed, 2004).
Even if there was no evil in the world, people would have eventually discovered it, for the humankind needs to know where the boundaries between what is allowed and what is prohibited lie. It would be wrong to assume that, due to the relation between God and evil, the former possesses an evil element as well. Instead, the two should be viewed as two opposite entities, one of which stems from another one.
Instead, it should be assumed that the evil must coexist with the good, since without the former, the latter cannot be defined. While absolute virtue is considered the ultimate goal of the Christianity, it is necessary to admit that the given goal is hardly attainable, which means that the humankind needs both the idea of the good and the idea of the evil in order to define the basic principles of morality and virtue to follow.
- Browning, R. L. & Reed, R. A. (2004). Forgiveness, reconciliation and moral courage: Motives and designs for Ministry in a troubled world. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
- Jacobs, M. R. (2003). The conceptual dynamics of good and evil in the Joseph story: An exegetical and hermeneutical inquiry. Journal of the Study of the Old Testament, 27, 309–338.
- Pachuau, M. (2007). Construction of good and evil in Iris Murdoch’s discourse. New Delhi, IN: Sales Office.
- Schuler, S. J. (2008). Augustinian Auden: The influence of Augustine of Hippo on W. H. Auden. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.
- Scudder, P. (2001). How Jesus reconciled mankind to God. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.