Thursday, October 24, 2013

Did God Create Evil?

          Following the last post, I am continuing on in a series of five questions that many have concerning Christian theology. These are usually conceived as internal, rather than external, critiques (I may go into detail in a later post about the difference). Essentially, it is a critique that examines whether or not Christianity lives up to its own principles. We shall see.

          Did God create evil?

          Christian theology generally answers "no" to this question. This is because, following Augustine, evil is what is called a "privation of the good." Evil is the absence of good (incidentally, this is why James can write that if you know to do good and don't do it, you've committed a sin, even if you've done nothing!). Evil is not a thing in itself; it is purely in terms of negating the good. Certainly, acts done against the moral standard are things, but they are only evil inasmuch as they are negations of standards. It's important to recognize Christianity affirms this, because this question is what is called an "internal critique." An external critique of a view states that some view conflicts with some other truth of the world; an internal critique assumes the truth of the worldview and points out an inconsistency with itself. The reason it's important to know that God's creating (or not creating) of evil is an internal critique is because then it just won't matter if someone disagrees with evil's ontological significance (that is, whether or not it is a true thing in its own right or just negations of goods).

          So, why does moral evil exist (here, I'm using "exist" in a normal, colloquial sense. We can easily interpret the question as "why do moral agents violate the good?")? Because of free will. It's a truth of logic that one cannot force someone to freely do something; it's logically incoherent, or a contradiction in the meaning of the terms. This means that God cannot force someone to freely do something. Notice that it is possible that God forces someone to do something. It's just not possible that God forces someone to freely do that thing. It's logically impossible, and it doesn't glorify God, as the ground of all truth, to ascribe falsehood to him. So what does this mean? It means that free creatures have the genuine option to rebel against God. And rebel freely they have!

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