by Dr Daniel Thejus (Bobby)
Evil, the Price to be Free
Suffering is when a bomb blast results in losing a limb and a family member. Suffering is when certain economic policies favour the rich and throw a bone to the poor. Suffering is when a political party favours one race, sex or religion over others. Suffering is when family life becomes a struggle. Suffering is when competition comes in the way of friendship. Suffering is when you are falsely accused. Suffering is when you walk into a government office and later realise that those who drive better cars are ahead of you although they came after you. All this put together we call moral evil because, if you have not already noticed, the common thread is, human involvement.
When God created a human life he created us with free will and this gives us the potential to sin. If he did not give us free-will we would never be able to love. If he restricts our free-will to do only good, we will neither possess free-will nor have any knowledge of good. We will be Robots. Inbuilt with free-will is the potential to break a law and cause suffering to others and us.
The Nature of Natural Evil
The suffering that results from the workings of nature, like natural disasters, we call natural evil. It appears to have no human involvement; when a child loses her family to the tsunami, an earthquake destroys a house built with all their savings, a flood that destroys a farmer’s yield.
The universe is like a picture or a story; we must see it as a whole. In some cases, a disaster in one part might achieve some greater good for the whole which will make sense in the end. We know that natural disasters are not completely disastrous, the lava from volcanic eruptions make the land fertile. Scientists tell us that our beautiful and complex universe is the result of a cosmic disaster.
In the meanwhile, Christians need to actively participate in the civil activities of the state. Our presence ought to be felt in the town planning commission. We have to be the moral conscience when corrupt politicians agree to convert a lake into a housing area or ruthlessly cut trees and turn our world into a concrete jungle. We must be the prophet who gives timely ominous warnings.
Either Evil or Good, not both
Why does this pose as a problem for God’s existence? The answer to that question is dependent on our definition of God’s existence. Christians believe that God is Omnibenevolent (All-good), Omniscient (All-knowing) and Omnipotent (All-powerful). People argue that if there really is a person with all of these traits at his disposal and yet there is evil therefore he does not exist.
Good and evil are not contradictory or mutually exclusive, they are just opposites. Opposites can afford to exist side by side. Peter Kreeft, explaining Thomas Aquinas’ view, says that it is possible for good and evil to exist as contraries. For example, we are both invisible and visible. We are body (visible) and mind (invisible). We have the capacity to love and hate ourselves at the same time. Dorothy L. Sayers says, when we talk about ‘being’ we must immediately assume ‘non-being’. The moment we think about Hamlet we have also simultaneously been introduced to Not-Hamlet. For an author who is looking for a right word, makes every other word, wrong. Similarly, the moment you think of ‘good’ you should be prepared to meet evil soon. Evil comes later only because it is contingent or dependent on good for its existence. It is expected then, for evil to exist in God’s good world.
However, while it may exist we have been empowered to act beyond the call of duty. In the recent past, we have witnessed a lot of disasters. While these disasters have caused havoc and wrecked the lives of so many people, it is fascinating to witness how humans have risen to the occasion and transcended barriers of religion, caste, language, and sex. I met a callous and indifferent young man who was transformed into an active agency of disaster management and relief.
Many of us are aware of such exceptional examples of human generosity and kindness. These times of disaster are great opportunities for us to take the heart of Jesus to the hurting hearts of the victims.
So where is God? Maybe, he is in each one of us as we become his hands and feet in a world that is in need.