A reflection on evil

By TOM QUINER, IFL Board President

a reflection on evilIf God is real, if God is Love, how can He allow so many innocent people to be butchered as happened on 9/11, two decades ago today?

That doesn’t seem very loving, does it?

St. Augustine formulated the dilemma this way:

If God is all-good, he would will all good and no evil.

And if God were all-powerful, he would accomplish everything he wills.

But evil exists as well as good.

Therefore, either God is not all-powerful, or not all-good, or both.

The key words here are that “evil exists.”  But what is “evil?”

St. Augustine explains that evil is the absence of good.  In other words, evil isn’t a created thing.

Christian apologist,  Gregory Koukl, explained the Augustine philosophy regarding evil this way:

First: 1) All things that God created are good; 2) evil is not good; 3) therefore, evil was not created by God.

Second: 1) God created every thing;  2) God did not create evil;  3) therefore, evil is not a thing.

Augustine built on the premise:

“Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil.’  All which is corrupted is deprived of good.”

Mr. Koukl clarifies:

The diminution of the property of goodness is what’s called evil. Good has substantial being; evil does not. It is like a moral hole, a nothingness that results when goodness is removed. Just as a shadow is no more than a “hole” in light, evil is a hole in goodness.

Augustine says we can’t choose evil, we can only turn away from the good:

“For when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil–not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked.

When you think back to St. John’s description that “God is Love,” the possibility of evil makes sense.

If God is Love, and if He made us in His image, then He made us to love.  Humanity has the potential to love.  But love is a choice.

You can’t love if you’re lacking in free will.  Otherwise, your existence would be defined as mind control.  Your existence would be much the same as a puppet on a string.

God didn’t make us that way.

He allowed us the free will to turn away from goodness, and the encouragement not to.

Our time in this life is intended to be a time of moral growth, a turning toward the good.

In a perverse way, evil contributes to the greater good, according Mr. Koukl:

… certain virtues couldn’t exist without evil: courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission and obedience, to name a few. These are not virtues in the abstract, but elements of character that can only be had by moral souls. Just as evil is a result of acts of will, so is virtue. Acts of moral choice accomplish both.

There’s a sound reason why God has allowed evil. It doesn’t conflict with His goodness. God is neither the author of evil, nor its helpless victim. Rather, precisely because of His goodness He chooses to co-exist with evil for a time.

Let us together pray for the victims of 9/11.  Let us pray for God to console their families, their friends, their communities, our nation. As C.S. Lewis reminds us above, let us remember the heroes of 9/11 and introduce a new generation to those who demonstrated courage, mercy, forgiveness, patience, the giving of comfort, heroism, perseverance, faithfulness, self-control, long-suffering, submission, and obedience as a result of this catastrophic event.

In this season when evil seems to hold sway, may the tragedy of 9/11 serve as a catalyst to turn us toward God.  God is Love.  May His Son, the Prince of Peace, dry our tears.

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