Good or Evil, The Chicken or the Egg

What came first Good or Evil?  All religions seem to think that the universe is inherently good.  Everything is part of the same good God (a pantheistic God) or part of the same good God’s creation.  In either case, the universe was created and “it was good”.

So then from where did the concept of evil come about?  Some feel that it is because of our own confusion with the reality of the universe, equivalently saying that evil is just an incorrect answer to the question of reality.  Others feel it is because of Satan or not being in the will of God.  Still others feel that it is anything that deviates from good.

In true convergenistic style, I lean towards the belief that all three are actually saying the same definition of evil.  God is the universe.  God is reality.  To be apart from God is to sin or be evil.  To be apart from reality is to be evil.

This frustrating question of free will that comes up is interesting as well.  Can we truly choose to be evil?  Or is the universe allowing us to think that we are evil in a universally deterministic chaos machine?  I’ll get into free will in a different post, but it seems to me that we can either choose to be good or to not be good.

Is it possible for only humans to be evil or is there an external entity called evil apart from humans?  In the pantheistic religions, evil is something that is inherent in all of creation, not just in humans.  All “objects” in the universe that behave themselves as separate, individual objects are considered to possess evil, that separation from the good which is being one with the universe.  In this case, what attribute in all individual objects allows them to view themselves as separate.  Is it instinct?

In monotheistic religions, evil is a human trait, but then evil is also considered passed down from the original sinner.  Is evil in this case also instinct?

However, the initial conditions in the universe were good.  And the universe seems to be deterministic, derived from that original state.  So at what point did evil, that element of randomness and deviation, come about?  Or is the existence of evil a necessary transition from the initial conditions in the universe to the optimal conditions of ultimate good?

2 thoughts on “Good or Evil, The Chicken or the Egg

  1. It is unfortunate that with all your philosophizing, you have missed the simple answer that the Bible gives.

    1. God is good.
    2. God is sovereign even over the existence of evil in the universe.
    3. So your last statement turns out to be true: “Or is the existence of evil a necessary transition from the initial conditions in the universe to the optimal conditions of ultimate good?”.

    The way this plays out is given best in Romans 9:22-23, which says: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”

    The biblical reason why there is evil in the world is in order that God can “make known the riches of His glory” to His children.

    Jonathan Edwards gives a very clear explanation of this concept, so I close by quoting him:

    “It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent [=radiant], that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . .

    Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

    If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great . . .

    So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”

    (Jonathan Edwards, “Concerning the Divine Decrees,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), p. 528)

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