The problem of evil
We want good and we need someone who is infinitely good to give it to us forever, but exactly what is good? We need to answer that question so we can understand its opposite, What is evil?
What is good?
Good is what works forever. By “work” I mean harmoniously, smoothly, without contradiction or conflict. The universe is all good when all of its parts forever interact for the mutual benefit of all.
When we were children we were taught that good is obeying mommy and daddy. Good is following the rules. We then try to be good by forcing ourselves into conforming to expectations. This way of looking at goodness has some value for children and criminals, but it is external and superficial. We look at goodness as something imposed. This is not the way of the eternal universe.
Deity didn't make a universe then impose a set of laws on it. Rather, of all the countless possibilities, he made a universe that works like a well-designed, well-oiled machine. The others didn't work, or didn't work as well. This universe works and is capable of working forever. This universe is good.
This is the only conclusion consistent with an infinite good person. Such a supreme being would make only a good universe, a universe that works infinitely without end. Before any feature is added, the IGP looks down the endless timeline to see if any problems will arise. If destruction or loss occurs, then the feature is not added. In fact, the feature must contribute to infinite growth and creativity.
Therefore, goodness is defined not by a set of arbitrary rules or laws, but whether or not the goal of eternal growth is met. This is consistent with faith, hope, and love, because it is a natural outgrowth. Father wants what is best for his children. His focus is not on checking boxes on a list or obeying made-up rules. This means that goodness is normal. It is the natural way. It is the endless process of peace and harmony.
Faith is good because it includes both trust and trustworthiness. These are obvious ingredients of eternal happiness. With them, relationships never break down and wisdom always prevails.
Hope is good because it accepts and thrives without fear on eternally good growth.
Love persists even when goodness breaks down into evil, thus making it possible to transform evil back into good. Love commits to the future even before future goodness appears.
Good is faith, hope, and love forever.
What is evil?
Evil is anything less than good. In other words, anything that fails to work forever is evil. This is the only way to completely and consistently define it. Destruction, decay, death, selfishness, suffering, and loss all bring good to an end. The end of good is clearly not good. Therefore, it is opposite. It is evil. Evil is anything less than good.
To put this in concrete terms, evil may look good for a trillion years and it may work for a trillion people, but a trillion falls far short of eternity for everyone. A quality of evil is deceit, which is a partial destruction of eternal truth.
This means evil is like an attacking parasite. It cannot be created or survive on its own. It must feed off of good because it is a rejection of good. It is destruction in the midst of creation and so it first must have something to destroy. Only good could exist in an infinite good person’s original perfect universe. Therefore, evil is a destroying force, or anti-force, that turns something into nothing and when all things are annihilated, evil must cease in it own black nothingness after turning all the lights off.
There are three aspects to evil. The primary choice which causes secondary effects such as pain and death. Even if innocent bystanders are far enough away to not be directly touched by secondary effects their questions and potential doubts are a residual influence.
What is primary choice?
By definition, an infinite good person cannot be the cause or source of evil. Everything Good thinks, feels, and does is good. Every action is only for the benefit and betterment of people. Therefore, if evil did not come from God, then it could originate in the only place over which He does not have direct and full responsibility—personal choice.
Evil did not cause the first evil choice. There was no breakdown of good, because Goodness is infinite. Evil came into being because it was chosen, and choice does not need a cause. That is what makes it choice. There are motives involved in every choice, but no cause could exist for the first negative choice in a positive being in a positive universe.
We will soon look at history to see how evil arose, but why it did will forever be a mystery.
It is easier to explain the second evil choice.
Evil deranges and degrades the whole human system starting with the very innermost thoughts. The chooser thinks he/she has acted purely from eternal self-interest— “I need to do this to survive.” There is an immediate urge to defend, blame, and protect— “I had to do it because no one else cares.” There is a thrill and lust to repeat while avoiding getting caught. The parasite that did not exist before the choice is in control while deceiving the evildoer that they are in control.
The perfection of an unselfish universe where everyone has healthy concern for the well-being of everyone else is now brought crashing down in the heart of the wrongdoer. Distrust, fear, and jealousy take the place of cooperation and confiding love. Light and peace are replaced by darkness and guilt. Left unchecked, evil would rapidly divide and conquer individuals, societies, and the entire universe.
What are secondary effects?
While it is impossible for us to now know the original connections between intelligent beings and their environment, the decisions of evil became behaviors which imbalanced and destroyed the fine-tuning of nature. Rippling outward and down through time, almost everything we see is affected by inefficiency, loss, suffering, and death. As more shortsighted decisions are prompted by the deceit and foolishness of evil, multiple avalanches are started that flow together in one massive tidal wave of destruction and misery. Innocent animals and relatively innocent people are buried by consequences in which they had no involvement. Sometimes it is fairly clear that a person has caused their own suffering, but usually we are just doing our best to deal with uncontrollable influences set in motion before our time.
What is residual influence?
The politicians were eager to close the issue. The police were anxious to prosecute someone for the crime. A man was executed so leadership could claim justice. However, shortly after his death, he was discovered to be innocent. Impatience and sloppiness led to incomplete evidence in the courtroom.
The population was enraged. Even those unaffected by the crime and not connected to its victims were angry. A revolution began to brew to overthrow leadership.
We have seen scenes like this repeated many times in the riots and protests of history. Injustice, or perceived injustice, can spark a fire that sweeps through society faster than flames through dry grass. Even justice properly executed can touch off a firestorm in a disapproving population.
Residual influence goes far beyond, and can last much longer, than the original event and its effects. Fires we thought were out were just smoldering underground ready to flare up later. Wars and feuds can persist for generations and centuries after the original combatants are dead. Deeds of evil can have unintended, long-term consequences. Influences can persist that cannot be directly traced to the original crime.
We are still wrestling with the residual influences of the Nazi Holocaust and the atrocities of Soviet Russia, Communist China, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. These and many others raise questions of justice, mercy, human depravity, and God’s role.
In your words:
Can you think of other types of evil? Give examples of each of the three types. If Good does not deal with evil in a good way, would you begin to have questions and doubts?