The problem of good and evil is handled by religion,
philosophy, psychology and social sciences. In a very generic way, good can be
defined as everything that attracts us, inducing exalted emotions, what we wish
to imitate or make remembered. Evil is everything opposed to the good,
receiving negative evaluation, and what in our opinion should not exist. Evil
includes suffering, diseases, destruction, injustice, oppression, death.
We accept good as a natural thing, and evil as
unnatural. Evil is a problem, which people have been trying to apprehend since
the earliest ages. The elusiveness of this problem for a human mind can be
illustrated by the fact that different judgments about evil are as numerous as
worldís religions and philosophic schools. There can be physical and moral
good. Evil can also be classified as physical and moral.
Moral good and moral evil
By the experience, roots of good and evil go down
to the depth of a humanís moral core. On the one hand, the wish to learn the
truth and rethink oneís own life from the moral viewpoint is natural for man.
Things that are good attract man. He has inherent compassion toward other
people and living creatures in general. A product of this emotion is his desire
to help, protect, or save. Man feels moral satisfaction when he pleases others,
loves, forgives, gives up his own interests, or fulfils an obligation of a
member of his family or community. By doing good, man
develops positive qualities of his soul: intelligence, will power, consistency,
courage, tolerance, in a word, he gains the nobility of spirit.
On the other hand, from the earliest age of manís
life, the tendencies start to exist which are opposite to those listed above.
At times, man does consciously wish to hurt a neighbor. He can offend, lie,
defame, harm or injure and deprive another one of his life. Sometimes man can
do this for personal advantage, and sometimes for no obvious reason, as though
having pleasure in evil doing. If man does not constrain his bad tendencies,
then, as the time passes, he becomes bad himself: greedy, insatiable, rude,
impudent, lying, hypocritical, insidious, brutal, stuck-up, depraved.
After repetition of transgressions, the evil, which was initially a mere
predisposition for violation of the moral law, becomes a sinful habit, vice,
and weaves into the spiritual nature of man, making him bad morally. The
inclination toward evil is like a buckle on cardboard: it makes a sheet
defective, because cardboard always folds along it. Science cannot explain why
good tendencies coexist with bad ambitions in a man. The Bibleís explanation
for this is the original sin.
As good makes man nobler, so much evil cripples
him. It darkens intelligence, weakens will, perverts
taste. In a while, manís moral condition starts to alter his appearance.
A morally degraded person can be recognized merely from his looks.
Physical good and physical
The nature abounds in kindness. Variety of food
can sustain and also please us. The riches of nature, abundance and diversity
of vegetables, fruit and crops that nourish man are innumerable. Sun, water and
air warm up and refresh our organism. The beauty of nature, singing of birds, fragrance of flowers make man joyful. This is why a believer
senses the caring hand of the Maker in every blade of grass.
However, at all the plenitude of physical goods,
man cannot avoid suffering. Diseases and misfortunes cast shadow on our life
daily. Death is the unavoidable end of a physical life. Sometimes the
inevitability of physical suffering pushed man to the thought that physical
evil has autonomous substance. Some believed that nature is a product of two
opposed elements, good and evil (the two deities in Persian dualism), or that
matter bears evil in itself (Buddhism, Gnostic and modern theosophist
Contemplating about the problem of good and evil,
man always endeavored to understand whether these are absolute or relative
notions. Can the evaluation of good and evil differ depending on the
circumstances and the level of human development, or good and evil are such in
substance? We will see that the notion of physical evil (suffering) is relative
because, when viewed from the standpoint of manís moral development, it can
result in good. On the contrary, moral evil, i.e. absolute evil, can only
result in evil.
Absolute and relative evil
At a close examination of physical evil we can see
that it does not constitute an autonomous substance but only receives our
negative evaluation. Indeed, childbirth is painful for a mother, but at the
same time it develops her love for baby. Labor in wrong conditions can wear and
harm health, while in proper conditions it strengthens man, saves him from
idleness and serves for development of his abilities. Suffering can embitter
and cast down, but it can also enhance man, sharpen courage and patience, teach compassion. Poverty can make man steal and swindle, or
it can promote humility and reinforce our confidence in God. From the viewpoint
of moral development, a lot of things that we consider physical evil can serve
to a good purpose, and thus to eternal bliss. That is why physical evil is not
a substance but represents a relative notion.
This is not the case of moral evil. Often, evil
things are done for the sake of temporary material benefits; however, together
with its seeming advantages, the evildoing cripples the moral self of the
transgressor and harms others. We can figure out a case when someone indirectly
promotes moral good by doing moral evil. For example, by making a Christian
suffer the torturer lets him manifest his faith and patience. In this situation
good does not directly result from the action of moral evil (torturerís
brutality), though. It occurs due to the dual effect of physical evil: the
martyrís suffering causes the manifestation of his faith and patience. However,
moral evil as such always results in evil. That is why
moral evil, as well as moral good, is an absolute concept.
Moral from the perspective of
God and eternity
Some facts of life may receive controversial
interpretation: are they morally good or evil? As an example, divorce is
considered as evil, because it is linked to adultery, breach of vows, destruction of family and disregard of children. But what
should we think about a mutually agreed divorce, which apparently leads to the
better of the parties? Can it be counted as good? The Gospel teaches that any
divorce is an act of disobedience to Godís will. Man is a creature with limited
and imperfect notions, and his ideas of good and evil are not always correct.
Only the One Who is the Cause of the moral law can precisely know what is good
and evil. That is why a Christian, willing to do good in all, should always
submit his will to the Will of the Creator.
Sometimes, man can be bewildered: why infinitely
good and wise God permits evil? Could He not create an ideal world, without
struggling, suffering and death? The answer to this is not easy. In "The
Karamazov Brothers," Ivan justified his disbelief by the argument about an
innocent childís suffering.
It is not possible to understand why God permits
evil, if we view it within the range of this material life. Materialists
explain suffering as phenomenon, which is undesirable but statistically
inevitable. They understand human life as a tangle of injustice, which
essentially has no sense. Scholastic theology treats suffering as retribution
for sin, either personal or original. This is a very legal, formal answer that
fails to match the Christian teaching about God who is loving
and all-forgiving. In order to understand the undeserved suffering, we need to
look at it in the perspective of eternity that man is called for. We believe
that God does not send physical adversities but permits them to happen, so that
the suffering and patient ones receive the reward of eternal bliss.
Philosophers, trying to make out the problem of good and evil from the
temporary lifeís perspective only, are unable to produce a sufficient answer.
What can we say about Godís permitting of moral
evil? Why does He allow sin to ruin man? This question is inseparably bound to
the manís free will. God could create us and give us not the opportunity to
choose between good and evil. Had it happened this way, we would have been
robots or beasts, but not humans. Without the freedom of choice, there cannot
be moral good, and only mechanical, pre-programmed motion can occur. The
All-Good Maker wished to give us the freedom of will and let us develop
spiritually, by this attaining a certain degree of likeness with Him ó
comparable to childrenís likeness with parents in appearance. That is why the
freedom of will is the supreme good which exalts man above the entire nature.
However, we need to be able to use this good properly. It is similar to fire,
which is necessary for life, and which can be very dangerous when handled
without due care and caution.
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