What to do with Evil...

I watched The Dark Knight tonight and thought about the classic "problem of evil" as exemplified in the character of the Joker.

Yesterday I read an article on CNN.com about a woman who was imprisoned in Bosnia and raped and tortured by soldiers every day, for a year. She was one of many.

My new online friend Ian Stone of the Metaphysical Institute commented last week:

"You talk about evil, however there are only guided and misguided decisions, these are neither right or wrong."

I've enjoyed my brief online dialogues with Ian, and I can tell he has a truly caring, loving heart. But I don't know how to reconcile both the fantastical-fictional evil of comic books, echoed in the horrific, systemic and sadistic evil of reality, with an idea that evil is an illusion of some kind.

I do tend to believe that most sins that most humans struggle with are not evil as we commonly tend to characterize evil, but rather unhealthy. Much as Ian identifies as misguided.

But then there are those things which seem - to me - to be truly, plainly evil.

I am not a Genesis-literalist, but I believe that somehow God has allowed humanity to develop a genuine "knowledge of good and evil." The author of Job writes: "Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction." (36:21)

There is something dark that haunts our reality... something that seems plainly different from the fear, the selfishness, the pride, impatience and greed that corrupt us all to varying degrees. There is a sadism in the world that seems characteristically different. I wonder how an Emerging Theology will develop around the problem of evil.

Brian McLaren, in his latest Everything Must Change discusses "Suicide Machines" and systems of destruction. Rob Bell discusses the "Anti-Kingdom." There is a cynicism inherent in postmodernity that seems somehow yet lacking in Emergent language. That is, dealing with individual, personified evil.

Ian, if you have a chance to read this, I'm curious to learn more about how your beliefs reconcile with particular injustices in the world - as well as the development of what most would label evil men: Hitler, Stalin, Nero, Herod...

I've enjoyed reading from your website - thanks for the conversation, and the thought provoking ideas!


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read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at www.essenceproject.blogspot.com...


nate said...

Tough subject...good, evil, theodicy...I tend to be more concrete, like you, and even agree that so many "sins" could be thought of as "unhealthy," rather than "evil." I'll cherry pick 1 Jn. 5:16...I see why Catholic doctrine allows for mortal and venial sin.

I can jive with some of what your friend Ian said...the first part, 'there are only guided and misguided decisions.' A misguided decision might not be evil, but it can lead to evil. But i do see a difference between right or wrong. Sure moral ambiguity is present in society, but surely being raped and beaten in a Bosnian dungeon can not be purely a misguided action that is neither right nor wrong. If that's were the case, social chaos would ensue. Maybe it's all semantics.

2Pete said...

Good point, maybe a lot of it is semantics.

1 John 5:26
"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that."

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