Ruminations

The Origin of Evil

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How can God, who is infinitely holy, be the Creator of this impure world? How can He even have any contact, direct or indirect, with it such as in the forms of revelations, miracles, prophecies…love? Can water and oil mix? How can hatred and love both exist in the world? How can sin exist at all if God detests it and is all-powerful?

God doesn’t shy away from the issue at all. Famously in Isaiah 45:7 He says,

I form light and create darkness;
    I make well-being and create calamity;
    I am the Lord, who does all these things.

It was God who ordained the Flood, who allowed Job to suffer (at the behest of Satan no less), and Who ordered the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. The verse may mean naturally bad things (earthquakes, etc), and not morally. But still, sin’s physical expression and technical existence comes from somewhere, right?

The Calvinists connected this with election to mean that God chooses some to be saved and some not to be saved and it’s all fair because it’s God’s world/universe/existence. If you have 10 sheets of old, used up paper, and you pick only 2 of them to not be thrown into a fire, are the other 8 supposed to complain? Aren’t you doing a favor to the two, whereas they all deserved it – this is mercy, not malice. This is Double Predestination (to Heaven and to Hell).

The Lutherans realized this monstrous frame of reference, or never bothered with it at all, and took away Double Predestination so that individuals consigned to the flames deserve it of their own accord, but those who do good were chosen (how? It’s the same thing basically: to intentionally save a ship from sinking and allow the other one to go, is the same as intentionally doing both).

This is related to another, seemingly unconnected question. If God is the origin of everything, how can He judge us for “our” sins? Free will’s origin must’ve come from Him, so how can it be “caused by Him,” yet “caused by us”? James 1:13 agrees that God isn’t the active agent in or of evil. But James 1:14-15 gives us an answer as to the origin of these things that doesn’t fully explain things.

We can’t redefine omnipotence in a more correct way. This is neither a fallacy such as “Can God make a Rock so Heavy, not even He could lift?” nor does saying Free Will’s origin is “unknown” or “other” rescue us, because it means God is punishing us because of some other supernatural law/force, which is also not our fault, which He can’t and shouldn’t judge, because He didn’t make it, so it’s no one’s fault as opposed to a parent who taught his child not to do something and the child disobeyed. This is also brings up the Euthyphro Dilemma in an unsolvable context – His moral code is arbitrary and therefore obsolete and irrelevant with respect to us (this is why the created pot can’t judge and complain the potter – Romans 9//Jeremiah 18 – not because God is God and can do as He pleases with His omnipotence as the Calvinists interpret it). Therefore even non-omnipotence doesn’t save us from this one.

The answer lies in understanding the nature of existence (and similar properties) and causality. Is my action an action in and of itself, or is it an action only because I made it? The Muslims had a serious problem with this. In the High Middle Ages the following question arose: If the Qur’an is God’s Word, then it must’ve existed eternally. But Arabic is a human construct. The one school of thought took the approach that the Qur’an was created when Allah spoke to Muhammad. The others supposed that Arabic must’ve been a divine language: all the words that were borrowed from the local languages (Farsi, Ethiopian, Greek, etc) were actually cases where those languages borrowed from Arabic! Is then human speech which the Qur’an is spoken by also a divine aspect? There’s even proper dialects in which to speak it.

We end the absurdity by pointing out that at some point there is no more “before” or “further” within a given action or within an object’s existence. What I mean by this is perfectly illustrated by Zeno’s Paradoxes. The idea is proven by the Banach-Tarski Theorem, which means something can come out of nothing both naturalistically as well as supernaturally.

If you think about it, the origin of everything has to be ultimately from nothing, whether you are a Jew, Christian, Muslim, atheist, or Hindu (even in the case of an infinite regress of causes, the origin of this infinite regress has to be unknown and indeterminate). This is because, contrary to some philosophers, “nothing” is not a thing, nor a convenience of language. For example, natural numbers cannot exist nor be represented by objects if that were the case – zero demands that it is both nothing, not even a number, and is very “real” in the sense that it doesn’t exist (so it is an expression from language, but it represents a real, though intangible and non-predicable, concept).

So if an object or force can exist simply by virtue of its existence, we can suppose that God can do the same without actively being the originator of this force’s elements, yet having actively created them (non-temporal causality). If the object/force can come into existence as the Banach-Tarski Theorem implies, then all God or whichever force pre-existed it has to do is stand back and allow it to exist – so it is created by God either way. This is actually how God allows Satan to inflict evil on Job and reconciles the fact that Isaiah 45:7 says God makes calamity, whereas we see temptation and bad things come from the “evil one”. This means Free Will is both “caused” and “uncaused” – a paradox but only a contradiction if one doesn’t realize the correct point of view (temporal vs atemporal). So it is “us” but “not us” and “God” and “not God” at the same ”time” (but not in the same sense).

From this we can see that the technical existence of sin can easily be created and “upheld” by God’s power. This was never a problem because sin is a relationship of Free Will and God’s (holy) command. So the problem is basically a misunderstanding of active and passive force and how far they extend.

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