Monday, May 30, 2011

What is evil?

Everyone struggles with evil.  Everyone has been wronged, cheated, or hurt.  Everyone has wronged, cheated, or hurt someone else.  Evil is guaranteed to be an aspect of human life.

But what exactly is evil?  Is evil a substance?  Is it tangible?  Can we lay hold of it, and lift it up in our hands and say, "Here it is!  Here is evil!"?

The answer of course is no, and I think everyone would agree on this too.

So what is evil, if it's not a "stuff?"

Blindness is a lack of sight.  A tooth cavity isn't a thing either, it's also a lack of something, a lack of enamel.  Likewise evil is a lack of something; it's a lack of goodness in the will of a creature.

Defining evil in this manner can be a good Christian apologetic tool, because it shows that evil did not originate with God.  God created the world and its creatures "good."  Evil is a lack of goodness in the will of humanity.  So think of the cavity, a hole in a tooth, a lack of enamel; that's what evil is like, a hole in humanities' will, a lack of the goodness within man.

This way of defining evil is also useful because it makes the existence of evil dependent on the existence of good.  Also, how can we have a good or evil unless there is an absolute good with which to measure goodness?  If there isn't a transcendent God, then all goodness and evil is merely subjective.  All we have is humans judging each others' morals.  To even begin to speak of evil, there must be good, and there must be God. 

Of course, this definition falls short with the Bible's explanation of sin and evil.  Evil is much more active than a lack of goodness.  It's more than an inactive hole.  Our sinful nature is described as being active and waging war against our souls.  Despite its shortcomings in this area, using this definition of evil can still proof to be a helpful apologetic tool for the Christian. 



  1. Along the same lines, it might also be helpful to view evil as a perversion or corruption of good, like St. Augustine did. If evil is something corrupted, it can also be active. Tolkien held to this Augustinian idea in the mythology of Middle Earth. According to the Silmarillion, orcs were not created by God, but were actually elves that had been tortured and twisted into evil lesser creatures. Anyway, the Lord of the Rings reference may be odd, but I think it illustrates my point. Another good example is cancer. Cancer is simply corrupted tissue in the body that begins to spread.

    - Daniel W

  2. Great examples, Daniel. Thanks for sharing. Definitely, Scripture is clear to point out that God did not create evil.

  3. "What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." Friedrich Nietzsche

    I say EVIL is the original trait of mankind. We must learn to be GOOD. Basically, I disagree with what is being said here. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Love and hate are one in the same in terms of how we know how to feel. Evil is not a lack of good. Without evil there is no good and vice-versa. There is no argument against this. If there was no evil there would be no reason for good.

    I was once a believer in you "god". It is a farce. You shouldn't make weak attempts at justifying believes...

    Food for thought...

  4. Anonymous, this argument isn't arguing about the existence of good and evil. It's a way of defining what evil is from the Christian worldview of creation. If God is the creator of all, then it would make sense to say that he created evil, however, an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God wouldn't have created evil. In fact, from Scripture, we know that all that God created was good. So where did evil come from? God? Ourselves? Well if it was from ourselves, then were we not good from the start? Were we created evil?

    This post is explaining how the existence of evil fits into the narrative of the Bible. The existence of evil is not a good attack on the non-existence of the God revealed in the Bible. What led you away from the God of the Bible?

  5. evil is a state of mind. it is the intention to harm. the concious decision to do what you believe to be wrong. evil is a conglomeration of hate, anger, spite, and fear within are minds that drive one to seek the drestuction of what they perceive as being "good"


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