November 12, 2010

Does God Need Evil?


Last week we continued our examination of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by defining “good” as that “that which creates in the long term”, and “evil” as “that which destroys in the long term”.

The concepts of Good and evil are prominent themes in the Bible and drive much of the Biblical narrative.

The overarching theme of the Bible is the redemption of man.  The redemption scenario begins with Original Sin and the Fall of Man in Genesis, and concludes with the restoration of Heaven and Earth, and the implementation of God’s plan at the end of the dispensations.

Is evil good?

Redemption is only possible if evil occurs first.  So does God need evil in order to make His plan possible?  Did He have to somehow “stack the deck” against Adam and Eve in order to make Original Sin happen?  Does good need evil in order to exist?

The answer to these questions is “no”.   Adam and Eve did not have to listen to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  They could have chosen to obey God and take moment-by-moment direction from Him forever (more on this in the next post).  Then the first dispensation would have been a success and God could have implemented His plan.

But God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, not because of any manipulation on His part, but because He knew the causes and the effects.  God knew that a being who’s nature was not always and completely right and just (man) would eventually make a wrong (sinful) decision.  But God had to give Adam and Eve an honest choice because God is just, and His ultimate goal is for man to choose to love Him.

So God did not need evil, but He knew the causes would lead to evil effects so He had a plan of redemption on standby from the beginning.

Good does not need evil in order to exist.  In fact, it’s the other way around – evil needs good in order to exist!

There’s no evil in a vacuum

Good is creation.  Evil is destruction.  In order to create something, it’s not necessary that something else be destroyed first.  Creation can occur forever without any destruction occurring (in fact, that’s what Heaven is all about).  So good does not need evil.

On the other hand, the only way you can destroy something is if that “something” has already been created.  It is possible to create something out of nothing, but you can’t destroy “nothing”.  Evil cannot exist on its own.  Evil needs “good” to create something for it to destroy.  Evil needs good in order to exist.

With this in mind, I would contend that one of the most effective ways to defeat evil is to not give it anything to destroy.  I will give you a benign example of this idea in action.

Warrior of evil

I grew up in Los Angeles.  My parents were huge fans of the LA Lakers basketball team, so I’ve rooted for them all my life.  Several years ago I had a co-worker who was a huge fan of the Golden State Warriors (until 2015, no such creature existed).  His love for the warriors was matched only by his hatred for the Lakers.

Once he found out that I was a Lakers fan, he took every opportunity to pump up the warriors and denigrate the Lakers.  His goal was “evil”.  He wanted to destroy the portion of  Lakers fandom that I embodied.

For those of you who don’t know, up until VERY recently, the Warriors never came close to the stature of the Lakers.  They were more of a nuisance than a threat.  Yet this co-worker always managed to frustrate me with the illogical conversations he would engage me in.  Here is a sample:

Warriors Fan: Warriors are going all the way this year!

Me:  you mean all the way to last place like last year?

Warriors Fan: Warriors are a better franchise than the Lakers!  That’s a fact!

Me: you’re as crazy as a bag of squirrels.  That’s a fact.  The Lakers have always been superior to the Warriors

Warriors Fan:  In 1988 the Warriors led the league in points

Me:  Yet the Lakers won the championship that year

Warriors Fan: That’s because the ref’s gave Magic Johnson all the calls!  He’s not even that good.

Me:  He won 5 championships and 3 league MVP’s

Warriors Fan: but he wasn’t as exciting as Michael Jordan!

Me: What does Jordan have to do with anything?

Warriors Fan: Warriors could have traded for Michael Jordan in 1986

Me:  Traded for him with what?  Manute Bol and a ham sandwich?  That’s all the Warriors had in ‘86

Warriors Fan: With Jordan, we would have won 6 titles!

Me: You need serious mental help

Warriors Fan: Kobe Bryant is the one who needs help!  He’s the most hated player in the league. . .

See the pattern?  He would always succeed in frustrating me because I kept trying to defeat him with facts and logic.  But he never had to create any logical facts because his goal was to destroy; so all he had to do was keep throwing silly arguments at me until I gave up, and he’d get the last word.

I decided to try an experiment and see how our conversation would go if I didn’t give him anything to destroy:

Warriors Fan: Warriors are going to kick some Lakers butt tonight!

Me:  That’s certainly a possibility

Warriors Fan: Nobody likes Kobe, not even his own teammates

Me: That may be

Warriors Fan:  . . . Lakers defense is terrible this year

Me: Nobody’s perfect

Warriors Fan: . . .yeah . . . well . . .Lakers suck.  I’m going to my desk now

Me:  Make sure you adjust your chair for maximum ergonomic efficiency.

He needed me to create arguments for him.  Without them, he had nothing to destroy.  When I withheld my “good” from him, his “evil” quickly burned itself out.

You can’t destroy “nothing”

Again, this was an innocuous example, but you can see this idea carried out in some of the encounters Jesus had with His detractors, Matthew 22:15-46 is a good sample.  The stated goal of His enemy was to trap Him verbally in order to destroy His popularity with the people and illegitimatize His authority.  Notice that Jesus did not create anything new for them, He would respond by either quoting existing scripture, or by asking them questions to expose their motives.

As a productive exercise, I recommend that the next time someone tries to engage you in a conversation or activity with the intent of destruction, see what happens when you withhold whatever it is they need you to create in order to feed their desire for evil.  Depending on the person and the conversation, it can actually be quite fun.

In the next post, we will bring together everything we’ve learned so far about the first dispensation and examine exactly how and why eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil led to death.

Related Podcast:

Does God Need Evil?  How to Fight Evil

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