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The problem of evil

17 July 2012, 12:48

Evil is defined in this way:

morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked: evil deeds; an evil life.

harmful; injurious: evil laws.

characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous: to be fallen on evil days.

due to actual or imputed bad conduct or character: an evil reputation.

marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.: He is known for his evil disposition.

It is my belief that morality cannot exist without an objective outside force governing these ideals. In this post-modern world, values have been turned on their head. As the apostle Paul predicted, ‘they call evil good and good evil’.

As a musician, I am appalled by the amount of drivel that emanates from the radio stations. Stuff I don’t listen to, but am forced to hear because I’m in the vicinity. Now many people will say that because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not good music, and I agree. But when someone tells me that to them, Beethoven is rubbish and DJ ‘X’ is great, we come to relativism. DJ ‘X’, or whatever name the person actually goes by, cannot be great except in the most subjective sense. Beethoven is objectively great.

What does this have to do with evil? Wait and see.

In the far distant past, God created the heavens and the earth and everything else we know, and still more we don’t know. Everything He created, he pronounced to be good. This included man. Man then sinned and, as a result, every person born thereafter was born into sin. And it didn’t take long to show itself. Cain killed Abel. When, I don’t know, but it was the first recorded murder.

So Jesus, far, far later, says, ‘If you, being evil, give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask?’

Jeremiah says, ‘The heart of man is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?’

The reason for this post is the assertion, by many people, that we don’t need God to be moral. That morality is a natural by-product of evolution, and that, as we evolve even further, we will become moral giants and suffering at the hands of others will cease. That is the general idea.

Then there is the train of thought which is expressed in this manner. If God exists, and if He is good and loving, why does cancer exist? Why do children get raped? Why is there famine throughout the world? Either God isn’t interested, or He’s not capable of doing anything about it.

My wife, who is the best mother I know, or can think of, smoked all the way through her first pregnancy, and all the way during labour. These were different times. My son was, for the first few weeks of his life, a tobacco addict and a miserable baby, due to nicotine withdrawal. He became a wonderfully happy baby with a sunny disposition, but suffered through no fault of his own. Many babies are nowadays born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to their mothers drinking while pregnant.

Now these are obvious examples, and are directly attributed to the direct ancestor, in this case the mother. Some may have defective genes and pass them onto their children, the strains becoming more diverse over a period of time until an entire generation of people, like the Romanovs, are born with haemophilia. This is how sin works. It is insidious, and inescapable. Try as we might, we cannot escape its clutches: it’s in the very fabric of our being.

Now, I’m obviously speaking from a Christian perspective, but I will back up what I’m saying, whether it’s palatable or not.

If we did, in fact, evolve, as it is claimed, then morals are a useless waste of time and resources. So, we talk about the herd instinct, and people acting in the same way for the common good. In herds, in most cases, the herds run off, leaving the stragglers behind. And for a good reason – the stragglers would weaken the herd if they were allowed to breed. This can be observed on any nature documentary.

To care for the defenceless is an almost entirely human trait. By that I do not mean our own young, I mean those who mean nothing to us in a personal sense. Nuns get raped by soldiers and the world is horrified. Why? It’s survival of the fittest. There is nothing in nature, human or otherwise, to suggest that we, or any other animal, should care for the wellbeing of others. Yet humans do. And that, I believe, is the divine spark.

So, secular morality.

I think everyone who contributes to this site would be sickened by child pornography or paedophilia. It is disgusting that people can and do prey upon children. My brother, who is opposed to censorship of any sort, draws the line at child pornography. And he’s not a Christian.

So, if any one of you saw a picture of a naked fourteen-year old girl or boy, you would be rightly repulsed. Except that fourteen is the age of consent in Austria. In Spain it’s thirteen. So, in those countries it’s not child pornography, it’s just pornography. If we do not subscribe to a standard outside of ourselves, an unchanging standard that is not populist, we drift from one idea of morality to another.

Judge Clarence Thomas, of the United States Supreme court, stated that morality was expressed in the will of the people. So the more popular an idea, the more moral it was. This is still the standard by which they judge moral questions in the US Supreme Court, the highest authority in the land.

This is Moral Relativism.

Taking that stand, we would be forced to conclude that Michael Jackson was a good, if misunderstood, man. His legion of fans say so. John Lennon, who died a terrible death, is regarded as a good man who died too young. I agree he died too young. What most people do not know, however, was that, when the Beatles were playing in Hamburg, before they became famous, they used to empty their chamber pots on the heads of passing nuns. You can say those are the excesses of youth, and they were. But none of them, including John Lennon, who was regarded as the conscience of the Beatles, ever expressed regret for those and other actions.

When we take away anything objective, we become subject to whatever passes for morality at the time. And many people will, and do, shout that the Bible is not objective, but if you think about it, it is. Whether we agree with the principles stated there, they have not changed for nearly two thousand years. They are not moved by current trends or any new developments.

There is the oft-repeated statement that the Bible does not condemn slavery, which is true; it doesn’t address it at all. The New Testament deals solely with individuals, and does not delve in any way into politics. This was shown when they tried to trap Jesus with the question, ‘Is it legal to pay taxes to Caesar?’

Jesus answered, ‘’Whose head is on the coin?’


‘Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’

In the world of the Old Testament, slavery was a way of life, and is addressed in the following manner. I’m paraphrasing here, because these are long passages, one from Leviticus, the other from Deuteronomy. You could take slaves from the nations around you, but after seven years, had to release them. If they wanted to remain with you, you had to pierce their ear with an awl, and that was a sign that that person was now your bond-servant. In world where slavery was the norm, this was extremely merciful. It was also illegal under the Law to abuse your slaves in any way.

The New Testament merely tells you that if a slave is a Christian, he is no longer to be seen as a slave, but your brother. When slavery was finally abolished in the Western world, it was due to the tireless efforts of William Wilberforce and his compatriots, who prayed and petitioned tirelessly for the abolition of slavery.

Much is made as well about the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality – from the Old Testament to the New, there is harmony on this prickly subject. When Israel was trying to establish itself as a nation, they were surrounded by nations who were established and sophisticated and, as a result, had leisure time. And when the search for food is no longer the primary motivator in life, the second one takes over. And when there is a lot of leisure time, and gods like Moloch and Ashtoreth are worshipped, where temple prostitutes are the order of the day, homosexuality becomes rampant. And that seems to have been the case right throughout civilisation. The more civilised we become, the more acceptable homosexuality is.

Moloch, by the way, was an idol with a furnace in its belly and out-stretched arms. The people, worshipers, I suppose they would be called, would place their first-born on the arms of the idol, and the child would roll down into the furnace. This is one of the reasons Jewish laws were so strict. There was to be no mixing with the Canaanites, the Edomites or any of the people of the region, because they all practised some form of idol worship.

The entire history of the Bible is littered with stories of the nation of Israel following after these false gods, and absorbing the culture of these people. Israel was instead conquered and carried away into captivity, and there they practised their true religion, once they had free access to all those religions.

Along with all these practises, was rampant homosexuality, with male temple prostitutes as part of the worship of their gods. There is nothing new in what’s happening today. Sparta encouraged it, as a man would fight harder to protect his lover than his comrade.

So we come back to morality. Is it possible to be truly moral without a set of principles laid down, independent of our own thoughts and desires? In the sixties, there was free love, Woodstock and the entire hippy movement. There was also the exodus of young, wealthy people to India to seek enlightenment.

There is one common thread in all of this – selfishness. Having been part of the hippy movement in the early seventies, flower power and free love, I can say this for a fact. Neither I, not anyone I knew in the movement, cared a whit about anyone other than ourselves or those we naturally loved or adhered to. Going to India (something I didn’t do) to find yourself, was again, all about self. No-one benefited from the trip, except perhaps the gurus, who made a fortune out of the gullible hippies.

So today we have people, like many of the people who post on this forum, who do good works for no other reason than they want to help. They also say, very stridently, that they do what they do because it is something that has evolved in us. I personally have never seen it.

In 1976, the lights went out in New York City for a period of three days. There was a wave of crime such as has seldom been witnessed, even in that then lawless city. Take the restraints of society from people, and they behave in a manner that best suits them. And it usually follows the course it did in New York City.

When the Russian forces invaded Berlin, they raped over one hundred thousand women. The Americans also raped, as did the British, but they were hanged if caught. The difference? The Russians were avowed atheists, who went by Nietzsche’s dictum, that the state was all-powerful, and the final arbiter of morals and ethics. The Allies were Christian, mostly nominal, but they subscribed to a world-view laid out in the Bible. Which is why they punished rapist and looters as harshly as they did. They were not the standard; they abided by an external standard.

The American Revolution is the only revolution in history to adhere to the standards set out in their charter. And although most of them were not Christian, they decided to use the Bible as their standard. Once the revolution was over, they did not persecute the loyalists. They embraced them as fellow Americans, and built the first true democracy the world has known, with all its faults.

In South Africa, the rule of law has become almost extinct, with the police nearly as criminal as the criminals they’re supposed to apprehend. We have a very good opportunity right here, right now, to see how moral people actually are when the restraints of law are removed. South Africans are the most lawless drivers in the world: they do not stop at Stop signs, they pause at traffic lights, they speed recklessly, and boast about their fines.

How is it that a people who claim to be civilised and educated have no problem with doing these things? And colour, age or gender has no bearing on the behaviour.

In the Eastern Cape, there is an abortion every ten minutes. How can that be moral? Aside from the killing of a foetus, there’s the long-term damage to the woman’s body. And whether you subscribe to the Christian viewpoint or not, it is the killing of an unborn foetus or, to a Christian, an unborn child.

In the USA, the bankers who caused the collapse of their economy, received huge Government bail-outs and retrenched most of their staff, moving their business overseas, where the salaries are far lower. Yet these people are allowed to continue in this manner, with no reckoning at all.

People have written on this forum about a selfish spiteful God who would banish sinners to hell, but ask yourself. Would He be just if these people, with no repentance or change in their lifestyle, ended up in Heaven? By that token, why not Stalin, Hitler, Mao? The only difference is the scale of the crime.

In my opinion, and it’s only an opinion, the human spirit is made up of energy, which cannot be destroyed. That is why there is a hell. It was not created for people; the Bible says so. It was created for Satan and his angels. But, if people cannot be destroyed, they will live forever. The point is, where? In Heaven, turning it into hell? Or in hell, where they’ve chosen to go.

Another fiction which abounds is that, if people were sufficiently educated, they would not commit the acts of evil they do, which was proven to be a crock during WWII. The two most civilised nations in the world committed some of the worst atrocities known to man. If we were truly good to start with, any attempt at education would merely strip away the perfection which already exists. There has never been any comprehensive study which has shown man to be good. Man behaves at his best when society imposes restrictions upon him. When the restrictions are removed, he sinks to the lowest level to which he’s allowed to sink.

Last year, with the tsunami in Japan, people were flabbergasted by the fact that there was no looting or widespread crime in the wake of the tsunami. This was something at which people marvelled. Why? If people had their own, inbuilt moral compass, this should have been the norm.

Who, of all the contributors on this forum, would take into their homes one of the countless number of homeless people, whose clothing seems to be held together by the smell. Then bathe them, give them clean clothes, a warm meal and a bed to sleep in. I admit I’ve never done it, but know someone personally who does. And he’s had possessions stolen from him many times, by the people he’s helped, but it hasn’t stopped him. It’s made him more determined. He loves the unlovable, because Jesus commands him to. And it’s not just an action, to earn him crowns in heaven, as some people shamelessly advocate.

He does it and weeps when these people do not straighten out their lives. His belongings are not, in his mind, his, but God’s. Now I’m not saying there aren’t atheists and agnostics doing good things for people they don’t know. What I am saying, is that if we based everything on an evolutionary viewpoint, with Moral Relativism as our guide, we might just as well get rid of the beggars by putting them in camps, or just ignoring them, as is the wont of most people.

When I say it’s cold outside, without an independent source, such as a thermometer to guide me, it’s just an opinion, because some people, the Inuit for example, would not feel the level of cold that would render me helpless.

A weight I would find exceedingly heavy, Arnold Schwarzenegger could pick up with one hand. Maybe not now, but I think you get the point. So we have a standard unit of mass. In America and the UK it’s the pound, in the rest of the world, it’s the kilogram.

We have independent means to measure everything, yet believe that when it comes to something as important as morality, we can use our own feelings and moral sense as a guide. Why? Are morals not important enough to warrant an external measure? Or is it because that measure sets a standard too high to be attained without help?

Whether you believe in Jesus or not, the Sermon on the Mount is regarded as one of the greatest moral teachings in history. Unfortunately, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be divorced from a belief in, and trust and acceptance of Jesus Christ, as He refers to Himself all the way through it.

And finally, if we all choose our own morality, we are like a rusty tramp steamer, sailing the seas without any compass, not knowing where we’re going, or whether we’ll ever get there. What is certain is that, without a compass, the tramp steamer will either be completely lost, or even crash into another ship, causing damage to both.

I don’t believe people are too different.

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