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defining evil

Why evil exists is a hard thing. If there is a God who is good and omnipotent—if He is the loving heavenly Father, why does He tolerate evil? And, what exactly is evil? We may know it when we see it, but we usually recognize evil only after it has produced some horrible harvest. It often isn’t readily recognized. Nazi Germany was awarded the 1936 Olympics. Cambodia welcomed the Khmer Rouge as liberators.
While most philosophers grapple with evil, Nietzchse doubted it even exists. “What’s labeled evil is the natural functioning of the non-good, which has been socially transformed into the concept of evil by the slave mentality of weak masses who resent their over-lords.” Buddhism also dismisses evil. On the other hand N.T. Wright claims, “Christianity takes evil so seriously that it rejects simplistic solutions.” It is so serious, so complex that his book Evil & the Justice of God fails to define it.

Neither philosophers nor theologians have a widely accepted definition of evil. So, I shall rush in where they—and perhaps even angels—fear to tread. Albert Einstein wanted
explanations to be as simple as possible, but not simpler. I’ve developed a simple definition. Please reply if it’s too simple.

Evil: to consider death and destruction as a solution.

In contrast, sin is the biblical term for humanity’s choice to be less than God designed us to be. Sin is the polluting and infectious misery that results from human disobedience, denial and deflecting. Sin has broken God’s good creation. Evil is darker; it views killing and destroying as rational solutions. It desires to destroy creation.

Evil is complicated because destruction can seem like a solution.

A goal of the American civil war was the destruction of our evil slave economy. When the war ended slaves were technically free, yet for decades the vast majority remained in practical slavery. Ending America’s evil salve economy was a good and necessary achievement. Still, President Lincoln calculated it would have cost less for the federal government to buy the freedom of every slave than to pay for the war.

World War 2 was fought to destroy evil fascist tyranny. In fascism a strong leader forces the total mobilization of society, industry and commerce for the goals of the government. Fascism demands uniformity, destroys those who disagree, even views violence and war as a means of cultural rejuvenation. Those fascist nations were destroyed, thoroughly. Yet tyranny and fascism remain.

The counter-intuitive claim of Christianity is that the only real solution to evil is sacrificial love.

In this broken world we can find ourselves trapped between destroying or being destroyed, killing or being killed. But it is an illusion to believe destroying can be a solution. Love is the only real solution. Sacrificial love is also costly. Beware also of anyone who dictates how you, or others ought to love.
Jesus likened genuine love to a spring of living water flowing out from the abundance of one’s soul.

Love is not a set of rules. It is a gift from God to you and through you to the world. Love is the only real solution. ~

Dan Nygaard