What is Evil?

It’s been over two months since I have posted anything, mainly because it’s been a very busy past couple months. My family and I took an amazing trip to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. and spent a week and a half there. After that, I was at a church camp that I attend once a year and saw many friends that I only get to see once a year. For the remaining two weeks of my summer, I was preparing to go back to college and start my sophomore year, continuing to earn my degrees in Communications and Political Science. And now I’m here, back at school. I have been for almost three weeks and I’ve been wanting to get back to writing for my blog. There were so many news stories I could have written about. So many things in politics, society, and culture I could have covered but I just seemed to never get around to it until tonight. However, what I’m writing about has nothing to do with the things I normally write about. This idea comes courtesy of a group discussion I had in the college-age ministry I attend at my church. We were finishing up our study on the book of Ephesians and going over chapter 6 and focusing on verses 10-17. The book of Ephesians can be summarized in chapter 3 verse 6, “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Jesus Christ.”

At the end of the book, in the veses we were focusing on, Paul, the writer, gives the Ephesians one final word of advice saying, “10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” There are many ways you could go with this passage, but our small group leader directed our attention to the word “evil” in verse 12 and asked us this question: “What is evil?” This is what I want to discuss in today’s post.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this is unlike anything I have ever written about before. While there are religious implications to question of evil, which I’ll get into, this question is more philosophical in nature. I’m not a philosopher by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel I know enough to have a decent answer to this question. So enough with this long introduction, let’s get into the exciting stuff.

I don’t think that there is a direct-line answer to what evil is. As a Christian, you could say that evil is anything that is apart from God. While I do think that this is partly true, I don’t agree with it completely. This might shock you, or it might even upset you since I myself am a Christian and you might be also, because how could I possibly think that anything less than God is evil? Here’s my reasoning. As Christians, we are sons and daughters, or children of God. This is only accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for everyone’s sins of all-time. This is seen in Romans 8:7 where Paul says “And since we are his (God’s) children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory.” Since we are heirs with Christ, there’s no way you would say that any true believer in Christianity is evil, so we can rule that out. But what about those who aren’t believers? Would you say that every single person who isn’t a Christian is evil? I can’t say that. There are many people in the world who are very good people, they serve their communities, help the poor, do that sort of thing. Would you say that those people are evil? I don’t think so. Then you have people (who aren’t believers) who just go about their day, not doing anything explicitly good or bad. They wake up in the morning, go to their jobs, come home in the evening, spend time with their family, go to bed, and repeat. Now, would you say that those people are evil? I still wouldn’t say that. But then you have people like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, whom most everyone in the world would consider evil and pieces of human garbage.

So at what point do you draw the line? At what point can you say “this is good” and “this is bad”? Is there an objective moral code or standard to which we are all held to as human beings? If so, where does it come from? This is where God comes into play. But some would say that you can’t use religion to make an argument for morality. I strongly beg to differ. The problem of evil and immorality in the world is actual proof that God is real. Some would say that’s crazy but the explanation is in fact, very simple. How can you know that something is bad unless you know what is good? In other words, how can you know that a line is crooked unless you know what a straight line looks like? I believe God to be the arbiter of all morality and if you don’t believe in God, I’m very curious to know where you think the standard of morality comes from. The fact that some think we are just born with a sense of morality and was is good and evil baffles me, for how can you say that by chance people are born knowing what is good and evil and yet there is still so much evil in the world? That would be the same as saying truth is relative to each individual person. If we are each born with our own sense of morality, is there really a moral standard at all? What might be immoral for one person might be perfectly moral for another. One might think that murder in cold-blood is an objectively immoral thing but to the person who actually commits a murder in cold-blood and feels no grief or regret, what’s the big deal? Hitler and Stalin both thought that they were doing a good deed by killing millions upon millions of innocent people. In their own minds, what they were doing was moral. But to the rest of us, these were horrific slaughters carried by some of the most evil men in history. You simply cannot form a moral system unless there is a higher being to which everyone must adhere to, and who is the standard of morality. This circles back to God. He is the ultimate standard of all morality but as stated earlier, I don’t believe that anything less than his standard is necessarily evil. While God might be the arbiter of what is moral and good, anything less than his standard of perfection should not be considered evil. However, I will mention a few things that I would consider evil.

I would say killing someone is evil, but you would run into problems with that belief. Would it be evil for you to kill someone in self-defense? I don’t believe so. Is it evil for a soldier to kill an enemy soldier? I still don’t believe so. The point at which I would say killing someone is evil lies within your intentions. If your intention in killing someone is to protect yourself or others, I would not say that is evil. But if your intentions in killing someone is anything other than protection, that, I would say, is evil. There are also cases where a gun could be put to your head and you’re told that if you don’t kill someone else, you will be killed, or if you’re driving a train and the track comes to a split. On each side of the track, there are four people tied up and cannot move out of the way. You have to pick one side. Are you evil for choosing one side over the other? Both of these are very unrealistic hypothetical questions, and I will not get into them, I just wanted to offer a few more examples of intent in killing someone.

Any kind of sexual abuse is another thing I would consider evil. Whether this be rape, child molestation, anything along the lines of sexually abusing some I would consider evil. Also, for the record, I do think that rapists should be punished by being either castrated or put to death. I do think that capital punishment is fitting for a select few crimes. I also believe torture is another form of evil. This could also be rape, or some sort of physical beating. But again, this all comes down to intentions. For example, I don’t believe that the United States torturing terrorists to get information is evil. If the person is a proven terrorist or has done some grave evil, I don’t think there should be any limits to torture.

These are just a few of the things I would consider evil. While I didn’t draw an explicit line on what I think crosses the line of evil, I think that I gave a good description of where morality comes from and why it’s important that it comes from somewhere, namely God. I hope that everything I wrote made sense and if not, feel free to reach out to me.

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