Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Paradox of Evil

At the heart of Christian dogma lurks a paradox that defies resolution: The Paradox of the origin of Evil.

The dualistic doctrine of Good and Evil is a core plank in Christian theology. From it is derived the teaching that Mankind fell from perfection into a hopeless state of sin, and that redemption through salvation is necessary in order to avoid eternal punishment in Hell.

However, the belief in dualism faces an insurmountable logical hurdle, for it clashes with the presuppositions of God’s absolute sovereignty and the principle of free will.

Much of the theology regarding Evil is drawn from the Old Testament. First we have the story of Adam and Eve being seduced by Satan and eating the forbidden fruit, thereby falling into sin. Buried in several other passages are references to Satan’s true identity and background as Lucifer.

The purported origin of Evil is touched on in Ezekiel 28, ostensibly targeting judgement against the King of Tyre, but clearly a thinly disguised commentary on Lucifer’s fall:

“You were the signet of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
    beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
    and crafted in gold were your settings
    and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
    they were prepared.
14 You were an anointed guardian cherub.
    I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
    in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
15 You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created,
    till unrighteousness was found in you.
16 In the abundance of your trade
    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
    and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
    from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
    I exposed you before kings,
    to feast their eyes on you.
18 By the multitude of your iniquities,
    in the unrighteousness of your trade
    you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
    it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
    in the sight of all who saw you.
19 All who know you among the peoples
    are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
    and shall be no more forever.”

Amazingly, Lucifer is described in splendid terms at first, as in “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty…You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created…until unrighteousness was found in you”.

So whence did Evil originate? As the above passage mentions, and much extra-Biblical mythology supports, Lucifer was once a beautiful creature, filled with goodness and light.

How could a thoroughly good creature turn evil? Isaiah 14 further describes Lucifer’s fall:

12 “How you are fallen from heaven,
     O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
    you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north,
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
    to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you
    and ponder over you:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
    who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert
    and overthrew its cities,
    who did not let his prisoners go home?’
18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
    each in his own tomb;
19 but you are cast out, away from your grave,
    like a loathed branch,
clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword,
    who go down to the stones of the pit,
    like a dead body trampled underfoot.
20 You will not be joined with them in burial,
    because you have destroyed your land,
    you have slain your people.

The paradox is simply stated thus:

One core presupposition is that God is completely good.

Another core presupposition is that God is totally sovereign, such that nothing in the universe can occur without God causing it to happen.

Thus, in order for Lucifer to rebel and become Evil, God would have had to cause it. In order for Lucifer to have anything else but goodness to choose from, God would have had to create it.

So this logic leaves no choice but to conclude that God created Evil. If we manage to accept that, then tremendous repercussions follow regarding the nature of God: God must be part Good and part Evil, or dualistic!

The alternative is to believe that Evil somehow popped into existence without God’s cause or consent. That takes God off the hook for being Evil, but then totally undermines God’s sovereignty. If God was not sufficiently in control to prevent a major rebellion that supposedly involved a third of his kingdom, then how much else is uncertain?

Neither of these two conclusions are satisfactory, for they completely undermine key Christian doctrine regarding salvation.

If God created Evil, then the whole thing is a farce! We are exhorted to oppose Evil and refrain from doing Evil, and threatened with eternal punishment for being Evil.

Then the entire Free Will doctrine is a joke as well. Choose between two paths? Both paths created and sanctioned by God, yet one will get you eternally punished? (Some Christians still debate among themselves whether Free Will even exists because having ability to choose supposedly negates God’s sovereignty).

If God is not sovereign, then who is really calling the shots? How can we count on anything else that Christianity asserts?

As I said, there is no resolution to this paradox. I struggled with it during my Christian years, and eventually this opened the door for me to question much more. Eventually I arrived at my present understanding of Spirituality.

The Hermetic view of God has no such contradictions or paradoxes. A single consciousness pervades the universe. Separateness is but an illusion, as is duality. Light and darkness are balanced, such that light casts shadows, and the absence of light is necessary for defining light.

There is no paramount struggle between Good vs. Evil. All that is, simply is.