A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wesley Blog writes about the chariness some have of talking about evil, especially in terms of the demonic "Maybe we just can't shake the false notion that every being has some good in them no matter how bad they are." I'm going to agree with Augustine here and suggest that such a notion is an important one to hold as Christians.

Augustine's argument in the Confessions is that God created everything good. It doesn't mean that evil is not real. But rather evil is not a thing, not something which has an existence since existence is good and is only possible because of the work of God. Evil instead is a deprivation, something which corrupts that which has some good.
In this sense it's parasitic. You can't have a rotten apple without the good of an apple to work with. And you couldn't have Darth Vader without the jedi knight in him. In the Return of the Jedi you get something few action movies will ever give you: a bad guy who is not pure evil, who can and in the end is redeemed. Isn't that the message and hope of Christian faith?

Is this not taking evil seriously enough? Perhaps, though I don't think externalizing evil into a satan figure gives us a better route. Pure evil calls for no response from us, besides vanquishment, like the old western's theme or today's US foreign policy. But by externalizing evil, the idea of the pervasivness of evil, ie original sin seems lost.

That is, the idea of evil affecting all of life, including ourselves becomes harder to recognize. Instead evil is "out there". It's also easier to imagine folks as all good (ourselves) and all bad (those other folks). It's an old temptation to hold such a view but I think Augustine was right in trying to stear us away from it.


At 12:50 PM , Anonymous Chris T. said...

Great post. I agree with you on how troubling the suggestion is of there not being some kind of good in particular people.

Arendt and Mary Midgley write very convincingly on this point, too. If we stop being able to recognize good in others, we start erasing the good in ourselves.

At 1:10 AM , Blogger Shane Raynor said...

I was specifically talking about demonic beings, not people, when I made the statement Dwight quoted. Perhaps I should have made it more clear.

By the way Chris, I'm glad you're back.

At 11:24 AM , Anonymous Chris T. said...

Those demonic beings, at least in some traditions, are ex-angels, though. Isn't it even harder to believe that fallen angels could have no good in them at all after their fall?

At 7:32 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were you I would look and see what the bible says about hardened hearts of unbelievers, I think there are those who do turn their back to God for good and can become truly evil, such as those same fallen angels you speak of, yes they are completely evil. Hate to brake it to you but there are those out there who are truley evil.

At 7:50 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

It's not news that there are people who are truly evil. But such an observation doesn't address the issue of total evil. If we were to adopt your position, we take something of existence which is of God and declare that it's evil, thus making God the author of evil. I don't think that is going to be a tenable position.


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