Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does Evil Exist?

Many, during various eras, have asked this interesting question. A number of theologians have endeavoured to answer this ancient question, which has troubled mankind since the beginning of time, where in every religion and understanding of our existence, we separate the world into good and evil. However, does evil exist? And if it does, how does it exist? Why has God allowed it to exist and prevail (in some instances)? These are popular questions. Vladimir Lossky, in his book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, explains:

‘Evil entered into the world through the will. It is not a nature (φύσις), but a condition (έξις). ‘The nature of good is stronger than the habit of evil,’ says Diadochus of Photike, for ‘good exists, while evil does not exist, or rather it exists only at the moment in which it is practiced.’ According to St Gregory of Nyssa, sin is a disease of the will which is deceived, and takes a mere shadow of the good for the good itself. For this reason, the very desire to taste of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was itself a sin, for, according to St Gregory, knowledge presupposes a certain disposition towards the object one wishes to know, and evil, being in itself non-existent, ought not to be known. Evil becomes a reality only by means of the will, in which alone it subsists. It is the will which gives evil a certain being. That man, who was by nature disposed towards the knowledge and love of God, could in his will incline towards a non-existent good, an illusory goal, can only be explained by some external influence, by the persuasion of some alien will to which the human will consented. Before entering the earthly world through Adam’s will, evil had already had its beginnings in the spiritual world. It was the will of the angelic spirits, eternally fixed in their enmity to God, which first gave birth to evil. And evil is nothing other than an attraction of the will towards nothing, a negation of being, of creation, and above all of God, a furious hatred of grace against which the rebellious will puts up an implacable resistance. Even though they have become spirits of darkness, the fallen angels remain creatures of God, and their rejection of the will of God represents a despairing intercourse with the nothingness which they will never find. Their eternal descent towards non-being will have no end. St Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian mystic of the last century, says of them: ‘They are hideous; their conscious rejection of divine grace has transformed them into angels of darkness, and unimaginable horrors. Being angelic creatures, they possess enormous strength. The least among them could destroy creation from within, by turning human freedom towards evil.’ The same saint, referring to an ascetic writing attributed to St Antony, distinguishes three different wills at work in man. First, there is the will of God, perfect and saving; secondly, the will of man, not necessarily pernicious, but certainly not in itself a saving will, and, thirdly, the demonic will, seeking our perdition.’(pp.128-129).  

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