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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

To Define Evil: Nature and Origins

Thus, we can reiterate that what is essential to the human creature is also its very downfall, for the source of evil is its uniquely given good free will. The fact of the matter is that Adam would have already turned away from God in order for the serpent's temptations to have any sort of allure.53 Aquinas states that the cause of sin cannot be the devil, but in fact the human's will alone, for sin is an action and a thing is directly the cause of sin the same way it is directly the cause of an action.54 There is no exterior power that is evil and forcing itself upon the human creature. It is the human creature itself that is the evil force. A human's will cannot be compelled to do evil, for there is nothing more excellent than the wise, rational and virtuous mind.55 Thus, only something superior to the mind can compel it to evil, but anything superior must be more wise, rational and virtuous, therefore certainly not about to compel the human will to evil - and anything inferior would be far too weak.56 Thus, nothing can coerce the mind to evil other than the human's own free choice.57 There is no evil other than that which humanity does against God's good will and divine purpose. Sin, of course, is the theological term for moral evil, which is the evil we have been challenging all along. Evil enters the world when a member of the kingdom renounces its proper role in the divine scheme and ceases to be what it is meant to be.58 It is when the will turns to its own private good or to anything exterior or inferior that the will sins.59 Indeed, the primary sin is the willful turning to self from God - when the will abandons the highest for the lower.60 While the will and its freedom is good, humanity has the tendency to abuse them - but God has given us the free choice in willing, and therefore has allowed for the possibility of sin, where sin is the rebellion against God - the contradiction of God's will and the declaration of autonomy.61 Sin is the imperfect relationship with God, and violations and actions against His will that arise from the distorted relationship.62

The final question remains at this stage: Did God intend humans to be so depraved? It would seem that, since God is in fact omnipotent and omniscient, He has created a being that He knew would fall. Humans fall away freely and responsibly, but God must have foreseen this before even their creation.63 God, while knowing in advance our willing, does not compel us to sin by this.64 The fact is, God created all things good and in a certain way, and the way God made humanity is with the gift of free will, which is a gift that can be used and abused. Within the heart of humanity is placed a desire, and it is this desire that drives the human to lust. Sin is therefore the misapplication of the will that causes the human creature to want what it should not.65 It is lust of some sort that is the common factor in all human evils, and the desire for anything would mean nothing without the free will to want.

The one thing that remains to be said is that the Fall may have been necessary. That is, while God knew humanity would fall, He also wanted us to fall, and perhaps even needed us to fall. In the human creature's corrupted state, it is given a new and special blessing, and it is only in this new relationship between fallen humanity and God that God confirms Himself.66 One could go so far as to say that the state of fallen humanity is greater than the state of pre-fallen humanity, for there is no glorious hope for an uncorrupted human.67 That is, without the Fall, the promise of everlasting life may never have been made. As a result of our fall, we need God for salvation, and therefore our love is a choice because salvation is a gift received by choice. In that sense, God needed us to fall so that our love for Him would be more than merely circumstantial, but would be real for it would be by choice - a love by commitment. Thus, it may have been the eternal will of God to save His creation from its sin by His act of reconciliation through His Son.68 Ultimately, as with any human love-relationship, if there is a chance of rejection - that is, the possibility to receive a 'no' - then the 'yes' is that much more true, that much more powerful, and that much more meaningful. What good is choice when there is only one road, one option to take? With the risk of 'no,' the 'yes' is that much sweeter.

Hence, we have seen that evil is beyond merely an individualistic notion of personal misery and inconvenience. Indeed, natural evil cannot truly be named evil, for the ordered universe is simply acting by the good organisation that the good Creator has set. Instead, evil has its origins within the human creature, which has been given by God the gift of free will and therefore the opportunity to turn away from God's purposes for it and the universe. While it was indeed God's decision and action that allowed humanity to turn away from Himself - and while He did know the outcome of humanity's defection - He nevertheless endowed us with this dark possibility. Still, where there is possibility to turn away, there is also possibility to be faithful.

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  1. Hick, God of Love, p.72.
  2. Aquinas, 'Summa Theologica,' Basic Writings, Vol. 2, p.658.
  3. Evans, Augustine, p.115.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Hick, God of Love, p.53.
  7. Evans, Augustine, p.116.
  8. Hick, God of Love, p.66.
  9. Wright, Dark Side, p.70.
  10. Hick, God of Love, p.16.
  11. Ibid, p.70.
  12. Evans, Augustine, p.117.
  13. Ibid, p.115.
  14. Rodin, Theodicy, p.85.
  15. Ibid, pp.85-86.
  16. Ibid, pp.86-87.