Evil doesn’t actually exist. It wants to exist, but it doesn’t. Evil is the absence of good.
The world itself would, in its basic form, be good. Sin broke the world, and evil has begun eating away at the fabric of our world ever since, creating first disobedience and then death, illness, futile work and suffering.
Throughout our lives, we’re pockmarked by absences of goodness, places where the light doesn’t shine and therefore the fabric of our selves becomes worn away. What used to be there was goodness, and it’s not.
If you consider, most kids enter the world believing that life is fair. They arrive with a self-centered understanding that whatever they need will be given, and only over time do they become cynical. If you meet a worried two-year-old, you assume something terrible has happened to the child to make him doubt the world, not that children are born worried and pained. It’s our general understanding that children enter the world innocent, and that over time we become damaged.
Now I’ll take this one step further. Scott Hahn in Reasons To Believe states that some philosophers believe in God because of story. They assert that history itself takes the form of a narrative, and that therefore there must be a Storyteller.
Personally, I love the idea of God as a novelist, and I can explore that some other time. There have been times in my life where I’ve stepped back and said, “If this were a novel, this is where we would be in the story, and this is how things would unfold –” only to find that later on, yes, that’s how things did work out. (And in the past, I’ve discussed sports and story on the weblog. Humans hunger for story.)
God’s chief title is Creator. And the enemy cannot create. He’d like to, but he can’t create.
That’s why evil is only the absence of good: because the enemy simply can’t make new things. He can pervert, distort, twist, and annihilate something, but he can’t make anything new. His hands are tied.
Looking back through the historical record, we see human beings engaged in all the same evils, over and over. The same basic ways of being bad to one another have been in operation since humanity walked out of the garden of Eden, and while some people say it’s because Satan doesn’t need to make up new ways of tripping us up, I say it’s because he can’t. If he could have invented new evils, he’d have done it by now.
At its heart, evil is angry; it’s not creative. It does the same things the same way repeatedly. Goodness spins an idea around and derives new ways of answering old questions. Evil has the same old toxic answers every time.
Sure, we can detonate the planet with the current level of technology. We couldn’t do that back in the five hundreds. But what would detonate the planet isn’t a new evil, but only the same greed and envy and hatred, playing with bigger toys.
Evil people look remarkably the same. Saints look remarkably different from one another. I think that’s because God as storyteller takes the time with them to develop their characters more.
If you can create, I urge you to do it. Write, draw, sing, play music, dance, knit, garden: just create. Come up with an idea, or solve a problem, or work hard to produce something new. Just make something, because at its heart, what you’re doing by creating is becoming just a little more God-like, a little more like your own Creator. And at the same time, you’re doing something that the heart of evil never can.
Creation comes from a place of love. Love your creations the way the Father loves you.
This reminds me of a filk, Acts of Creation. The lyrics are available at http://www.echoschildren.org/CDlyrics/ACTSOFCREATION.HTML
You can argue good isn’t doing anything new either. Thousands of years ago, the priests to Amon dolled out food to to the needy. Today, the monks of St. Francis doll out food to the needy. Same drive, same action. Charity goes back as far as need.
Alexander was known for treating captive soldiers well and with dignity hundred of years before there was a Geneva Convention. Nobility and honor have a long pedigree.
I’d argue that all good was given to us in the beginning. Why would ancient man have been denied an understanding of virtue or goodness? G-d knows everything and knew every nuance of goodness before the world began. He would not deprive us of the drive to do right, if we reach for that.
Really, it’s the lens. Ieyasu Tokugawa and Abraham Lincoln were either both the same (driven by patriotism to unite their fractured countries) or different in the details. It’s the same with those driven by evil. You either look at the details or you don’t.
Where history shows an interesting storyteller’s hand is in someone like Pope Leo X, who has a striking legacy of both murder and charity. He brought the Inquisition to Portugal, in so doing slaughtering thousands of Jews, while establishing charitable centers across Europe, in so doing saving thousands of lives. These are the man driven by both the devil and the divine.
I have to wonder about Hitler though. He started out to be an artist, and failed. Was there never enough good in him to be a creator? That’s kind of scary.
I’m going to go turn a ball of yarn into a scarf now. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂
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I read your entry and it reminded me of my most usual whine towards God. Something like: “Lord, if my life were a movie, I would say the director is crazy and just a bit sadistic”. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t think this, but sometimes it does. Because in my life so many coincidences occur that, were it a movie, people would say: “This is so stupid. There’s no way so many coincidences would occur in real life.” Except that they do. So, it seems I do see God as a writer (a movie script writer).
And so here I came to comment. And here I find a comment (the one from Ivy: Hi Ivy, do you remember me?) that talks about Portugal and Hitler. And lately there has been a storyline in my part of the story (and some people else’s line, too) that involves Hitler, angels (and demons), and coincidences, (and Portugal because the people in this part of the story live here) and my complaining about God being a weird film director that I have no idea what does He want with this storyline. And art because I am finding solace in art, both creating knitted/crocheted pretty things and tasting other people’s art. Both music and reading (I am rereading your book, Jane). And precisely now, my iTunes seems to agree because it shuffled to your book’s promo 🙂
God doesn’t have to worry about wiling suspension of disbelief, which is why God can get away with things in His story that writers on Earth can’t get away with in a novel.
Ivy, if you look at a handful of the holiest people you can think of, they all have very diverse and colorful personalities. Taken as a group, they are variegated and different in their focus and the way they go about their brand of goodness.
If you look at a handful of the evilest people you can think of, over time they all become the same, like husks of people. They become paranoid, bitter, angry, and completely concerned with getting what is theirs at the expense of everyone else. Take as a group, they begin to look the same. The difference between a malevolent dictator and a toxic great-grandmother is only the amount of power that person had to wield in this lifetime.
Thank you. The last paragraph and line left me in tears.
It’s hard because it’s so hard to find people who are pure evil or pure good. How do you list Isabella I? As the visionary who funded Columbus’s explorations? As the tyrant who drove the Jews from Spain? Can she be painted with the same brush as a slave trader? Would either be the same as a serial killer?
I don’t think an only-evil person exists. I really think it is impossible for such a person to exist. So, just like the toxic grandmother may once in a while be loving, maybe the malevolent dictator or the serial killer or the slave trader may once in a while show love. I cannot wrap my head over the idea that someone may NEVER show love. At least not someone my species.
Right, exactly. Which is why the evil folks vary as broadly and widely as the good. The Marquis de Sade wasn’t Genghis Kahn. Their motivations, their goals, their methods, all different. And yes, I recognize that classifying someone like Kahn as good or evil is highly controversial. That’s my point. A slaver was an upstanding, honest member of society in his time. A member of the underground railroad was a criminal. See how it all falls on its head today.
I disagree. People who are very evil tend to resemble one another at the end: paranoid, hateful, controlling and self-centered. Toxic people become less and less human the further they get from genuine love.
People who genuinely love become more alive and more fully realized.
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Interesting point, Jane. And as usual, you beat me to the punch and are three steps ahead of a conclusion I’ve recently reached.
I’ve just finished reading Demon: A Memoir (highly recommended, btw) and it was the first time that I saw it specifically stated that Lucifer is not God’s “archenemy” simply because God created him, and a creation can never be equal to the Creator. (It was much more eloquently put in the book, but my brother has borrowed it so I’m paraphrasing the idea a slight bit).
I like your idea of creating and loving your creation. God did give us the power to create and to take joy in it the way He did over everything He made.
I like that thought, both the creativity and the storytelling.
As a storyteller in two different guilds, I often hear the same story from two different tellers. My favourite tellers are the ones who make the same story sound give very different messages. I find the more common ending to King Solomon’s Ring depressing. Or Hugh’s The Dark Child. I found it depressing that everyone was happy that by the end, “there was nothing by which you could tell him from every other child,” and the other tellers understood that, but one would tell it happy because the others were no longer blaming the child for being different.
God as Storyteller is one more example of why I’m glad I don’t have His job. I have enough trouble making my own small stories believable and balanced.
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