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Good and Evil

“…if God is all-good and all-powerful, then there shouldn’t be evil. But there is evil. Therefore, this God must not exist. This sort of skeptical argument could only take hold within the modern moral order…and its epistemic confidence…Before looking at the nature of good and evil, it is worth seeing the problem involved when choice is inserted into the conversation. What happens in that approach is that we are no longer speaking about the nature of good and evil, indeed, both are relativized in importance. Everything quickly revolves back to the nature of choosing, and makes the actions of our will the center of the good. Thus, there is no true good or evil, only good choices and evil choices. It is a narcissistic ontology – a system of thought in which we ourselves become the center of attention.” (James K.A. Smith, Father Stephen Freeman)

“It is entirely understandable that people cast about for answers in the problem of good and evil…In a world in which the action of choosing is exalted above all else, it is not surprising to hear that “evil is necessary in order to have the good.” I have seen this conversation, cast in a number of ways. It is stock-in-trade for some quasi-religious systems. I have seen it in spades in Jungian and Depth Psychology circles. No doubt, some bring this set of ideas along with them into the…faith. It is, however, a profound error.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“…Paul also said, “For those who love God all things work together for good” [Rm 8:28]. “All things,” he says. What is meant by “all things”? Opposition and apparent disappointment—even these things are turned into good…Despite the world’s darkness and the evils it spawns, God infuses His will into everything that happens here…The Lord can take evil and use it for good…recall what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (OSB Genesis 50:20). Likewise, the Almighty used the oppression of the church for His higher purpose.” (St. John Chrysostom, Dynamis 5/18/2021, Fr. Basil)

“Generally, we prefer routines rather than challenges. At times, it takes a crisis for us to leave our comfort zone and enter a new phase of obedience to the Lord. Sometimes, it takes a circumstance that we do not choose for us to take the next steps on the way of the cross…When our comfort is disturbed, we should remember that the Almighty can use anything we face for His glory and our good. We pray in the St. Basil’s Liturgy, “Preserve the good in goodness, and make the evil be good”…By this prayer, we acknowledge that the Lord is sovereign, and He works in and through all things to actualize His will.” (Fr. Basil)

“Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong—only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness.” (C.S. Lewis)

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph spoke to the heart of his brothers, for the heart has spiritual eyes to see the things of God (Eph 1:18). If their eyes were clear, they would be able to see God's forgiveness expressed through Joseph (Genesis 50:17), and that He worked their evil for good, in order to save many people alive (Genesis 50:20). They would also be thankful to God for providing for their welfare (Genesis 50:21). Truly, God is good!…the Christian faith tells us that there is a spiritual reality that is transforming the evil into good." (Orthodox Study Bible, Genesis 50:21, Jeffrey L. Morrow) “Generally it seems that evil prevails in the world today. Some believe the cause of evil is God. They believe Him to be with human passions—evil, a punisher, an avenger. Why does He allow it? Why does He give it license? Why doesn’t He remove it, since it afflicts His creatures so much? As is known, man is completely free to choose evil or good. For the choice of evil, God is not responsible. We cannot blame God for making us perfectly free. God is goodness, and never made anyone evil.” (Monk Moses the Athonite) “Disease is not the greatest evil for man, because a disease of the body endured with humility, faith, and patience can cure the soul sick with sin and bring it closer to God—the greatest good for man…It is in vain that some unenlightened people seek the greatest evil for man somewhere else, rather than in sin. Some consider disease to be the greatest evil, others—poverty, and others—death. But neither disease, nor poverty, nor death, nor any other earthly disaster can be such a great evil for us as is sin. These earthly misfortunes do not separate us from God if we are seeking Him sincerely, but, on the contrary, they bring us closer to Him.” (Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev of Bulgaria) “The commonest question is whether I really “believe in the Devil.” Now if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly “No.” There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left…Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.” (C. S. Lewis) “Goodness, then, is what we should seek with our intelligence, long for with our desire, and keep inviolate with our incensive power. With our cognitive insight we should prevent it from becoming adulterated by anything that is contrary to it. With our voice we should make it manifest in speech to those who are ignorant of it. And with our generative power we should make it increase or, to put it more accurately, we should be increased by it.” (St. Maximos the Confessor)

“God is the very ground of being, and so everything that has being is good insofar as it exists. God is wholly good, and so too is anything He creates. What about evil? It does not exist in the same way that good exists, but that doesn’t mean it’s unreal. Evil is a privation of being. An evil act is a movement from being and its source toward nonbeing. In this way, even evil depends, so to speak, on the prior existence of being—of good. It’s like a shadow. A shadow can have a shape and size. It can cool your house and cause you to stumble if your eyes don’t adjust to it quickly. But no shadow has its own independent existence. It is rather a privation of light. If there is no light, there can be no shadow." (Jonathan Witt and Jay W. Richards)

“...evil has no substance or kingdom—either unoriginate or self-existent or created by God; but that it is our work, and the evil one’s, and came upon us through our heedlessness…not from our Creator." (St. Gregory the Theologian)

"Goodness is primary and independent; it does not require evil in order to exist. Existence itself is good, for it is derived from God’s Being, the source and foundation of reality. Evil, on the other hand, is parasitical in nature and cannot exist without the good: it is a perversion of that which exists…Evil is an erosion of being. The more evil a creature becomes, the more deficient its existence…Evil cannot create; it can only pervert." (Lisa Coutras)

“Evil is corruptible because corruption is the nature of evil, which does not possess any true existence whatsoever. Goodness is incorruptible because it exists eternally and never ceases to be, and watches over everything in which it dwells…Evil has a beginning, for it has its origin in activity on our part which is contrary to nature. But goodness does not have a beginning, for it exists by nature before time and before all ages.” (St. Maximos the Confessor)

"Here’s a liberating fact: Evil does not exist as some objective force, floating about like a dark hole, on its own. Evil only exists within living, created beings, both visible and invisible, as the result of their free choice to reject the good. This fact is liberating, because it liberates us from falsely seeing evil as some “power” that we’re up against. What we are up against is our own free choice to embrace good or reject it." (Sr. Dr. Vassa Larin)

“Evil cannot be used for good, though good can be brought out of evil” (Anne Marie Gazzolo)"God does not do evil, but He often does good through the actions of those who do evil.” (Father Anthony Coniaris)

“Evil does not come from God…But when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that he will accomplish through the distress.” (Life Application Study Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“God uses everything - both good and evil – for His good purposes…We don’t need to understand every detail of how God works in order to have perfect confidence in His absolute power over evil and His total goodness toward us.” (Life Application Study Bible, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)

“…although created for the good, anyone can become evil as a result of the choices they make and the temptations to which they surrender” (Anne Marie Gazzolo)

“What we face daily is spiritual warfare…Righteousness is the best guardian of the heart, which is why Saint Paul speaks of it as a breastplate. If we do not vacillate to the left or right, but hold solidly to what is good and just, then our thinking and acting will cope with every distortion and attractive delusion….The hardest part of the life in Christ is trusting God in all circumstances… This kind of faith shields against any assault on heart and mind.” (Dynamis 12/8/2012)

“We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it…No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” (C.S. Lewis)

“…He [God] left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it.” (C.S. Lewis)

“Running away is sometimes considered cowardly. But wise people realize that removing themselves physically from temptation can often be the most courageous action to take…Knowing when to run is as important in spiritual battle knowing when and how to fight.” (Life Application Study Bible, 2 Timothy 2:22)

“However, though we accept evil as real, we also know paradoxically it is unreal and not the true or ultimate reality. We don’t believe in evil as an equal and opposite power to God. It is not a power outside of God nor is it a power at all…it is taking that which is good and using it for our own willful purposes. Therefore, in reality, the answer to the question"what is evil?” is that evil is a counterfeit power.” (Sacramental Living)

“The most evil vice is always the perversion of the most excellent virtue.” (Father Thomas Hopko)

“… evil is both real and unreal at the same time. It is real in that exists because of created beings’ choices, but it is unreal in that it has no lasting permanence because it not created by God. Only God and his goodness are the true and lasting reality. Therefore even death and other circumstances that happen to us in this world are temporary circumstances; no matter how bad they feel to us, and not a permanent and lasting according the promises of Christianity.” (Sacramental Living)

“When allowed to run its course, evil always destroys itself.” (Life Application Study Bible, Psalms 7:14-16)

"Deceivers are self-deceived by their vices, and thus devise evil things by choice. But good men are good both by nature and choice, and thus bring forth mercy and truth.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Proverbs 14:22)

“…a small amount of evil can affect a large group of people... Beware of the tendency to say,"How can this little wrong possibly affect anyone?” (Life Application Study Bible, Matthew 16:12)

“An evil man is not evil by nature. For if he were, he could not correct and discipline himself. He does evil things by the wrong use of his free will, which is often energized by arrogance, one of the worst of the vices. Those who know themselves know they are good by nature, and they will use this God-given wisdom to remove the deceptions of sin.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Proverbs 13:11)

"Few people set out in life with the goal of becoming evil. It is the little things-petty jealousies and grievances – which act as cancerous cells within the heart…We comfort ourselves with the thought that while we may not be perfect, we are not as bad as people like Hitler. Yet most of the trouble in the world is caused by ordinary people like us." (Clark Carlton)

“Evil lurks in the heart of quite ordinary human beings…Evil company corrupts good habits.” (Pastor Timothy Keller, 1 Corinthians 15:33)

“Although Joseph’s brothers had wanted to get rid of him, God used even their evil actions to fulfill his ultimate plan. He had sent Joseph ahead to preserve their lives, save Egypt, and prepare the way for the beginning of the nation of Israel. God is sovereign. His plans are not dictated by human actions. When others intend evil toward you, remember that they are only God’s tools.” (Life Application Study Bible, Genesis 45:4-8)

“...we do not have a dualistic view of the world, in which there are two equal and opposite forces of good and evil. In that view, life is truly a battlefield and a"crap shoot” because there is no single force in charge. History is just a struggle between equally balanced forces of good and evil. There is no being powerful enough to carry out a coherent plan for history. The Bible shows us no such world. God is completely in charge.” (Pastor Timothy Keller)

“God allows evil just enough space so it will defeat itself...God will allow evil only to the degree that it brings about the very opposite of what it intends…When allowed to run its course, evil destroys itself (Pastor Timothy Keller, Life Application Study Bible, Psalms 7:14-16)

“When you see evil schemes unfold, remember that they will not succeed forever...God, according to his plan and purpose, will intervene for his people and give the wicked the judgment they deserve. We should not be dismayed when we see the temporary advantage God’s enemies seem to have.” (Life Application Study Bible, Psalms 21:11)

“Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse…Evil exists only as a distortion of what used to be good.” (C.S. Lewis, James Stuart Bell)

“...God is not the cause of evil. He has given men knowledge and understanding, the power of discriminating between good and evil, and free will. It is man’s negligence and indolence that give birth to evil passions, while God is in no way the cause.” (St. Anthony the Great)

“Evil men are good by nature but evil by choice.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Proverbs 15:25)"Evil does not exist by nature, nor is any man naturally evil, for God made nothing that was not good. When in the desire of his heart someone conceives and gives form to what in reality has no existence, then what he desires begins to exist. We should therefore turn our attention away from the inclination to evil and concentrate it on the remembrance of God; for good, which exists by nature, is more powerful than our inclination to evil. The one has existence while the other has not, except when we give it existence through our actions." (St. Diadochos of Photiki)

“God uses even the activities of wicked people for His good purposes.” (Life Application Study Bible, Proverbs 16:4)

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are