Consequently on a more social level we have a tendency to cluster with those we know and separate from the unknown. More specifically we readily apportion blame to the so-called unknown others. That is, we scapegoat the other as the cause of all wrong.
The long history of religion has been as guilty of this as anyone. The other is always the cause of evil.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
The problem of evil is one of the big dilemmas of theology. Questions like, ‘who created evil?’ Perhaps suggesting that God create evil like Fry suggested. Such descriptions are simple and can have a place for some understanding, but life needs a more comprehensive explanation if we are to get a little closer to the heart of the matter.
Just as ancient visions of God as an old man in white coat and beard have been challenged and re thought out, so have ancient visions of evil, as the two-horned devil or pitch forked Satan been re-thought. They were relatively primitive symbols to often people treated them as literal.
Of all the scripture references I have found, today’s gospel is as helpful as any I’ve come across for understanding the nature of good and evil. Jesus parable of the sower sowing some seed, only to have an enemy come at night and spread weeds amidst the good seed sets the scene.
Contrary to expectations the farmer rebukes the suggestion of the work hands to remove the weeds. His warning is that if you pull up the weeds you will pull up the wheat as well. The implication is that the two grow together. In other words, it sounds like the two require the contrast to fulfil their purpose.
The good requires the challenge of the bad to grow well.
GOD IS ONE
Our beginning point is noting that God is one and supreme. Therefore, there is no place for an equal contrary force, such as the devil. Our second point is that God is good and therefore can only create that which is good. So therefore, we ask how do we get evil when God creates all things and only things that are good.
I suggest that God takes a great self-giving, self-sacrificing risk, as the ultimate expression of love, in which creation is externally formed as a massive and dynamic expression of fragmented reality. The attitude of self-sacrificial giving by the divine is spoken of in Philippians when speaking of Jesus.
'Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus;
Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing…'
I say an externally fragmented creation because internally there is a deeper reality of ultimate unity, for creation is really an expression of God. A unity in diversity. Creation has to be fragmented because that is the only way we can each be created as a unique expression of particular consciousness.
We are fragmented for the sake of being uniquely particular.
So the big question emerges as to what we do with this gift of unique consciousness. That is a question of our will. If we remain locked into our self-serving ego we remain fragmented and divided. The energy we stimulate becomes internalised and destructive. It builds a way of life that we call evil.
On the other-hand if we utilise our life for good purposes our energy or spirit is a creative life-giving one and it seeks unity with all else. It affirms life and builds the kingdom. But to make such good choices we have to face the alternative and reject the fragmented and destructive options.
The wheat and the weeds must grow together for without the opposite other the good wheat will not embrace the choice that seeks the life that flourishes.
A further step is to understand that the human mind is collective. The more people make bad choices, the resulting destructive energy multiplies and creates a life force we call evil. Rather than being something that is separate from us, it is the destructive energies we so easily participate in. On the other-hand collectively we can display the Christlike mind of God and so build the kingdom of God.
To create the notion of the devil in our collective mind is just another example of humans scapegoating the opposite so that we don’t have to carry responsibility for our failings. Evil is the human exercised will and its energy that works for self-serving destructive purposes.
THE GREAT VISION
On the contrary life is really the expression of the love of God, seeking to share that sense of God-ness within the willingness of all humanity. It is the most extraordinary gift to know that creations purpose is that we grow into God-ness, for we are made in his image. But just like the problem of evil, the journey is in our hands. The choices we make, shapes our experience.
We know the path is challenging, but it is the most glorious of all possibilities. God became humanity that we may share in Godness.