A Logical argument – Is Evil Inevitable by Definition?
There is an anecdotal story about a Jewish man who engages a tailor to make a pair of trousers. After weeks of delay and endless frustration, the man confronts the tail and says, “Even God only took 6 days to make the whole world!” “Yes”, says the tailor, “but just see what a world made in a hurry looks like!”
The Christian tradition asserts God to be wholly different; different not just to man, but to the whole of creation. God exists outside creation and is not a product of it, so there is nothing in it to which He can be compared. We may have analogies to help us partly understand God but in the end he is “wholly other”. When you consider the cosmos, its complexity, size and time span, and the claim that God is in charge, it is just as well that he is truly different, for nothing in the realm of creation would be up to the job.
So, when God created the cosmos that we see with our eyes and telescopes, he was making something “other” than Himself. As such, by definition, there is a profound ontological difference between the entire universe, and God. Creation, by definition, carries with it inescapable imperfection because only God is perfect and the Universe is different from God. Evil, both the possibility of it and the actualisation of it, necessarily arises from this logical but profound difference of being.
Since God is infinite, there is no room for anything else – God has had to enable something other than himself to exist, it is argued. Some element of the tri-unity of God has had to recede, to literally retreat, to vacate the space, in order for creation to exist at all. So creation as we see it is imperfect but profoundly beautiful, where creative forces are allowed to play – the way galaxies and starts get made, the way in which cells divide and a baby is formed. In that creative process, alongside its inherent beauty, there is, from our human perspective an imperfection. It is shaped by finiteness, a tendency to be dependant or contingent on other things, it is mortal and will decay, and its life will be subject to competition, evolution, death and conflict (to a greater or lesser degree).
This difference in Christianity is that this is resolved in eternity. Reality is as we see it, flawed and imperfect. But the message of the gospel is hope – such times as this will come to an end – sorrow will cease, injustice will not only be ended but will be repaid, sickness will be gone because the inherent imperfection of the current existence will be superseded by something else.
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:3-5
The physical order, of which we are undeniably a part, persists as it is in the meantime because it is not God. Because it has been given an inherent creative process, it is alive but finite; nebulae form stars and planets, stars burn fuel, life evolves, and all eventually ends because the imperfection means it is not eternal. This will not satisfy us when grief is consuming us, or when man’s inhumanity to man appears on the television screen. But it is an important thing to understand. Creation is described in Genesis as “good” or very good”. It is very pertinently not described as “perfect”. This may be a good starting point to look at purpose. Is there a redeeming point to the imperfection in the universe?