Dr. Sergey Zagraevsky
NEW CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY
original was published in Russian: ALEV-V Publishing House,
EVIL AND THE THEODICY
The majority of philosophers considered the problem, which we are going to discuss, as collateral and not so fundamental in comparison with the problems of correlation between being and consciousness, of the cognoscibility of the world etc. But in actual fact, without its solving a doubt is cast on the existence of God, and together with it, on all that we have already discussed – the existence of the moral imperative, Christianity, humanism...
The name to this problem was given by the work of Leibniz – “Theodicy”. This word is translated from Latin as “the justification of God”, and its essence is the following:
The moral imperative dictates us the faith in God as in the good, wise and almighty power, which created the world. But how to explain that on the Earth together with good there is evil, at that hardly at the less degree? Why does God permit the existence of evil? Or of the devil, or of the Satan – it can be called in any way.
Knowingly – then God is not good, furthermore, he is the source of evil?
Or God can not overcome evil – then he is not almighty, and the devil is as strong as God?
And if the creation of the world as of the physical and moral whole primordially assumed the presence of evil in it, then wouldn’t it have been better for God not to create the world at all?
There were a great number of opinions on that. Let us start from the most “materialistic” ones: Spinoza, Schopenhauer and Spenser with either variations considered God as a morally indifferent power, and it seemed to be a successful solution in the formal way, which we have already discussed: for God (and, ultimately, for us) there is neither good nor evil.
The problem seems to be closed (together with the moral imperative), but that is not so.
Let us cite a simple example. Walking along a meadow, we do not think that at every step we break the grass and crush insects. And in the case of the Theodicy of Spinoza and Schopenhauer, we, people, turn out to be in the role of these insects. We, victims of ruthless nature, terrible catastrophes and other large-scale manifestations of the “Divine Indifference”.
Consequently, the moral indifference of God becomes evil, and this comes into a conflict with the initial prerequisite of Theodicy – we believe in God as in a good power.
So let us consider the wrongfulness of such a method as one more confirmation of the accuracy of our understanding of the moral imperative, and let us turn to the second variant of the solution of the problem of the Theodocy – Dualism.
We shall have to examine it more comprehensively.
Some Early Christian religious and philosophic schools and a number of contemporary to them Eastern religions (Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrinism) solved the problem of the Theodicy in the following way: good and evil, God and the devil are two quite equivalent origins of the world.
This point of view seems effective and logical – it turns out that God is not a culprit of evil, and that God is fighting for good with all his might, though hitherto can not win. Two independent, non-interconnected and even hostile gods appear – the first is good, the second is evil. That is Dualism.
And we shall try to prove the wrongfulness of the Dualistic point of view by the “rule of contraries”.
The fact is that two practically equivalent powers turn out to be – God and the devil. Consequently, every human may have the temptation to come to an agreement with the devil.
For example, that was done by Faust in Goethe’s book.
The plot of “Faust” is well known. The treaty about the alliance with the devil, the second youth of Faust, his tragic love to Gretchen (“organized” by Mephistopheles), wandering to the Walpurgis-nights and witches’ sabbaths, helping to the emperor, the attempt to build an “ideal” city, Faust’s death and his entering into heaven, though he had “sullied” himself by the treaty with the devil.
All this is the outward side of the book. But there is a background, important for us, and we must talk about it more attentively.
In each case Mephistopheles’ aim was to lead Faust astray of knowledge and development, to make him “exalt the single moment”. Faust understood that, but took the risk for the sake of prolongation of the active life, moreover having the mighty assistant – the devil. And it seemed that he was victorious – thanks to Mephistopheles, he prolonged his life, learnt many new things, and entered into heaven in the end.
But let us remember, how serious and worthy of respect Faust is in the beginning of the book, when during the walk he meets peasants and they thank him for the selflessness in the time of an epidemics. And not only in that episode – in the behavior of Faust and in all his words we see an outstanding person with the independent thought and great strength of spirit.
And who did he become after the treaty with Mephistopheles?
Already in the first part of the book, it seems that Faust does not know, what to do with the second life, which he had suddenly got. Mephistopheles “gives” him the unlucky virgin Gretchen to make him “exalt the single moment”. Love did not make Faust turn aside the way of knowledge, but led to the tragedy: he became the involuntary murderer of Gretchen, her child, mother and brother Valentine.
In the first part of the book, Faust was at least capable to an emotional experience apropos of all that happened, but in the second part, we see already a quite heartless and faceless person.
Thanks to Mephistopheles, he has great practical resources, but how does he use them? The sample is his “love affair” with the ghost of Helen. The ghost soon disappears, but Faust feels no emotions over that.
The city on the drained region of the sea, which Faust decided to build, is absolutely ephemeral and necessary for nobody. Old blind Faust walks along a seashore and thinks that a beautiful city is being raised around him, but there, in fact, little demons are digging the grave for him.
Let us note that Goethe intuitively solved in his book the “fundamental paradox of Christianity” – God took Faust’s soul into heaven, having forgiven him both the treaty with Mephistopheles and many deaths through his fault.
But nevertheless let us establish the fact: after the treaty with the devil, neither activities nor knowledge of Faust had any aims or results. To put it more precisely, there were results, but they did not bring anything except evil to people.
The devil is evil by definition, consequently, all his acts may be only evil for a human and for the humanity.
And in the pragmatic 20th century, the treaty between Faust and Mephistopheles got one more aspect, not so harmless as flights to witches’ sabbaths. I mean people, who choose the ways of the struggle for the things, which they consider as good, by the means of evil, – I mean international terrorists. Today they capture planes and direct them to skyscrapers, tomorrow they will capture nuclear bombs.
And it is quite reasonable to ask: do we, who live in the beginning of the third millennium, have a right to sign the treaty with the devil, if it may lead to the death of the population of the Earth?
Dualism says that we have that right. The point is that if the devil is actually equivalent to God, a logical conclusion arises: why is he worse than God is? Accordingly, why is evil worse than good?
And that inevitably leads to the following: evil is no evil, but it is some special form of good. Not to kill – that is good, and to kill – that is also good. This is the moral imperative, and that is the moral imperative.
But if there are two imperatives (or even more, as in the case of Polytheism), there is no moral imperative, but there is a continuous moral choice between equally valid and, as a rule, conflicting variants.
And that situation is evil by itself. There is the single moral imperative and single God.
The latter conclusion may seem disputable. It turns out that Monotheism, as against Dualism, limits free will and replaces it by the moral imperative – i.e. by something like a command to think in some way and act in some way.
Possibly, the idea of the limiting of free will by the moral imperative could be formed in readers’ mind even before, and it is necessary to speak separately about that.
It is often considered (especially amidst humanitarian intellectuals) that the presence of a strict moral basis (i.e. non-freedom of our will from the moral imperative) guarantees the unlimited, “true” freedom of will in all other aspects, including social and physiological ones.
Then a question appears: what to do with the prohibition to cross a street at the red light. It is answered that such prohibitions do not limit our “true freedom”, because within the limits of road laws we have some other kind of freedom – especially for roads. Prisoners also have their “freedom”, which is limited by the walls of their prison. But all these “local” contexts of freedom do not touch upon the “global” one, which is limited only by the moral imperative.
A number of examples are cited, and, possibly, the most striking one – Boethius, who, being in the prison and waiting for the execution, wrote his epochal work “Consolation of Philosophy”. It turns out that Boethius was free as a philosopher, but not free as a citizen.
In principle, that point of view is quite logical and consistent. But I am rather bothered by this “double-dealing” of the freedom of will. Then an irresistible barrier is built between the “special sphere” – morality – and other spheres of life, and the moral imperative obtains a transcendent character and ceases to be understandable to all.
And in this case in the contemporary world, which is far from perfection, as we have already cleared up, every humanist turns out to be surrounded by “Sodom people”, free from demands of the moral imperative.
Let us note that Boethius was executed as a result, and that is a tragedy regardless the fact that the philosopher had a “true” free will at the moment when the executioner’s sword touched his neck. And that tragedy does not become less even if we say that the executioner’s free will was not “true”.
Some time ago, such a situation induced us to
turn from the moral imperative to religion, i.e. from philosophy to theology.
And now because of the same reasons we have the right to postulate: there must
be no “double-dealing” of freedom – one freedom for Boethius, another for “
But then what is this – freedom?
Philosophic manuals, guides and encyclopedias mostly often determine freedom as the activities and behavior in conditions of the absence of an external target designation.
It is in theory, but there are no conditions of the absence of an external target designation in practice. Every activity, every behavior is conditioned by a number of external factors (from innate to accidental ones), which are the target designation in fact.
For example, King Solomon decided (i.e. made the choice) to build the House of the Lord (1 Kin. 6:1), also basing on many factors. It is doubtless that he took into consideration the economical and political situation, and this is the typical external target designation. But at that, it is difficult to deny that Solomon was free in his choice and, having analyzed all factors, knowingly decided to spend money to the Temple and not to put up those sums to the construction of new walls of Ierusalem.
This sample and many other possible ones reduce the demand of the
absence of an external target designation to the logical absurdity: only the
random choice is freedom. It turns out that if Solomon had not thought about
But we are speaking about the freedom of will, and in the foresaid case, there is no volitional act. In the logical limit, only some abstract freedom can be reduced to the random choice, and the freedom of will presumes the realized choice.
The elements of the random choice, of course, can not be excluded.
Firstly, King Solomon could have thrown lots to decide if to build the
There is another extreme: the Determinists, including Marx, understood freedom as a realized necessity. But in actual fact, that position replaced the choice of an act (of a conclusion, of an intention) by the act itself. It is a typically speculative point of view, because the necessity of the realized (i.e. irrevocably accepted) act does not mean the necessity of the act itself. It may be chosen, and may be not chosen.
And if freedom is not a random choice and is not a realized necessity, then the “intermediate” variant remains: freedom is a possibility of a realized choice, which takes into consideration both necessity and chance.
The freedom is fulfilled just in the realized choice, in accordance with the essence and level of the chosen (rejected) variants. The possibility of the realization of such choice on the level of human will means the freedom of will.
We have done the reservation “in accordance with the essence and the level” not accidentally. Without it, we shall not be able to solve the following paradox: a man is in a prison, consequently, he is not free. But he has a possibility to choose a solitary or common cell, consequently, he is free. He can not go out of the prison, consequently, he is not free. But he can walk to any side of his cell, consequently, he is free. And so on.
The similar sample we have already examined, speaking about Boethius. And it is impossible to take away the freedom of thought and imagination from any prisoner.
Thus, every situation has a number of different aspects and “sub-situations”, and that fragmentation is infinite. Let us call that as situational levels and say: the freedom of will as a realized choice of variants may be fulfilled (or not fulfilled) simultaneously at different situational levels.
A “life” sample: a choice of a suit is conditioned on the material prosperity and plans for the day, and a choice of a cravat – by the choice of the suit. At both levels, different (and differently free) acts of choice are done, but both of them realize the freedom of will.
Our determination of freedom as a realized choice is right even for acts, which concern only our consciousness, such as thought and imagination. We, thinking and imagining, also choose of a number of variants, at that consciously by definition, since it belongs exclusively to the sphere of our consciousness. But the possibilities of our thought and even of our imagination are not infinite (they are limited by age, education, life experience and a number of other factors), that is why it is possible to consider them as the situational levels, where there are more variants of choice in comparison with the ordinary life.
And then everything takes place as in our sample with the suit and the cravat: a choice at the situational level “Imagination” conditions (but does not dictate) a choice at the situational level “Thought”, further this line may be prolonged through the level “Decision” to the level “Action”, at that, each level has the infinite number of “sublevels”.
Basing on all said about freedom, we have no reason to consider that at the highest situational level – the moral – a human is deprived of the freedom of will as of the possibility of a realized choice.
The moral imperative is a demand, but not a compulsion. In nowadays’ society there is a great number of factors, both objective and subjective, owing to which even people of the highest morality sometimes act contrary to the moral imperative.
This is the freedom of the realized moral choice – between good and evil. This freedom may not be called more or less limited than its most strict understanding at other situational levels.
Now we can return to Dualism, which practically equalizes good and evil (i.e. evil and the moral imperative). As a result, it does not lead to the choice between good and evil, but it leads to the choice between two “goods”, which contradict to each other.
To show the groundlessness of the Dualistic point of view, let us remember once more our determination of the freedom of will, which is valid for all situational levels, even to the extent, what road to choose, walking along a park: the true freedom of will is the possibility of a realized choice, which is conditioned by a situation and by its level.
If we speak about the highest, moral level, the true freedom is the freedom to choose good and evil consciously, appreciating positive and negative sequences of the choice to the extent of personal abilities.
And Dualism leads to the false freedom – to a choice between two contradictory “goods”. The false freedom means the deprivation of the possibility to choose the true good freely and consciously, practically replacing the freedom of the realized choice by a coincidence.
However, not only a coincidence, but also a self-deception or a “split personality” is possible, at that, the latter, in its extreme expression, is in the competence of psychiatrists. A person must not split, and this is a pledge of our psychological comfort and normal feeling.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).
As usually, there are a number of intermediate variants – as there are a number of gradations of black and white color. But so, as at the determination of some gradation of gray color it is necessary to understand what black and white colors are, it is necessary to be consciously orientated to good at any moral choice and not to be occupied with a self-deception.
So, for a specific person the unity is good, and the split is evil. The true freedom, which is given by the moral imperative, does not violate the unity of person. The false (Dualistic) one violates.
Now, discussing the problem what the freedom of a specific person may bring to people, we may postulate its important humanistic aspect: in principle, a human may choose not only good, but also evil. But in the conditions of the action of the moral imperative, the probability of evil as of a realized choice is reduced.
In other words, if a criminal knows that he commits a crime, there is a chance that at some moment the moral imperative keeps him from that crime. But if a criminal, murdering and robbing, considers that he commits good (and that takes place in the case of accepting Dualism), – there is no such chance, and the probability of committing a crime rises many times.
That is why the Dualistic point of view incompatibly contradicts to the moral imperative, and we have to refuse of it.
Everything said about Dualism completely concerns Polytheism: then in the moral aspect it turns out that it does not matter to whom to serve – to Apollo, or to Ares, or to Athena, or to Aphrodite, or to Dionysus, or to Hermes. All of them are equal children of morally indifferent Zeus.
Thus, only Monotheism remains. Strict Christian Monotheism. But then we have to go on with the solution of the problem of the Theodicy.
Let us examine the author of the term “Theodicy” Leibniz’s position,
which is supported by the modern theology of major
Leibniz considered quite reasonably that God was free to create or not to create our world. But God, by definition, always does the best, consequently, he created our world as the best of all the possible worlds.
And why there are evil and suffering in the world, Leibniz also tried to explain: nothing in the world may be equal in perfection to God, thus, a quite admissible non-perfection of the world leads to the suffering of individuals. But since everything in the world is submitted to an aim, for which it was created, then our suffering is also necessary for some great general aim, which is known only for God.
A similar position is taken by the official Orthodox theology. In the “Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs about faith” it is said: “We believe that all the existing, visible and invisible, is led by the Divine Providence; however, evil, as evil, God only foresees and is tolerant to it, but does not provide it, because he did not create it. And evil, which has already happened, is directed to something useful by Holy goodness, which does not commit evil itself, but directs it to good as it is possible”.
We see that concept of the “Divine Providence” of the major Churches has the exact parallel with Leibniz’s “submission of the world to some great general aim, which known only for God”, and Churches’ “foreseen evil to which God is tolerant” – with Leibniz’s “admissible non-perfection of the world”.
All that seems to be logical, and this position seems to be grounded philosophically and theologically. It was possible to reveal its groundlessness intuitively not for a philosopher or a theologian, but for the writer – Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (translated by Constance Garnett) one of the brothers Karamazov, Ivan, tells his brother Alyosha:
“This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements of cruelty – shut her up all night in the cold and frost in a privy, and because she didn’t ask to be taken up at night (as though a child of five sleeping its angelic, sound sleep could be trained to wake and ask), they smeared her face and filled her mouth with excrement, and it was her mother, her mother did this. And that mother could sleep, hearing the poor child’s groans! Can you understand why a little creature, who can’t even understand what’s done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark and the cold, and weep her meek unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted? Without it, I am told, man could not have existed on earth, for he could not have known good and evil. Why should he know that diabolical good and evil when it costs so much? Why, the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child’s prayer to “dear, kind God”! I say nothing to the sufferings of grown-up people, they have eaten the apple, damn them, and the devil take them all! But these little ones!..”
Further Ivan says: “...I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with his little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to “dear, kind God”! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering.”
And then Ivan applies to Alyosha: “Tell me yourself, I challenge you – answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature – that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance – and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?..”
As we see, in emotional aspect Ivan was quite able to bring God to a trial and put him in a dock together with the parents-sadists. And even without any emotions, it turns out that on every dock God is sitting near every murderer, robber and violator. God, who does not only allow, but even provides all the crimes.
And does that “
To understand, where this contradiction is from, let us ask ourselves the question: how did Ivan Karamazov perceive God?
We shall see in the nearest future that by the efforts of the medieval Churches the concepts of God, Christ and a King mixed into one thing. And now let us simply think: if we often perceive even Jesus, our Savior who expiated our sins, as a pitiless retributive sovereign, then what to say about God?
God turned into the absolute dictator of our thoughts and acts, and the theologians of the major Churches (as well as Leibniz) tried to solve the problem of the Theodicy, basing on the “Divine Providence”.
And since God “only foresees evil and is tolerant to it, but does not provide it”, the solution was internally contradictory: either God is not absolutely almighty, or he is tolerant to evil consciously, being its direct or indirect culprit.
Nevertheless, Ivan Karamazov also formulated his angry rebuff, basing on the same prerequisite of the absolute dictatorship of God, and he did it really logically: a dictator does not only dictate to citizens how to act, but also has a certain responsibility to them. However, as every absolute ruler.
Let us draw an analogy: while Stalin and Hitler were alive, they were considered as the inspirers and organizers of all the victories, and when they died, they turned out to be the culprits of everything. Even of that, which culprits they were not.
Of course, it is inadmissible to compare God with bloody dictators, but, in accordance with the logic of the theologians of the major Churches, that is so. There is some hypothetic bright future, only the all-knowing and all-seeing leader knows the way to it, and for the sake of this bright future, it is necessary to make some human (or even children’s) sacrifices.
And in fact, the question of the Theodicy is replaced by the question: to what limits is it possible to use the “human material” of the building of this enigmatic future?
Stalin and Hitler murdered millions of people and exceeded limits. God was tolerant to the persecutions of the little children and exceeded limits. And if to murder no millions, but “only” hundreds thousand people, and to be tolerant only to the suffering of children of no less than seven years old – is it the exceeding of limits? Or, may be, not?
Let us approach from another side. Ivan Karamazov asked his brother the
question, if he would have accepted the “
Alyosha said, – “No”, and was absolutely right.
Bit in our time, many pragmatically minded people would have a wish to say, – “Yes”. Really, only one child will be tortured, and the whole humanity, billions of people, will be happy!
Unfortunately, then a following reasonable question arises: if it is necessary to torture to death two children? Is it also possible? Yes?
Then let us ask the analogous questions further. If it is necessary to torture three children? Is it also possible? And four? And twenty? And fifty? And five hundred? And one thousand? And one million? And a hundred millions, at that not only the children?
Where are that limits, do they exist and is it possible to calculate them?
Someone will understand at the second question, for someone five or ten “approaches” will be necessary to understand: no and once more no. People are not a material and not a mechanism, and we are not calculating the maximum of the permissible load of automobile shock-absorbers.
The main achievement of Christianity (as of the contemporary humanism) is that the life of any human is sacred and inviolable. Otherwise, we shall hold the arithmetic disputes, and maniacs will go on murdering children, because we have one arithmetic, and maniacs – another one.
That were our initial positions, and we have obtained an additional confirmation for them.
So, is God an almighty dictator?
Let us formulate this question more comprehensively. Though we have spoken about the freedom of will as about the possibility of a realized choice, we have not touched upon an important question: do we have a possibility of any choice at all? Doesn’t the almighty dictator – God – make the choices for us at the innumerable situational levels?
No, God does not make the choices, and it is possible to prove it by the “rule of contraries”.
Let us imagine that a human does not have the freedom of will, our freedom is false and God, directly or indirectly, acts instead of us.
Then a human inevitably becomes the “human material” of some higher mechanism – God, the history, the society or others. And a material can not be sacred, and any politician (and any maniac) would have been able to murder any number of people.
We have come to the contradiction with the moral imperative, which demands the inviolability of the human life. Consequently, a human has the true freedom of will, which was to be proved.
So, every human has the freedom of will, which is limited at a number of situational levels by the moral imperative, by “local” morals of different social groups, by state laws, by material prosperity and an infinite quantity of other factors.
And that excludes God’s culpability of sins, crimes and improper acts, which are committed by people freely – when the choice between good and evil is made in favor of evil.
Let us call that freely chosen evil by “social” – evil, which depends exclusively on people.
For justice let us note that both the Orthodox and
But we have managed to solve that question without contradiction, though for the sake of that we had to refuse of the perception of God as of an almighty dictator. Practically, of the Churches’ concept of the “Divine Providence”.
Nevertheless, we should not cast doubt on the omnipotence of God. It is possible to rule the world without either a direct interference or a small-minded regulation, but by means of laws of nature and laws of morality. We shall have a possibility to discuss it in the last chapter of our book.
But we have succeeded in the solution of the problem of the Theodicy. However, for the time being only partially – in the sphere of social relations. A number of situations remain, when a human suffers directly of nature:
– Firstly, hurricanes, tsunami and floods – the irresistible forces of nature, i.e. “force majeur” (often even named “acts of God”);
– Secondly, internal diseases, which are non-conditioned socially (cancer, infarct and many others);
– Thirdly, accidents (to get frozen, to get burned, to stumble and fall, to get lost etc.)
Let us name that evil “natural” and say that we are not yet ready to analyze it, and shall be ready not soon. We have not yet understood the essence and the reasons of “social” evil, and without that, it is impossible to approach to a much more complicated understanding of “natural” evil.
And “social” evil is committed to a variable degree by each of us. “As it is written, There is no righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). That is why it is necessary to understand where “social” evil is from and how to struggle against it.
Theologians, who work for major Churches, refer to so called “original sin”. The disobeying of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:6) is raised to the rank of the “falling away from God”, and our freedom of will (realized in that act of disobeying) is declared to lead exclusively to evil. However, righteous people have a chance to reunite with God, and sinners, of course, do not have.
Well, let us look from the classic theological positions at the freedom of will, which appeared for the first time at our ancestors Adam and Eve, and ask the question: is it possible that just the free will led to evil in their innumerable posterity?
Of course, if the alternative “to obey – to disobey” appeared, then there was the freedom of will, i.e. the freedom of a realized choice. They could obey, they could disobey...
Yes, they disobeyed, but the disobeying is not yet evil in itself. Possibly, it is a sin, but there are different sins.
We shall have another possibility to discuss, what to consider as sin and what not to consider, and for the time being let us establish that Adam’s disobeying did not bring any evil to anybody – of course, if we base only on Biblical texts and invent nothing.
For example, there was no direct connection between the disobeying of Adam and the first indisputable sin, Cain’s crime (Gen. 4:8). Cain committed evil of his own free will, and the reason of his crime was exclusively the envy at Abel (Gen. 4:4-7).
And even an indirect connection – so to speak, if Adam and Eve had not been sent from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), they would not have given birth to Cain who committed evil – also does not stand criticism. The point is that if Adam and Eve had not given birth to someone, there would not have been the humanity as a whole. And the explication that Cain was probably badly brought up by his parents is nothing more than a fantasy.
Consequently, the disobeying of Adam and Eve may not be a convincing cause of considering our freedom as the “falling away from God”, the putting of us on a par with the Satan (“the fallen Angel”), and the understanding of a human as a “loathsome vessel of sin”.
Moreover, God allowed that disobeying, possibly even “provoked” it.
We shall not refer to the well-known joke: God could have forbidden to Adam and Eva more severely, and, knowing their curious nature, could have somehow enclosed the tree of good and evil...
Without any joke, the “original sin” was knowingly allowed by God. Let us prove that.
God forbid to eat fruits of the tree of good and evil on pain of death (Gen. 2:17), but after the disobeying, he punished so terribly neither Adam nor Eva. Moreover, he even did not curse them personally, but quite peacefully sent them “forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Gen. 3:23). It is significant that the book of the generations of Adam begins not from a damnation but from the blessing (Gen. 5:2).
Taking into consideration the fact that God, according to the Old Testament, very soon arranged the Flood for humanity and spared only righteous Noah (Gen. 6:7), such a “gentleness” with respect to Adam and Eve means that their disobeying was forethought and knowingly allowed by God.
Furthermore, I am inclined to consider that there was something like a “trial by freedom” for Adam and Eve, and our ancestors, having managed to disobey, stood that trial. And they became ready to inhabit the Earth only after that.
It is necessary to note that it is most probable that Christ did not acknowledge the “original sin”. Let us remember:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3).
Speaking about the “original sin”, the theologians of the major Churches usually refer to the words of Apostle Paul: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
And though Paul cited that only as an example, not aiming at a serious analysis of Adam’s sin (by the way, at that having forgotten about Eve), nevertheless, let us try to understand, what the Apostle had in view, saying that “death passed upon all men”.
The most modern version of theology of the major Churches says that God threatened Adam with a spiritual death (not a physical one), and Adam after his disobeying died in spirit.
But in actual fact, it is most probable that Adam after his disobeying obtained divinity (“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” – Gen. 3:22). It is possible to interpret God’s words “Is become as one of us” in different ways, and we shall have possibility to give a consideration to them. But the matter does not concern a spiritual death, which is incompatible with divinity, independently of a way of its interpretation.
Another “stereotype” opinion, which was hold by Aurelius Augustine and John Chrysostom: Adam was immortal physically before the “original sin”, and after that ceased to be immortal.
But, firstly, God grant everyone to live as long as Adam (930 years – Gen. 5:5), and the main thing is that Adam was not physically immortal also before his disobeying – otherwise God would not have bewared of that “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22).
But if Adam’s disobeying led neither to a spiritual death, nor to a physical one, then what did Paul have in view?
For that it is necessary to understand, what life, as against Adam, Christ brought to us. Let us read the Epistle to Romans further: “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).
From this quotation and the context of Paul’s teaching it follows that there was considered no physical or spiritual death, but the death without a hope for resurrection and future happiness. We shall speak in a special chapter about these basic concepts of Christianity – they are greatly important for each of us.
And as regards the “original sin”, we have understood that we must thank Adam and Eve, and must not curse them. They took upon themselves the great burden of the knowledge of good and evil (actually became the first bearers of the moral imperative) and made the way for us.
And if we consider that the disobeying of Adam and Eve brought the humanity to evil, then God, having allowed that disobeying knowingly, allowed evil also knowingly, and that contradicts to our solution of the problem of the Theodicy.
Consequently, humanity was brought to evil by no “original sin”.
The humanity came to evil (I remind that we are speaking about “social” evil, which, freely or not freely, is committed by each of us) in quite another way, and to understand it we have to remember one more well-known episode of the Bible – one of temptations of Christ.
It is the third temptation in Matthew’s Gospel, the second one in Luke’s.
“The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9).
“And the devil said unto him, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luke 4:6-7).
It was really tempting – to take, to rule, to spread good, to struggle against evil and build the Kingdom of God in every country, city and village. But Christ refused reasonably, – “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).
However, if there even had not been no temptation, Jesus did not speak about any way of taking of a state power and of a forced bringing of people to good and love. There was nothing like that in the Gospels, and could not be.
There were a number of the Old Testament’s prophecies about the coming of Messiah, but Jesus mostly followed to Isaiah’s one:
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comiless; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he has wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the inquidity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afficted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgement: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Is. 53:1-10).
And if Jesus followed the way, which was foretold by Isaiah, and did not take a state power and punish evil with a help of the police and army – why are we waiting together with Ivan Karamazov that a lightning comes from the sky and burns to ashes the torturers of the little child?
In all probability, Christ understood (and let us also understand) that while torturers still wish to be
torturers, it is impossible to frighten them either by lightnings
and hell or by prisons and executions. That was earnestly shown by the burning
And to understand why evil is committed around us, and moreover, why each of us has some temptation to commit it, let us ask a counter-question, which relates to the examined temptation of Christ:
-What right did the devil have to offer all the earthly kingdoms to Jesus?
Of course, in theory an attempt of deception was possible from the direction of the devil.
But firstly, Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, so it is too unlikely that the devil offered something to him, having no real right to do it.
And secondly (and that is most important), in that case the temptation would not have been a temptation. The point is that the devil had the full authority to offer all the earthly kingdoms to Jesus, but Christ managed to refuse of them. If there had been a deception, there would have been nothing to refuse of.
Then who is the devil?
It turns out that he is somebody like the supreme ruler of the earthly kingdoms (we shall use the contemporary term – the states). Christ called him as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30).
And to avoid the idea of the devil as of a Mephistopheles-like gentleman, who commits evil by hands of presidents, ministers, oligarchs, generals and other “great ones of this world”, let us turn to the understanding of the fundamental nature of the devil: that are the states themselves.
At first sight, it seems to be paradoxical, but there are no other adequate variants of the interpretation of the devil’s words about the kingdoms, which are delivered to him (Luke 4:6). And it seems paradoxical only at first sight.
Let us remember “visiting cards” of any state – social injustice, oppression, money, political intrigues, armies, police, corruption, bureaucracy, wars...
And what can the tears of one innocent child mean for states, if millions of people die for the moving of state borders for some kilometers! The deaths of soldiers, at least, remain in military reports and headquarters’ calculations, but nobody counts the deaths of thousands of children. And even if these deaths are counted, then only since a child will sooner or later grow up, take a gun and go to kill...
Does all that serve for God?
Of course, it does not, even if that is a crusade or a “jihad”! Those are cases, when for some “noble” aim it is necessary to murder a number of innocent people and to build on their blood something ephemeral. As we know, empires do not live long. At any case, none of them managed to live for two thousand years – as many as Christianity has already lived and, thank God, is not going to die.
And money – a mighty instrument of the state power? How much blood is shed for them? What aren’t people ready to give up for it? Whom aren’t they ready to betray?
Let us not condemn once more the imperfection of earthly states. Each of us felt it on his own back many times.
The question is as follows: is that imperfection objective, and can it become a perfection somewhere and some time, not losing the contemporary economical and political features of a state at that? Is an absolutely fair, just, decent and humane state possible? At least theoretically?
Someone may say that it is possible. Let us remember Thomas More’s “Utopia”, the theory of Marx and Engels, its remaking by Lenin and Stalin, the “Theocracy” of Vladimir Solovyov...
And to show that, in actual fact, such a state is impossible, we have to approach on the other hand. As in the case with Ivan Karamazov, literature will help us. Particularly, one episode of Jack London’s “White Fang”.
As we remember, in the beginning of the “adult” edition of that book a wolf pack pursues two travelers. One of those travelers is soon eaten up, and the second one struggles desperately. And when he can hardly bear to fight and the wolves come quite closely, he notices, much to his surprise, that there is neither rage nor bared teeth on their muzzles. They looked like children, who gathered near the table and were waiting only for the permission to start eating with delight.
It could have been a quite idyllic picture – of course, if not to take into consideration that the wolves were going to satisfy their hunger by him, as he had usually satisfied his hunger by the meat of elks and hares.
Such “interrelations”. Who can say that there is no honesty, decency, justice, naturalness and even “humanity” in them? If the wolves do not eat the traveler, won’t they die of hunger? Or won’t their cubs die? What is more “humanely” from the wolf’s point of view – to nag the traveler (a stranger) or to let a cub (the own) die? Where is evil here?
There is evil here, furthermore a very serious one, though it is not seen at first glance. The point is that the problem of good and evil is solved in a wolf pack by its complete exclusion of examination – a wolf pack knows nothing about good and evil, and that is why it behaves quite naturally and even attractively in its own way.
Two natural “basic instincts” are brilliantly simple – a species’ preservation and continuation. Sometimes the third is mentioned – interrelations with similar ones, but in actual fact, it is a consequence of the first two instincts. It is easier to hunt in a pack, it is easier to defend in a herd, and a partner is also necessary for the species’ continuation.
Every wolf instinctively knows since his birth: bite and tear everyone whom you see out of the pack (desirably more weak ones), and in the pack – obey the hierarchy and don’t fight against higher ones without the full confidence in your victory, otherwise you will be bit and teared yourself. And don’t forget that you need strength and health to “reproduce” one fine day.
All that seems to be good, but the projecting of the wolf pack model to habitual forms of the human social organization (a kin, a tribe, national and state structures), things do not turn out to be not so smooth.
If we use samples from literature so widely (exclusively owing to their obviousness), let us remember Rudyard Kipling’s tales of “The Jungle Books” – the typical case of giving a “human face” to the honesty and decency of animals.
There is a characteristic paradox in that tales. Do you remember how the “lovely” predators wished a “lucky hunting” to each other? We read that tales in the childhood and did not think, for whom that hunting was. And now let us think – isn’t it for us? At the minimum, for deers or hares – but in Kipling’s tales they are also animated, we also feel pity for them...
Have you noticed that the moral imperative has “switched on”, and it has turned out that not everything is so remarkable in a wolf pack? And not only in the relations with other animals, but also inside the pack. Do you remember the sacral phrase “Akela has missed”? And, actually, from wolves’ point of view that is an enough cause to nag the leader and put on his place a new one...
So we see that a wolf pack is a useful and even necessary community, which provides the preservation and continuation of the species according to the “natural selection”, but no peace and happiness of each wolf, and moreover of other animals – the potential victims.
“If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). It is most likely that Paul did not use the words “bite” and “devour” accidentally.
So why did Christ refuse to rule over the earthly states? Didn’t he understand that every state, which is based on the tears of the innocent children, is at best a modified model of a wolf pack?
Yes, that is indeed the case, and that is confirmed by the fact that Christ considered the ruling over states as serving not to God, but to the devil (Matt. 4:10; John 14:30).
That is why I propose to speak about good and evil in the human society only in the context of the relationship of the moral imperative (humanistic, Christian spiritual principles) with the “basic natural instincts”. Now we have come to it by the theological way, but we shall have a possibility to examine this problem also in philosophic aspect in the last chapter.
For the time being let us remember Jesus’ words: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).
And the words of Apostle Paul:
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so ye cannot do the things that ye would...
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, unclearness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Gal. 5:16-22).
Thus, by the New Testament, our spirit lives according to one law, and our flesh – by another.
Because of limited scientific knowledge of Paul’s time, the Apostle could not say in one phrase, according to which specific law our flesh lives, and enumerated: adultery, fornication, unclearness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft...
But we, having provided ourselves with modern scientific achievements, may specify: our flesh lives in accordance with the “basic instincts”, which we have “inherited” of our biological ancestors, i.e. of apes. And if to speak in the social context, then rather of wolves, because apes in natural conditions of jungle do not occupy the highest stage (many predators hunt for them).
And the identifying of any king or president (even the most clever and talented) with a guide to “Divine good” is the same mistake as the giving to the predator Akela the same features by Kipling. Moreover, “remarkable” Akela will sooner or later miss, and who will then replace him? God knows.
Thus, any statement of a possibility of either a “good” wolf pack or an “ideal” state is only an attempt of giving a wishful out for the real.
Nowadays’ states have to “flirt” with citizens, to organize election campaigns, to advertise politicians etc. But even now in the most democratic state, a human is a screw in a huge mechanism. Absolutely calmly and easily these screws are oiled when it is necessary, or thrown away when it is necessary.
The development of civilization softens extremes like “no murder – no meal”, but there are wars and executions...
That is the objective essence of a state – the subordination of human interests to society interests. The person’s priority above society is declared in the constitutions of the majority of developed countries, but it is rather propaganda than reflection of the real situation.
Every state lives according to the laws of a wolf pack and, consequently, is not good, but evil.
Sergey Zagraevsky © 2004