Thursday, January 27, 2011

Theology group discussion - Evil

Some friends and I have been getting together about once a month to discuss theology in general and any difficulties regarding our understanding with christianity or really anything such as atheism or deism.

We have had a couple of topics so far and so I thought I would share a bit about what we discussed about God and evil, more particularly, about Isaiah 45:7 - "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

Often, I had wondered about what this verse means. We searched the meaning of the word evil ("ra") and we found that it actually had two possible meanings:

1. It could mean a moral evil
2. It could mean a natural evil

So what is the difference? Moral evil is to do something morally wrong such as murder or rape etc. What is interesting about natural evil is that Hebrews had a mindset that evil could also be a calamity or in other words dis-functional.
For example: When God flooded the world, it was not a moral evil act but it was a dis-functional act for God to do (because people died). He was right to judge people and wipe out what was morally wrong but people died in the act. God's best or functional ideal for humanity is to have righteousness dwell in the land and to have no death.
Like a country giving capital punishment to a moral wrong. The state isn't necessarily morally wrong for doing so (Some people might think so...) BUT a dis-funtional thing happened, someone died... it was not the best functional conclusion that could happen. It would have been functional to have everyone living good lives.

The other interesting aspect to this word "ra" is that it is used in the tree of the knowledge of good an evil.
I remember having a big debate with "Stan the half truth teller" about whether Adam and Eve could comprehend moral evil before they ate from the tree. Stan argued that God gave loaded guns to infants, (God told them not to eat of the tree of which they didn't understand that it was wrong to eat from). I argued that they only had a part knowledge of what was right and wrong before they ate from the tree and then had a full understanding of moral evil after.

I think we were both possibly wrong. IF "ra" in this sentence meant that Adam and Eve would have knowledge of dis-functionality then it completely changes the understanding of what that tree was about. They wouldn't necessarily suddenly understand what was right and wrong morally but would have an awareness understanding of what dis-functionality is. They would now comprehend dis-functionality - disease, distance from the garden and God.

So really the tree could be a tree of the knowledge of good and calamity. Good can mean moral or beautiful in a similar manner. So Adam and Eve knew it was wrong to eat of the tree but did not have entire (God still told them they would die) knowledge of the calamity that could happen if they ate from it.

It doesn't make sense to say that God told Adam and Eve not to do something that they didn't know was right or wrong to do.