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Free Will

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The Problem Of Evil

Free Will Defense
In this essay I am presenting the Theodicy for the Free Will Defense as an answer to the problem of evil. I will attempt to present answers to the following questions: Why did a good God allow for the presence of evil in the world? What is “evil” and how can we recognize it in day to day life? What resources do we have for dealing with evil?
Furthermore, how our ability and gift of free will applies in all areas both good and evil.

We must understand that “evil” is a word with broad applications. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: “morally bad or wrong; wicked. Harmful; injurious. Unlucky; disastrous. Wickedness; sin. And anything causing harm, pain, etc.” However, even this is truly difficult to use as a true definition. In the Bible, evil is anything that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity, including moral wrong doing, where human beings choose to do what hurts other human beings, or any part of creation. Generally, evil works against the life-giving God and to put anything in God's place.

There was a time, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when optimism in human achievement was so strong that evil's existence was associated with ignorance, and its disappearance with greater knowledge. If humankind only knew more; soon would come the end of all evil in the world. Since then, two world wars, and countless smaller ones, combined with growing problems of over-population, racism, ecological destruction, economic depression, massive homelessness, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, genocide, corruption in government agencies, and worldwide disease have cured humankind of that illusion; The Bible

throughout clearly present’s evil as a reality that clings to us. As the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 7:21, “So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me.”

In the Old Testament, there is no distinction between moral evil and calamity in the words used for evil. Some basic meanings are sadness (Genesis 44:34), harm (“harmful” in Leviticus 26:6), “serious problems” (Ecclesiastes 6:2), and wickedness ( I Samuel 12:17). The most important definition of evil is a rejection of God's way and Law. Deuteronomy 4:25 states, “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke Him to anger.”, or in I Kings 11:6 ( talking about Solomon), “Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David,” and in II Kings it says of king Josiah, “ And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David,” and finally in Hebrews 3:12, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”

Therefore, the problem with the problem with the presence of evil arises from the essential biblical confession that God created the world and called it good. In Genesis 1, God states five times that the creation is “good” (versus 10,12,18,21, 25), and even in verse 31, “very good.”

This raises again the problem of evil in the world: if God has created the heaven and earth good, then why is evil around in any form? In this sense, every friend who dies of cancer, every soul that ends up rebelling against God, every person killed by an earthquake or flood, is one more argument against the existence of a good, all-powerful God. At times the presence of evil in the creation is so strong that “the world” becomes associated with the realm of evil. In the Gospel of John, for instance, there is a clear indication that God created the world, “The Word was in the world, and the world was

made by Him, but the world did not know Him (John 1:10),” But that the world is now a place largely in rebellion and self-seeking against its Creator (John 12:31, & John 15:19). The Bible never describes evil greater than the good that is in creation: “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over powered it” (John 1:5).

However, there is no extended discussion in the Bible for why evil exists in the world, but freedom plays a significant part in the entrance of evil into the Garden in Genesis 3. For you see, in Genesis 2:16-17, God allows the man to eat from any tree, except the tree “which gives the knowledge of good and evil.” Thus, we find the first action of free will displayed and carried out in the lives of Adam and Eve. For the meanings of this tree have been hotly debated, but what is most important for an understanding of evil is that here, from the beginning of creation, the human being is given a free choice: first of all, an ability to select from many good alternatives(trees), and second, a freedom to disobey. So when the woman and man ate from this tree in Genesis 3:6, there is an abuse of freedom(free will/choice) that breaks their relationship with God (Genesis 3:8-10) and leads God to curse them (Genesis 3:16-19). (It should also be noted that after their sin in Genesis 3:21, God makes clothes for them, showing care for them). Genesis teaches here that evil enters from an abuse of freedom and lack of fear of the Lord, and a strong exercise of freewill.

The Book of Job, as well, has often been a source for reflection in the area of evil and free will as a solution to the evil he faced and to the nature of evil and the existence of a good God. Job 1: 6-12, begins by describing Satan (or “the adversary”), who is responsible for the evil that will happen to Job and that God allows (but does not cause). The presence of evil spirits (also described in I Samuel 16:14-23 & I Kings 22:19-23) does not solve the problem of the origin of evil, but simply adds a complexity that behind all earthly evil, there is a cosmic evil. (It should be noted here that the power of

evil is never set as an equal to God, for God alone controls the universe.) As Job's trials continue, he raises the biblical question of why the righteous (& especially Job) suffer (Job 16:11: Job 30:26) What emerges from the final section of Job (38:1 – 42:6), however, is not a definite answer, but that the suffering of the righteous is a mysterious part of creation and that God's presence is more important than answers to the questions evil raises.

Moreover, the New Testament affirms that God is not responsible for evil, the book of James says, that God is neither tempted by evil nor tempts people to do evil (James 1:13). Though evil exists in the world, it can never overcome good (John 1:5). Jesus (God in the Flesh) instructs his disciples to pray never the less that God would deliver them from evil in Matthew 6:13. For evil has been overcome in the New Testament because God overcame evil by Jesus bearing its full consequences (I Peter 2:18-25). This means that God is not far from the human struggle with evil, and that Jesus, himself God, has taken on evil.

This affirmation has certainly been used as a rationalization for ignoring evil and oppression on the earth, but it has similarly given hope in the midst of injustice that a day is coming when every evil and injustice will be righted. Evil is around us every day. The fact raises both philosophical and practical questions. Through reflection on the presence of evil has led to the question, how can a good and all-powerful God create a world that has evil in it? The most simple answer is that natural evil is the price paid for regularity in nature (the same log that burns and keeps someone warm cannot suddenly stop burning if it’s part of a house), and moral evil is the price paid for human freedom/free will (the same hand that can reach out and console can strike and injure).

For God to create a world that is ordered and not simply chaotic there must be natural law. And for

there to be the possibility of good, ethical behavior-and especially where we can love God and other human beings-there has to be freedom/free will. This freedom/ free will allows for both good and evil action. Ultimately, it must be admitted that any answers are tentative, do not answer every objection, and are best when they do not attempt to resolve all of the mystery in the kind of world God has created. Christians look to complete answers and, most importantly, to the end of all evil, at the end of history.

In Conclusion, I summarize, that the bible takes evil as a given, and therefore offers a realistic picture of life and calls people to offer practical solutions to evil. In Western societies, and particularly in the United States, there is a general cultural unwillingness to admit that evil is a daily reality, not only in widespread calamities like earthquakes, wars, and personal suffering such as cancer, injury, and debt, but also in daily psychological brokenness. The Bible is much more realistic than many contemporary Westerners are. Consequently, Christians are called to be a healing influence in a world of evil; they can be, in fact, a part of God's solution and man’s solution to the problem of evil....the question is when facing the act or possibility of free will can we as a people whether in church or not, Christian, Jew, Catholic, Agnostic, or even Atheist use our free will for God and man to decrease the level of evil in this world or choose not to, ignore it and observe evil not only become more prevalent, but destroy our world, country, homes, and lives.

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