Personification?

My classmate is in the process of finishing up his paper, and it occurred to me when I read over it that I didn’t include in mine what might be a rather important aspect of the nature of evil.  The problem, I guess, is that I don’t know if it’s a real, created being – Satan – or if it’s a personification of the evil created by man – rather like we use Mother Nature to personify anything occurring in the natural world.  If it’s a created being, then obviously God created him.  So the question is, as a created being, did he make choices that then led him to be the one who tests and tempts mankind?  Is he truly evil, or is he doing the work of God – rather like the story of Job, where temptations and torment were the test of the day?

Now there are a couple of reasons for how I look at things.  The first is a story I read long ago about Lucifer, the “morning star” or “bearer of light”, the angel who was the most favored of God because he loved God so very much.  And when God told the angels that they were to worship and obey Christ in the same way, Lucifer could not see that Christ was God, but only that God was telling him to love someone else as much.  He refused, declaring that his love was only for God, no one else, and God, angry at being disobeyed, thrust him out of heaven.  I have to imagine that if this is the case, he has to understand now that God and Christ are one and the same being, and now he helps mankind to grow in knowledge (arguing my own POV) through providing the evil choices as a penance for disobeying God.

The other reason that I look at “Satan” as being a personification as opposed to a real being is that I look at hell differently.  I think that hell is the distance we put between ourselves and God, and we can throughout our life be closer to hell than to heaven, when we stop listening to God through the Holy Spirit, when we think that we know better, or when we worship at the idols of money or electronics or my personal downfall – information.

So, not to include the personification of evil in my study of the nature of evil was likely a mistake.  And of course, the paper is long turned in.  So, it goes here.

Immaculate Conception

So I decided my next paper will be on the immaculate conception.  Interestingly enough, this is not about the birth of Christ, but rather about the birth of Mary without original sin.  It is doctrine within the Catholic church, per a Papal Bull released by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, but it was considered accurate theology since the mid-2nd century by quite a large number of people.

While some of the basis of the theory comes from the Apocryphal Gospel of St. James, there are interesting arguments in favor of the sinless nature of Mary (as well as interesting arguments against it) from the time of her conception which offer their roots within the Old Testament.

Arguments in favor:

Mary is full of grace:  past, present and future, having been gifted with the grace at the time of her own conception.

Mary is the “new Eve” having enmity with Satan:  Gen 3:15 says “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head, and you shall strike at His heel.”  In this verse God addresses Satan. The Seed here is Christ. The Woman is His Mother, that is, Mary. Thus Satan has perfect enmity with Christ and with His Mother. The Catholic Church has interpreted this as indicating the sinlessness of Christ and Mary. If either actually committed sin, then they would not be at enmity with Satan but actually a cooperator with Satan at times.

Mary is the ark of the New Covenant:  In the Old Covenant the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God on stone. In the New Covenant, the Word made Flesh was also contained – and that in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. The Catholic Church has therefore understood Mary as the mystical Ark of the New Covenant. This connection is made in the book of Revelation (11:19-12:2) “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.”  The Ark of the Covenant appears in Heaven and then in the next breath (and next verse) St John describes a pregnant woman appearing in Heaven. This Woman “contains” the Messiah.  The thinking goes that if Mary is the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant, then she must be “all holy”. Remember that in the Old Covenant a man was killed for touching the ark. It was holy. If the box that held stone tablets was so restricted – so also would be the woman who actually carried God Himself. And so she is all pure and all holy, without the stain of sin.

Arguments against:

Mary is full of grace; grace is only provided to sinners.

Mary’s spirit rejoices in God her savior; God saved Mary from the sins of arrogance and pride; salvation (rescue) is for sinners.

Mary is considered the ark of the new covenant; as a created being, Mary is subject to corruption and sin, just as the ark was.

Arguments for an argumentative paper:

Here’s where I get stuck.  The two main arguments are either she was conceived without sin, lived a sinless life, and had Christ – which brings up things like the predestination/free will argument; or she was a normal woman, conceived in the normal way, who was chosen by God as the vessel through whom He would be born and have a human nature.  Lots has been written about both points of view – generally Catholic on one side and Protestant on the other, although there are also Islamic arguments for a sinless nature and Orthodox arguments against a sinless nature.  What exactly am I going to be arguing about that hasn’t already been said?

Natural Evil

Okay, I had been leaning this way for a very long time, having even argued with the professor that “natural evil” does not exist.  Things can occur in nature that have bad, sometimes devastating effect on humans, but that doesn’t make them evil.  And finally, just read (which is truly screwing with my paper) an excellent article ( Faro, Ingrid. “The question of evil and animal death before the Fall.” Trinity Journal (September 2015): 193-213) that points out that the cycles of nature (weather patterns, death of animals and plants, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc.) occurred prior to the history of mankind.  And, since God did not create evil but only good, natural evil does not exist.  Entire species of plants and animals existed prior to an ice age – we have evidence of it through paleontology; the continents used to be in different formations.  Just because the “furniture” has been rearranged does not mean there was evil in the cycle.

I truly think that evil must have an actual intent – not that it is part of the cycle of life.  Death happens because we are limited creations – we have a finite existence.  That doesn’t make death bad.  Now we can die of horrible diseases – but does that make the disease evil?  Whatever microbe has caused the disease, or warping of the cancer cells that we are all born with, or failure of our body to fight off the disease – it can have devastating effects on the people suffering, their families and friends, but I still don’t think it’s evil.

Which is why I’ll still use the example of “natural evils” in the paper, because I believe that they still provide an opportunity for mankind to learn, to grow, to utilize overwhelming good to overcome some of these effects.

Nature of Evil

Okay, so some of my best thoughts happen when I’m mowing the lawn, and whilst attempting to come up with a thesis statement for this argumentative paper, my mind took it a completely different direction.  Now I need to figure out the focus so I can actually find some academic support.

So, if St. Augustine was correct, and evil is essentially a corruption or byproduct of good, AND everything God created was good (except that he separated darkness from light – called the light good, but did not call the darkness good – darkness only exists in light (see previous post), so it too is a byproduct of a created good), then we will go with that concept.

So, the Tree of Knowledge – God created knowledge, created good, but included the byproduct of good (evil) as an element of knowledge.  If we add in the Rabbi’s concepts from the previous post, we could have had the knowledge had we waited until it was God’s time to give it to us and we would have been prepared.  However, we didn’t wait, and thus, we had knowledge of what was good and evil, but no real understanding.  Now, all evil serves as a teaching tool for good.

Think about it – natural “evils” – cancer, tsunamis, earthquakes, storms – each of these provide us with an opportunity to learn, to find a cure for cancer, to develop better warning systems and preparedness plans for natural disasters, to build things differently, etc.  If we respond to a natural evil with an overwhelming good, we can eventually eliminate the threat it is to us.  In this way, the concept of treating cancer with chemo is bad, because we’re choosing the “lesser of two evils” rather than finding the overwhelming good path to eliminate it.

Now we get to the interesting concept of sin with evil.  People who choose to do evil, whether it be minor (dishonoring one’s parents) or major (genocide) – both are against the commandments God provided us with.  We have the free will to do so, but we have the ability to educate, to teach that chosen evils will always eventually have consequences that are negative, and to teach that choosing good will provide the ultimate in good – that of eternal life with God.

Sometimes evil is placed in front of you as a temptation, and your task – just like with Christ in the desert – is to turn away from the temptation, to not give in to it.  Perhaps you’re ready for that test; perhaps not.  Sometimes it is placed in front of you because the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. (Quote sometimes attributed to Edmond Burke, but no firm proof exists.)  In that instance, an act of overwhelming good has the potential to overcome the evil.

So evil, while not a duality but rather a byproduct, is used by God within His Divine plan as a tool to teach us to choose good….