Evil and the Greater Good
The Gospel today is the well known account of JESUS calming the storm (Mark 4:35-41). We can perhaps see this as a symbol of our own lives and of the many storms we have to pass through before getting to the other side. So why does an all-powerful and all-knowing God allow these storms to happen in our lives? Why does a loving God permit evil?
This is a very difficult question to answer, but let us recall God created our first parents, Adam and Eve perfect and free from all suffering. God wished to create a moral universe in which we would have the power to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and so He had to create us free. Then Adam and Eve, by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree disobeyed God and thus sin came into the world and they lost God’s grace. Suffering and death are the direct consequence of sin. God does not cause evil but He permits it to bring about a greater good. The greater good here is that by sending His Son into the world to redeem us, He raised us to a higher state through His Incarnation. Without the Fall the head of the human race would be a mere man – Adam. By the Redemption our new Head is the Incarnate Word – Christ. A closer union with God could not be possible. We have been incorporated into Christ. Thus the Original Sin has brought about a greater good. As St Paul says, “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Romans 5:20).
But people often ask, “How could God permit Hitler or Stalin and all the atrocities that came with them?” God did not create their evil. Man himself allowed this evil to take root. God wants us to love Him and love each other freely and not have us function as machines. Therefore to have free will there also has to be the possibility of abusing our free will. Morality implies responsibility and duty, but they can only exist if we are free. Virtue is possible because there is also vice. It is possible to be a saint only because there also exists the possibility of being a devil.
There is a famous story of the Chinese Farmer who relied on an old horse to till his fields. One day the horse ran away and his friends came to sympathise with him and the farmer replied, “We’ll see.” A week later the horse returned from the hills with three other horses. This time his friends congratulated him on his good luck. The farmer replied, “We’ll see.” Then, when his son was trying to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck, and the farmer said, “We’ll see.” Several weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied young man they could find. But when they saw the farmer’s son with a broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck? The moral of the story is that it is virtually impossible for us to see the full consequences of an act or an event. What might appear to us as purely good or purely evil is only part of the picture. Only God in His Providence knows how this will all work out for the greater good in the end.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC