Friday, November 16, 2012

Good and Evil, Sin and Righteousness

                The last few weeks, I’ve been talking about God, His nature and His characteristics. Last week, in particular I showed that God is to be equated with existence itself, that He is The Absolute; while the blog before that I discussed God’s Triune nature. This week, I’d like to move forward from God’s nature to that reality which depends on God’s nature. Specifically, I’d like to discuss the natures of good and evil.
                If God is the ultimate something, and evil is the opposite of God, then Evil must be defined as the ultimate nothing. Evil is non-existence. Where does this lead us? Evil, properly speaking, doesn’t exist. It’s not that it’s a myth, it’s that it exists in a state of non-existence. It exists in the same way that nothing, the void, zero, or darkness exists. It exists, but, properly speaking it exists as the absence of something else. Pure evil is not malevolent, it has no personality, and it is not out to get you. Pure evil doesn’t tempt because pure evil is pure and absolute nothingness. It has no mind, no heart, and no will with which to crush you. Evil is nothingness, it is non-existence.
                The effects of evil might be better thought of as entropy. Entropy is the scientific term used for the tendency of all things to break down into less and less complex systems. The dissolution of metal by rust, or decomposition, or cracks in brick walls, these are all evidences of entropy. It is the impersonal force in the universe that pulls all things toward nothingness. I am not saying that entropy is malevolent, I’m saying that evil is not malevolent, and describing the effects of evil as entropy.
                So, first and foremost, evil is the opposite of God, which is to say that evil is non-existence. What does this tell us about sin? It tells us that God did not sit in Heaven at the beginning of creation and arbitrarily pick out random behaviors to be forbidden. Sins are those actions which are consistent with the nature of evil. That is to say that sinful actions are those actions which destroy. Murder is a prime example of this principle, but every other sin may be defined in the same terms of destruction.
                At the end of last week’s post I pointed out that God’s freely chosen Trinitarian nature inserted community into the nature of existence; and I said that it was important. Here’s how it’s important. If God exists as community, and evil is the antithesis of God, then evil is the antithesis of community. As evil, by nature, destroys, so, by its nature as the anti-God, it also focuses on destroying relationships and communion. Think about the Sermon on the Mount; think about the ten commandments. Can you think of a single sin that isn’t primarily relational? Murder, adultery, lust, hatred, idolatry, blasphemy; all of them are, by nature, relational. They might be thought of as relational and societal entropy.
                On the flip side, what is righteousness? Growing up, I thought that righteousness was an end unto itself; that the goal of Christianity was to be a good person factory spitting out righteous people who behaved righteously. I was wrong. Righteousness is not an end, it is a means. Just as Sin can be defined as that which breaks down community, righteousness is that which builds community up.[1] Righteousness kept to itself is not righteousness; righteousness that does not affect the world around it, that does not let its light mingle in and alleviate the darkness, is simply wickedness disguised. Righteousness, to be righteousness, must be relational, encouraging those around it, and building up relationships into God’s vision of Shalom.

[1] Not just any community, it’s goal is the Shalom of God, which I talk about in greater detail here

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