Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Heart of the Matter

I have subscribed to an Ancient History newsletter, and today's issue reminded me that Buddha's birthday is celebrated in April. Last year I inadvertently attended a Buddha birthday celebration during the first week of May. I am going to try to find out when they are having it this year.

So, I read up a little bit on good old Siddartha. I will probably skip to The Tibetan Book of the Dead in God's Breath so that I can focus on this religion a bit. There is a Museum of Tibetan Art in my neighborhood; going to check that out as well.

The little reading I did this morning was on Buddha's life. I also started reading the Four Noble Truths. I haven't gotten very far, but I am already hitting a roadblock with this. The first Truth is The Noble Truth of Suffering, which states the obvious: we suffer. The second Truth is The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering. The origin of suffering is "that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and, bound up with pleasure and lust, now here, now there, finds ever fresh delight." This craving is threefold, including the Sensual Craving, the Craving for Eternal Existence, and the Craving for Self-Annihilation.

Here is where I have a problem: "But, where does this craving arise and take root? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving arises and takes root. Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, are delightful and pleasurable: there this craving arises and takes root."

That's all you got? What kind of an explanation is that?

I have not encountered an adequate explanation of the existence of evil in any religion. Even in my own faith, it's pretty shabby. If God has no evil whatsoever in His nature, and He created everything and everyone, where did it come from? People argue that free will allows for the possibility to choose evil, but how was it even a choice unless it existed, even if only on a theoretical level?

The Eight-Fold Path:

Hold the right views.
Have the right aspirations.
Use the right speech.
Show the right conduct.
Pursue the right livelihood.
Expend the right effort.
Maintain the right attitude.
Practice the right meditation.

Sounds easy enough. I wonder how you're supposed to know all these "right" things. I had better keep reading.


slim whale said...

i've long been pondering on the existence of evil myself. I've been wondering how could Lucifer, then the most beautiful angel in heaven, have found the seed of envy within him to denounce God? Protestants and Catholics have not given me any satisfying answer to this question.

But when i got to speak with a Muslim imam and asked him the same question, he said that both good and evil came from Allah (God). that's reminiscent of the "destructive" and "creative" gods of the Hindus (was it Brahman or Vishnu, sorry i forgot).

i have yet to study other religions to get their version of how evil came into existence.

proverbs31woman said...

Quick note to you on this. And I hope it makes sense typed out quickly. If not, let me know and I'll clarify...

Simply, without evil there can be no good. If you removed all bad from every aspect of the world and only had good what would your daily life look like? How could it only be good, in all ways? No stiff neck from sleeping the wrong way. No cut on your ankle bone while shaving. Things that are "less good" would then become "bad". And thus, you're back to good and bad. Having bad allows us the good in life. And because God has allowed us this, and the free will part too, He has provided the opportunity for us to either glorify Him in doing good or choose the other.

sojourness said...

You make a good point about why evil is necessary in life, but what I don't understand is the origin of evil. If God created the entire universe and had absolutely no evil in His nature, where did it come from? Why is there even a choice between good and evil? Shouldn't it be good, good, and more good?

What it all comes down to is this: Is God capable of creating something utterly unlike Himself, such as evil? And if we say that He didn't create it, then how did it come to be a concept, let alone a reality?

proverbs31woman said...

I'll get back to you later about God and the creation of evil. But first, you are speaking to the point I was making about why it can't be "good, good and more good." Think about your worst day. Or the day you come home from work/school and say "Aaagh. I had a horrible day." Filled with frustration, dissapointment etc. Maybe even some evil thrown in by co-worker or friends. Now I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that there a innumerable people in this world who would trade that day for theirs. Filled with things truly horrible and heartwrenching. To them, your day was great. How does this apply to good and evil? Because evil can just be "less good". So, as I said, we need the balance of evil to have good. And then, to have evil exist, it has to exist in its whole range. Not just evil to a certain point.
Then we get back to free will. If God created us to only do what is absolutly good and right, He would have made us only a sort of pre-programmed robot. Unable to grow and develop and make right choices.
There is nothing that God hasn't created. And just because "evil" isn't part of His nature, doesn't mean He didn't allow us to make that free will choice with it. Don't know what your take on the Bible is, but God created Adam and Eve knowing full well they would be able to choose to eat the fruit. He put the tree there.

sojourness said...

I don't think we have the same perception of evil. If I had a bad day like you described, I certainly wouldn't think of it as evil. A historical event like the Holocaust is a different story. I don't think evil is simply "less good." Undesirable, yes, but not evil. I don't see why we have to have evils like rape and murder in order to have the good. I understand the whole argument about free will and choices, but that doesn't speak to my point about why evil was even a choice. I didn't mean that our lives should necessarily be made up of "good, good and more good." I just thought that would be a logical conclusion to draw considering everything was created by a good God. If God is both good and evil, then I can see why we have both good and evil. But if He is only good, what is the origin of evil?

proverbs31woman said...

Again, sorry I don't have the time to put into a conversation about God and the creation of evil. But I do want to clarify my position with evil in the world. I'm am not trying to compare the evil of a Holocaust with "a bad day". But what I am trying to say is where do you stop with evil on a bad/good scale? What I mean is, ok, Holocausts-no, rape-no, murder-no, child abuse-no, robbing-no, bar fight-no... where do you stop? If you were able to suddenly make it so there is no evil, where would you chose the end point to be? War? Hate? Nothing that inflicts pain on another? What about stubbing your toe? It may sound like I'm oversimplifying things. Whatever you pick as the last point before "evil" would then become evil because it is the least good. Am I making sense with this?

sojourness said...

Your argument makes sense but it doesn't respond to my question. I'm thinking about origins. I'm not thinking about there suddenly being no evil (which begs the question, Where is the end point?, as you've stated) but rather where it came from in the first place if God contains no evil.

It's kind of an abstract concept and maybe I'm not phrasing it correctly.

proverbs31woman said...

Ok, I'm diving in. Let's see what I can do with this origin of evil thing...

In Isaiah 45:7 God says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things."

So there you have it. God created evil. But more directly, I think God created US with the capacity for good or for evil. It is not as though He created evil as a seperate entity, able to inflict things independently.

How could God create evil when He is not evil? This may sound like a "because I said so" answer but here it is... Because He is God. He is the Almighty, All powerful Creator. He made *everything*.

Why did God create evil? I think that goes back to my earlier comments. Without evil, there would be no good.

What I've said here is such a scratch on the surface. I've skimmed the chapter on God's providence in a great book called Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. I highly recommend it. It covers just about everything you can imagine. And takes some serious study and dedication to read. But it is all meat! The other book I'd recommend on these types of topics is Letters From a Skeptic by Dr. Greg Boyd. It is a collection of letters he and his skeptic father wrote back and forth over a number of years. The questions his father asks are pretty blunt, and Dr. Boyd is great at answering them in a clear, straightforward way.

Does what I've said make sense? Have I addressed your initial question?

sojourness said...

Isaiah 45:7 opens up a whole new set of questions for me, but it does answer my initial question. Thanks :)

"Letters From a Skeptic" has been on my wishlist for a few years now. I have to get around to reading it.

proverbs31woman said...

Ok, a whole new set of questions? Ack! Like what?

fyi- The good thing about "Letters..." is that you can pick it up, read a letter and response and put it down. No huge commitment to long spaces of time.

sojourness said...

I always thought God was supposed to be totally innocent in this whole "the Fall of man" thing. We sinned, and that's how evil entered the world. If God created evil in the first place, isn't He partly to blame for what happened afterwards? Why was it necessary? I understand your points about there being no good without evil (although I don't quite agree), but that doesn't make up for all the evil we have to endure on earth, as well as people going to hell because of their share in the evil that was thrust upon them at birth.

proverbs31woman said...

This comes back to what you brought up before in that we have free will. God gave us the choice. Remember the tree in the garden of eden was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So we chose to know and understand evil. God gave us the option for perfection in Eden, or evil. And we chose evil.
I also think you have to look at things in a larger perspective. God's whole goal is not just our life here on Earth. There is a song I love that has a line that says "Because I'll never hold a picture of the whole horizon in my view. Because I'll never break the night in two, it makes me wonder, 'Who am I'? Who am I and great are You." God has a greater picture and perspective. One we cannot see and, in reality, can't grasp or comprehend.
Another thought here too is that people don't go to hell for evil. They go to hell because they haven't chosen the forgiveness they have in Jesus. God is holy, and we can only have a relationship with Him when we are free from sin. And that only happens through Jesus' sacrifice.
Does this make sense? I am typing with a four year old on my lap.

sojourness said...

Yes, but technically, people do go to hell for evil. That's what sin is. David said in Psalm 51:4, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight..."

My question always goes back to before free will and choices. Why did he create evil so that it could be a choice?

I don't think we will get anywhere on this topic, though, because no one can adequately answer it. It's like you said... we will never fully understand certain things. But I appreciate the trouble you've taken to present your ideas on it :)

proverbs31woman said...

To address your 3 points above:
1) I would argue that people don't go to hell for evil. We all do evil in the sense that we all sin. But we don't all go to hell. People go to hell because they haven't repented of their sin. They haven't accepted the forgivness available in Christ. Thus, they will be seperated from God.

2) My reason for why evil is a choice goes back to the beginning of the discussion. Because without evil there can be no good. And you can't place a stopping point on evil. We all have the capacity for extreme good and extreme evil. The choice is ours.

3) No problem. I'm glad to do it. :) I really encourage you to get that book I told you about, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. It is fantastic about discussing these issues from the very foundation of all elements of faith.

I admire your heartfelt desire to question and flesh out your faith. I also think God appreciates it. And He has the answers for you. :)