An atheist will tell you that morality is nothing more than a human construct — that good and evil don’t really exist, but are only malleable concepts intended to serve the evolutionary pragmatism of our specie’s survival . . . and then with a straight face, they’ll ask you how you can believe in a god who allows evil to exist. The cognitive dissonance of atheistic intellectual sophistry, notwithstanding – the presence of evil in the world is problematic for every philosophical position . . . including theism. Because frankly, evil is so devoid of purpose that it strains our ability to comprehend why it would even exist.
The Magi enter Jerusalem, the seat of power in Judea, bearing gifts for the new born king (Matthew 2: 1-12). Naturally, they had assumed that a king would be born in a place of power to a royal family – and so they inquired of Herod, where this child king might be found, so that they might worship him. Little did they know that this inquiry would set into motion inconceivably horrific events – that Herod, out of his paranoia, would choose to kill all of the male children under two, in the region of Bethlehem (16-18).
The juxtaposition of this is so profound – juxtaposing those traveling from afar, having come to worship the Christ, the incarnate hope of new life; with those who in blind obedience were willing to carry out the evil deeds of Herod’s dark political ambition, leaving death and despair in their wake. The temptation is to think of this juxtaposition as being about two groups of people – but as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn reminds us “. . . the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”. So we do well to remember, that good and evil is not a choice between us and them, but rather a choice within each of us — we either choose the way of life . . . or the way of death.
In this way, evil is best defined by everything that chooses to be contrary to life. A pocket watch might fail to keep time, thereby failing to function within the purposes for which it was designed, but we would not describe this failure as evil, but rather as broken. But if the pocket watch insisted that the broken way it keeps time, is the way that time should be kept, placing it at odds with its design – then we are no longer dealing with a simple failure to measure up, rather we are dealing with an open insurrection, one that seeks to act contrary to the very purpose for which it was designed.
Evil isn’t defined as evil simply because it runs afoul of our current cultural mores, but rather because it is an arrogant denunciation of all that has been spoken into existence. It is an attempt to disassemble through violence, oppression, and death all that is good and gives life, in the world. It is everything that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ is not. One desires to restore what is broken, the other only seeks to smash everything into submission. So in the godless universe of the atheist, the pocket watch must be coerced into denying that it was purposefully designed, in essence, denying the very meaning of its existence . . . and it is this very undoing of all things that is evil.
. . . but love will show the way.