Evil…what is it?

Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”[1] God had finished all of creation (except that of rest on the seventh day), and had called it good. God had created humanity in his own image, and along with that image was free will. With free will, humanity, beginning with Adam and Eve chose to disobey a command of God, in search of being like God knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).  Their decision, their liberty, was the gateway for all that was evil in the world. I would also like to add though Wesley stated in his sermon, “The End of Christ’s Coming” (1781), that without this liberty, neither good nor evil could exist.[2] Wesley points out in the following sections of this sermon that humanity was made perfect, even in all of their affections.  Humanity however perfect was not infallible.[3] Satan deceived Eve by mixing truth with lies. Eve, in being deceived, was caught up with the temptation of being wiser than God. She, in this thought of being wiser than God, did her own will, and not God’s will.[4] Evil, then is not doing the will of God.

Biblically this is seen again prevalent in the life of Jesus. Luke 22: 42, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest. Jesus’ only request that is recorded here is that he would do only God’s will and not his own. Jesus’ request to God is that he would not succumb to any evil, even in face of a carnal death.

It is often questioned though why did God allow this evil to happen in a good creation. Wesley answered that God permitted ‘the Fall’ to happen because the remedy for it would far exceed the consequences.[5] Wesley’s final argument was that “Adam’s Fall was to open the possibility for humanity to attain ‘more holiness and happiness on earth than it would have been possible for [humanity] to attain if Adam had not fallen. For if Adam had not fallen Christ had not died.’”[6]

The lack of doing the will of God can be seen prevalent both on a personal level, as well as a cosmic level.[7] On the personal understanding, humanity still has the liberty, with the Grace of the Holy Spirit, to follow God’s will. But also has the same liberty then to follow their carnal wills. This same stands true also for organizations and institutions. In the Methodist Articles of Faith, Article VII points out, “whereby man [humanity] is very far gone form original righteousness, and of his [humanity] own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.”[8] Without the Holy Spirit, humanity has no choice but to be evil. God’s grace and work is his gift to humanity of being redeemed and transformed from this state.

[1] All Scripture References will be from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.

[2] John Wesly, “The End of Christ’s Cmoing,” in John Wesley’s Sermons, ed. Albert C. Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater, 442-450 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991). 444.

[3] Ibid. 445.

[4] Ibid. 445-446.

[5] Theodore Runyon, The New Creation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1998). 11.

[6] Ibid.

[7] By Water and the Spirit

[8] Book of Discipline 2008 ¶103 Article VII

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