Contributor Post Created with Sketch. In the Face of Evil

 

The word “evil” has become trivialized, particularly in this election season. Just like the words racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, it is casually thrown around like a ragdoll: who gets to play with it next? When one person doesn’t like other people, or dislikes their positions, he or she just calls them evil.

In researching the origins of evil, I found religious definitions and secular definitions. One religious definition is as follows:

Evil is what is morally wrong, sinful, or wicked. Evil is the result of bad actions stemming from a bad character. Biblically, evil is anything that contradicts the holy nature of God. Evil behavior can be thought of as falling into two categories: evil committed against other people (murder, theft, adultery) and evil committed against God (unbelief, idolatry, blasphemy).

In Judaism, one aspect of evil is called the “evil inclination”:

The yetzer ra is more difficult to define, because there are many different ideas about it. It is not a desire to do evil in the way we normally think of it in Western society: a desire to cause senseless harm. Rather, it is usually conceived as the selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs (food, shelter, sex, etc.) without regard for the moral consequences of fulfilling those desires. . .

The yetzer ra is generally seen as something internal to a person, not as an external force acting on a person. The idea that “the devil made me do it” is not in line with the majority of thought in Judaism. Although it has been said that Satan and the yetzer ra are one and the same, this is more often understood as meaning that Satan is merely a personification of our own selfish desires, rather than that our selfish desires are caused by some external force.

In contrast, a secular source explains evil in this way:

In human beings, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are fluid. People can be a combination of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities. Some people who behave cruelly and brutally can be rehabilitated and eventually display ‘good’ qualities such as empathy and kindness. And rather than being intrinsic, most cruel or brutal behaviour is due to environmental factors, such as an abusive childhood, or social learning from a family or peers.

In an article in the New Yorker, evil was addressed in this way regarding the mass shootings in Aurora, CO:

In the hours after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last week, one word cut through the partisan responses to the massacre, and that word was “evil.” “Such evil is senseless, beyond reason,” President Obama said. Mitt Romney spoke of the lives “shattered in a few moments—a few moments of evil.” John Boehner described the killer’s act as “evil we cannot comprehend.”

What does it mean, in the twenty-first century, to call a person like James Holmes “evil”? In centuries past, “evil” was used to describe all manner of ills, from natural disasters to the impulse to do wrong. Today it’s used mostly to emphasize the gravity of a crime, trading on the term’s aura of religious finality. The meaning of “evil” has become increasingly unsettled even as it has narrowed, yet the word has proven to be an unshakable unit in our moral lexicon.

I think that the trivializing and thoughtless use of the word “evil” is dangerous. It makes us reticent in the face of irresponsibility and danger. To suggest in a morally relativistic manner that everyone has the potential for evil misses the point—so what? What counts are the people who behave in immoral and destructive ways. We need to identify them and their behaviors. We need to hold them accountable. As difficult as evil may be to define, we are called to face it, condemn it and hold the perpetrators accountable.

So here are my questions:

  • What actions rise to the level of being called “evil?”
  • Is evil driven by an inside force or an outside force?
  • What concerns do you have about the misrepresentations of evil?

There are 52 comments.

  1. TKC1101 Inactive

    Susan Quinn:

    • What actions rise to the level of being called “evil?”

    Very good question. To me, in terms of a pragmatic, operational answer and not one for a philosophy class, it involves the complete lack of empathy for the infliction of pain on others on a significant scale. Is verbal abuse evil? Seems like overkill of the word. Are serial killers evil? Yes.

    • Is evil driven by an inside force or an outside force?

    To me, this is a question of agency. To be evil , your act must be of your will.

    • What concerns do you have about the misrepresentations of evil?

    To trivialize is to normalize and thus , make acceptable. When previously things commonly held to be evil became entertaining, we are moving them to acceptance.

    • #1
    • December 19, 2016, at 12:22 PM PST
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  2. Front Seat Cat Member

    Evil to me is the absence of a conscience, that opens the door to evil. I believe that we are given a conscience by God. It distinguishes us from animals. A cat can kill a mouse out of instinct and has no remorse. That is also the difference between the secular definition that you gave above, where evil is fluid. There are those that commit heinous acts, but are clearly mentally ill. To be conscious of your actions and plan an evil act is driven by an inside force that is satanic. This force can be encouraged and reinforced by external forces. The Church has been pointing this out for millennium. God is a mystery – but we are created in his image with freedom to choose.

    What concerns me about the misrepresentation of evil in current times is the lack of understanding, the whitewashing by political correctness. There is no right or wrong – good or evil – just your interpretation – moral relativism. This is a serious concern with grave consequences. The more our societies become numb to our conscience, the more distracted, the more we try to silence God’s message, the more vulnerable we are to it.

    • #2
    • December 19, 2016, at 12:32 PM PST
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  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    TKC1101: To trivialize is to normalize and thus , make acceptable. When previously things commonly held to be evil became entertaining, we are moving them to acceptance.

    Literally, the entertainment aspect is alarming. We are subject to so much violence representing evil in movies and television, that I wonder sometimes the influence that has on our perception of evil. And those media don’t always condemn the “bad guys”; they are perceived in a more “nuanced” way.

    • #3
    • December 19, 2016, at 12:53 PM PST
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  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I am no expert, but I know Evil when I see it. It is in all of us, and to deny it, means it will gain the upper hand.

    It does not have to be big. Cruelty is evil, even when done by a child. It can be minor, but it damages your soul, and can be big to the person on the other end.

    • #4
    • December 19, 2016, at 12:57 PM PST
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  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Front Seat Cat:in his image with freedom to choose.

    What concerns me about the misrepresentation of evil in current times is the lack of understanding, the whitewashing by political correctness. There is no right or wrong – good or evil – just your interpretation – moral relativism. This is a serious concern with grave consequences. The more our societies become numb to our conscience, the more distracted, the more we try to silence God’s message, the more vulnerable we are to it.

    Completely agree. When we make excuses for horrific acts because of a person’s upbringing, I want to scream in protest. Saying that the environment causes people to do things ignores the benefits of having a conscience, and doesn’t acknowledge all the people who had horrible upbringings and found their way forward. In fact, it disrespects or ignores their noble efforts.

    • #5
    • December 19, 2016, at 12:59 PM PST
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  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Bryan G. Stephens: I am no expert, but I know Evil when I see it. It is in all of us, and to deny it, means it will gain the upper hand.

    Thanks, Bryan. I guess one question I struggle with is whether “evil is in all of us.” Does it mean that every person has the potential to commit evil? Or does it mean that it literally is in us and is pressing us to act on its call? Certainly in Judaism as described in the OP there is the evil inclination–the desire to do selfish self-serving things. But I’m not sure that’s the same as pure evil.

    • #6
    • December 19, 2016, at 1:02 PM PST
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  7. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Good questions Susan. I’m interested to see this thread evolve.

    To me evil is determined when it’s known a resulting outcome will hurt others. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic who shoots up a movie theatre is certainly disturbed, but may not in fact be evil. John Hinckley was not evil per se, but his actions based on his mental state was. However, a person to consciously decides to hurt another understanding the results of their actions is in fact evil.

    • #7
    • December 19, 2016, at 1:19 PM PST
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  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Dave Sussman:Good questions Susan. I’m interested to see this thread evolve.

    To me evil is determined when it’s known a resulting outcome will hurt others. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic who shoots up a movie theatre is certainly disturbed, but may not in fact be evil. John Hinckley was not evil per se, but his actions based on his mental state was. However, a person to consciously decides to hurt another understanding the results of their actions is in fact evil.

    What’s tricky here, Dave, is how “sick” does a person need to be? I’m not disagreeing, but I struggle with this factor. Perhaps it’s the “not guilty due to reasons of insanity”? It’s a tough one.

    • #8
    • December 19, 2016, at 1:23 PM PST
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  9. Dave Sussman Contributor

    Susan Quinn:

    Dave Sussman:Good questions Susan. I’m interested to see this thread evolve.

    To me evil is determined when it’s known a resulting outcome will hurt others. For example, a paranoid schizophrenic who shoots up a movie theatre is certainly disturbed, but may not in fact be evil. John Hinckley was not evil per se, but his actions based on his mental state was. However, a person to consciously decides to hurt another understanding the results of their actions is in fact evil.

    What’s tricky here, Dave, is how “sick” does a person need to be? I’m not disagreeing, but I struggle with this factor. Perhaps it’s the “not guilty due to reasons of insanity”? It’s a tough one.

    That’s up to the psychiatric community to determine. Agreed, there’s gray areas, as well as those in law who will abuse this in defense of their clients who are in fact bad eggs. But in the macro, there’s those who are consumed with voices in their heads who take to violence and unfortunately, mental health experts may have been able to prevent it.

    Bryan nailed it saying we know evil when we see it.

    • #9
    • December 19, 2016, at 1:30 PM PST
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  10. Aaron Miller Member

    Susan Quinn: What actions rise to the level of being called “evil?”

    This is a loaded question, as I’m sure you understand. I disagree with its premise, which is that “evil” can only be severe. That is a modern notion.

    Catholic Christianity’s understanding includes both the Jewish concept you touched on and demonic influence. We struggle both against supernatural malicious powers and against our own independent failings.

    Evil is absence of good, as darkness is absence of light; it is not an equal force. It is contrary to God’s nature and will, but exists only by His toleration of it for the ultimate good of humanity; it exists only by corruption and exploitation of good gifts (strength, intelligence, charm, material resources, etc).

    There is evil in all hearts and surrounding all lives. It ranges from minor selfishness to abhorrent violence and malice. But the stain of original sin (inherent disharmony from God’s will) does not mean people are naturally evil. People are born basically good but all must struggle against evils, internal and external. And Christ’s redeeming sacrifice means that no sin is too great to be forgiven, if only a soul will repent and strive for love.

    Minor moral habits gradually orient one to more significant habits. So it is important to recognize and guard against minor evils in training to refuse greater evils. The word “evil” is misapplied daily, but as with other language error and manipulation should not silence truth.

    • #10
    • December 19, 2016, at 1:47 PM PST
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  11. Aaron Miller Member

    We should be very cautious in labeling a person evil, thereby summarizing that person’s essential (willful) nature as opposed to his or her individual choices. But it is sometimes necessary to so label a person to warn people against that person’s extreme and constant rejection of love.

    No one here would object to calling Hitler or Stalin evil because they habitually murdered and abused millions of people. Nobody would flinch at labeling serial killers evil, even when those persons act not out of malice but out of a detached absence of sympathy for fellow human beings.

    But there is disagreement about labeling people like Obama and Clinton evil because many don’t believe habitual lies, systemic domination, lawlessness, or strategic slanders equal a severity requiring total rejection of a person as a person and not just as a political figurehead. Perhaps someone can offer a better explanation. But I believe identifying them as evil is justified, if not politically prudent.

    In short, ostracism is an extreme sanction but sometimes merited. Hope for all souls does not require blind toleration.

    • #11
    • December 19, 2016, at 2:04 PM PST
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  12. mollysmom Inactive

    This is from a Christian perspective; evil is the total disregard for God and other people in the pursuit of power and pleasure. That is why the antithesis of evil, the 10 Commandments, hang on two premises: love God and love others.

    Regarding the source of evil, in the book of James we are warned not to whine that the Devil made us sin, but that the will to evil comes from our own evil devices and desires. Nevertheless I believe there is Evil personified who works very subtly to make sure we don’t miss out on any opportunities to further our own selfish inclinations.

    Do I have concerns about misrepresentations of evil? Not so much..it’s all a chasing after vanity, and I have enough to do keeping myself in check.

    • #12
    • December 19, 2016, at 2:22 PM PST
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  13. Doug Kimball Member

    Evil implies intent and intent is consequential, like the difference between first degree murder and manslaughter. However, in the truest sense, evil’s intent is enjoyment of the act, in prejudice, as retribution, as a form of desire, for the thrill of it. Evil can fall well short of murder. Evil acts are completed without conscience or remorse, dismissed as necessary, nothing, trivial, fun. Evil is oblivious of its nature, cares nothing of consequences and seeks power to avoid reprisal. Evil is malevolent.

    • #13
    • December 19, 2016, at 2:33 PM PST
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  14. Aaron Miller Member

    Susan Quinn: What concerns do you have about the misrepresentations of evil?

    My primary concern is the confusion of good with evil and vice versa, both deliberate and ignorant.

    Evil attacks in two ways, figuratively speaking: as violence and as poison. In one case, it is openly hostile and aggressive, relying on the target’s fear or weakness to win (or on pride, which makes one rely only on oneself with no appeal to God or loving allies). In the other case, evil masquerades as good and turns the target by degrees away from right conscience.

    Conscience is a cooperation of supernatural guidance, knowledge, and reason to discern good and evil. Its view can be obstructed by noise and pain or distorted by misinformation. It is something which much be directed and nurtured, lest it become a faint and garbled voice heard distantly during moral considerations.

    In every era of human history, both violence and corruption have challenged the good wills and right reason of people everywhere.

    • #14
    • December 19, 2016, at 2:50 PM PST
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  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Aaron Miller: We struggle both against supernatural malicious powers and against our own independent failings.

    Thank you for your detailed response, Aaron. Keep in mind that I’m still trying to understand Judaism, so my knowledge is limited. I don’t know that Judaism believes in “supernatural malicious powers,” something that inclines us to commit evil; I assume this would be Satan from a Christian perspective, but for Judaism I think it’s a personification of our own desires and actions..

    Aaron Miller: There is evil in all hearts and surrounding all lives. It ranges from minor selfishness to abhorrent violence and malice. But the stain of original sin (inherent disharmony from God’s will) does not mean people are naturally evil. People are born basically good but all must struggle against evils, internal and external. And Christ’s redeeming sacrifice means that no sin is too great to be forgiven, if only a soul will repent and strive for love.

    This raises a question for me, too. Of course, Judaism doesn’t speak of the stain of original sin, and like you I don’t believe that people are “naturally evil.” But I also wonder if people are “born good”; certainly we are created in G-d’s image, but I think we are born with potential. (I don’t believe in the Left’s blank slate, either, but I see the potential in us.) Could you elaborate on this a bit? And of course we have atonement, which we act on, in the hopes that G-d will appreciate our efforts. My hope is that @iwe or other religious Jews will join the conversation.

    • #15
    • December 19, 2016, at 4:15 PM PST
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  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Aaron Miller: But there is disagreement about labeling people like Obama and Clinton evil because many don’t believe habitual lies, systemic domination, lawlessness, or strategic slanders equal a severity requiring total rejection of a person as a person and not just as a political figurehead. Perhaps someone can offer a better explanation. But I believe identifying them as evil is justified, if not politically prudent.

    I agree. It raises the question of the people all over the world who I believe are evil, but we are forced to interact with them, such as Putin, Erdogan, Assad, and Khomeini. I guess that I a political reality, but I detect the need to do so.

    • #16
    • December 19, 2016, at 4:17 PM PST
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  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Doug Kimball:Evil implies intent and intent is consequential, like the difference between first degree murder and manslaughter. However, in the truest sense, evil’s intent is enjoyment of the act, in prejudice, as retribution, as a form of desire, for the thrill of it. Evil can fall well short of murder. Evil acts are completed without conscience or remorse, dismissed as necessary, nothing, trivial, fun. Evil is oblivious of its nature, cares nothing of consequences and seeks power to avoid reprisal. Evil is malevolent.

    Beautifully said, Doug. Thank you.

    • #17
    • December 19, 2016, at 4:18 PM PST
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  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Susan Quinn:

    Bryan G. Stephens: I am no expert, but I know Evil when I see it. It is in all of us, and to deny it, means it will gain the upper hand.

    Thanks, Bryan. I guess one question I struggle with is whether “evil is in all of us.” Does it mean that every person has the potential to commit evil? Or does it mean that it literally is in us and is pressing us to act on its call? Certainly in Judaism as described in the OP there is the evil inclination–the desire to do selfish self-serving things. But I’m not sure that’s the same as pure evil.

    No one is perfectly good and no one perfectly evil that walks this fallen world. Every person both has the capacity to commit evil, because it is in us, pressing us to act on its call. And, everyone as the capacity to commit good, because it is in us, pressing us to act on its call. We know what is right and wrong, and these things go beyond culture. In order to commit evil against other humans, most cultures render them less than human. The other is not really human, and therefore, acts that would be evil, are not seen as such. It is a lie we tell ourselves.

    Evil, when it is at is most banal, is sometimes, maybe often, at is most dangerous. Mere Evil seeps out of our souls and corrupts them. It seeks out Evil in others and encourages it. Sin is its medium. Stare into the abyss long enough, and it will stare back with your own face.

    • #18
    • December 19, 2016, at 6:56 PM PST
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  19. Aaron Miller Member

    Susan Quinn: I don’t know that Judaism believes in “supernatural malicious powers,” something that inclines us to commit evil; I assume this would be Satan from a Christian perspective, but for Judaism I think it’s a personification of our own desires and actions..

    Yes, that is a Christian idea. I meant to distinguish that from the Jewish focus on selfish impulses. My point was that Christians believe in both forms: independent selfishness and supernatural bad actors.

    Susan Quinn: But I also wonder if people are “born good”; certainly we are created in G-d’s image, but I think we are born with potential. (I don’t believe in the Left’s blank slate, either, but I see the potential in us.) Could you elaborate on this a bit?

    God makes every person for beauty, justice, and love. We believe every person is given sufficient grace to make good choices and to ultimately become a loving person. That is what I mean by “born good”. Human nature is a good seed which may grow or spoil, in cooperation with or refusal of God’s incomparable love.

    As you say, none starts with a blank slate. Some lives are harder than others… partly because we are not meant to be identical. We fit together, like different and independent living cells within a body. Some are blessed, some cursed, but all are capable of embracing love while God opens their hearts.

    He hardens them too. I can’t explain that.

    • #19
    • December 19, 2016, at 8:08 PM PST
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  20. MJBubba Inactive

    Susan Quinn:

    • What actions rise to the level of being called “evil?”

    There are two ways for me to consider these questions. First, there is the secular approach, in which the answer to this first question is “I know it when I see it.”

    Then there is a theological answer, which I give from a Confessional Lutheran point of view.

    Any act, or thought, that does not honor G-d and put G-d first, as the only consideration that matters, is evil. All my selfishness is evil.

    • #20
    • December 19, 2016, at 8:47 PM PST
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  21. MJBubba Inactive

    Susan Quinn:

    • What concerns do you have about the misrepresentations of evil?

    It is harmful to society when there is confusion about right and wrong, good and evil.

    Isaiah 5:20

    Woe unto them that call evil ‘good,’ and good ‘evil’; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    A society that celebrates such confusion about right and wrong, good and evil is headed for calamity.

    22 Woe to men mighty at drinking wine,
    Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink,
    23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
    And take away justice from the righteous man!

    24 Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble,
    And the flame consumes the chaff,
    So their root will be as rottenness,
    And their blossom will ascend like dust;
    Because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
    And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
    25 Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people;
    He has stretched out His hand against them
    And stricken them,
    And the hills trembled.
    Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets.

    For all this His anger is not turned away,
    But His hand is stretched out still.

    • #21
    • December 19, 2016, at 8:58 PM PST
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  22. MJBubba Inactive

    Susan Quinn:

    • Is evil driven by an inside force or an outside force?

    There are three sources of evil: sin, death and the Devil.

    Sin. All of G-d’s perfect creation was corrupted when our “first parents” chose disobedience. This is how you see what a wonderful and beautiful place Creation is, and then look again to see what a miserable and wicked and terrible place it has become. Sin brings about impersonal evils in the form of fire, disease, storms, earthquakes, drought and other natural disasters. Sin also wells up from inside us. This is how you are made to be His loving child, and have all sorts of good impulses, but find you rarely act on these good impulses, but instead snap at loved ones in ways you had vowed never to do again. Our lazyness and selfishness does not come from outside; our very inmost nature is corrupted by sin. Those who dwell on their dark thoughts and the slights they have suffered from others’ sins will sink into darker depths of evil thoughts, and these will turn into evil acts.

    • #22
    • December 19, 2016, at 9:05 PM PST
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  23. MJBubba Inactive

    Death. G-d does not choose death. Death is a product of the corruption of the world by sin. Death comes to all the living. Death divides us, and it leaves us with heartaches and loneliness. Loneliness makes an opening for dark thoughts and self-centeredness, which lead to sin. Death leaves dependents without sustenance. Death brings fear, and fear also leads to dark thoughts that provide an opening for sin.

    Societies that celebrate death are headed for calamity. So consider the Aztecs, or others of the Pagans, who elevated Death to a celebrity. Have you looked at the religion of the Egyptians, who were preoccupied with death? Or, consider Carthage; they were so wicked that the Romans salted their city to prevent its renewal. The Carthaginians practiced the Phoenician religion, which the Philistines and Canaanites had adopted. They practiced ritual prostitution, in which they pressed all the women to serve a term as prostitutes, and then their babies were sacrificed by tossing them into the open mouth of Baal and into the fire in the belly of the idol.

    We also live in a culture of death. Babies are killed in the womb by the millions, and the primary killers of unborn babies are the heroes of one of our major political parties. We are moving towards euthanasia.

    Death haunts our civilization.

    • #23
    • December 19, 2016, at 9:14 PM PST
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  24. MJBubba Inactive

    Deuteronomy 30:

    18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

    • #24
    • December 19, 2016, at 9:15 PM PST
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  25. MJBubba Inactive

    The Devil. Old Lucifer does not want you to believe that he exists. When you think he is a myth, then you are more vulnerable to his accusations.

    Job, Chapter 1:

    7 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

    So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

    Satan is the “Accuser,” who whispers in your ear that you are not worthy of G-d’s love and you should forget about G-d, and perhaps you have been fooled all along and G-d does not exist. Since your relationship with G-d is already broken by your innate sin, you are vulnerable to Satan’s spurious charge. G-d loves you despite your sin, and has made a way for your broken relationship to be restored, but you can be tricked into rejecting repentance and reconciliation, and instead embrace selfishness and sin.

    A society that teaches that neither G-d nor the Devil exist is headed for calamity.

    Psalm 14:1

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

    The mischief that the Devil causes leads to the growth of sin and the increase of death. He divides us one against the other. Whenever we gossip or slander we do the Devil’s work.

    • #25
    • December 19, 2016, at 9:27 PM PST
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  26. MJBubba Inactive

    Revelation Chapter 12, from John’s vision of the Kingdom of G-d in eternity:

    7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them[a] in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels [demons] were cast out with him.

    The end will be terrible, but our hope is in the Christ. The Lamb who was sacrificed for our transgressions has won an eternal victory on our behalf:

    10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

    • #26
    • December 19, 2016, at 9:31 PM PST
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  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Aaron Miller:

    Susan Quinn: I don’t know that Judaism believes in “supernatural malicious powers,” something that inclines us to commit evil; I assume this would be Satan from a Christian perspective, but for Judaism I think it’s a personification of our own desires and actions..

    Yes, that is a Christian idea. I meant to distinguish that from the Jewish focus on selfish impulses. My point was that Christians believe in both forms: independent selfishness and supernatural bad actors.

    Susan Quinn: But I also wonder if people are “born good”; certainly we are created in G-d’s image, but I think we are born with potential. (I don’t believe in the Left’s blank slate, either, but I see the potential in us.) Could you elaborate on this a bit?

    God makes every person for beauty, justice, and love. We believe every person is given sufficient grace to make good choices and to ultimately become a loving person. That is what I mean by “born good”. Human nature is a good seed which may grow or spoil, in cooperation with or refusal of God’s incomparable love.

    As you say, none starts with a blank slate. Some lives are harder than others… partly because we are not meant to be identical. We fit together, like different and independent living cells within a body. Some are blessed, some cursed, but all are capable of embracing love while God opens their hearts.

    He hardens them too. I can’t explain that.

    Beautiful, Aaron . Thanks .

    • #27
    • December 20, 2016, at 4:08 AM PST
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  28. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    MJBubba:

    MJBubba:

    Susan Quinn:

    • What actions rise to the level of being called “evil?”

    There are two ways for me to consider these questions. First, there is the secular approach, in which the answer to this first question is “I know it when I see it.”

    Then there is a theological answer, which I give from a Confessional Lutheran point of view.

    Any act, or thought, that does not honor G-d and put G-d first, as the only consideration that matters, is evil. All my selfishness is evil.

    But what about wanting success so that you can take care of your family? Selfish but not evil ?

    • #28
    • December 20, 2016, at 4:12 AM PST
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  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    MJBubba:Death. G-d does not choose death. Death is a product of the corruption of the world by sin. Death comes to all the living. Death divides us, and it leaves us with heartaches and loneliness. Loneliness makes an opening for dark thoughts and self-centeredness, which lead to sin. Death leaves dependents without sustenance. Death brings fear, and fear also leads to dark thoughts that provide an opening for sin.

    Societies that celebrate death are headed for calamity. So consider the Aztecs, or others of the Pagans, who elevated Death to a celebrity. Have you looked at the religion of the Egyptians, who were preoccupied with death? Or, consider Carthage; they were so wicked that the Romans salted their city to prevent its renewal. The Carthaginians practiced the Phoenician religion, which the Philistines and Canaanites had adopted. They practiced ritual prostitution, in which the pressed all the women to serve a term as prostitutes, and then their babies were sacrificed by tossing them into the open mouth of Baal and into the fire in the belly of the idol.

    We also live in a culture of death. Babies are killed in the womb by the millions, and the primary killers of unborn babies are the heroes of one of our major political parties. We are moving towards euthanasia.

    Death haunts our civilization.

    I believe that death is not always dark . Like a flower that blooms , fades and dies, it is a natural outcome. Since the time of death’s arrival is uncertain , we must use our time well.

    • #29
    • December 20, 2016, at 4:21 AM PST
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  30. MJBubba Inactive

    Susan Quinn:

    MJBubba:Death. G-d does not choose death. Death is a product of the corruption of the world by sin. …

    We also live in a culture of death. …

    I believe that death is not always dark . Like a flower that blooms , fades and dies, it is a natural outcome. Since the time of death’s arrival is uncertain , we must use our time well.

    We all know death is coming; we can make our peace with end of our mortal life. This is much easier if you have eternity to look forward to, rather than an eternity to fear.

    But death was not G-d’s choice. Death comes because of the corruption of the world by sin. G-d is the author of life; He affirms life and sustains life.

    • #30
    • December 20, 2016, at 5:28 AM PST
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