Friday, October 8, 2010

Mere Christianity: Book 2; Chapter 2 (The Invasion)

A Theodicy for our Time

"The Invasion" is Lewis' 5 page theodicy, his answer to why evil exists. He addresses the differences between Christianity and Dualism (both, in his opinion, very manly beliefs) and in what way evil is present.  He starts by saying that Christianity, like reality, is not simple and is contrary to what one might think.  After all, how can God, if he is all good and loving, allow evil to exist.

Well my friends, let me claim something radical--evil does not exist.  Yes, that is right.  Don't get me wrong, evil occurs, bad things happen, but we are not living in the world of Star Wars (it is more like Lord of the Rings).  Evil is not some cosmic force with power all of its own in an epic struggle against good with the results yet to be determined.  Rather, in a surprising, and often confusing twist of epic narrative, the Evil is really only "Good gone bad".  In a round about sort of way, it was created by the good (though it does not actually exist ;-) ).  This is a stumbling block, but can make sense.  Evil is a perversion, a privation, of Good, much like darkness is a privation of light, or cold is a privation of hot.

Ok, so maybe in some existentialist sense, it does exist, in that it is present and we can identify its effects, and there are beings that are evil.  But evil, in and of itself does not exist, rather it is a quality of some being that was created with the intent to be good, yet failed to actualize that potential.

One can do good for the sake of good, but one cannot to bad for the sake of being bad.  Every action we do, every decision we make is in pursuit of some perceived good.  So, as Lewis points out, people do evil for either sexual pleasure or some commodity that they will receive (power, money, fame, etc).  But these things are not, in themselves bad, for by themselves they are all, morally neutral, if not good.  Sexuality, power, money, and fame, can all be used to good ends.

Good must exist for evil to occur, for the object of evil is perverted good, and evil, lacking good, cannot create for itself the goodness that it desires.  Evil is contingent, so to speak, on Good.

So, let's stop beating around the bush.  Satan was created by God.  God didn't do it to create evil, he didn't do it just because he gets a kick out of watching us squirm.  Rather, he created Satan out of love, out of desire to do good, and Satan went wrong.  He exercised his free will in an attempt to gain power, and is now the epitome of privation.

Lewis says that Christianity is a fighting religion.  And he is correct.  We are fighting a war.  This is not, however, a war between two cosmic forces, two equal powers.  Rather, it is a "rebellion", an uprising of evil against that which is Good.  We are living in enemy occupied territory and must choose which side to fight on--do we want the side of the short term "perceived good", or do we want the side of the "ultimate" Good.  "Coincidentally" (or not, since I don't believe in coincidence), the war has already been decided.

As a closing let me say this: all human beings, being the fallen sinners that we are, commit evil.  In meditating upon this, I have come to believe there are three types of people.  1) Those who willfully do Evil, knowing it is evil but for some perceived good, 2) those who do evil without realizing it is evil (often lead astray by #1), and 3) those who acknowledge evil and fight against committing it themselves (though while sometimes failing, they always get back up to fight).  Which one are you?

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