Next I want to discuss the apparent obscuring of God’s nature in reality, and God’s relation to this - his justice, and victory over/through evil. Much of this discussion will continue throughout the series, so this is just a simple introduction. Also Hell is notably absent from this discussion - I will address this later too.
Remember I’m really keen to hear philosophical or scriptural challenges, or even simple lack of clarity. Please comment :)
Sin & Evil
In contrast to holiness, divergence from God’s character is known as sin - this is not a description of specific acts, rather a state of character.
Anything which encourages development of sin character (called ‘falling’ or ‘hardening of heart’) is evil. This includes trials (perceived lack of expression of God’s character), and temptations (perceived alternative offers of pleasure). Sin always wills for evil to be expressed.
Since the best expression of God’s character is the ultimate result of all things God creates/allows, God only allows evil/sin to exist because they ultimately serve as part of that best expression. Thus evil is never truly/ultimately evil - it is only temporary. This also means that sinful characters will never find as full ultimate expression as holy characters, minimising possible pleasure.
God’s relational nature compels Him to express his character in a very particular way - by demonstrating how other relational beings do / should relate to Him and the rest of reality. This is known as God’s justice.
Part of his justice is demonstrating the natures of other relational beings. These are themselves part of the expression of God’s character (and so need demonstrating anyway), but particularly in a relational sense to uphold God’s justice. Also, no other being has foreknowledge like God, so without demonstrating some of these fundamental realities, they would never be known, and the expression of God’s character (and justice) would be reduced.
Part of His justice is treating His character as of infinite importance - as the ultimate purpose AND good for all things. Evil and sin cannot merely be overlooked because they ultimately work for good - although that would still demonstrate God’s character in the end, it would fail to demonstrate the full importance of His character (especially in a relational sense).
Part of His justice is demonstrating a contrast between good any other possible experience (i.e. evil), and between holiness and sin. This includes describing and demonstrating the differential outcomes of each character type - in terms of natural consequences, and punishment/reward (thus upholding the importance of His character). God’s justice ascribes merit to individual soul-states - to sin/holy characters, and to subsequent wills, desires, and emotions.
Necessity of Evil & Sin
God’s desire and ability to mould a variety of holy characters, coupled with the nature of soulishness, means that a variety of specific experiences in specific contexts are required to produce the necessary sanctification process. And some (? all) of these sanctification processes theoretically require directional switches (repentance - rather than simple unidirectional sanctification).
In addition to this, conscious faith toward God’s own character is necessary to God’s plan. It demonstrates the depth of God’s grace more clearly than faith-less ‘sanctification’, because it is focussed on Him, and allows more pleasure (in Him).
But those attitudes of faith only have any real substance WHEN they exist in the face of imperfect realisation or experience. In other words, only if a semblance of holiness persists in the face of some experience of evil. Ultimately, faith requires a mix of good and evil, where the perception of good slightly outweighs the perception of evil (possibly involving prior learning and spiritual senses).
We can see from these things that there is a good argument to be made for the necessity of evil, FOR the best expression of God’s character, despite the fact that (by definition) it temporarily obscures at least some aspects of that very character.
The variety of sanctification processes God requires need the existence of evil/sin. Faith needs evil/sin. Demonstrating the contrast between His character and otherwise, requires the existence of evil/sin.
And finally - both of which are discussed later - Demonstrating humanity’s nature of Total Depravity requires evil/sin, and the existence of Hell (also necessary for different reasons) requires evil/sin.
Note that the necessity of Evil/Sin for ultimate good, means that it is entirely possible for God to ordain and create sin and evil, without Himself being sinful, and without evil being the ultimate result.
Thus the context in which we live our lives - a mixture of God’s goodness (needed for any holiness to be possible, and the continued expression of God’s character) AND evil (needed as discussed above). God’s deliberate allowance of evil in the fleshly world is known as the curse, and it includes human death.
God uses processes
We can also make an observation about God’s methods. He does not instantaneously create what He desires, but uses processes.
This is partly because He desires some of the actual processes themselves (as they display aspects of His character better, or demonstrate aspects of creation which need to be displayed).
It is also partly because He is constrained to use them by other desires - i.e. the complexity of creation, the nature of our souls, the necessity of temporary evil (i.e. must progress from the stage of its existence to the stage of its removal).
- Evil (trials and temptations) is any lack of expression of God’s character, which encourages the development of sinful characters (divergence from God’s character).
- Evil is something God continues to allow in creation, meaning it MUST somehow be part of the best expression of His character. Thus evil never exists in an ultimate sense (only temporarily).
- God’s justice compels Him to demonstrate the natures of all beings, and the contrast and natural consequences of evil/good and holiness/sin.
- God’s justice compels Him to treat His character as of infinite importance, meaning he cannot overlook them (even though they work for good in the end), and meaning He ascribes merit (for reward/punishment) to various soul states.
- Evil is necessary for the variety of sanctification processes, for faith, and for aspects of God’s justice.
- Since Evil is ultimately ‘good’, God can ordain it without being sinful, and without evil having even the slightest victory in the end.
- God uses processes rather than instantaneous power - partly because the processes themselves display His character best, partly because of the complexity of creation and the nature of souls, and partly because of the need for temporary evil.