The Question of Evil

Nathan Talbot
Published by The Christian Science Journal, 9.23.2020
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A while back, I read a Los Angeles Times article that wrestled with the nature of evil. One observation seemed to me to have particular significance in the wake of last September’s terrorist attacks in the United States: “To scholars who engage in theodicy—defending the justice of God in the light of evil—the theological problem of massive moral evils has become the most challenging. Why does God permit humans to perpetuate so many wrongs on others? And once that is answered, can it still be said that God is truly omnipotent and entirely loving?”1

What points us toward an answer?

In one sense, evil will always be a puzzle to the human mind. Why? Because the human mind sees reality very differently from the way God, the divine Mind that knows all, sees reality. Evil is very much a part of the human mind’s sense of truth, just as the events in a nightmare may be very much a dreamer’s sense of truth. But that doesn’t make the “events” in a dream objectively true. It’s difficult for the person having a bad dream to fully accept the truth that is so apparent to those who are wide awake.

So, what points us toward an answer? The Bible says that evil deceives the world.2 Evil would delude us. Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health writes, “We must learn that evil is the awful deception and unreality of existence.”3

Some philosophers over the ages have theorized about this unreality, but Mrs. Eddy showed the Bible basis for proving it. The ability to “learn” and prove the unreality of evil with reasonable consistency in the face of what seems like baffling evidence can take place only with a shift in consciousness. If we are made like God, as the Bible says, then through spiritualization of thought we can progressively see more as God sees.

I’ve seen evidence many times that evil is not an ultimate authority. Here’s one of those times. My wife Margie and I live in the mountains of Idaho. Last summer, a fire broke out near our home. I grabbed a shovel and raced up the hill through the tinder-dry grass, brush, and timber. About an acre had already burned, although smoke made it hard to see how extensive the fire was beyond that. After half an hour, still no Forest Service crews or helicopters had arrived. Though I was able to contain the fire in some directions, the wind was whipping it eastward and out of control.

I was beginning to feel a little helpless, when I suddenly recalled reading about a mother whose child had been kidnapped. The mother turned wholly to God without even thinking about other aid. The child was quickly returned by her abductor.4 As I thought about this mother’s utter trust in God, I realized that rather than consciously turning to God myself, here my feelings had tended more toward frustration with the Forest Service!

With that thought, the flames that had seemed such a powerful evil seemed much less powerful to me. I knew in my heart that God was immediate and powerful. Very soon, the Forest Service crew did arrive, but, incredibly, the fire never advanced beyond that point where I had been standing when I became so conscious of God’s omnipotence. Even the blisters on my face from the heat of the fire disappeared within a day or so. The more we see of God’s reality, the more free we are from the aggressions of evil.

God doesn’t see evil. God is All. God is intelligent good, ever-present perfection. The human mind is a jumble of good and evil, a kind of riddle that sees reality in a very murky way. Jesus saw reality as God sees it—good and perfect. And what happened to various forms of evil in the face of his powerful prayer? Again and again, different forms of evil—sickness, aggressive behavior, madness—gave way to what Jesus knew was true about God and His goodness. A storm was stilled and peace restored. Hungry people were nourished. Jesus knew so clearly that God was eternal Life, that he was able to raise first others, then himself, from death. His encounter with the world showed that, sooner or later, whatever seems to oppose divine harmony must submit to God. Every evil thought must surrender to God’s love. Every evil action must fall before God’s justice.

It takes profound courage to prove that evil is truly nothing to God.

How do we get from the place where most of us still are—where evil looks so real—to the conviction that Jesus had that God and His goodness are the only reality, a conviction that dispels the apparent reality of evil? Through hard work. It might be called the Christianization of our lives. Or spiritual regeneration, repentance, renewal. The triumph over evil doesn’t come from endless battling with it as a reality. It comes from the strong demand to outgrow the mortal mentality that feels so certain it knows evil to be true.

It takes profound courage to acknowledge, admit, and prove in daily life that evil is powerless—truly nothing to God. But it is happening every day. Evil is being defeated daily, somewhere on earth, every hour—even as you read this article. Sometimes it’s defeated in little ways. Other times its seeming power breaks up in major ways. Perhaps the hardest part of this battle to awaken from the conviction that there is something other than God, who is totally good, is the persistence that is called for, even when evil seems colossal.

Sometimes, it may look as if evil is temporarily defeated when our efforts are based on the “I can do it” approach—as when a noble, struggling mortal, fallen from God’s grace, attempts with the best human measures available to rise up and face sickness, destruction, dishonesty, hatred, or impending death. But God’s way of disintegrating this sinister curse called evil is to face it down in a very different way—to realize no power in it at all. To begin with evil as an actual power is to close our eyes to Truth’s allness. But to begin with the prayer that wakens to God’s supremacy and the spiritual majesty of all His children, literally undermines the foundation of whatever would claim to stand against God’s infinite presence. Yes, to the human mind, evil will always be a mystery. But the triumph over evil is a discovery that real consciousness comes from God, who, as the Bible puts it, is “of purer eyes than to behold evil.”5 Because Christ enables us to see as God sees, we can progressively fulfill Zephaniah’s prophecy, “Thou shalt not see evil any more.”6

God’s love for His creation is so good and complete that He would never cause or even permit evil to harm it. That means that evil is sheer unreality. Knowing the totality of good brought Jesus up out of the tomb. His triumph over evil is also humanity’s triumph over evil. The risen Christ is active in human consciousness today, lifting it up, rousing it. Nothing can defeat this resurrection going on in each individual’s thought. It may be deeply humbling for the human mind to affirm in prayer that God is good and that God is All and that evil is a terrible illusion. But this is the powerful sword of Truth.

1 Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1982, p. 14 .↑
2 See Rev. 12:9 .↑
3 Science and Health, p. 207.↑
4 see Jacqueline Fosdick, Christian Science Sentinel, June 4, 2001, p. 15 .↑
5 Hab. 1:13.↑
6 Zeph.3:15.↑

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