Christianity- Good and Evil

These cards are based on the religion of Christianity and are based on the topic of Good and Evil

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 13-05-08 15:58

Why is there evil in the world?

The existence of evil and suffering in the world has always presented great problems for Christianity. Christians believe that God is perfectly good and perfectly loving; they also believe that God has the power to do anything (omnipotence). But there are all kinds of bad things in the world that cause people to suffer. Sometimes people are deliberately cruel, or dishonest, or uncaring- this is often called moral evil, which is the kind of wrong that happens because of human wickedness. At other times, suffering is caused because of natural evil such as floods, disease, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. These events can cause a lot of suffering, but they do not seem to be because of any human fault. Life often seems very unfair. Terrible tragedies sometimes happen to good and innocent people, while there are no others who seem to care about no-one except themseleves and yet they live long and prosperous lives.

How can Christians continue to believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God, if there is so much wrong in the world? Why does God apparently do nothing to prevent cruelty to children, or cancer, or tidal waves? Did God make evil when the world was created, and can God be blamed for all that goes wrong? Or did something else create evil, and is God unable to prevent it.

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Different beliefs about God and the Devil

Some Christians believe that there is evil in the world because of the Devil, sometimes known as Satan. The Devil is believed to be the enemy of God, who rules in hell and who tries to make humanity turn away from goodness. According to early Christian doctrine, the Devil was created good, but was jealous of God and decided to fight against God instead of being obedient.

In the creation story in Genesis, Adam and Eve were tempted to do wrong by a serpent, and some people believe that this was the Devil in disguise. In the book of Job, the Devil causes Job all sorts of suffering, as a way of trying to make him turn against God, but Job does not give up his faith. Jesus, too before he began his teaching, was tempted by the Devil, but refused to listen:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.'

Jesus answered, ' It is written: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." (Luke 4:8)

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Different beliefs about God and the Devil

Traditionally, the Devil is shown in pictures as being red in colour, with horns and a forked tail. Some people say that, whenever there is suffering in the world, or people choose to do wrong, it is because of the power of the Devil, causing thetragedy or encouraging people to do evil.

Not all Christians, however, believe that the Devil is a real person. Some say that this is just a poetic way of explaining how people feel pulled in different directions, and why they often want to do things even if they know they are wrong. Belief in the Devil does not provide a very good answer to the problem of evil: if God is all-powerful, why would he allow the Devil to do anything at all?

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Some Christian responses to the problem of evil

Christians usually find it very difficult to explain the existence of evil. Sometimes, thy say that it is the result of the Fall of Adam and Eve: because the first people rebelled against God, they brought evil and suffering into a world that was made perfect, and they spoilt the world that God had made. But this does not answer all the questions. If Adam and Eve were perfect, why did they rebel against God? Did God not know in advance what Adam and Eve would do, when they were made?

Other people say that evil and suffering are in the world as a kind of test, to help people to learn and become more mature. Christian thinkers such as Irenaeus, who lived in the second century CE, have suggested that if people never suffered and never had to choose between right and wrong, then they would be like robots, programmed to behave in a certain way and unable to choose any different. Christians sometimes argue that suffering teaches important lessons, and that we would not be able to be good unless we were faced with difficulties. For example, we could not be brave if we were never in danger, and we could not be generous if other people never needed anything. But this way of thinking, too, has its difficulties. Sometimes people suffer when they have no chance of learning anything from it, for example tine babies sometimes die of painful illnesses, and animals suffer without being capable of learning lesson. Suffering does not always improve people, but can make them angry and bitter.

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Coping with suffering through acceptance and praye

Sometimes, Christians say that evil and suffering are a mystery. We do not know why there is evil in the world, or why people suffer, and perhaps this is something that only God can understand. However, Christians believe that God does care about people when they suffer. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he came into the world and suffered a terrible death on the cross, so God does not ignore suffering, but knows what it is like and shares our pain with us. Sometimes, Christians say that when they suffer, they feel closer to God because they recognise their dependence on him.

Many Christians believe that the best way of coping with suffering is through trust in God. They say that, when they are in trouble, if they pray about their difficulties they know that God is listening and they trust God to take care of them. This does not mean that things will always go the way that they want them to go; sometimes, people pray for someone who is very ill and the person still does not get better. But Christians often believe that God has plans which people cannot always understand, and that people should accept their own limitations and recognise that God does not make mistakes.

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How can Christians tell right from wrong?

Christians believe that, as part of their response to God, they should try to avoid evil and to do good, because they believe that God is perfectly good and that they should try to become like God as much as they can.

But how are they to know what is right and what is wrong?

There are several different ways in which Christians can try to discover the right way to behave.

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How can Christians tell right from wrong?


Many people believe that they instinctively know when something is right or wrong, because their consciences tell them. They feel guilty if they do something wrong, even if they know that no-one will find out about it. They feel ashamed of themselves. In some situations, they want to do something, but know that it would be wrong, and so they decide not to do it even though they would like to, because their consciences prevent it. They know that they would not be happy if they acted against their consciences. Christians sometimes believe that the conscience is a way in which God speaks to them, particularly if they pray about their moral decisions, and ask God to help them. Other people, however do not agree with this. They think that the conscience comes from being brought up to behave in ways our parents like; we become so used to being told what to do and what not to do that we feel as though someones it telling us how to behave even when our parents are not around.

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How can Christians tell right from wrong?

The Bible

The Bible, as the holy book of Christianity, is often used as a source of moral guidance. Christians study the teachings of the Bible, and try to work out how to apply it to their own lives and situations. Some of the Bible's teachings, such as the Ten Commandments, are considered by many people, whether Christian or not, to contain essential truths about right and wrong.

Christians often turn to the Bible when they have difficult moral decisions to make. Many of the teachings and stories of the Bible have messages which Christians can think about, discuss with others, and try to put into practice. However, this is not alway straightforward. The Bible was written a long time ago, for different people in a different culture, and it is not alway easy to find teachings that relate closely to the modern world and modern circumstances. Some of the teachings of the Bible, such as 'In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you' (Matthew 7:12), mean the same thing today as they meant two thousand years ago; but other teachings are about out-dated practices like slavery and animal sacrifice, and it can sometimes be difficult to know how these are to be understood by modern people.

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The example of Christ

Sometimes, Christians try to work out the right thing to do by imagining what Jesus would do in the same circumstances.Because Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God, they believe that he always acted and spoke in the right way. They try to copy him; for example, they might read in the Gospels about they ways in which Jesus helped outcasts, and try to copy this by working in a shelter for the homeless. They might look at the attitude of Jesus towards wealth, or children, or women, or violence, and make an effort to adopt the same attitude themselves.

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Why do Christians try to follow a moral code?

Christians believe that God is perfectly good, and that humanity was made 'in the image of God' (Genesis 1:27), with the capability to share in God's goodness. Christians, like Jews, are ethical monotheists; they believe in one God, who is the source of all goodness and who is interested in the way that people behave, particularly in the ways in which they treat one another. Christians believe that God has given people moral guidelines to follow, which are recorded in the Bible. The Old Testament is full of teaching about morality, in the Torah and also throughout other books. The prophets, for example taught about the right ways to live, and the kinds of behaviour that angered God.

The teaching of Jesus, too, was often about morality. Jesus sometimes taught in parables, which are stories that convey a message, and many of these stories are about moral behaviour. One famous example, is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus taught that people should love each other and treate each other as neighbours, even if they are strangers or from a different race (Luke 10:25-37). Another is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the message of the story is about forgiveness and repentance.

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Why do Christians try to follow a moral code?

Many of Jesus' moral teachings have been collected together into a passage known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In this collection of sayings, Jesus gives moral advice on all kinds of issues, such as anger, adultery, divorce, and treatment of enemies. Because they believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and Jesus taught about the right way to live, Christians consider that morality is an important part of religious life.

Christians sometimes believe that people who try to be good in this life will be rewarded after death. People used to believe that those who are good in this life will be rewarded in heaven, while those who do wrong will be punished in hell. People were encouraged to follow strict moral codes, by being threatened with the torments of hell if they did wrong. However, this view is not as popular as it once was. Many now think that descriptions of hell are not meant to be taken literally, but are poetic ways of imagining an existence without God.

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