Good and Evil

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Beliefs about Good and Evil

  • Christianity teaches us that God is perfect and the source of all goodness. He is the beginning of everything and everything which God created is good
  • Some Christians believe that if there is evil in the world, there must be a power of evil- the Devil who desires to work against God and tempt humans to act in an evil way
  • However, some Christians believe the Devil is symbolic- a way of showing how people struggle between the choice of good or to be tempted to do evil. Humans make this choice by using their free will which they were created with
  • ^Example: Mother Theresa chose to be good and help the unloved whereas Hitler chose to be evil and commit acts of genocide
  • References to the Devil in the Bible:
    -it appears as a serpent in Genesis 3- convinces Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge
    -the story of Job- tests Job's faith and shows Job is only obedient to God. Devil brings lots of suffering to Job but he remains faithful

'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good' -Genesis 1:31

'Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour' Peter 5:8

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The Fall, Original Sin and Redemption

  • According to the Bible, Eve fell to temptation and picked from the Tree of Knowledge which had been forbidden by God- this introduced original sin to the world
  • ^It is known as the Fall- Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden
  • The Roman Catholic Church states humans are born with original sin- a lack of holiness about them (different to sins people commit through choice)
  • Some Christians believe because we're made 'in the image of God' we would have been immortal, however it was lost when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit
  • This idea is not found in the Bible, however, it is found in Pauls letter to the Romans
  • Christians believe redemption is God's plan for restoring his relationship with humans and those who seek forgiveness will have the relationship restored
  • ^The death of Jesus on the cross is seen as a substitute for the punishment that original sin deserved and re-opens the way to God

'For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive' Corinthians 15:22

'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life' John 3:16

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The Problem of Evil

Two types of evil:

  • Moral evil --> suffering caused by the cruel or uncaring actions of humans e.g. Hitler and the Holocaust
  • Natural evil --> things that cause suffering but have nothing to do with humans e.g. the Japanese tsunami

Some people could argue that events that would be classed as natural evils could in fact be indirectly caused by humans such as the effects of climate change brought upon by the build up of greenhouse gases over time

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Responses to the Problem of Evil

Some people might argue that a good God would not allow evil and suffering to exist:

  • God does not exist
  • God is not all powerful
  • God is responsible for evil and suffering as well as good

Argument to help explain the existence of evil --> Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, however God had made them to be perfect so why were they allowed to disobey?

Christian Monk- Iranaeus said that people needed to suffer and needed to be made to choose between good and evil otherwise they would be like mindless automatons and God wants people to choose to worship him. He suggested humans were created immature rather than perfect and needed to grow and develop to perfection. To understand and appreciate what God was, they had to experience what God was not

St Augustine taught that evil was a lack of good. It's not a thing in itself but what is leftover when there is no good present 

Example: Old Testament, Job is a good man who worships God and lives a good life. An Adversary tests Job to see how devoted he is to God. He loses his wife, children, animals, wealth and health however does not lose his faith and is finally rewarded by God

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Coping with Suffering

  • Many people during the time of the New Testament believed they were being punished for their sins through illness and suffering
  • Christianity teaches that God took human form and came to warth as Jesus of Nazareth and that he gave his life by dying on the cross because he was innocent of any sin and chose to die for others in order for the sins of humans to be forgiven. Christians believe that God shared in human suffering


  • When suffering, many Christians pray to god either alone or as part of a community in order to give them strength to get them through
  • Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians often pray for a saint to inrercede with God on behalf of someone who is suffering through prayers of intercession
  • Other denominations such as Church of England and Methodists, prayers of intercession for others are addressed directly to God
  • They accept that God does not always answer prayers in the way they would like- God choses the best for them
  • Example of faith taking away suffering of sin: In Matthew's gospel when Jesus heals a paralysed man. 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven'
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Sources and Reasons for Moral Behaviour

  • Christians believe Jesus willingly gave up his life and was free from sin- he set an example which they themselves should be prepared to follow. The ultimate sacrifice of Jesus was made out of love for others and his death atoned all sins of humanity-opportunity to reach heaven when they die
  • As well as following the Ten Commandments and Jesus' teachings in Sermon on the Mount, Christians also follow the two Great Commandments
    'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength... love your neighbour as yourself'
  • Another source of moral guidance is to follow the example of Jesus' life and teachings because as the son of God, they believe he spoke and acted in the right way. So, some Christians might try to work out the right thing to do by imagining what Jesus would do in their situation e.g. a Christian may read in the gospels to see how Jesus tried to help the suffering, so they may become a doctor or a nurse to help others etc.
  • Conscience- people know what to do and what not to do because of this- developed based on their upbringing
  • ^Many Christians say our conscience is the voice of God telling us what to do
  • Humanists believe in a conscience but do not believe it comes from God
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Key Words

  • Agnostic
  • Atheist
  • Conscience
  • Golden Rule
  • Immortality
  • Job
  • Moral Evil
  • Natural Evil
  • Omnibenevolent
  • Omnipotent
  • Omniscient
  • Omnipresent
  • Original sin
  • Redemption
  • Sacrifice
  • The Devil/Satan
  • The Fall
  • Theist
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