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					    Topic Five

Good and Evil
Christians believe that God is both all powerful ( omnipotent ) and all loving. They also believe in the
existence of the Devil in some form. The Devil desires to work against God and is a force for evil.
Christians aim to obey God and avoid evil. By doing this, they believe that they will be rewarded after
death. In order to understand exactly how God wants them to live, Christians read their Bibles, consider
the example of the life of Christ and listen to their conscience. At times when they are tested through
suffering or difficulty, they gain strength through their FAITH, seeking God in prayer and trusting him
to guide their lives.

Evil is often divided into two categories, natural evil and moral evil.
Natural evil is suffering created through no direct fault of humans. This includes all natural disasters
such as earthquakes and tornadoes that bring devastation and tragedy to innocent people.
Moral evil is when suffering is caused by the actions of human beings – deliberately cruel, dishonest,
uncaring etc

Some questions that people ask are :-
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?

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 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 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

Traditionally, the Devil is shown in pictures as being red in colour, with horns and a forked tail. Some
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 the tragedy 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 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 all at?

     For Satan himself masquerades as an                       Your enemy the devil prowls around like
     angel of light.                                           a roaring lion looking for someone to
     2 Corinthians 11 : 14                                     devour.
                                                               1 Peter 5 : 8
 The great dragon was
 hurled down – the
 ancient serpent called
 the devil, or Satan, who
 leads the whole world
 astray. Revelation 12:9

A Christian Response to the problem of evil.
Christians usually find it difficult to explain the existence of evil. Sometimes, they 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 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 C.E., have
suggested that if people never suffered and never had to choose between right and wrong, then they
would be like robots, and 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 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 tiny babies sometimes die of painful illnesses, and animals suffer without being capable of
learning lessons. Suffering does not always improve people, but can make them angry and bitter.

Coping with suffering through acceptance and prayer.

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.

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.

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 come from being brought up to behave in the
ways our parents like; we become so used to being told what to do and what not to do that we feel as
though someone is telling us how to behave even when our parents are not around.

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.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

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 always straightforward. The Bible was written a long
time ago, for different people in a different culture, and it is not always 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 2,000 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.
Parables – in the parables Christians might find guidance on how they should behave. For example,
the story of the Good Samaritan teaches people to care for everyone, even enemies. The story of the
Lost or Prodigal Son is all about repentance and forgiveness.

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 the 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.

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 treat each other as neighbours, even if they are strangers or from a different race. Another is the
Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the message of the story is about repentance and forgiveness. Many
of Jesus’ moral teachings have been collected together into a passage know 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 toments of hell if they did wrong. However, this view is not as popular as it once
was. Some think that descriptions of hell are not literal, but poetic ways of imagining an existence
without God.

 Cast all your anxiety on him        This is the confidence we have in
 because he cares for you.           approaching God: that if we ask anything
 1 Peter 5:7                         according to his will, he hears us –
                                     whatever we ask – we know that we have
                                     what we ask of him. 1 John 5 : 14-15

   Exam question.
   a. Describe Christian beliefs about why there is evil in the world.   (8)

   b. Explain how a Christian might find out the right way to behave. (7)

   c. ‘People should try to be happy; these is no point in trying to be good.’
       Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer, and show that you have thought about
       different points of view. You must refer to Christianity in your answer. (5)

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