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Wednesday 12 April 2023

The Real Question


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It is common for the atheist to ask, if there is a good God, why is there evil? It is common for many people to ask, “Why is there evil?” But M. Scott Peck has a better question, “Why is there any good?”

“It is a strange thing. Dozens of times I have been asked by patients or acquaintances: 'Dr Peck, why is there evil in the world?' Yet no one has ever asked me in all these years: 'Why is there good in the world?' It is as if we automatically assume this is a naturally good world that has somehow been contaminated by evil. In terms of what we know of science, however, it is actually easier to explain evil. That things decay is quite in accord with the natural law of physics. That life should evolve into more and more complex forms is not so easily understandable. That children generally lie and steal and cheat is routinely observable. The fact that sometimes they grow up to become truly honest adults is what seems the more remarkable. Laziness is more the rule than diligence. If we seriously think about it, it probably makes more sense to assume this is a naturally evil world that has somehow been mysteriously 'contaminated' by goodness, rather than the other way around. The mystery of goodness is even greater than the mystery of evil.”[i]

Why is there good? For that matter, why is there a complaint about evil? Why is there not just “is”? Why is there not just an acceptance of “things are what they are, and they cannot be put into a moral framework”? Why is there good in this clearly broken world? From a materialistic point of view Peck is correct, it would be more rational to consider that we live in an evil world and good has somehow broken in. From a purely mechanical perspective the fact that there is good in this world is remarkable.

Consider the brutal process of evolution via natural selection. You could not conceive a more evil process for bringing about sentient life. Not only is there all the suffering of non-sentient creatures, there is the suffering of the increasingly sentient humans and their presumed predecessors. What a brutal world to be brough to awareness in. It would take a divine being of a truly wicked character to invent such a death riddled, pain driven, way of creating living beings. A being more worthy of being called the Devil than the Lord of life. Such a world would not be a good world, by any objective definition of God. It is a world that builds death into the creation of life; brutal, violent, nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw death. If we truly lived in such a world we should see goodness as the aberration.

And yet we do not. It is evil that we know to be wrong. It is evil that we know to be a twisted and mishappen guest. It is as if we know that we fell from a great height and are still suffering from the PTSD of knowing what we had once had and know that we have now lost. Why is there good indeed? Could it be that the Scriptures are right and we were created for something better but in our rebellion lost it? I think there is a wealth of wisdom in pondering that, I say that as someone who believes the Bible to be the true word of God. But even if you do not, you need to wonder, why is there good? And why do we see evil as the aberration? Blind or guided evolution could not explain that.


[i] M. Scott Peck 1990, The People of the Lie, Arrow Books, p45.

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