Tonight we will be discussing the first article of the Nicene Creed. Please read chapter 3 of Luke Timothy Johnson’s book The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters. One of the issues Johnson raises without pursuing it too far is that if we believe in one all-powerful good God, then what of evil? In the third century BC, the Greek philosopher Epicurus set forth his paradox as to God and evil:
God, he says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable, or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? Or why does He not remove them?
This question of evil, therefore, is one that predates Christianity and our profession of faith. Although there are different means of solving Epicurus’ paradox, the early church generally settled on the answer that evil is non-existent and we are free to choose non-existence. If we assume that God is the first cause, the source of all existence, and pure reason and intelligence, and evil does not come from God, then evil cannot have any cause or existence or reason. Rather, “evil” is the term we give something which is deficient in the Goodness of God. In the City of God, Augustine writes that trying to seek the cause of evil is the same as trying to see darkness or hear silence. Darkness and silence “exist” only as deficiencies of light and sound. Bk XII, ch.7. They are not known for themselves, but only because they are deficient in things that do exist. Therefore, evil is known not because it actually exists, but only as a deficiency of that which is good and reasonable. And we are free to turn off the light or the sound.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is gumbo. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you hear. (And if you didn’t read the book, please come anyway. You know the Creed.)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.Genesis 1:1-4