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Natural Evil Before The Fall


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Based on our current scientific evidence, we know that suffering and death of animals existed for millions of years before Adam and Eve were even a blip on the radar. Therefore, Adam and Eve could not have created natural evil. (Although it might be argued that Adam and Eve were the first to experience moral evil). We know that natural evil is basically a precursor to moral evil. But why did God allow natural evil? Do we have a logical explanation or has anyone gathered a list of explanations for why there would be natural evil before humans? I have started making a list but am curious what others think about this issue.

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So if someone loses their child in a disaster and they question why God would allow their child to die, you would tell the grieving parent they're being selfish? If you did that, you would get a slap

“I don't agree, Soma, that we can't have good unless we have evil. This is your starting point, and you're entitled to your own beliefs as a Christian mystic. But I'm also a practising Christian mysti

Soma, your words here are very thoughtful and much more nuanced than the earlier statement you made about good and evil.   I have worked in the mental health field and have seen difficult challenges

But why did God allow natural evil? Do we have a logical explanation or has anyone gathered a list of explanations for why there would be natural evil before humans? I have started making a list but am curious what others think about this issue.

 

I've come to look at dying, suffering, etc. not as "evil" - as though there were something tangible we could do about it - but, rather; as just the natural state of things. Evil as a thing that is caused by either sinful behavior or a malevolent god seems rather silly to me. Remove the deity from the equation, and "bad stuff" is only interpreted as such from a human perspective. Negative consequences of, say; walking out into oncoming traffic because you imbibed too many Jagermeisters are just that - negative consequences of stupidity and entropy, not evil.

 

However, if one accepts the paradigm of biblical evil (the Fall), then logic would dictate that this god created "evil" because, in that worldview; it exists in the first place. So, I can see your quandary.

 

NORM

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The story of Adam and Eve is an attempt to understand why bad things happen to good people just as you are attempting to. But evolutionary history of the universe does not include the story of Adam and Eve - and there is no history before the story of Garden of Eden. Evolutionary history and stories in Genesis don't overlap. They function in different ways to explain and understand the world.

 

I don't believe "natural evil" exists in the evolution of the universe. Things just happen. The many layers and understandings of the story of the so called "Fall" lets us try to understand why life is hard and we harm each other.

 

I guess we could imagine a static world in which nothing moved or bumped into anything else but this universe is dynamic. Tectonic plates shift, volcanoes erupt and the same processes that led to the evolution of you and me also leads to the evolution of both good and bad bacteria and cancer. Without death there is no life. It just happens. and the One who is the Source of all waits for us to recognize the ultimate companionship on our journey.

 

If you see evil don't look to find someone to blame look forward to see what can be done to make things better. That's our assignment. Just as Adam and Eve took on the difficult assignments of tilling the soil and birthing a people. Learning how to live together. Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel - so many stories in Genesis about this.

 

I keep my own list of the many ways to understand the story of Adam and Eve and there are several threads on this message board about Good and Evil. If I find the links I will post them here but I don't want to co-opt the many thoughtful responses you will get here now.

 

Dutch

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One thing I never understood about the fundamentalist Christian understanding of the Genesis creation account is that they blame the existence of evil on the fall of Adam and Eve and yet simultaneously claim Satan rebelled against God and took on the form of the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. So, if Satan existed before the fall, how can they say that evil didn't exist until after the fall? And if there was no evil until after the fall, then how can Adam and Eve's actions been counted as a sin if there was no evil?

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To me, God as some sort of Supreme Creator that consciously chooses what to (and not to) create, simply doesn't make any sense. This question of 'natural evil' further pushes me away from the theory of any such God.

 

What may be evil for the antelope, is life giving sustenance for the lion, so how can its death be called 'evil'?

 

Animals like us live in a kill and be killed world. We are travelling along an evolutionary trajectory. It is what it is and I can't imagine for a minute, a God choosing to 'make' this world in such a manner. To me that is logical, not a God choosing to create evil (or not).

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Trust,

 

Some people choose to use the terms 'natural evil' and 'moral evil' which differ from each other in that the term 'natural evil' is generally used where there is hurt or harm but no agent morally responsible. You have pointed out that the one is a precursor to the other and You ask... :"But why did God allow natural evil?" The question is a conundrum and so it evades resolution. The only thing i can say is because God did. Personally i, as others have indicated, do not recognize the natural as evil. Birth and death and suffering are part of the evolutionary process of life in this world. Asking .. Why did God allow it ?.. will not change reality. I agree with Dutch above.. "If you see evil don't look to find someone to blame, look forward to see what can be done to make things better" And i would add, if you cannot do anything to change it, it seems to me wise to be at peace with what is.

 

joseph

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To me, God as some sort of Supreme Creator that consciously chooses what to (and not to) create, simply doesn't make any sense. This question of 'natural evil' further pushes me away from the theory of any such God.

 

What may be evil for the antelope, is life giving sustenance for the lion, so how can its death be called 'evil'?

 

Animals like us live in a kill and be killed world. We are travelling along an evolutionary trajectory. It is what it is and I can't imagine for a minute, a God choosing to 'make' this world in such a manner. To me that is logical, not a God choosing to create evil (or not).

Natural "evil" may not be evil in and itself but what is evil is this idea of a god that chooses to save only some people from harm by answering their prayers but chooses not to save other people.
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....but what is evil is this idea of a god that chooses to save only some people from harm by answering their prayers but chooses not to save other people.

 

Rather than evil, I prefer to label it nonsense.

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trust welcome and good question. I feel you can't have good unless you have evil, good is described sometimes using evil, positive is described with negative so they seem to be two sides of a piece of paper or one and the same. I learned math by my mistakes. They helped me understand what I was doing wrong so the angel Satan helps me to understand my path, weakness and strengths. I use to teach in the prison system and I met some very good individuals there who learned from their mistakes. Nature and morality create our experiences according to the patterns of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideals bringing us to a deeper understanding of God, nature, and ourselves.

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I've come to look at dying, suffering, etc. not as "evil" - as though there were something tangible we could do about it - but, rather; as just the natural state of things. Evil as a thing that is caused by either sinful behavior or a malevolent god seems rather silly to me. Remove the deity from the equation, and "bad stuff" is only interpreted as such from a human perspective. Negative consequences of, say; walking out into oncoming traffic because you imbibed too many Jagermeisters are just that - negative consequences of stupidity and entropy, not evil.

 

However, if one accepts the paradigm of biblical evil (the Fall), then logic would dictate that this god created "evil" because, in that worldview; it exists in the first place. So, I can see your quandary.

 

NORM

 

I think this is a good point about death. We tend to think of death as some terrible thing. In reality, maybe we should be rejoicing at death because the chains are no longer present.

 

 

The story of Adam and Eve is an attempt to understand why bad things happen to good people just as you are attempting to. But evolutionary history of the universe does not include the story of Adam and Eve - and there is no history before the story of Garden of Eden. Evolutionary history and stories in Genesis don't overlap. They function in different ways to explain and understand the world.

 

I don't believe "natural evil" exists in the evolution of the universe. Things just happen. The many layers and understandings of the story of the so called "Fall" lets us try to understand why life is hard and we harm each other.

 

I guess we could imagine a static world in which nothing moved or bumped into anything else but this universe is dynamic. Tectonic plates shift, volcanoes erupt and the same processes that led to the evolution of you and me also leads to the evolution of both good and bad bacteria and cancer. Without death there is no life. It just happens. and the One who is the Source of all waits for us to recognize the ultimate companionship on our journey.

 

If you see evil don't look to find someone to blame look forward to see what can be done to make things better. That's our assignment. Just as Adam and Eve took on the difficult assignments of tilling the soil and birthing a people. Learning how to live together. Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel - so many stories in Genesis about this.

 

I keep my own list of the many ways to understand the story of Adam and Eve and there are several threads on this message board about Good and Evil. If I find the links I will post them here but I don't want to co-opt the many thoughtful responses you will get here now.

 

Dutch

 

I get that with the good must come the bad. I am not looking for someone to blame as much as I am simply for understanding. The question still remains, why is their no life without death? I think Christ himself had to deal with this. Even Christ asked, "God, why have you forsaken me?" when he was on the cross. It's no wonder that if Christ asked it, so are we.

 

One thing I never understood about the fundamentalist Christian understanding of the Genesis creation account is that they blame the existence of evil on the fall of Adam and Eve and yet simultaneously claim Satan rebelled against God and took on the form of the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. So, if Satan existed before the fall, how can they say that evil didn't exist until after the fall? And if there was no evil until after the fall, then how can Adam and Eve's actions been counted as a sin if there was no evil?

 

Good point about the snake existing before the fall.

 

To me, God as some sort of Supreme Creator that consciously chooses what to (and not to) create, simply doesn't make any sense. This question of 'natural evil' further pushes me away from the theory of any such God.

 

What may be evil for the antelope, is life giving sustenance for the lion, so how can its death be called 'evil'?

 

Animals like us live in a kill and be killed world. We are travelling along an evolutionary trajectory. It is what it is and I can't imagine for a minute, a God choosing to 'make' this world in such a manner. To me that is logical, not a God choosing to create evil (or not).

 

You make a good point about how for the antelope it is evil, but for the lion it is not. I think we need to look at it from an unbiased perspective though similar to how God would view it. From this unbiased perspective, it is still what I would consider an evil. Not a moral evil, but an evil nonetheless.

 

I don't think there can be evil without agency and malevolent intent. Natural disasters, IMO, lack agency. Therefore, 'natural evil' cannot exist.

 

George

 

An uncaused cause is responsible for the nature we see?

 

Trust,

 

Some people choose to use the terms 'natural evil' and 'moral evil' which differ from each other in that the term 'natural evil' is generally used where there is hurt or harm but no agent morally responsible. You have pointed out that the one is a precursor to the other and You ask... :"But why did God allow natural evil?" The question is a conundrum and so it evades resolution. The only thing i can say is because God did. Personally i, as others have indicated, do not recognize the natural as evil. Birth and death and suffering are part of the evolutionary process of life in this world. Asking .. Why did God allow it ?.. will not change reality. I agree with Dutch above.. "If you see evil don't look to find someone to blame, look forward to see what can be done to make things better" And i would add, if you cannot do anything to change it, it seems to me wise to be at peace with what is.

 

joseph

 

This is very good advice. I want to make sure that I accept only those things I am absolutely sure I cannot change, however. The suffering of others is too intense for me be at peace with it. Maybe accepting that it occurs in general. But not just letting it go.

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Here are some explanations I have come up with based on a limited amount of thinking. Some are not very probable. Some are somewhat probable or at least provide part of an answer to the problem. Those with an asterisk are only partial answers.

 

1*) Many of the natural evils we see in the world only appear to be natural evils. Many cancers we get are from human decisions in regard to diet. Changes in weather might be from global warming for instance. When we account for the daily evils that are really hidden moral evils, it starts to become clear that the number of natural evils is much smaller than originally believed. This is not an answer though since there are still natural evils that did not result from human choice.

 

2) So that we see both sides of the picture. First we see the heartbreak and can understand the heartbreak. Then we die and see the complete opposite where there is no heartbreak.

 

3*) Simply because we do not see the mechanism for how something works, it does not mean that it does not work. God wanted natural evil for some unknown reason and chose to allow it.

 

4*) This is just one of many of the worlds we have been through. We lived a life before this life and acted a certain way. We all received in this life what was due (Christ however says it "rains on righteous and unrighteous alike". This can also be abused by people claiming we simply get what we deserve which is a disgusting way to twist it and probably why Christ was clear that we cannot know who "deserves" what).

 

5) We are all a part of God. When we see a lion eating a gazelle, it is evil to the gazelle, yet, since the lion does not have a moral awareness, it is not evil to the lion. Since we will live the life of the lion AND the gazelle, how can this be evil? We are going to live both the sustenance and the suffering, so the suffering is simply to ourselves. Likewise, when we cause millions of Jews to suffer through the holocaust or put billions of animals in factory farms, we are simply going to live the life of all of them. We are causing the suffering to ourselves. This suffering could be justified to God if we are both the receiver and the loser. We of course must act to prevent this suffering to ourselves/them.

 

6*) Natural evil is a method by which we have our hearts changed and reach out to God

 

7) God is telling us a story. There is not joy without sadness and God is using all frames of reference to tell the story.

 

8*) This life is but a split second on the grand scale of life and the paradise awaiting will be the answer

 

9*) Time is not linear and we simply are paying for the suffering we caused others (It rains on the righteous and unrighteous alike however)

 

10) God IS the life of the animals. Since God is the actual animal, they are not really feeling pain, or rather, God is feeling the pain and is able to handle it. We, however, are guilty for causing them suffering.

 

11) We will be everyone in the Universe. We are simply causing the suffering to ourselves when we live the lives of all these people and animals we cause suffering to.

 

12*) This is a made up dream. Pain is simply an allusion.

 

13*) While we think in terms of death being some terrible thing, in reality it is just the step to paradise

 

14) "God didn't create the universe, but God became the universe. Then he forgot that he became the universe. Why would God do this? Basically, for entertainment. You create a universe, and that in itself is very exciting. But then what? Should you sit back and watch this universe of yours having all the fun? No, you should have all the fun yourself. To accomplish this, God transformed into the whole universe. God is the Universe, and everything in it. But the universe doesn't know that because that would ruin the suspense. The universe is God's great drama, and God is the stage, the actors, and the audience all at once. The title of this epic drama is "The Great Unknown Outcome". Throw in potent elements like passion, love, hate, good, evil, free will; and who knows what will happen? No one knows, and that is what keeps the universe interesting. But everyone will have a good time. And there is never really any danger, because everyone is really God, and God is really just playing around."

"Answers complex questions like why does God not interact with the world? Why is there suffering? Energy and matter are not created or destroyed, only changed."

 

15*) Before life, God gave us the ability to choose to live with free will (moral evil and ability to sin by choice) or the ability to choose to live without free will (natural evil but no ability to sin by choice). Those who chose free will became humans and those who chose to live without free will become animals or insects. Those who chose free will are to be judged based on moral evils committed. Those who chose to live without free will are not to be judged but are given harder lives because of natural evil. The future paradise is the next step.

 

16*) We are currently in debtors prison. Death is our freedom.

 

17) The collection of all souls (humans/animals/insects) is simply one soul growing up. When looking at things from an individual perspective it does not make sense. When looking at things from the perspective of all life as one, it makes sense. Everything is working in the gradual improvement until we reach the point when the wolf will live with the lamb.

 

18*) Fallen angels (simply agents who are higher than humans) have free will and are able to extend that free will on us. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was an example of this natural evil before moral evil ever existed.

 

19) Every moral evil is traceable to natural evil. This is why someone like Thomas Jefferson could be against slavery and yet at the same time own slaves. This was a transition period from natural evil to moral evil. Now that we realize the evil of breaking the free will of another, it is now a moral evil. Likewise, we are all against factory farms. Yet we still continue to create the demand for factory farms. We are realizing the evil of breaking the free will of another and now it is becoming a moral evil even though people not too long ago thought it was okay to beat a dog. While we can certainly imagine a world where natural disaster is not needed for beings to live, we cannot have our current state of moral evil without a mechanism for producing moral evil. We would not have the desire to produce moral evil if we never had natural evil in the first place. For example, we can easily imagine a world where the sun provides just enough energy to its inhabitants and the killing and eating of other animals was never needed. However, if we never had this natural evil, we would in turn never have the moral evil of wanting to kill other animals. If we never had the natural evil of wanting to reproduce by sleeping with every good looking person we see, we would never have the moral evil of committing adultery. If we never had the natural evil of fighting for survival, we would never have the moral evil of taking from others and ignoring the interests of others so that we may survive. If we never had this understanding of survival, the context of Christ laying down his life for the sheep would not make any sense and we would never even have Christ in the first place. Sacrificing of ourselves and breaking the natural law would make no sense in this context. In other words, if we had no natural evil, there would be no reason for life at all.

 

20*) We know based on the fact that animals existed for millions of years before humans that animals exist for reasons outside of simply what they provide us. We are only looking at this from the perspective that God creates things only for humans. This is based on a very egotistical conception of ourselves. Once we realize that God loves all of creation and does not create everything for simply ourselves, it makes much more sense why animals existed for millions of years before we were even a blip on the radar.

 

21) God is a Utilitarian. Because of the mere fact that evil exists, and yet God allows it, we know that God is a Utilitarian. We know that God cares about the greater good. We see this exemplified in Christ when he tells us to give up our earthly possessions (natural evil) and to pick up our cross and follow him instead. Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose their soul?" Christ wants us to drop every desire that has resulted from natural evil of this world and instead to self-sacrifice everything. When we understand how the natural evil of this world has turned into moral evil, it becomes very easy to understand what Christ wants us to do. Everything God desires for his creation is the opposite of natural evil. This is exemplified in Isaiah when we are told of a future state where even the wolf lives with the lamb.

 

22*) God's plan is to break the chains of natural evil.

 

23) Placeholder

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An uncaused cause is responsible for the nature we see?

 

I am not suggesting an uncaused cause. Natural disasters (I would avoid the term 'evil' with its connotations of intent) are the result of natural processes functioning according to natural laws. These are part of the big picture of which we are too small to comprehend.

 

George

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Natural Evil does not exist - it is a anthrocentric, egocentric, selfish construct. "Oh poor,Poor, pitiful me." We would like to blame someone. In the Hebrew scriptures we said God did it because we blew it. Then we said the Devil did it to get God off the hook.

We can harm each other but Evil is the product of a large group.

We are individuality responsible/culpable.

God is with us.

 

Dutch

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We tend to think of death as some terrible thing. In reality, maybe we should be rejoicing at death because the chains are no longer present.

 

What chains?

 

I would never, ever suggest rejoicing at death - unless it was at the end of a terrible suffering. And even then, rejoice would be the wrong word. Perhaps; relief.

 

All I'm saying is that there is no need for a deity to understand death. Nor do we need to appease this deity in order to buy favors for the afterlife.

 

My father recently passed away, and some wingnut had the gall to tell my sister and I that "Your father's death must serve God's purpose," or some such silliness. This was during the Wake, mind you, before my father was even in the ground.

 

I don't care if you believe that; just don't go spouting this nonsense while your standing in line to greet a mourning family.

 

NORM

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The only two theodicy solutions that have ever made sense to me was either the Gnostic solution, that an evil or incompetent deity created the universe, or the deist solution; that God created the universe and then left it alone and doesn't intervene with the universe at all.

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In India the whole family and friends parade through the streets singing and dancing their way to the Ganges carrying their loved one who is dead. They are celebrating the release of the Spirit from form, the rise to a new realm. The close family members than bath the body for the last time before cremating the remains. It is very moving and enlightening the way they do it.

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I don't think we can judge bad things or good people, but we can enjoy the play of light and shadows at sunset or sunrise. I feel we just need to be aware so when they cremate the bodies we are not standing in the smoke, blind, thinking we see the whole picture. The good thing is there are no mosquitos in the smoke.

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