Christian Evil 

            (NOTE - This is another Christian essay. It is from the point of view of a Christian theology. I hope that you who are not Christian may gain something from it, but I’m making no attempt to interpret what it might mean to you in the context of your beliefs, nor am I in anyway proselytizing. Respectful dialogue across ideological boundaries is a high priority for me.) 

            I hear people say that the biggest lie the devil ever told is that he doesn’t exist. If so, then the second biggest is that he does exist. Like the “this statement is false” paradox, the devil “wins” either way you think. The devil has human hands but doesn’t exist anywhere on its own. If you can see it, touch it, smell it, hear it, taste it, even think it, it’s not the devil. Since the devil doesn’t exist, it cannot “win” anything. 

            Thus, a “struggle with the devil” is not a zero-sum game, it’s a negative-sum game. If you lose, nobody wins. This is a result of the “great lie” that has no answer. 

            And yet, evil exists. 

            The following is a misleading analogy for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute, but just for now, think of evil as the absence of light. In this way, we can think of Evil as the absence of Light, and Satan as the absence of God. Darkness is a shadow. It can’t exist without light to define it. Satan is created by God’s existence. Not by the will of God, but as an inevitable concept deriving from knowing the existence of God. 

            The only way to “follow Satan” is to move away from God. You aren’t following anything. You are moving away from something. Since there is no place in the universe where God doesn’t exist, that movement away is within yourself. You are using your free will to choose to close your eyes to the light. 

            The metaphor of light and dark for God and Satan doesn’t hold very far because light and dark are both parts of the universe which is all part of God. Think about it. All of the beautiful colors of the rainbow with all their countless shades are “imperfections” of “pure” white light. Pure light can be, and has been, used as another metaphor for Satan. Just as both pure intellect and pure emotion can be destructive, both pure Light and pure Darkness can be evil. God, love, life, and the universe are all deeper than either. 

            This is always the problem that we have in discussing the existence of the devil. If we think of the devil as existing, we lose. If we think of the devil as not existing, we lose. In either case, nobody wins: nothing wins. 

            Remember that Jesus didn’t destroy Satan in the desert. He just turned his back on him and walked away. 

            Live in love. Don’t require perfection in yourself or others. When you recognize evil, oppose it as best you can. Don’t see a devil behind it, but never doubt that evil is real and must be opposed. 

            See it in human terms. We fail, not because we are evil, but because we do evil. This is an important difference and is true even of the worst of us. We must struggle against the doing of evil—with ourselves and others—not the existence of evil. Attempting to destroy evil is at best a distraction and at worst an action of evil itself. 

Hugh Moffatt 

Watertown, Massachusetts 

August 10, 2020