Does it seem like the majority of Judeo-Christians have a notable lack of reasoning within the context of philosophical moral dilemma? The trained responses we possess to argue our concepts of the Father are terribly weak, and very shaky ground to stand on for a life of trials and tribulation. The tragedy of our ignorance begins early. The foundational questions we pose in our early development are met with conjecture instead of sound reasoning from a Biblical authority. Add to this the tendency to fill in answers without fully understanding questions, and you have all the ingredients for concrete except the cement. Seeing our girls grow up has really heightened my sense of duty to diligence in this realm. We MUST divest from our ritualized cognitive dissonance so as to build the level of confidence required to establish Faith capable of transplanting trees ;) One of the great challenges we should understand more intimately is the nature of evil, and how to reconcile it with a loving, omnipotent Creator who is all good. This study is called Theodicy.
While it's true that Gottfried Leibniz coined this term, I'm certain he was exposed to a great many other theologists, and philosophers who had likewise pondered this concept. While there’s many such theological dilemmas, this has to be one of the earliest we encounter, and possibly the most influential. Having said that, I know for me it was very poorly addressed in the civic Christian environment I was raised in. It’s only now that I feel I can articulate my deeper understanding with any faith (Emunah).
Let’s examine this concept from the common civic Christian context. That is a concept that the Father is somehow both good and evil (serious cognitive dissonance here). The argument goes something like this: God created everything, and is all-powerful… therefore He created evil, and allows evil. I can’t tell you how common (in my experience) this thinking is among Christians, and how often it’s used by the secular to counter Christian thinking. Often you’ll see people referencing Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Father do all these things.” Without a deeper understanding of this verse, it does seem apparent that the Father created evil. This would be a contradiction to many verses in the Tanakh, and New Testament though, so let’s look closer.
The word for evil in this verse is ra' . In this context it means natural affliction and adversity, and not moral evil (as practiced by man). The vast majority of Scripture states that the Father does nothing morally evil (James 1:13, Psalm 18:30, Psalm 5:4, Psalm 145:17), and that the Father is not a Yah of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). The confusion is our own, it’s not of the Father. Fortunately, this question is not new, does not require “blind faith”, and does not require "new thinking" to understand. We don’t always require modern thought on ancient dilemmas. One response to this quandary that I like is the assertion that evil is not a thing, but rather a lack of something. Many claim to be the origin of this notion, but it’s my opinion that the credit for popularizing this understanding belongs to Maimonides. Here's a summary of Maimonides’ Theodicy from The Guide for The Perplexed:
“Maimonides postulates that one who created something by causing its opposite not to exist is not the same as creating something that exists; so evil is merely the absence of good. God did not create evil, rather God created good, and evil exists where good is absent (Guide 3;10). Therefore all good is divine invention, and evil both is not and comes secondarily.
Maimonides contests the common view that evil outweighs good in the world. He says that if one were to examine existence only in terms of humanity, then that person may observe evil to dominate good, but if one looks at the whole of the universe, then he sees good is significantly more common than evil (Guide 3;12). Man, he reasons, is too insignificant a figure in God's myriad works to be their primary characterizing force, and so when people see mostly evil in their lives, they are not taking into account the extent of positive Creation outside of themselves.
Maimonides believes that there are three types of evil in the world: evil caused by nature, evil that people bring upon others, and evil man brings upon himself (Guide 3;12). The first type of evil Maimonides states is the rarest form, but arguably of the most necessary—the balance of life and death in both the human and animal worlds itself, he recognizes, is essential to God's plan. Maimonides writes that the second type of evil is relatively rare, and that humanity brings it upon itself. The third type of evil humans bring upon themselves and is the source of most of the ills of the world. These are the result of people falling victim to their physical desires. To prevent the majority of evil which stems from harm we do to ourselves, we must learn how to ignore our bodily urges.”
So you tell me… is this not a better explanation (despite the heavily tainted source)? Evil is not some villainous creation of Yah waiting to attack the one’s He loves so much, but rather it’s simply a lack of His presence. This then begs the question… can the Father be present in the evil (sin/uncleaness) we create for ourselves/others? Being in Messiah is being as clear as glass through which The Father can shine. Keeping His ways, and His laws helps us clear up our glass so that He can shine through. Another common thought within theodicy is that all evil is the creation of the “Devil”. This thinking is false, and almost blasphemy. It assumes an equal and opposite creative force. Like an anti-God. This is rooted in dualism which is a Satanic doctrine. More on that another time.