Let’s return to our definition of evil to see if it can be further fleshed out. There are three dimensions to this thing called evil: moral, spiritual, and natural. Moral evil would be the evil done by human actions. As physical, free moral agents, we make choices and our actions have consequences on one another. No one need expound on “the evil that men do.” It’s the spiritual dimension that doesn’t get enough discussion.

Horror as a genre is rife with the language and imagery of there being a spiritual aspect to our reality. This spiritual other intrudes upon the ordinary of our lives. In fact, this is pretty much the outline for the typical horror story. As if the writers and their readers sense a truth behind those sort of monsters from beyond.

Gregory A. Boyd, in his books God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil, lays out a case for the impact of spiritual forces within the problem of evil. The Christian story already asserts a spiritual aspect to reality, yet the impact of this spiritual world on our physical one is rarely discussed, probably for fear of sounding ignorant against the backdrop of our modern age, our theology suddenly the equivalent of some backwards people. A benevolent Creator beyond our ken and understanding we could believe in; however, angels and demons, well, that’s myth-talk.

Boyd’s contention is that angels/demons, as spiritual, free moral agents, also make choices and have actions which have consequences in our world. This spiritual aspect to evil takes on a personal dimension in the form of Satan.

“The adversary” is a force not equal to God, not God’s shadow self, nor the demonic-in-Yahweh as some people try to explain him. He would be a created being, the most powerful of the spiritual “principalities and powers,” the highest of what some cultures would call a god. Boyd then takes it one step further: what we see as evil is the collateral damage of humanity and creation being caught in a cosmological battle of spiritual forces.

The last category of evil would be those things considered natural evil: disease, tornadoes, earthquakes – the things that occur in Nature independent of human actions. Nature isn’t morally responsible, not capable of love or freedom, and operates outside of our definitions of good and evil. Except, like when faced with tragedies like Hurricane Katrina, we experience natural disasters as good or evil. It is almost as if entropy is inherent within the system, another manifestation of this primordial chaos. However, if this chaos is inherent to the system, why design Creation that way? Some would say that Nature designed this way somehow fulfills a higher purpose, with nature serving as a sort of refining fire for humanity (rather than our suffering breeding bitterness or otherwise degrading us) – punishing us or building our character.

Unless it really is as simple as nature being “fallen” as a consequence of humanity’s sin.

Yet, what if the world was a created system with a kind of “freedom” also built in? With spontaneity, accidents/chaos, entropy/discreativity to the creation process, all also not under God’s meticulous control. For that matter, free moral agents could also impact nature. If humanity can be the cause of global warming, couldn’t spirits also influence the environment?

Ontological Evil – Part I: Defining Evil
Ontological Evil – Part II: The Story of Evil
Ontological Evil – Part III: Spiritual and Natural Evil?
Ontological Evil – Part IV: Evil Defeated?

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