In Part 1 of this series, we talked about Money and Politics. In Part 2, we considered examined An Absence of Charity, noting that government welfare programs do not replace individual charity. Here we will consider how government affects the balance between good and evil.
The Balance Between Good and Evil
How a society defines good and evil must surely determine the nature of that society. Nonetheless, we do not agree upon the definition of either good or evil.
- Wikipedia has an article on Good and Evil, of course. At least one reviewer is unhappy with it. That’s probably because the writer never clearly defines good.
- Buddhism, relatively new to Westerners, defines good and evil in terms of kamma.
- Many people worry little about defining good. What they want is A Good Reason for Evil.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia provides thorough definitions of both Good and Evil. Here is how the Catholic Encyclopedia begins to define “Good”.
“Good” is one of those primary ideas which cannot be strictly defined.
And “Evil” begins thus.
Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among humans beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds.
What do these definitions suggests? What do most people use as their operational definition of “Good”? The cynic would probably say that most people define that which is “Good” in terms of their personal self interest. “Evil” is that which stands in opposition to their personal self interest.
Looking back into history and around the world it is hard to argue with the cynic. Time and time again human beings have used whatever power and advantage they have to crush their opposition. Each side in almost every conflict calls the other evil.
Some time back, in An Aristocracy of Lawyers: Legalism versus Religion, we considered the subject of Legalism. However, in that post we only addressed the tendency of lawyers to usurp with laws and regulation societal controls that had once been left to custom and individual choice. Here we will consider Legalism in its fully corrupted form.
What is the problem with Legalism? When we adhere to the letter of the Law, not the spirit of the Law, we corrupt even good laws. In fact, some will go further. In order to circumvent the spirit of the Law, some will deliberately misinterpret the Law. How? Look at our own nation? What the Constitution means in practice is whatever the Supreme Court says it means. Therefore, some seek to pack our courts with Liberal and Progressive judges. They use the courts to obtain what the Constitution does not permit and what no legislature would ever pass into Law.
How do they sell their mischief. They speak of balance (See Balance of Law.). With a confusion of words, they avoid debating the ethics of their proposed changes. Instead of debating right and wrong, they speak only of the anticipated results. They use the end to justify the means.
Therefore, in our now litigious society, we await Supreme Court rulings with trepidation, wondering what further corruption judges will find in our Constitution.
In Matthew 23, Jesus gives a scathing condemnation of the Legalism of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. His wrath is so great, we cannot bear to think that Jesus, that Jesus whose love is so great He died for us, might be speaking to us. Nonetheless, we all share in the Legalism of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. Without either our complicity or our indifference, Legalists cannot warp the spirit of our Law.
Some eastern religions (See Dualism) suggest we must to accept some evil with the Good. For the Christian that is not so. What is Good? What was the first sin? When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they disobeyed God. Thus, to be good is to be obedient to God.
There is no balance between obedience and disobedience. We must seek to be perfect (1 John 2:5). To be perfect is to be perfectly obedient to God. Therefore, we cannot rightly accept a balance between good and evil, but what can we do?
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
–Reinhold Niebuhr (from here)
This world belongs to God. We each belong to God. We cannot perfect either the world or each other. That is for God. We can only strive to do what He would have us do. We can choose to be perfected.