“And you He made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Evil incidents become our daily “Breaking News.” Recently in a normal high school two male and three female students had carried on a series of harassments on a colleague who had moved from Ireland, thinking that in America her dreams of a pleasant future would be fulfilled. The gang taunted and teased her, calling her all sorts of vulgarities, telling her she should kill herself—and she did. She was found hanging dead in her closet. The mother of another teenage girl sent messages to her daughter’s “friend” as if from a young man enamored of the girl, leading her on through email messages, then abruptly informing her that the supposed love affair was over. The despondent young lady committed suicide. Two Arab Americans visited Taliban members, converted to their anti-American cause, then returned to the United States and plotted to blow themselves up in the New York City subways, causing havoc by murdering fellow passengers. Are all of the above evil persons? If not, then what motivated them to plot or to commit wicked, harmful and hateful acts upon innocent victims?
As Christians we believe that all human beings are conceived and created in the image of God without exception. None are created evil—indeed, nothing that exists is evil by nature since God is the only Creator of all that exists. In that God never had, never would and never will create evil, what is the source of evil? A very early influential body of works, Corpus Aeropagiticum, written under the pseudonym Dionysius the Aeropagite, deals with the problem of evil. He explains that God created everything to be in communion with Himself, and if that is done, humans will share the blissful blessings of peace, harmony and beauty that God planned for us. It is a reciprocal relationship. It means that as we learn to reach out beyond our own idea of those virtues and open ourselves to the promptings of the Spirit, we will develop an appetite for all that is best within and for us. God is always presenting all that is good and beneficial, the meaning of blessing. We might argue with “Dionysius” that it’s not really the answer to evil—let’s not be naÃ¯ve. There is an obvious fact that, exist or not, evil is a factor impinging on our own lives, invading our world and society, and poses obstacles to our lives in Christ.
He might respond: Look at St. Paul’s words above. Writing to Christian converts he reminds them that they were “made alive, though…once dead through the trespasses and sins once walked.” Evil is the free choice to ignore the inner promptings of God Spirit in our souls and prefer the spiritual cancer of demonic possession. Satan acts as a parasite on the human soul, hiding in anonymity by coaxing the person caught in sinfulness that he or she is doing something worthwhile and fulfilling, whereas the sin is destroying the soul. Evil then does not exist in itself, only in another, and it clings to the bearer with the same tenacity that the demons did that had invaded and possessed the poor insane creature of Gadara, when they argued with Christ that He was being “cruel” to dispossess them “before the time.”
Evil can only destroy, tear down, divide and torment. It cannot create. It depends on preying upon what God creates in order to survive, and ironically it knows that it will survive because God never reacts to evil by imitating Satan in destruction or obliteration. The prince of the air St. Paul writes about is also created by God and therefore somehow possessing something good, regardless of how perverted he and his ilk have become. How much more can we say of the human beings who have been victims of satanic devices to ensnarl their souls and turn them into agents of wickedness?