Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1995

Divine Mystery


In creating the world, why did an omnipotent and infinitely good God allow the existence of evil? Christian theology never found a satisfying answer to this question and labeled it instead mysterium iniquitatis. From the standpoint of theodicy, it was easier to accept this term than to undermine the notion of God's omnipotence. Eastern religions were much less cautious on this point. The Gnostics and Manicheans proclaimed outright that the world was an arena in which two eternal, antagonistic forces did battle. The God of the Good ruled only the soul; the remainder of the world was in the hands of an evil demiurge. Christian philosophy rejects, it is true, an absolute evil; instead it usually defines evil as the absence of good resulting from man's separation from God. It is difficult to avoid seeing, however, the West's fascination with the subject of evil.

Evil can be examined and contemplated; one can analyze its sundry categories and variations. One can consider the legal and moral aspects of human actions, that bear the marks of evil and reflect on their metaphysical sense. One can avoid evil or - if it has a sociopolitical character - fight it. Not only are all of these possibilities realized in interhuman communication, they have been expressed in literature and the arts since time immemorial. Depending on the historical climate, the artistic impulse has oscillated between moral persuasion and the contemplation of eternal truths. Persuasion predominates in times of crisis, contemplation in times of stability. With a little luck, one can always find oneself in some enclave or other, in which the process of stabilization seems to take the upper hand over everything that leads to disintegration and disruption. It is in those times, after a period of moralistic feverishness that one can calmly observe the more turbulent spots on our globe. For intellectuals living in Berkeley, Paris, or Cracow this set of circumstances has additional cognitive value: the evil observed from afar begins to look different than that which they have experienced personally.


Last update: April 28, 1995
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