When confronted with the

When confronted with the problem of moral evil, people usually try to explain it by blaming it on free choice. I admit that free choice does make moral evil possible, but how can this explain its existence? What is there in the idea of free choice that requires us to use it for immoral purposes?

All evil is a sort of lack. Moral evil is a sort of deliberately chosen lack- a deliberate rejection of things we know to be good. There is nothing in the idea of free choice that says we must choose poorly. This would be like trying to explain why a certain man walks poorly (say, with a limp) by saying “he limps because he is able to walk”. Everyone knows that there is more to the story. He limps because he is broken and damaged.

Free choice is only free in human beings because it is a rational power, and our reason is capable of understanding contraries. Because our mind is capable of understanding contrary things, we are able to seek contrary ends. But this does not explain moral evil. It is positively irrational to reject what is truly good, while knowing it is so, but such is the very definition of moral evil. We cannot explain this fundamentally irrational act simply by pointing to a rational faculty. We must go further and say that our faculties are broken and damaged.

I bring this up because I have spent the last day reading discussions about what is classically called “the problem of evil” which all argue that there is an incompatibility between omnipotence and evil, and so God must either not exist or must not be omnipotent. What is conspicuously absent in all such discussions is the idea that man is a broken and damaged being, a being that- for all his dignity- can be considered a blight on the cosmos- a corrupted and broken animal that deserves to be blotted out. That we exist at all is not because we deserve to exist- we can make no claims upon the universe or its author. Whatever evils we suffer can justly be seen as punishments, and punishments that have all, as yet, stopped short of the one we truly deserve. Our race is still allowed to exist, by an act of unspeakable mercy and love.


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