Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Why does God allow the existence of evil?

Many people wonder: “How is it that God, the Benevolent, the Omnipotent, Who is Love - allows evil to exist?”

If one does not think this question through, it can often lead to a denial of God’s existence. “If God knows everything, foresees everything and yet allows evil to exist, then He is either not Benevolent, or not Omnipotent!” Thus say those who doubt… And the logical conclusion follows: “If God is not Benevolent or not Omnipotent, then He cannot be God, or, in other words, there is no God.”

Such doubts and such atheism are sometimes inherent to serious and honest people as, for example, the French writer Albert Camus. But even deep believers such as Dostoyevsky are also beset by doubts before they reach the final stage of absolute belief.

These doubts are based either upon a lack of knowledge of the basic truths of the Christian faith, or upon an inability - or more often an unwillingness - to accept the Truth.

From ancient times to our own days the Church Fathers and many other Christian writers have provided us with conclusive answers to these doubts. The answer is quite simple, but it is not enough to understand it and remember it, one must likewise experience it, because supreme truths are revealed not only to the mind, but also to the heart.

The Church teaches that, naturally, God is benevolent, that God is omnipotent, but that His omnipotence is the omnipotence of love, because God is Love. For this reason God has not created evil and one may even say that He could never have created it.

According to the teaching of the Church, evil appeared only because God made His highest creations - angels and men - in His image and likeness, i.e. beings who are totally free and can thus even follow a path not planned by God.

God is Love first and foremost, and man embodies the image of God, i.e. becomes most like Him, when he loves, when his capacity for love grows. But is it possible to love not freely, but out of necessity or constraint? Of course not! Love can only be given freely; consequently, it must be said that love is the true incarnation, manifestation or realization of freedom.

It is for this reason that God has created angels and men as free beings. He has created them for Love, in order that they may share in that rapture of mutual love in which He Himself, the Triune God, dwells.

But, as it was said, freedom presupposes the risk of making the wrong choice, the risk of deviating from the true path and, unfortunately, this wrong choice was made by some of the angels and by the first people, which gave rise to evil.

It is impossible to explain why this treacherous choice was made. Each creation, having been made by the All-wise God, is filled with deep substance and can be described. Evil, however, has not been created by God, and thus in itself it lacks substance, it is nonsense that is hard to explain. The Holy Fathers teach that evil, not having been created by God, does not exist in reality.

Evil is a phantom, a vice, an illness, a negative value, a minus, but a minus which can dominate by force. This force is like the force of a parasite, (and evil is a parasite), it lives only by means of the organism on which it feeds. The power of evil lies only in its acceptance by the will of a free being that has been created by God. Evil can exist on earth only while the will of man inclines towards evil, and this situation shall continue until man freely returns to the only true path of a voluntary and loving acceptance of God’s benevolent will.

God naturally foresaw that angels and men could make the wrong choice; moreover, He knew that the wrong choice would be made, and He pre-eternally (speaking in human terms) “took measures” to correct man’s terrible mistake. In accordance with His boundless love, God responds to all man’s mistakes, all man’s evil, all man’s suffering with Self-sacrifice. He takes all the mistakes, all the evil, all the suffering upon Himself, as though He - innocent of all evil - is to blame for it.

Man turns away from love, strays from the path of love, but God always remains Love and only Love. The meaning of the Lord’s sacrifice is that it gives mankind the opportunity to once again choose the right path. God does not wish to and even “cannot” save mankind by force. He only calls us and encourages us, but in Jesus Christ God now calls men to Himself in a totally new way. Now the fullness of divine love has been revealed to us (Christians), the curtain has fallen and in the Lord’s sacrifice divine love has revealed itself fully, while His glorious Resurrection has revealed the all-victorious power of this love. It is only left to us to partake of this divine love: “O taste and see how good is the Lord.”

Such is the teaching of the Church on evil and escape from evil, and this is how St. John of Kronstadt, one of the last righteous ones in the Russian land, comments on the matter: “The Creator is accused - why did God not create us in such a manner that we would not fall into evil? Should He rather not be considered more benevolent for having given us this gift (freedom), disregarding our ingratitude? And has He not indeed proven His boundless love in granting us freedom, when after our fall He sent His Only-begotten Son to us and gave Him unto suffering and death for us?” Evil has obviously no positive basis and there could not be and should not be any justification for it, but since it exists, God wishes to turn it to good use, and for this reason temporarily allows its existence. St. John says the following about this: “If you do not experience the actions of the evil spirit upon yourself, you will never know or truly value the bounties bestowed upon you by the benevolent Spirit; if you do not learn to recognize the spirit who kills, - you will not recognize the Spirit Who gives life…”

Archimandrite Alexander (Semenov Tian-Shansky).

Πῶς πρέπει νὰ πολεμᾷ κάποιος ἀντίθετα στὰ ξαφνικὰ κινήματα τῶν παθῶν..

 Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης

Ἂν ἀκόμη δὲν εἶσαι συνηθισμένος, ἀγαπητέ, νὰ πολεμᾷς ἀντίθετα στὰ ξαφνικὰ χτυπήματα καὶ ἐπιθέσεις τῶν προσβολῶν, ἢ ἄλλων κάποιων ἀντίθετων ποὺ σοῦ τυχαίνουν, σὲ συμβουλεύω νὰ κάνῃς τὸ ἑξῆς:Δηλαδή, συνήθιζε πάντα νὰ ἐρευνᾷς ἀπὸ πρίν, καθισμένος στὸ σπίτι σου, ὅτι θὰ σοῦ συμβοῦν πολλὲς προσβολές, ἀτιμίες, πολλὲς φορὲς δὲ καὶ πληγὲς καὶ ἄλλα πολλὰ ἀντίθετα· καὶ μὲ αὐτὸν τὸν τρόπο νὰ εἶσαι προετοιμασμένος, ὥστε νὰ μὴν ταραχθῇς, ἀλλὰ νὰ τὰ ὑπομείνης μὲ εὐχαριστία χωρὶς ταραχή. 

Τὴν προετοιμασία αὐτὴ πρέπει μάλιστα νὰ κάνῃς ὅταν εἶσαι ἕτοιμος νὰ βγῆς ἔξω ἀπὸ τὸ σπίτι σου καὶ νὰ πᾶς σὲ κάποιον ἄλλον τόπο καὶ μάλιστα ὅταν θὰ συνομιλήσῃς μὲ πρόσωπα ποὺ θυμώνουν εὔκολα. Γιατὶ, μία τέτοια προετοιμασία καὶ προγύμνασι, πιστεύει ὅτι εἶναι εὐκαταφρόνητα καὶ τὰ πιὸ φοβερὰ καὶ ξαφνικὰ περιστατικὰ καὶ τὸ πάθος τοῦ θυμοῦ, δὲν ἀφήνει νὰ ταραχθῆ· «ἑτοιμάσθηκα καὶ δὲν ταράχθηκα» (Ψαλμ.118,60) (30).
Κοντὰ δὲ στὴν προμελέτη καὶ τὴν προετοιμασία αὐτή, χρησιμοποίησε καὶ αὐτὸν τὸν τρόπο. Ὅταν, σὲ κάποια περίπτωσι, ἀρχίσῃ κάποιος ξαφνικὰ καὶ χωρὶς νὰ τὸ περιμένῃς, ἢ νὰ σὲ χτυπᾷ, ἢ νὰ σὲ βρίζῃ καὶ νὰ σοῦ προξενῇ ἄλλη ἀτιμία, στάσου γιὰ λίγο· καὶ ἀφοῦ συμμαζέψης τοὺς λογισμούς σου μέσα στὴν καρδιά σου, βάλε ὅλη τὴν προσοχὴ καὶ ἐπιφυλακὴ στὸ νοῦ σου, στὸ νὰ προσέξῃ καλὰ καὶ νὰ μὴ ταραχθῆ καθόλου ἀπὸ τὸ πάθος τοῦ θυμοῦ ἡ καρδιά σου· ἐὰν ὅμως προλάβη νὰ ταραχθῆ, νὰ μὴν ἀφήσῃς νὰ βγῇ ἔξω τὸ πάθος καὶ νὰ σὲ παρακινήσῃ στὸ νὰ βρίσῃς καὶ σὺ καὶ νὰ ἐκδικηθῇς· «μέσα μου, λέγει,συνταράσσεται ἡ καρδιά μου» (Ψαλμ. 14) (31).

Στὴ συνέχεια βίασε τὸν ἑαυτό σου νὰ σηκώσῃς τὸ νοῦ σου στὸ Θεό, σκέψου τὴν ἄπειρη ἀγάπη ποὺ σοῦ ἔχει, γιὰ τὴν ὁποία σοῦ ἔστειλε τὸν ἀνέλπιστο αὐτὸ πειρασμὸ καὶ τὴ δοκιμασία, γιὰ νὰ σὲ καθαρίσῃ περισσότερο καὶ νὰ σὲ ἑνώσει μαζί του καλύτερα. Αὐτά, λέω, σκεπτόμενος γύρισε στὸν ἑαυτό σου καὶ ἐλέγχοντάς τον, πὲς μέσα σου· «Ἔ, ἄθλιε καὶ ταλαίπωρε! καὶ γιατὶ δὲν θέλεις ἐσὺ νὰ ἀγκαλιάσης αὐτὸν τὸν σταυρὸ καὶ τὴν δοκιμασία ποὺ σοῦ ἔστειλε, ὄχι κάποιος ἄλλος, ἀλλὰ αὐτὸς ὁ ἰδιος σου ὁ Πατέρας ὁ οὐράνιος; μετὰ γύρισε στὸ σταυρὸ καὶ ἀγκάλιασέ τον νοερὰ μὲ τὴν πιὸ μεγάλη χαρά, ποὺ μπορεῖς, λέγοντας, ὦ σταυρέ, ποὺ ἱδρύθηκες ἀπὸ τὴν πρόνοια τοῦ Θεοῦ, πρὶν νὰ γίνω ἐγώ! ὦ σταυρέ, ποὺ γλυκάθηκες ἀπὸ τὴν γλυκειὰ ἀγάπη τοῦ ἐσταυρωμένου, κάρφωσε καὶ προσήλωσέ με σὲ σένα γιὰ νὰ μπορέσω ὁλοκληρωτικὰ νὰ ἑνωθῶ μὲ ἐκεῖνο, ποὺ μὲ λύτρωσε, πεθαίνοντας πάνω σὲ σένα». 
Ἐὰν ὅμως καὶ τὸ πάθος τοῦ θυμοῦ προλάβῃ καὶ κινηθῇ μέσα σου καὶ δὲν σὲ ἀφήσῃ στὴ ἀρχὴ νὰ ὑψώσῃς τὸ νοῦ σου στὸ Θεὸ ὅμως, πάλι μελέτησε νὰ τὸν ὑψώσῃς τὸ γρηγορώτερο, σὰν νὰ μὴν ἔχῃς ταραχθῇ καθόλου· γιατὶ θὰ βοηθηθῇς.

Ἡ καλύτερη ὅμως καὶ πιὸ ἀποτελεσματικὴ θεραπεία τους νὰ μὴ κινοῦνται ξαφνικὰ τὰ πάθη, εἶναι, τὸ νὰ ἀπομακρυνθοῦν οἱ αἰτίες ἀπὸ τὶς ὁποῖες προέρχεται αὐτὴ ἡ κίνησις. Αὐτὲς γενικὰ εἶναι δυό· ἡ ἀγάπη καὶ τὸ μῖσος. Ὁπότε, ἐὰν ἐσὺ ἀγαπητέ, ἔφθασες νὰ ἔχῃς ἐμπαθῆ ἀγάπη σὲ κανένα πρόσωπο, ἢ σὲ ἄλλο κανένα μικρὸ πρᾶγμα, ἢ μεγάλο καὶ ἀμέσως μόλις ἰδῇς νὰ σοῦ τὸ ἁρπάξουν ἢ τὸ πειράξουν, ταράζεσαι ξαφνικὰ καὶ σκανδαλίζεται ἀπὸ τὴν συμπάθεια ἡ καρδιά σου, πρέπει νὰ πολεμᾷς, νὰ βγάλης ἀπὸ τὴν καρδιά σου τὴν κακὴ ἐκείνη ἀγάπη ποὺ ἔχεις σὲ αὐτό, γιατί, ὅσο αὐτὴ εἶναι μεγαλύτερη ἢ μικρότερη, τόσο μεγαλύτερη ἢ μικρότερη εἶναι καὶ ἡ ξαφνικὴ κίνησις τοῦ πάθους.

Ἐὰν ὅμως ἀντίθετα καὶ ἔχεις μῖσος σὲ κάποιον, ἢ σὲ ἄλλο κανένα πρᾶγμα καὶ ἀπὸ αὐτὸ ταράζεσαι
ξαφνικὰ καὶ ἀηδιάζῃς, ὅταν τὸ βλέπῃς ἢ ἀκοῦς κάποια θαυμαστή του ἐνέργεια, πρέπει νὰ πιέζῃς τὴ θέλησί σου, μέχρι νὰ τὸ ἀγαπήσῃς· ὄχι μόνο γιατὶ εἶναι καὶ αὐτὸ πλάσμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, σὰν καὶ ἐσένα φτιαγμένο κατ᾿ εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ ὁμοιότητα ἀπὸ τὸ ὕψιστο χέρι τοῦ Θεοῦ· ὄχι μόνον γιατὶ καὶ αὐτὸς σὰν ἐσένα εἶναι ἀναγεννημένος μὲ αὐτὸ τὸ πολύτιμο αἷμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὄχι μόνο γιατὶ εἶναι ἀδελφός σου καὶ μέλος σου καὶ δὲν πρέπει νὰ τὸν μισῆς, οὔτε μὲ αὐτὴν τὴν ἴδια τὴν σκέψι σου καὶ τὸν λογισμό σου, ὅπως γράφτηκε «μὴν κρατᾷς κακία στὴν καρδιά σου γιὰ τὸν ἀδελφό σου» (Λευϊτ. 19,17) (32). 

Ἀλλά, καὶ γιατί, ἂν εἶναι τὸ πρόσωπο ἐκεῖνο κακὸ καὶ ἄξιο μίσους, ὅμως, ὅταν ἐσὺ τὸ ἀγαπᾷς, μοιάζεις μὲ τὸν Θεὸ ὁ ὁποῖος ἀγαπᾷ ὅλα του τὰ δημιουργήματα καὶ κανένα ποτὲ δὲν συχαίνεται, καθὼς λέει ὁ Σολομώντας: «Ὅλα εἶναι δικά σου καὶ γι᾿ αὐτὸ τὰ φροντίζεις Κύριε, ἐσὺ ποὺ ἀγαπᾷς τὴν ζωή» (Σοφ. Σολομ. 11,). Καὶ μάλιστα, διότι ὁ
Θεὸς παραβλέποντας τὶς κακίες τῶν ἀνθρώπων «τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ἀδίκους» (Ματθ. 5,45).

ΑΟΡΑΤΟΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣἈπόδοση στὴ νέα Ἑλληνική: Ἱερομόναχος Βενέδικτος
Ἔκδοση Συνοδείας Σπυρίδωνος Ἱερομονάχου, Νέα Σκήτη, Ἅγιον Ὄρος

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