In my last essay, we saw that if everything in the moral order was fulfilled according to God’s will, we would have the Kingdom already here on earth. But, while the vision is enticing and seductive in its beauty, there is something unreal about it. God must have realized what He was doing when He gave the human person the gift of free will. The human being is not a robot who is programmed to do what God wills. Plants and animals do not have the freedom to say no to their nature. They remain, even after Adam and Eve, to be innocent and completely consonant with the will of God.
But God created the human person through an evolutionary process. He placed them in an imperfect world that needed the cooperative and learned expertise of God’s new creation in order to perfect and develop it. The will of the human person is instrumental to the perfecting of the created order. Think of what the medical field has done to diagnose and treat diseases. God could have created a world without diseases, but it would not involve the person in the same way. Since, of all of creation, the human person is made in the image and likeness of God and was evaluated by Him in Genesis as not only good (like everything else) but very good, then the human person should also have a part in the ongoing evolutionary creation of the universe. This means God leaves things unfinished so that He can work with the human person as a co-creator of the future.
But, there is one further complication: Sin. Besides the natural imperfections that need to be surmounted (sickness, tornados, earthquakes), the human person can also make bad choices. It is a measure of the true justice of God that God supports our choices even when they are wrong. There cannot be free will if every time someone chooses evil, God comes swooping down and nullifies that selection. That includes the realm of ideas!
The Nazis held the false belief of racial superiority and the importance of the will to do what needs to be done for the exercise of superiority and the subjection of the “inferior peoples” to the “master race”. This was an evil idea that had tragic consequences. God certainly raised up voices to refute it, but the idea took hold and many millions of people died as a consequence of that idea. To blame God for Nazism is to refuse to take responsibility for our own choices. To exercise the will in choosing the good is the way to freedom. To choose the bad is to condemn oneself to the imprisoning consequences of evil.
Born into an imperfect world and subject to the possibility (probability?) that the human person will choose evil at times, with all the consequences thereof, we can readily see why this wonderful world is often so heartbreakingly inadequate. Yet the challenge of ‘managing the earthquakes’, coupled with the angst of poor choices, gives this world its dramatic force and it’s often unbridled uncertainty. But it is the only way for us to become like God in whose image and likeness we have been created.
Notice here that this is what the devil used in tempting Adam and Eve to sin: “God knows well that when you eat of [the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, who knows good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The father of lies was using a partial truth. The sin in what our first parents did was to disobey God’s instructions and mistrust the goodness of God; that was the devil’s victory. He used the truth to sow the seed of mistrust in the hearts of the first human beings. God always intended humans to be like Him, to form order out of chaos, but not through mistrust and the breaking down of the close relationship between God and humankind. (They used to walk together in the garden in the cool of the evening—such a beautiful picture of closeness before the Fall!)
This is why there is so much evil in the world: human beings have not used the gifts God gave them to do good: to resolve conflicts, to provide solutions to human needs, etc. Instead, many human beings have chosen easy paths: selfish gains, vindictive solutions and false reasoning. The Gospel has been given to us as the solution we always needed to correct this tragic imbalance. While other spiritual and religious means do help to put humanity on the right road, only the Gospel and the Incarnation of the Word of God goes the distance in healing a broken world. It has begun. It is a daily battle. We have to choose which side to belong to: under the flag of Christ or under the flag of Satan. They are irreconcilable. Not to choose Christ is to go to the other side.