Evil is a very commonly used word, defined by Google’s dictionary as “profoundly immoral and malevolent.” Evil is such a common term that people lose faith in God because of it. In Peter Kreeft’s work, “The Problem of Evil,” he describes the “problem” found with evil: the question of why God would allow evil to occur in His creation. Peter Kreeft explains why evil exists and provides evidence for his reasoning, based on all that humans know about God. Providing descriptions based on free will, God’s love, and the concept of hell, Peter Kreeft analyzes and considers all there is to consider about evil, and what it says about who God is.
In his writing, Peter Kreeft mentions the concept that humans have free will, and that is a gift given straight from God’s love. God is Love, so it’s only possible for Him to create something out of love. If that’s true, why would God create evil? He didn’t create evil, and that’s Kreeft’s whole point throughout his article. God is Love, and Love is selfless. A selfless God would never want to force anything, so that’s why free will exists. Free will is the ability given to humans to make decisions, live their own lives, and, simply, choose. If God limited this free will the smallest fraction, it would no longer be free will, because all the options of choice aren’t there. In this way, if humans aren’t given the option to do evil, they don’t have free will at all. If humans were forced to make the right decisions every second, every minute, every hour, every day forever, that is not free will: that’s barely even living at all. It’s like a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner makes the “right choice” by sucking up unwanted particles off of the ground. But that’s not a choice at all, because there’s only one option. So God gives us all the options, including the option of doing evil. Evil is simply one of the choices that humans chose, and choose again and again, because they can.
Kreeft, in his article, discusses more deeply into how God’s love has been used as the tool for dealing with evil. From the moment Adam and Eve sunk their teeth into the forbidden fruit, God has been trying to save humans from sin, the act of evil. He does this not by forcing, but by giving the option to choose good rather than evil. The Bible shows this time and time again. The most obvious of these include the Ten Commandments, which are ten reasonably simple rules for humans to follow, always. Reasonably simple, yes, but humans still disobeyed those simple rules constantly, as a result of their free choice to choose to sin. God didn’t give up on the human race or force them to obey him even after this; rather, He tried, over the whole course of human history, to help people come to Him, and trust in Him. God has never stopped trying to eradicate evil. The most significant example of this is when God the Father sent His son, Jesus, into the world to save people from their evil ways, by being with them as a human. One Human, teaching other humans how they can live and not be a slave to evil. He was mocked, tortured and killed, because He wanted people to choose Him over their evil ways. Jesus’ message has spread all over the world, and it is a good message. Anyone who says otherwise does not yet have an understanding of how significant the message is. The problem with the world in the present is that people firmly believe they will be happier by choosing whatever they want. This makes sense, but because of where free will has led the human race, the line between evil and good has become very blurry. People who do evil often believe that they are doing good. Terrorists terrorize for their idea of “God.” Ideas of sin are different, all because of desires that are contrary to God’s teachings. Since people see God’s teachings as being unimportant, or too hard to follow, God’s rules, made out of love, are ignored. Those who claim evil is because of God are the ones who have simply witnessed what happens when people use free will for evil. They themselves, at one time or another, have likely done evil that they didn’t know was evil. Most people have done this.
It is difficult to talk about evil in the context of religion without discussing hell, which is thought of as the place where “evildoers” go once they die. Kreeft shines some light on this as well, saying, “… hell is the consequence of free will.” What Peter Kreeft’s writing reflects is how, as a result of free will, there’s no way hell could not exist. As was mentioned earlier, God does not want to force people into choosing “rightly,” so He always gives the right of people to choose between right and wrong: between Him and sin. Because of this, people must have the option to choose other than God, even though God can give them eternal happiness. The result, because of free will, of not choosing God, must be hell. Free will is a gift, but when people use it wrongly, they will face consequences. Revelation 21:8 states, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” This second death, that comes after the Final Judgement, is a result of free will, and free will is a result of God’s love. God is just, and justice will be reflected in the Final Judgement. Right now, though, humans must use their free will for everything that’s good. God’s love is offered to everyone, it’s just up to everyone to take that offer of love, mercy, and forgiveness and spread it all over the world.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this: “1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: ‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. 613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell.’” This quote, directly from the Catechism, connects to Peter Kreeft’s message directly, because it shows how humans, using their free will in certain ways, leads them to hell for eternity. The result of Hell has to be the result of the choice(s) of a person, in full knowledge, acting against their conscience and morals to do evil.
I agree with Peter Kreeft in his article, although there is one area I wish he had expanded on. I agree that evil was brought about by creatures of free choice (fallen angels and humans) choosing wrong. God is a good and loving Father, so He wants what is best for all of us, his children on Earth. Humans are given countless opportunities to turn from their sinful ways and follow Jesus, the conqueror of evil. I also agree with Kreeft that hell is the result of free will to outwardly choose against conscience, morality and every sense of good that exists. These explanations are in line with Church teachings, and make sense in the context of the Bible. However, there is one part of Kreeft’s article that readers might interpret a different way than was intended. The part in question is Kreeft’s quote, “God does not cast anyone into hell against his will.” I do not, according to all I’ve read and been taught, believe that upon death the word “please” will get someone into heaven or out of hell, and that’s not what the quote implies either. What the quote means, in context of Church teaching and the Bible, is that people committed their evil acts knowingly doing evil, and to do such evils can lead to hell. The Bible clearly shows that people will go to hell for eternity. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, and no one, in full knowledge, would wish this on them self either, but people end up there. The Bible does not specify, however, names of people who will end up in hell, so it is our mission as believers to follow God and introduce others to His love and mercy. Perhaps we can help people to be saved from the endless suffering that is hell. This is extremely important for us to do.