The Problem of Evil

Darkness Does Not Exist In Its Own Right

Our Orthodox Christian theology views evil not as a primeval essence that is co-eternal and equal to God, but rather a falling away from good. Evil does not exist in and of itself, and was not created by God. Our Orthodox Church rejects the Gnostic teaching that the entirety of being is made up of two realms which have forever existed together: the kingdom of light, and the kingdom of darkness.

This darkness does not exist in its own right, but is simply the absence or lack of light. Evil, according to Saint Basil the Great, ‘is not a living and animated substance, but a condition of the soul which is opposed to virtue and which springs up in the slothful because of their falling away from Good. Do not, therefore, contemplate evil from without; and do not imagine some original nature of wickedness, but let each one recognize himself as the first author of the vice that is in him’.

Nothing is greater than God, including evil, and evil results when the free will of God’s creation is directed against God and thereby engenders evil. This is precisely what happened when the light-bearing morning star (Lucifer), fell away from the Source of goodness, and became the evil one, Satan. Lucifer, by imposing his own will, found himself in darkness. Since his power is based in falsehood, he can only influence us by convincing people that he is as powerful as God. Yet his power is finite, and good will eventually triumph on the Last Day.

That God would allow evil to exist in the first place, is a mystery, for the scriptures do not explain this. Yet we do know through the scriptures that true love must express itself in action, and in the face of evil and suffering, a Christian is called to action by loving God and his neighbor. Evil then becomes but a simple practical problem, one that the Christian finds ways to alleviate. As Christians we are charged with bringing God’s love and goodness into the world by our actions.

Saint Anthony of Egypt, said, “The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good. He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much. He runs away when we make the Sign of the Cross.”

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

About the author

Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

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1 thought on “The Problem of Evil”

  1. It is my understanding that Persian theology impacted Jewish theologians after the return from the first exile and introduced the notion of good and evil being coexistent realities. Isn't the fact that Satan and his angels are cast into the eternal lake of fire evidence of the eternal nature of evil? I also would like to ask why orthodoxy does not accept the concept of original sin. Thank you.

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