Continuing on from my previous post, I want to delve into the issue of responsibility.
In that post I stated the following:
“Let’s say you are an architect and you build a beautiful theater for the purpose of housing the world’s most beautiful works of musical, dance, and theatrical arts. It is gorgeous and perfect for its purpose – the best sight lines, the best acoustics, the best of everything. But you design into it one simple flaw – the doors open inward instead of outward. When a fire starts, and 2,000 people are trapped inside to burn alive, who is responsible? Did they die because they chose to go to the theater? Or did they die because the designer created that theater with a fatal flaw?”
Obviously a conversation of this sort tends to bleed over into other topics, such as hell, eternal punishment, free will, and the like. We’ll get to those. I want to keep it narrow in the interest of keeping the blog posts down to a reasonable length.
The question I hope to address is – continuing the conversation referenced above, who would then be responsible for the evil men do?
The Christian theology states that man is responsible for his own sin (do I have to say that I use man in the universal sense of mankind? I hope not – gratuitous gender switching in non-fiction writing drives me batty.) More specifically, it is taught that we are born sinners due to the original sin of Adam, and that we commit our own sins anyway, so we are doubly responsible for sin and in need of redemption.
The punishment for sin is death, and after judgment, eternal torment. God cannot tolerate the presence of sin, etc.
Now, also in the previous post on the genesis of Evil, we discussed the concept that evil can only exist if God first conceptualized and therefore created evil. He had to create the concept and the possibility of every possible evil in order to build said possibilities into the fabric of creation. Had he not done so, no evil could ever be committed, because God could not have created something that existed outside of himself. Remember, he created everything ex nihilo, out of nothing. There was no other place for the evil to come from. If you need a refresher, go back to the “Dr. Evil” post and read through it, as well as the comment section, which features a couple threads that contain a lot of important fleshing out of ideas.
So, having created evil, he then created a flawed humanity, apparently in the interest of Free Will (a later post.) When he created humanity, he knew they would sin, because they were designed to fail, and would indulge in the evil he created out of nothing.
It’s his design. It’s his creation. It’s his evil. Who’s responsible?
If you have a swimming pool, you leave it uncovered, you leave the gate and the doors open wide, and you send your toddler out to play, who’s responsible when he drowns?
The standard answer is that the toddler doesn’t know better, but we do.
Wrong. Biblically speaking, Adam and Eve had no concept of Good and Evil. They didn’t have the capacity to reason between their choices. Their choice was to obey. They didn’t, because they had no understanding of the consequences. They apparently didn’t even know what “die” meant. They weren’t equipped to avoid their fate. Much like a toddler on the precipice of a swimming pool.
Interestingly, the (awful) swimming pool analogy is very apt, because in that case, it’s the ill-equipped toddler who pays the ultimate price for the parent’s folly.
Sad, too, that one small indiscretion, from the God of all Mercy and Forgiveness, would condemn all of humanity to eons of pain, torture, sin, and death. Demographers estimate that somewhere between 69 and 110 billion people have lived on earth since the very first humans.
That’s a lot of death for one piece of fruit. But I’m digressing. The issue at hand is responsibility.
Obviously, my assertion is that if the Biblical God actually created everything, according to Genesis, then he is responsible for the evil and sin in the world.
Another fascinating (to me, anyway) aspect of responsibility is the glaring biblical contradiction in which God says clearly that each person will be responsible only for his own sin, not that of his ancestors (Ezekiel 18:14-24, Romans 2:6-9). Well, that surely blows the whole Adam & Eve thing out of the water, doesn’t it? We’re still paying for that pomegranate.
It also blatantly contradicts Moses, who allegedly wrote in Number 14:18 “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
So not only am I responsible for Adam’s sin, I’m responsible for my Dad’s, his father’s, his father’s and his father’s sin? I don’t know much about my great grandfathers, but my grandfather did some pretty bad stuff, and my dad has a pretty long slate too. I mean, isn’t my slate long enough on its own? Not sure I’m looking forward to paying for any of that!
The bottom line is that the issue of responsibility for evil/sin in the Bible is as convoluted as the men who wrote about it and the times in which they lived. Ezekiel surely said what he said because at the time it made sense, as did whomever told and retold the oral tradition of Numbers eventually recorded around 600 BC.
Next we’ll delve into the Tempter himself, Ol’ Scratch, the Devil… Satan.