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Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky
Orthodox dogmatic theology

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5. Concerning Evil and Sin

Evil and sin in the world.Evil and Misfortune. Evil,” in our ordinary use of words, is the name of two kinds of manifestations.

We often understand by this word anything in general which evokes misfortune and

causes suffering. But in a more precise, direct sense, evil is a name for negative manifestations

of the moral order which proceed from the evil direction of the will and a violation of God's


It is clear that misfortunes in the physical world — for example, earthquakes, storms, floods,

landslides, and so on — are in themselves neither good nor evil. In the general world system

they are what shadows are to bright colors in the art of painters, what crude sounds are to soft

sounds in music, and so forth. This is the way in which holy Fathers such as Blessed Augustine

and St. Gregory the Theologian treat these manifestations. One cannot deny that such manifestations

of the elements are often the cause of misfortunes and sufferings for sensible creatures and

for man; but one can only bow down in reverence before the all-wise order of the world, where

the endlessly various and mutually opposed strivings on the part of blind elemental powers and

organic creatures, which collide with each other at every moment, are in mutual agreement and

are brought into harmony, becoming a source of constant development and renewal in the world.

Suffering and Sin. To a certain extent, the unpleasant, shadowy sides of our human life make us

value and sense more highly the joyful sides of life. But the word of God itself tells us that difficult

sufferings, sorrows, and afflictions cannot be acknowledged as manifestations that are completely

in accordance with law and therefore normal; rather, they are a deviation from the norm.

The sufferings of the human race began with the appearance of moral evil and are the consequences

of sin, which entered into our life at that time. Of this the first pages of the Bible testify,

“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy sighing; in pain thou shalt bring forth children(the

words addressed to Eve after the fall into sin); Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow

shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life(the words spoken to Adam; Gen. 3:16-17). Sufferings

are given to man as a means of chastisement, enlightenment and corruption. According to

St. Basil the Great, sufferings and death itself “cut off the growth of sin.” Numerous examples of

the awareness of the tie between suffering and sin as a result of its cause are given to us in the

word of God: Lay hold of chastisement, lest at anytime the Lord be angry (Ps. 2:12); it is good

for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I might learn Thy statutes(Ps. 118:71). Careful observation

itself shows that the causes of diseases and sufferings, in the overwhelming majority of

cases, are men themselves, who have created artificial and abnormal conditions for their existence,

introducing a cruel mutual warfare while chasing after their own egotistic physical wellbeing;

and sometimes these things are the direct result of a certain demonic attitudepride, revenge,

and malice.

As the word of God instructs us, the consequences of moral evil spread from people to the

animal world and to the whole of creation: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and

travaileth in pain together until now,” the Apostle Paul writes, and he further explains: “For the

creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected it in

hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the

glorious liberty of the children of God(Rom. 8:22, 20-21).

The Essence of Moral Evil. The holy Fathers indicate that evil is not some kind of essence

which has any actual independent existence, like the elements and powers of the world which

were created by God. Evil is only a deviation of living beings from that original condition inwhich the Creator placed them, into a condition which is opposed to this. Therefore, it is not

God Who is the cause of moral evil; rather, it proceeds from creatures themselves, for they have

deviated from the agreement of their will with the will of God. The essence of evil consists in

the violation of God's will, the commandments of God, and the moral law which is written in the

human conscience. This violation is called sin.

The Origin of Evil. But from whence did moral evil arise? God created the world pure, perfect,

free from evil. Evil entered the world as a consequence of the fall, which occurred, according to

the word of God, originally in the world of fleshless spirits, and then in the human race, and was

reflected in the whole of living nature.

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