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We cannot blame God for the existence of evil

by St. Basil the Great

The person who claims that God is responsible for evil resembles the person who doesn’t believe in the existence of God at all. The latter maintains that He doesn’t exist, whereas the former contends that He is not good. For, if God is the cause of evil, then clearly He is not good. Such people ask: “Why are there illnesses? Why is there death? Why are there natural disasters? Why are there wars? All these things are bad, and they are the works of God.” “Therefore,” they conclude, “who else can we blame for these events other than God?”

God, of course, decides when He will take someone’s life. However, death is not something bad; unless someone is referring to the death of a sinner, for whom departure from this life becomes the beginning of his suffering in Hell. God is not even responsible for the tortures in Hell—we ourselves are! We and our free will are the beginning and root of sin.There are two types of evil: one is what we ourselves perceive as evil, based on our feelings; the other is indeed an evil in essence. True evil depends on us. Such is injustice, debauchery, hatred, murder, and the like; for these things defile the soul that was created in the image of our Creator. We also label as evil whatever we find difficult and painful. Such are physical illnesses, accidents, lack of the basic necessities, loss of money, and death of family members. Each of these things is permitted by our wise and good Master for our benefit. He takes away the instrument of injustice (that is, wealth) from them who make incorrect use of it. He allows illnesses to come upon people when it is more beneficial to bind their body parts than to have them race unrestricted toward sin. Deaths are permitted to occur when the limit of life is reached, which God’s righteous judgment has appointed from the onset for each person; for He foresees well in advance what is best for each one of us. Famine, draughts, and floods commonly plague cities and nations in order to restrict excessive evil and sinfulness.

A physician is a benefactor, even though he induces pain and suffering to the body—for he battles the illness not the sick person. Similarly, God is good because He uses punishments in part to work out the salvation of the whole. You never blame the doctor when he cuts, cauterizes, or even amputates parts of your body. On the contrary, you pay him and call him your savior because he eradicates the disease while it is still in the early stages, before it spreads to the entire body. However, when you hear of an earthquake or that a ship sunk at sea, without hesitation you open your mouth and blaspheme the true Physician and Savior! Just as the illness itself and not the physician is the cause of surgical procedures and cauterization, in the same manner various calamities that strike cities are the result of the inhabitants’ vast sinfulness, and, thus, release God from any and all blame.