The problem of evil in God’s creation
We’ve all read news reports of horrid cases of people being imprisoned for long periods of time by perverted individuals who have been later diagnosed as classic psychopaths. By definition, psychopaths are individuals who are hateful towards others, and incapable of empathy. Sometimes known as Dissocial Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (alternate terms for sociopathic behaviour), these people are callous individuals, who are unconcerned for the feelings of others.
There is a lot of clinical evidence that points to a biological grounding for the uncaring nature of the psychopath. Since caring is a largely emotion-driven enterprise, it has been found that the brains of psychopaths have weak connections among the components of the brain’s emotional systems. Such disconnects make it impossible for the psychopath to feel emotions deeply. Disgust, as an emotion, plays an important role on our sense of ethics, and normal people find certain types of unethical actions disgusting, something that keeps them from engaging in cruel treatment of other people. But psychopaths, when shown disgusting photos of mutilated faces and when exposed to foul odors, have extremely high thresholds for disgust. In rarer cases, the psychopathic personality can be the result of having suffered an extremely abusive childhood.
Psychopaths, because they have an inability to empathize with others, are unable to feel the emotion of love. Simply put, psychopaths are not able to participate in normal, loving relationships that bound people together, as family, friends, and fellow human beings. Thus the question arises for the Christian, how can a person who does not have the ability to love, love God? And, if such a person is incapable of loving God, how can they escape eternal hell fire, since it is in this life that we are expected to prepare ourselves for an eternity in the presence of an All Holy God. If a psychopath is incapable of loving God, can we even say such a person was created in the image and likeness of God, Who is love? How can God have even allowed such a person be born, for does not this birth give life to someone who is totally incapable of gaining salvation? Wouldn’t such a birth be a violation of free will?
This question can equally be posed regarding the child born without a brain, or someone born without any cognitive abilities. Such abnormalities in God’s creation are ultimately the result, not of God’s will, but the result of the fall. The Scriptures identify sociopathic and psychopathic behavior as among the severest moral and spiritual effects of man’s fall into sin. Jesus described such sins as arising from evil hearts (Mark 7:20-23), and the holy apostle Paul identified godlessness as the root of such a deadly heart (Romans 1:28-32). In the psychopath we see the worst characteristics of sinful man’s nature, the worst effects of both genetic and environmental moral degradation.
The New Testament does not offer specifics on how a Christian society should deal with such serious problems. The Church’s teachings about morality and immorality of every kind, and her hopeful appeals and invitations to repentance, conversion, and transformed life in Christ, certainly apply to a psychopath as to any sinner. Saint Paul, describing conduct that included psychopathic characteristics, wrote to one congregation of believers in Jesus Christ, “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). As Orthodox Christians, we know that God is able to rescue and restore to righteousness the most corrupt heart. Because of this, it is possible for even a psychopath to be healed, and to come into a transformational relationship with the Living God. Yet, ultimately, much of this will remain a mystery to us, until that great day when we stand in the presence of God, and all is revealed to us. I believe culpability is the primary factor. God will not damn someone for things outside of their control.
With love in Christ,
Tuesday May 9, 2017 / April 26, 2017
Fourth Week of Pascha. Tone three.
Hieromartyr Basil, bishop of Amasea (322).
St. Stephen, bishop of Perm (1396).
New Hieromartyr John (Pankov) priest and his children, Martyrs Nicholas and Peter (1918).
Righteous Virgin Glaphyra of Nicomedia (322).
Venerable Ioannicius of Devich (Serbia) (1430).
Venerable Jusca, righteous.
St. Nestor the Silent (Greek).
Venerables Andrew and Anatole, disciples of St. Euthymius the Great (5th c.) (Greek).
St. Richarius, abbot in Picardy (645).
St. Calantius of Tamaseos on Cyprus (8th c.).
St. George of Cyprus (1091).
Commemoration of Fallen Soldiers.
The Scripture Readings
21 Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?”
22 And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” 23 Then he invited them in and lodged them.
On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
Peter Meets Cornelius
24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”
30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”
Jesus’ Brothers Disbelieve
7 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
6 Then Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.
The Heavenly Scholar
10 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?” 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.” 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.