How do we deal with the existence 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 in 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 to 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,
Photos: Various scenes around the grounds of the monastery.
Friday June 19, 2020 / June 6, 2020
2nd Week after Pentecost. Tone eight.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn (1192) (movable holiday on the 1st Friday of Apostles’ Fast).
“Tabynsk” and “Kursk-Root” Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos (movable holiday on the 9th Friday of Pascha).
Venerable Bessarion the Wonderworker of Egypt (466).
Venerable Hilarion the New, abbot of the Dalmatian Monastery (845).
Venerable Raphael confessor (1957).
St. Jonah, bishop of Perm (1470).
Venerable Paisius, abbot, of Uglich (1504).
Venerable Jonah, abbot of Klimetz (1534).
Virgin-martyrs Archelais, Thecla, and Susanna, beheaded at Salerno (293).
“Pimen” Icon of the Mother of God (was brought to Moscow from Constantinople in 1381 by Metropolitan Pimen).
Five virgins of Caesarea in Palestine: Martha, Mary, Cyria, Valeria, and Marcia (Greek).
Venerable Attalus the wonderworker (Greek).
Martyr Gelasius (Greek).
Venerable Photius, monk (Greek).
St. Justus, patriarch of Alexandria (130).
Martyrs Amandus, Amantius, Alexander, Lucius, Alexander, Alexandria, Donatus, and Peregrius at Noviodunum in Scythia Minor (320).
St. Claudius of Besancon (699) (Gaul).
St. Basil of Mangazea, Siberia (1602).
St. Jarlath of Cluain Fois (560) (Celtic & British).
The Scripture Readings
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Jesus Is Questioned About Fasting
14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”