RIGHT-AND-WRONG IS PART OF SPIRITUAL DESIGN
Something becomes obvious as we move beyond SCIENCE (how does it work?) and begin to study THEOLOGY (who made it, and why?).
We see that the world is more than just material phenomenon. In it we also find the concept of RIGHT AND WRONG, springing from an intuitive and universal sense of good and evil. Thus, we observe SPIRITUAL DESIGN in the world as well as physical design.
God wants us – but has not forced us – to act in certain ways to enhance our relationships with him and with each other. This recognition of choice between RIGHT AND WRONG, according to a built-in standard, is the foundation for all clear thinking about the spiritual design of our world.
CONSCIENCE HAS BEEN DESIGNED INTO US
All people know that there’s some instinctive standard – RIGHT AND WRONG – that constantly presses upon us. It's a moral law, operating by spiritual design as surely as gravity operates by physical design.
For example, if A pushes B from the curb into traffic, B will immediately want to know whether A's action was intentional or accidental. If A pushes B intentionally, there would be something WRONG with A's behavior. Not physically wrong, but morally wrong. Virtually everyone would agree, not only in our culture, but in all cultures of the world. It's not wrong if A pushes B by accident, even though B gets hurt. But it's wrong if A pushes B on purpose, even though B doesn't get hurt. This kind of right-and-wrong thinking is built right into us.
We instinctively know that deliberately pushing someone off the curb – like lying, stealing, murder and scores of other unacceptable behaviors – is WRONG because it violates our conscience. Not only does our conscience tell us what wrong things not to do, but it also tells us what right things to do.
GOOD VS. EVIL IS THE MAJOR HUMAN DILEMMA
If we were animals or machines, it would be meaningless to speak of good and evil, or to be concerned with spiritual accountability. For example, we don’t accuse animals for attacking one another or computers for criminal behavior. But for us, the problem of good and evil is the major human dilemma.
We're physically and socially less than perfect. Neither good nor evil dominates us completely. Our motives, judgments and actions are rarely all good and never all evil but are usually a mixture of both. Our conscience tells us the degree to which we are leaning one way or the other.
Evil is not a quality. It's lack or privation of a quality. It's like rot, rust and wounds. Nothing is totally evil because evil is a moral cancer which cannot exist alone. If you take all the bad out of something, it becomes better. If you take all the good out, nothing is left. For example, if you take all the rot out of a tree, it's a better tree. If you take all the good out, there's no tree.
We instinctively know and appreciate the good qualities of human character, but often we don't practice them, and consequently we hurt others, and they hurt us. There's no escaping from the evil within and around us; and it causes considerable human pain.
GOD TOLERATES EVIL FOR A WHILE
Critics see a problem with any view that affirms the following three propositions: (1) God is almighty, (2) God is good, and (3) evil exists.
The problem, they say, is that if evil exists, either God wants to eliminate evil and is unable to do it – and thus he’s not almighty – or that God is able to eliminate evil but doesn’t want to do it – and thus he's not good.
However, these critics overlook a third possibility: God has power to eliminate evil, but he has chosen not to eliminate it YET. That’s what the Bible says about it. Even though God hates evil, he's tolerating it while he waits for an important personal decision from each of us. There's a time aspect to his plan.
It'll become clear from the remaining topics that God's primary desire is not for us to be good but for us to have a relationship with him. (The relationship will help make us good, but that's a by-product.) He's giving each of us time to decide whether or not we want the relationship.
Evil gives definition to the relationship issue and helps us see distinctions and consequences. Evil shows the bad quality of life without God.
BEING ‘GOOD’ IS NOT THE PRIMARY ISSUE
Most people know they were designed with a spiritual side that's just as real as their physical side, and they know that life is a struggle between good and evil.
Knowing this, they usually conclude that what God wants most is for us to do right things rather than wrong things. In other words, they think, God wants us to be GOOD.
That conclusion is as superficial as saying that, by creating gravity, what God wants most is for everything to fall down. His physical design plan is much more elaborate than that, and so is his spiritual design plan much more than just wanting us to be good.
Of course, God wants us to be good. But that’s not the primary issue. The primary issue is that God is pleased when we want to have a personal relationship with him, and he’s offended when we ignore him and think we can manage life without him. He understands evil and our frail humanity and, if we ask, he’ll forgive all our offenses against him. With his forgiveness, we become as ‘good’ as if we had been perfect all along! (See Topics 54 and 59.)
What God wants most is for us to have a personal relationship with him so intimate and so radical that it's literally a new life; a new spiritual life transcending our physical life. Incredible as it may sound, we don’t have to do anything to get this new life but to take it as a free gift. (This is explained fully in Topics 53-70.)
When we accept this new life, we're not only totally forgiven (and thus made acceptable for heaven) but as this new life is lived out now, there’s more good and less evil than in our old life. This is not because of increased self-effort but because of God's power flowing through us.
The important point is not what we do for God, but what God does for us.
Here's a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
Man made to know good from evil
Struggle between good and evil; trust in God comes first, goodness follows naturally
For help, see Topic 29.