Exposing the structure of evil and the development of its symbolism. Moving beyond mythical and abstract descriptions of evil.
What is evil? Answers to this question have often been very abstract and theoretical. In reality, though, we encounter evil not as some abstract theory but as a very real experience.
Mankind’s struggle with evil did not begin as a supernatural battle against an evil spiritual being. It was the very real struggle with violence, death, suffering, fear and guilt that inspired our stories. Often mankind stood helpless against natural forces or against the communal influences that forced us to act in a certain way. Reverting to language, to elaborate stories, was often the only way in which we could still have a say in what seemed inevitable. Our myths and philosophies were the only way in which to purge ourselves of the unbearable guilt. However, being so deeply involved and invested in the processes that secured our communities, we remained blind to the fact that we were the cause of much suffering.
Inevitably, God became implicated in many of our stories. The very nature of God is at risk in the way we explain evil. Consequently our understanding of evil hugely influenced our theologies of who and what God is. In this course we will also look at the concept of Satan – how this idea developed in response to the paradox of evil.