Philosophical Post: Good vs Evil?

good vs evil
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I was reading the latest on Sam Mullet this morning, the Amish breakaway bishop implicated in the beard-cutting attacks in eastern Ohio (Mullet’s attorney is requesting release for his client because he needs to be at home to keep the wood-stove going….I’m sorry, that’s pretty lame…I think the attorney could have come up with something better…I think Mullet’s wife and adult kids can probably figure out how to run a wood-stove). Anyway, the Mullet saga represents  bad stuff, obviously.   On the opposite spectrum, I’m sitting here reading these stories on a laptop borrowed from my wife (SIGH, mine is down right now) at the Second Street Market in Dayton, Ohio.  Here I get a cozy vibe of general goodness, people out and about shopping local and eating good food, spending time with family.  Sometimes I have a tendency to over-think stuff, but my college degree is in philosophy.  So I do think a lot about human nature which brings me to today’s “Saturday discussion”  Do you think people are fundamentally good beings who want to do the right thing?  Or do you think people are, by nature, bad beings who only live righteously because of societal norms and rules without which we would fall back into our dark ways?  And what role does religion play in sorting this out?  The classic book Lord of the Flies was a sobering analysis of humanity’s inherent nature (good vs. evil) and has stayed with me since I first read it.

Topics of good vs. evil are recurrent themes in my upcoming Amish-oriented fiction novel. I think inherently,the Amish project an aura of automatic goodness with their pastoral ways and earthy ambiance, but as Sam Mullet – and other Amish have taught us recently – that isn’t an always an accurate picture.   As I’ve always preached to people, the Amish are no different than the rest of us with good and bad.  But which is the “default, factory-settings” on human nature: good or evil? Or is it more complicated than categorization allows? On the flip of Sam Mullet, some of the nicest, most warm, decent people I’ve met have been Old Order Amish.  I keep hoping as I get older that human nature will become clearer to me, but I sometimes find the opposite is true. So what are your thoughts?

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The Discussion

  1. Funny your degree is in philosophy; so is my husband’s, and mine is a double major theology/philosophy. Anabaptist theology would hold that we are born into sin. As the psalmist wrote, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” But elsewhere, we read, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” No implication that we can avoid it, but that it is something that is consequent rather than ingrained. Traditional theology in the Orthodox vein (Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Anabaptist) is that God intends each to be perfect, but the world is sinful and corrupts us by the time we have reached an age of reason. While Calvinist theology had some influence on early Anabaptism (rather Hussite theology), Anabaptists were not Calvinists. I find that evangelical Calvinism is making an advance in current Anabaptist thought, diluting their orthodox teachings of almost 600 years.

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  2. I feel that people are inherently good but can be easily swayed by peer pressure. Children raised even with the highest standards I imagine can head in the wrong direction. I don’t believe our prisons are filled with persons with lousy parents, they just followed the wrong path in life.

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  3. Susan GIll says:

    I believe that man is inherently sinful and that he is predisposed to wickedness, primarily against God. He justifies his sinful behavior with all sorts of excuses, and strays far beyond what God has commanded him to do. All Christian faiths, whether Anglican or Anabaptist, share the same doctrinal stance regarding the need for confession of and repentance for sin in order for the grace of God’s forgiveness and salvation to be made real. What makes such an impact is that in the Amish faith, those who wantonly sin without repenting, are forthwith shunned, and their communion with the fellowship of believers temporarily severed until full repentance is evident.

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  4. It doesn’t take a whole lot of consideration for me to believe that we are inherently good because the Bible says we are created in the image of God. God love us so we are worth loving. We make mistakes, do wrong, and consequences can be great, but in the end and as a whole I believe we are good and often give God a big laugh at our antics. I believe we are on earth as a testing ground. It’s a place to prove ourselves. We have choices and are almost constantly tested. We are tested so often it’s amazing we’re not worse, but so often as a whole we do incredibly good and compassionate things that prove we are worth God’s love and never-ending faith. For that I will continue being a lover of people and believe in the best of what we are capable of. I’m not a philosopher, or a theologian, just a grade school teacher. That ought to tell you a lot!!

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