New Thought and the Problem of Evil


Excerpts from Chapter Three of New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality by C. Alan Anderson and Deborah G. Whitehouse

In addition to the need for healing, all religions--and philosophies--must wrestle with the problem of evil. We can all look around the world and see what we would clearly label as evil. Some would say that it is an illusion, that it isn't really there. Most find this explanation unsatisfactory. Many say, therefore, that in addition to the power of God, who is Good, there must be a second power at work in the universe: a power of Evil, often personified as the Devil. Traditional Christianity teaches that the Devil is a fallen angel, part of God's creation that went wrong.

This makes evil a twofold problem. If God is all-good and all-powerful, how come there is evil at all? And if there is a Devil, how come God's power or ability as universe designer is so limited/flawed that things came to such a pass? Some say God sends evil to punish people for misdeeds, but that is unworthy of a merciful God, and means that at least some of his creatures by being merciful are better than God--another problem. Is God a weakie or a meanie?

New Thought, as we have seen, teaches that there is only one Presence and Power and that that Power is Good. And unlike Hinduism or Christian Science, it does not see evil as maya, illusion. If you don't believe it, kick the next flat tire you see. Evil is good that is immature or misdirected. It has no power of its own; it has only the power that our minds give to it. It doesn't have to be destroyed or fought, any more than when you come into a darkened room and turn on the light, you have to chase the darkness away. It is dealt with by thinking about and working to bring about the good that you want in its place: "Whatsoever things are true, . . . lovely, . . . of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

No matter how terrible a situation seems to be, there is always good in it, because there is always God in it, for God is everywhere and all is in God. He is there as a source of all the love and intelligence that we need to deal with whatever we have to face and triumph over it.

According to the process philosophy described in Chapter 6, any conversion of potentiality to actuality is, to that extent, good. To the extent that one fails to live up to the possibilities offered by God, one produces evil, or badness. The major point is that there is no cosmic force, no Devil, acting in opposition to God's goodness, just the free choices of innumerable choosers throughout existence.


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Created March 31, 1997
by Alan Anderson
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