Monday, February 12, 2007

Intention and Evil

Intention is still a powerful part of some forms of evil, such as terrorism, but to limit evil to cases where the intent is clear is to simplify evil and miss the many cases in which evil is profound but less clear-cut and more elusive. Intent to do wrong may be necessary for a crime, but not for doing evil. Villains are evil by definition, but many who do the worst evil could be described as good citizens rather than villains...Evil may be done by people with no evil intentions; indeed, evil may be done by people with good intentions. Personal virtue is no longer a sufficient barrier to evil...The heart of darkness is a mystery...Just when we think we understand it and have it pegged, it disappears and reemerges in a different guise. With its myriad forms, its infinite capacity to morph between them, and its talent for breaking out where we least expect it, evil never allows us to declare ourselves safe and free.
We can all agree that Hitler was malevolently and malignantly evil. But if we relax after analyzing Nazi evil and thanking God it was so long ago and far away, we will be unprepared for a different form of evil-perhaps democratic, perhaps liberal, perhaps American, perhaps British, certainly surprising, and perhaps close to home. As modern people, we have to face the fact that modernity has made evil as modern as we are, and in doing so it holds a mirror to our thinking and our ways of life. As Einstein warned, "It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man".
Os Guinness - Unspeakable
Evil is like the outbreak of a highly contagious virus that is not containable nor controllable. No matter how much insulation we try to bubble wrap ourselves in for protection we tend to forget that we have already been infected and death the only antidote.


At 9:23 am, Blogger vandorsten said...

Thus the old adage, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"...?

It's true - passivity can have effects every bit as evil as malevolence.

May the knowledge of the depths of our depravity serve to contrast the greatness of our salvation. We cannot know, understand, or appreciate salvation until we know and understand what we are saved from.

At 11:07 pm, Blogger Lord Veritas said...

I am sure that this is what Bonhoeffer struggled with in coming to terms with ethical actions and Christian actions.

Sometimes it is so blatantly obvious that actions (or non-actions) are evil. But there are difficult times when we act, with all good intentions, thinking we are acting in an appropriate and ethical manner, but the end result is opposite to the original intentions. Thankfully we have an understanding, compassionate and merciful God. We should not forget the evil of the past but we should also be prepared to modernize our analyzing and face up to what we might discover.


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