Evil Within Us

Auguste Rodin's sculpture The Gates of Hell, modeled after Dante Alighieri's Inferno, a portrayal of hell as primarily psychological based on what human beings have done to their own hearts and minds through their own choices.  The Thinker might be Adam, contemplating fallenness.  Photo credit:  Wally Gobetz, Creative Commons 2.0


evil within us

The “problem of evil” is often thought to be a problem for the Christian claim that God is fundamentally and thoroughly good. However, the category “evil” requires the category “good,” which then requires a morally consistent God who anchors those categories. And the expression of “evil” also requires, not just a theoretical explanation, but a concrete remedy, related to human nature, since it is human beings who do it. The real question, then, is whether there is a God good and loving enough to heal human beings of our evil.

Messages and Essays on Evil in Human Nature in Theological and Biblical Perspective

The Theology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (shorter presentation; 50 - 60 minutes) Tolkien was writing an equivalent to an "Old Testament" which he thought existed among the Angles (English) before Christian faith was preached to them.  See also Like Stories of Old, Heroism and Moral Victory - The Lord of the Rings, Part 1 (Like Stories of Old, Aug 24, 2018) and Like Stories of Old, A Mythology of Hope - The Lord of the Rings, Part 2 (Like Stories of Old, Aug 31, 2018)

The Theology of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter (40 minute presentation) A fun exploration of J.K. Rowling's reliance on Christian motifs and the biblical plot arc. Why is book 4 the turning point of the 7 books? Why do the two New Testament passages quoted in book 7 summarize the whole story? Why did Harry have to surrender his life?


The Theology of Marvel’s Black Panther (45 - 60 minute presentation, or 2 hour presentation with discussion) A fun exploration of the movie as social commentary, reliance on actual African and African-American history affected by Christian faith, and concepts of good and evil which are ultimately theological. Why is Wakanda like Ethiopia? How does the T’Challa vs. Killmonger dynamic play out like the MLK vs. Malcolm X dynamic?

Assignment #1:  Jesus is the Answer, What's the Problem?

Assignment #2:  Comparing Views of Evil

The Healing of Human Nature in Jesus A video of a message given Nov 15, 2013.

Evangelism With the New Humanity Paradigm An evangelism training packet with Bible study material, sample conversations, and diagram

Evangelism Diagram of the New Humanity Paradigm The diagrams of Jesus healing human nature first in himself, and then in us.

Illustrations of Sin as Self-Harm to Human Nature Stories, analogies, illustrations for reflection, and for teachers

Illustrations of the Atonement Stories, analogies, illustrations for reflection, and for teachers

Medical Substitutionary Atonement, Personal Healing, and Social Justice  A presentation given at the Honor-Shame Conference 2017, a gathering of missionaries, scholars, and ministry practitioners

Jesus' Kingdom of God Movement Notes and messages on the Gospel of Matthew

God's Great News for Humanity's Great Problem Notes and messages on Paul's Letter to the Romans

Big Questions About God: Contrasting Early and Reformed Theologies Workbook style, with quotes and questions to help you compare, contrast, and discuss. The differences are enormous, and deeply relevant.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: What Was It, Really?  Was Evil Necessary? This is a small group discussion guide to Genesis 2:8 - 17 and the nature of the Two Trees in the original Garden of Eden. They are not arbitrary, but were, in fact, necessary.

God's Response to Human Evil: The Faithfulness of Jesus (Romans 3:21 - 26)

God's Victory Over Human Evil in Jesus (Romans 6:1 - 11)

God's Victory Over Human Evil: Presenting Ourselves to Jesus (Romans 6:12 - 14)

Images of God in a Broken World This is a series of three messages dealing with (1) how we inherit the image of an evil "god" from a broken world; (2) how Jesus is the accurate and perfect image of God despite our broken world, because he healed human nature in himself; and (3) how Jesus renews the image of God in us by his Spirit, to share God's goodness in a broken world

The Role of Jesus in Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice

The Impact of Jesus (and ppt)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 1: Slavery in the Bible, Slavery Today (and ppt)

Slavery in Christianity, Part 2: Abolitionism from the First to Fifteenth Century

Books and Articles on the Problem of Evil in Human Nature - Christian Resources

Athanasius of Alexandria, Against the Heathen, chapters 1 - 6 In volume one of his two part work, one of the greatest Christian theologians of the first few centuries, Athanasius bishop of Alexandria (298 - 373 AD), argues for why the Christian God is still good despite human beings falling into sin

Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation, chapters 1 - 5 From volume two of his two part work, Athanasius explains who the Son of God is, and how he assumed human nature in order to heal it, first in himself, and then in us.

Gregory of Nyssa, Address on Religious Instruction says, 'Evil in some way arises from within. It has its origin in the will, when the soul withdraws from the good. For the origin of evil is not otherwise to be conceived than as the absence of virtue... Just as darkness follows the removal of light, and disappears in it's presence, so, as long as goodness is present in a nature, evil is something nonexistent. But when there is a withdrawal from the good, it's opposite arises.'

Augustine of Hippo, Enchiridion, chapters 11 - 14 describes evil as a sickness and deficiency because of the will's resistance to God who is the good

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (pdf book, 1942 - 1944)  especially books 1 and 2

C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, chapter 1 (Amazon book, 1970)

Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (pdf book, 1974)

Henri Blocher, Evil and the Cross (Amazon book, 2005)

David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? (Amazon book, 2005) A short book on how a Trinitarian view of God influences how we think about suffering and evil.  Includes a critique of the Calvinist tendency towards God's omnicausality.  Lays out the categories in very clear, simple terms.  This website is dedicated to the promoting the theological thought of David B. Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian.

William Paul Young, The Shack (Amazon book, 2007) story about a man who loses his daughter in a rape-murder, and wrestles with God about it - reveals good insights about the Trinity and the character of God.  Roger Olson's analysis of the book, Finding God in "The Shack" is also helpful.  My response to Mark Driscoll's youtube criticism of the book is here.

N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Amazon book, 2009)

Patrick Downey, Desperately Wicked: Philosophy, Christianity, and the Human Heart (Amazon book, 2009)

David Bentley Hart, Suffering and the Problem of Evil (video, Feb 25, 2010)

Robert Woodberry, The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy (American Political Science Review, May 2012)

David Bentley Hart, An End to All Endings (video, Sep 1, 2013)

Centre for Public Christianity, Suffering and Evil (Centre for Public Christianity website)

James Hoskins, 16 Reasons Why I Believe in God: (9) The Existence of Evil (blog, May 13, 2013)

Tell Me More Staff, How One Woman's Faith Stopped a School Shooting (NPR, Jan 31, 2014)

Hugh Halter, Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth (Amazon book, Feb 2014)

Dargan Thompson, If God is in Control, Why Does Bad Stuff Keep Happening? N.T. Wright on the Good News (Relevant Magazine, Jan 20, 2015)

Donald Miller, How Do So Many Good People Get Away With Bad Things? (Storyline blog, May 11, 2015)

David Gelernter, Why Should a Jew Care Whether Christianity Lives or Dies? (First Things, Mar 24, 2015)

Nancy Hill, Can We Have Martin Luther King's Dream Without His Faith? (Veritas Forum, May 8, 2015)

Peter Wehner, The Christmas Revolution (NY Times, Dec 25, 2015)

Ronald Osborn, The Scandalous Origins of Human Rights (Veritas Forum, Jan 15, 2016)

Glenn M. Harden, The Sex Trade, Evil, and Christian Theology (Amazon book, Apr 7, 2016)

Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, How Oxford and Peter Singer Drove Me from Atheism to Jesus (Veritas Forum, May 22, 2017)

Alan Snyder, Evil Is a Parasite, Not an Original Thing (Pondering Principles, Sep 22, 2018) on C.S. Lewis' view, which comes from the early Christian view, and continues in the Orthodox and Catholic traditions

Books and Articles on the Problem of Evil in Human Nature - General

Wikipedia, Freudian Coverup (wikipedia) about Freud's early research exposing fathers molesting their daughters, and his cover up of the evidence

Oliver Wolcott, Jr., The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton (letter, Jul 13, 1804)

Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, Debate on Human Nature (book, 2006 based on the debate in 1971) and video excerpt (youtube) and Stephen Pinker's critique of Chomsky's view of human nature(youtube, Nov 27, 2012)

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (Amazon book, 2007)

Cordelia Fine, A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives (Amazon book, 2008)

Dan Ariely, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty:  How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves (Amazon book, 2013)

Alan S. Miller & Satoshi Kanazawa, Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature (Psychology Today, Jul 1, 2007)

Tom Ferry, The 4 Addictions That Destroy Your Dreams (They’re Not What You Think) (Huffington Post, May 24, 2010) addiction to others' opinions, drama, the past, worry

Daniel R. Hawes, When Ignorance Begets Confidence: The Classic Dunning-Kruger (Psychology Today, Jun 6, 2010)

Scott Barry Kaufman, Do Narcissists Know They Are Narcissists? (Psychology Today, Mar 25, 2011)

Pamela Meyer, How to Spot a Liar (TED talk, Oct 13, 2011)

Frans de Waal, Moral Behavior in Animals (TED talk, Nov 2011) both positive and negative

Susannah Cahalan, Greed is Good (And So is Lust, Envy, Pride, Anger, Sloth, and Gluttony (New York Post, Feb 5, 2012)

Julien Pretot, Lance Armstrong Doping: International Cycling Union Strips Champion Of 7 Tour De France Titles, Bans Him For Life (Huffington Post, Oct 22, 2012) lying and self-deception

Kathleen McGowan, Living a Lie (Psychology Today, Jan 2, 2013)

Joe Fassler, What Flannery O'Connor Got Right: Epiphanies Aren't Permanent (The Atlantic, Jan 4, 2013) on human nature, truth, the limits of self-improvement

Dylan Garrity, Friend Zone (Button Poetry, May 6, 2013)

U.K. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Atheism Has Failed. Only Religion Can Defeat the New Barbarians (The Spectator Magazine, Jun 15, 2013)

Marty Kaplan, Most Depressing Brain Finding Ever (Huffington Post, Sep 16, 2013)

Alexander Nazaryan, A Good God is Hard to Find: The Prayer Journal of Flannery O'Connor (Newsweek, Nov 19, 2013)

Environment, This Video Will Make You Lose Faith in Humanity (ShareDots, Mar 27, 2014)

Adam Serwer, Lyndon Johnson Was a Civil Rights Hero, But Also a Racist (MSNBC News, Apr 11, 2014)

Stephen Pinker, The Modern Denial of Human Nature (youtube, Apr 14, 2014)

Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (book, Apr 2014) about the psychology of war and our acclimatization to it

Jerry Adler, The Reformation: Can Social Scientists Save Themselves? (Pacific Standard, Apr 28, 2014)

Jeffrey Kluger, How Do You Spot a Narcissist?  Just Ask (Time, Aug 5, 2014)

Melissa Dahl, Scientific Evidence That Self-Promoters Underestimate How Annoying They Are (New Yorker Magazine, Oct 17, 2014)

Noah Zandan, The Language of Lying (TED Ed, Nov 3, 2014)

John Gray, What Scares the New Atheists (The Guardian, Mar 3, 2015)

Annie Reneau, 10 Things I Thought Were Caused by Bad Parenting, Until I Had My Own Kids (Scary Mommy, May 2015)

Huff Post Show, Dikipedia: Bikram Choudhury (Huffington Post, May 29, 2015)

Elizabeth Gilbert, Confessions of a Seduction Addict (NY Times, Jun 24, 2015)

Rebecca Nicholson, Is the Ashley Madison Hack Another Step Towards a Post-Embarrassment World? (The Guardian, Jul 24, 2015)

Randi Kreger, Therapists Confirm Trump's Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Psychology Today, Nov 13, 2015)

Husna Haq, The Surprising Relationship Between Intelligence and Racism (Christian Science Monitor, Jan 7, 2016)

Heather McLean, Moral Licensing (youtube video, Jan 11, 2016)

Marty Kaplan, The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever (Raw Story, Feb 27, 2016)

Ana Swanson, How to Tell If Other Other People Think You're Hot, According to Science (Washington Post, Apr 2, 2016) ultimately about people's inability to place themselves in another's shoes

Jeff Guo, This Unusual Test Reveals How Smart You Are (Washington Post, Apr 14, 2016) about intelligence and lying

Hank Green, The Problem of Evil: Crash Course Philosophy #13 (Crash Course, May 9, 2016) a short 10 minute video

Jeff Guo, We're Really Good at Forgetting All the Terrible Things We've Done (Washington Post, May 20, 2016)

Joshua Epstein, Here's the Proof That Donald Trump's a Pathological Liar You've Been Asking for, Trolls (New Civil Rights Movement, May 29, 2016)

Joseph Tkach, The Tragedy of Untruthfulness (GCI, Jul 6, 2016)

David Greenberg, Are Clinton and Trump the Biggest Liars Ever to Run for President? (Politico, Jul/Aug 2016)

Christopher Ingraham, New Study Finds That Men Are Often Their Own Favorite Experts On Any Given Subject (Washington Post, Aug 1, 2016) although Rebecca Onion, Mansplaining Is Real! But Male Self-Citation in Academic Work Isn’t So Simple. (Slate, Aug 2, 2016) but it suggests an explanation for Jessica Chasmar, Donald Trump: I Consult Myself on Foreign Policy, 'Because I Have a Very Good Brain'(Washington Times, Mar 17, 2016)

Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Forgetting (NY Times, Jun 20, 2016)

Bobby Azarian, A Neuroscientist Explains What May Be Wrong With Trump Supporters' Brains (Raw Story, Aug 4, 2016)

David Ignatius, Why Facts Don't Matter to Trump Supporters (Washington Post, Aug 4, 2016)

Zygote Films, The Dangers of the Deep Web (The Atlantic, Aug 4, 2016)

Sky Palma, When Researchers Trolled Facebook Conspiracy Nuts With Random False Info, They Bought It Every Time (Dead State, Sep 11, 2016)

Buster Benson, You Are Definitely Not Living in Reality Because Your Brain Doesn't Want You To (Quartz, Sep 16, 2016)

Sam Wang, How Lies Live And Grow In The Brain – 2016 edition (Princeton Election Consortium, Sep 20, 2016)

Bahar Gholipour, You Can’t Always Trust Your Own Thoughts, And This Terrifying Chart Shows Why (Huffington Post, Sep 22, 2016)

Michael Barbaro, What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show The Run-Up (NY Times, Oct 25, 2016)

Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer, How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics (WSJ, Nov 4, 2016) challenge of tribalism

Brendan Nyhan, Fact-Checking Can Change Views? We Rate That as Mostly True (NY Times, Nov 5, 2016) by why "mostly"?

Akshat Rathi, A Philosophy Professor Explains Why You're Not Entitled to Your Opinion (Quartz, Dec 4, 2016)

Brian Resnick, A New Brain Study Sheds Light on Why It Can Be So Hard to Change Someone's Political Beliefs (Vox, Dec 28, 2016)

Rachel Marie Stone, How Not to Be Afraid (NY Times, Jan 20, 2017) note the self-hatred of her grandfather, who became a Nazi

Sam Levin, Trump Pressured Parks Chief for Photos to Prove 'Media Lied' About Inauguration Crowd - Report (Guardian, Jan 27, 2017)

Juliet Macur, Why Do Fans Excuse the Patriots’ Cheating Past? (NY Times, Feb 5, 2017) tribal loyalties and group identity

Hayley MacMillen, This Rape Survivor and the Man Who Raped Her Have Teamed Up to Tell Their Story (Marie Claire, Feb 8, 2017)

Andrew Sullivan, The Madness of King Donald (NY Mag, Feb 10, 2017)

Carlos Maza, Kellyanne Conway's Interview Tricks, Explained (Vox, Feb 13, 2017) the art of lying and misdirection

Drake Baer, Rich People Literally See the World Differently (NY Magazine, Feb 14, 2017)

Elizabeth Kolbert, Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds (The New Yorker, Feb 27, 2017)

Tony Schwartz, I Wrote 'The Art of the Deal' with Trump. His Self-Sabotage is Rooted in His Past (Washington Post, May 16, 2017) need for approval

David Brooks, When the World is Led by a Child (NY Times, May 15, 2017) about impulse control, self-awareness, and other-awareness

Matthew Yglesias, Donald Trump Gets a Daily Briefing All About How Great He Is (Vox, Aug 8, 2017)

Paul Bloom, The Root of All Cruelty (The New Yorker, Nov 27, 2017) about dehumanization and its ubiquity. Although see Sean Illing, Why Humans Are Cruel (Vox, Jan 16, 2018) a counterargument to dehumanization - we are cruel because we humanize an adversary and hold them morally accountable for something, even if falsely. We sometimes believe certain people are worthy of intense retributive suffering.

Alex Wong, Trump's Lifelong Addiction (Politico, Apr 17, 2018) to lawyers

Brian Resnick, We're Underestimating the Mind-Warping Potential of Fake Video (Vox, Apr 23, 2018)

Like Stories of Old, The Unexplored Depths of Spider-Man 3 – Facing the Dragon of Grandiosity (Like Stories of Old, Apr 30, 2018)

Stephen Colbert, Now We Know Who's Willing to Defend Caging Children (The Late Show, Jun 19, 2018) note Colbert points out Kirstjen Nielsen's flip-flop

Ed Yong, Parasites Can Mind-Control Animals Without Infecting Them (The Atlantic, Jun 20, 2018) an intriguing metaphor for sin

Lyz Lenz, Women Are Evil (Huffington Post, Jun 21, 2018)

Rukmini Callimachi, An American Couple Found Many Moments of Kindness While Cycling the World. Then Came Day 369 (Boston Globe, Aug 7, 2018) when an ISIS group killed them; sadly, they believed that evil was a construct

Jack Lewis, The Science of Sin: Why We Do The Things We Know We Shouldn't (Amazon book, Sep 11, 2018)

Trevor Noah, Trevor Doesn’t Buy Senator Orrin Hatch’s Defense of Brett Kavanaugh (The Daily Show, Sep 19, 2018) about the hidden side of ourselves that most people don't know

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie, The Why a Little Evil is Good - and a Lot of Empathy is Bad (Boston Globe, Oct 27, 2018)

Lauren Hough, I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America.(Huffington Post, Dec 30, 2018) "A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney."

Peter Dockrill, This Online Test Can Tell You How Many 'Dark Traits' Like Psychopathy and Narcissism You Have (Business Insider, Jan 1, 2019)

Shensheng Wang, Why Does It Feel Good to See Someone Fail? (Salon, Jan 7, 2019) "to feel a pang of pleasure at the misfortune of others is to be human" shows an interesting psychological and spiritual dimension to the desire to believe in meritocracy

The Young Turks, Fear and Loathing in the Conservative Mind (The Young Turks, Feb 14, 2019) the emotion of disgust, and its correlation to politically conservative instincts; how language triggering disgust is often used with religious ideology of a "pure community."  References Kathleen McAuliffe, Fear This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society (Amazon book, 2016); see Kathleen McAuliffe, The Psychology (and Politics) of Disgust (Big Think, Sep 23, 2016)

Sean T. Collins, The Tragedy of Daenerys Targaryen (NY Magazine, May 17, 2019) comparison between Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the temptation and fall of Frodo with Martin’s Game of Thrones and the temptation and fall of Dani

Lawrence O’Donnell, Psychiatrist On ‘The Essential Emptiness Of President Donald Trump’ (The Last Word | MSNBC, Aug 22, 2019)

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