The religious mind poses the question this way, "Why does God permit evil?" Before formulating any answers, we must concede that the question of evil is a difficult one. That does not mean that we cannot attempt an answer or that no answer exists, although a purely human perspective will not suffice. But we do require a human virtue for this inquiry, and that virtue is patience.
The solution to the problem of evil is linked to the nature of sin, first Original Sin and then personal sin. When God created the world, he created a perfect harmony -- a harmony that was to be found in all aspects of creation, but especially in the soul of man. Unlike you and me, Adam and Eve, prior to the fall, were not only masters of the world but also masters of themselves (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 377). Our first parents enjoyed a unity amongst the powers of their soul: intellect, will and emotions. Furthermore, this personal unity allowed Adam and Eve to respond easily and spontaneously to the will of God. In other words, the grace of God and the freedom of man were perfectly aligned.
When we say that God created man in his image, we mean that the human mind and heart (which together produce our freedom) mirror in some way God's mind, heart and freedom. Indeed through these things, God gave man the ability to partake in his own nature. To share in God's nature, man depends on God's help through grace. To share in the life of the human soul, God depends on man's effort through the proper use of his freedom. St. Augustine wrote, "O God, you who made me without me cannot save me without me."
When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they experienced what evil means: a lack or loss of what is good. The result of Original Sin is a wound to the human nature, such that man is no longer inclined, freely and spontaneously, to that good. Now, every human being suffers the condition St. Paul describes: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do" (Rm 7:19). Cardinal Newman said that, given the presence of evil in the world, only two observations are possible: either God does not exist or man is "out of joint with the purposes of his creator" when we consider "the contrast between the promise and the condition of his being." And G.K. Chesterton wrote that Original Sin is the one doctrine of the Church that we do not have to believe. "All you have to do," he said, "is go out in the streets and open your eyes."
To give human nature the opportunity to share once again in the divine nature and to repair the disunity in man that sin causes, God gave the world a two-part cure. First, he gave us his Commandments on Mt. Sinai to clearly direct our minds to what is good. Then "in the fullness of time" (Gal 4:4), God sent us his Son to give us grace to strengthen our will to choose the good. The wound from Original Sin will remain until Our Lord returns, but the triumph of the Cross establishes that "where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more" (Rm 5:20).
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