Christianity: good and evil
What does Christianity teach about good and evil?
- God has given people free will – the ability to choose between right and wrong for themselves. God has shown people how they should live (eg the Ten Commandments (a list of religious and moral rules that were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai); Jesus’ life and teaching), but it is up to them to decide whether or not to follow God’s instructions.
- The story of humanity’s battle with good and evil is told in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This is called the Fall.
- Some people believe that as a result of Adam and Eve’s first sins, each human is born with a tendency towards evil. This is called Original Sin.
- As well as a power for good there is also a power for evil. Traditionally this is said to be Satan, one of the archangels who disobeyed God and was thrown out of heaven (Luke 10:18). In the form of a serpent, Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Job, and also tempted Jesus to give up his ministry.
- Some people say that they have been possessed by demons and people try to ‘exorcise’ these demons. There are examples in the New Testament of occasions when Jesus drove out demons.
- Some people no longer see evil as a ‘person’ or ‘being’. St Augustine in the fourth century suggested that evil is ‘an absence of good’. Therefore, if enough people do good, evil would be removed. Some people think of evil as a psychological or emotional problem, that no one is inherently evil, but circumstances can lead them to become so.
- When Jesus came to earth (the Incarnation), human beings were given a chance to escape everlasting punishment after death by following the teachings of Jesus and asking God’s forgiveness for their sins [Sin: Act of rebellion or disobedience against the known will of God. ].
- Jesus died on the cross (the Crucifixion) and in this way the broken relationship between God and humanity caused by sin was restored. This is called the Atonement.
- Jesus rose from the dead three days after he had been crucified. This is called the Resurrection. From that time onwards people who follow his teachings will go to heaven. Jesus explained this to his disciples at the Last Supper:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’
- When the Eucharist is celebrated, Christians remind themselves of Jesus’ actions and the fact that because of his sacrifice they are forgiven by God.
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