Q: Why are there evil spirits? One would have thought that God, with His infinite goodness, wisdom and foresight, would not create anything that would become evil. Now that they exist, why doesn’t God wipe them out? – Anthony Oei
A: This is a good but rather complex question. Firstly, I am assuming that by “evil spirits” you are referring to the malevolent and demonic spirits that Jesus confronted when he exorcised the possessed people in the time of His earthly ministry. Though you may not be referring to the presence of sin and evil in the world, these are actually very much related, and they will be dealt with together.
Secondly, your question carries with it an assumption that the notion of God necessarily abrogates any existence of sin or evil, based on the fact that God should not and must not tolerate any existence of evil or anything that is contrary to His goodness.
This second assumption is thorny because this understanding of God does not take into account the great gift of free will that he has given to all human persons. If God is love, and scripture tells us that He is (1 John 4:8), then for love to be true and freely given, it has to necessarily include the possibility of it being rejected and unreturned.
St Thomas Aquinas’ definition of love puts this in a nutshell: Love is willing the good of the other as other.
In this respect, God’s love, which is the basis of creation, necessarily includes the possibility of a turning away from the goodness that is willed by Him for His creation. Lucifer’s rebellion against God is a clear example of this. Evil and sin (which is essentially the effect of evil) are thus the result of the ongoing work of evil spirits. So, in speaking about “evil spirits”, we are referring to evil spirits and their sin effects.
That God doesn’t “wipe out” evil is strong testimony of His sufficiency of self, where He is seen to be tolerant even of disobedience and insubordination. Evil is definitely not something that is willed by God directly, but rather willed by those who do evil. That God permits people to freely choose evil shows two things – that He places a very high value in our choice to return His love for love shown, and that He wants to extend His mercy for a possible repentance for an evil choice.
The answer of why there is evil in the light of God’s existence will never be one that is clear and fully satisfactory. Theodicies can only attempt to give rational explanations that demonstrate God’s existence despite permitting evil to happen and to exist. We must never forget that by removing God’s love, God’s mercy and God’s gift of free will in any such theological reflection will only endanger our thinking that God and evil are two ultimate forces in the universe, equal in power.
Jesus Christ came to overturn the power of evil and sin. Evil is not a problem that can be solved by theories, but to be confronted by Christ and those who are willing to imitate Him in his fight against evil and sin, chiefly by love, forgiveness and mercy.
Fr Luke Fong