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Patrick J. Southam, 32°

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there are three basic theories as to why evil exists in our world.

The very first prayer I remember learning as a young child starts out “God is great, and God is good....” As I have grown older, I have come to believe those words in my mind, heart, and soul. Yet when faced with the reality of the world we live in, a question that often confronts me is, “If God is so great and so good, why does evil exist in this world, and why doesn’t God put an end to it?”

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there are three basic theories as to why evil exists in our world. They are the Adamic, the Tragic, and the Dualistic. The Adamic theory basically states that when God gave dominion to Adam over the planet (Genesis 1:26), Adam and all subsequent humans have misused that dominion or free will for evil purposes. The Tragic theory states that both good and evil come from the hand of God, and perhaps evil is a way of testing us. As Job replied to his wife “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10). The Dualistic theory basically states that evil is caused by the Devil or demonic forces in battle with God and good (Revelation 12:7–9).

It is not always easy to determine the ultimate source of evil when something bad occurs in human life. Evil may be due exclusively to one of the above three causes, or maybe there is some overlap between the three. In our legal system, we hold those who murder or commit other crimes personally accountable. Who is accountable when we discover a terminal disease in someone we love? Who is accountable when a tornado or hurricane devastates a community? In the latter two situations, placing blame is a more complicated matter.

Perhaps as Masons we should not be so quick always to place blame. We live in a society where many people are quick to shout “It is someone else’s fault!” One of the fundamental teachings of Freemasonry is that no matter how good a man is, he can be a better man. That is why we are encouraged to attend Degrees again and again, even after we have received them. We need those reminders in our lives to live morally and uprightly.

It has been said “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.” As Masons, we believe we can do something. We can have a positive impact on our own lives by self-examination and with the help of our Masonic Brethren. Also, we can have a positive impact on the lives of others through our philanthropy and the influence of just being upright and moral as we live with others in society.

Perhaps the next time we are faced with evil, discord or tragedy, instead of looking outward for the cause, we should look inward, asking “What am I doing or have done that has caused this situation? What can I do to remedy things? How can I encourage others to do so also?”

Whatever the cause of evil may be, certainly the Grand Architect of the Universe has chosen human beings to be instruments of the Creator’s good. And we can be.