AC Note: This post is inspired by a conversation I had with a friend of mine, and on how people form their ideas of right and wrong, good and evil. It is partly inspired by some correspondence between us. I have made sure to remove any personal references and identifying information.
I will begin this post with something I have said often to others, that we are made in the image and likeness of God.
Genesis 1:26 –
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps
upon the earth.”
What does it mean that we are made in God’s image? The traditional answer, and
one that I believe, is that the way we are like God is that we
1) we have the ability to LOVE God and others
2) have INTELLIGENCE (reason), which informs us how to love others
3) have WILL, which drives us to love God and others, and to care for them
The issue I see with the modern world is that we’ve mixed up the order of the gifts
God has given us. LOVE is supposed to be first and foremost. We must love others.
Our INTELLECT tells us how. The WILL drives us to serve others. But ONLY if they
are accepted by us in that order.
Our modern world is not ruled by love, but by WILL. This is nothing new, but it is
wrong nonetheless. When people are too willful, instead of serving, they want to
dominate, to be served.
You can see this all throughout the Gospels, the fight between LOVE and WILL. I think
it is most illustrated by Jesus instructing the Apostles that if they want to be great,
they must serve others.
A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Also, you can see this conflict between will and love in the rich young man who
didn’t want to sell his possessions and follow Jesus.
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”
And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
If you strip our bodies away from us, we are still spirits, similar to the angels,
though not as great.
Our spirits consist of the three things that make us an image of God – Love,
Intellect, and Will. But we must excercise these gifts IN THAT ORDER, or else
we become twisted. We become “Bent Ones” (read Out of the Silent Planet, by
What is the definition of evil? According to one of the intelletual giants of the
Church, Saint Augustine, evil is when we promote a lesser good above a greater good.
This comes from Saint Augustine’s book, Confessions, when he talks about all the
evil he had done as a younger man, and why. He talks, specifically, about how he
elevated friendship above respect (and love) for another’s property. The brought
him to steal, because he was “doing it with his friends”, and it was their way
of enjoying friendship together. This love of friendship over greater goods
probably leads many people into sin today.
So, if we accept that evil is promotign a lesser good over a greater good in material
things, like enjoying friendship more than respecting another’s goods, how much
more evil if we put the gifts of our image of God in the wrong order? What if
our Will is stronger than our Love?? What kind of devestation does that cause in the
This was the sin of Satan, when he, as the greatest of the angels and also very vain,
put his Will above his love of God and neighbor (the other angels). Satan rebelled,
and there was a great fight in the heavens, which Satan and his demons on one side, and
God and the angels on the other, led by Saint Michael the Archangel, who threw Satan
down into hell.
Revelations (Apocalyse) 12:7-9
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his
angels were thrown down with him.
What was the war between Satan and the devils on one hand, and God and the angels on the other, all about? It was a war between Love (God) and Willfulness (Satan).
Note that this is also the mistake that Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden, and the
prompting of the Serpent (Satan). They elevated their Will above where it should have been, elevated it above love.
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, AND
YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired
to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and
they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees
of the garden.
What is wrong with the world today? The world has always suffered with elevating the Will above Love, but this evil has taken on a new life of its own, defended by a new vocabulary that always have forms of “freedom” and “choice” as its watch words. Instead of “serving” others, we are trying to get others to serve us. Instead of loving with all our heart, we impose an unloving will over those we have more power over, be it the poor, the sick, or the unborn. The Catholic Church, recognizing the battle for what it is, has been fighting this elevation of Will over Love constantly. But the Catholic Church has not been winning the fight, partly due to failings among Her members – bishops, priests and laymen – who also have fallen to promoting their Will above Love.
For the past several centuries, the early 1700’s at least, the culture of the world has been
turning to promoting Will above Love. This has led to great wars, euthanasia, very disparate wealth distribution in many countries, where some live in luxury while others barely have enough to eat.
It has been getting steadily worse, and we promote evils as “freedoms”. Everyone wants
“freedom”, right? But if our Will (freedom) tromps on the rights of others, we are
causing great harm. If we promote Will above Love, we make the same mistake Satan made, that occurred even before the world began.
Democracy is almost held up as a “god” today. Push democracy everywhere! It will solve all our problems! But democracy only works if you have a virtuous people.
John Adams –
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Bringing this little thought of mine to a finish, I think that if we fix our gifts from God
in their proper order – 1st Love, 2nd Intellect, 3rd Will – we will get on the right path to solving the world’s problems. The world now has more than enough wealth to feed everyone, more than enough wealth to provide good shelter for everyone, and more than enough wealth to love all babies, born and unborn, everywhere and always.
But we need to love, first of all, and recognize that there is no true freedom or choice (Will) if we do not put God’s greatest gift to us, our Love, first. We have the capacity to love everyone, from conception to natural death. But first we have to get rid of our false gods, the false god’s of unlimited freedom, and unlimited choice, because those false gods destroy what we were truly made for: