Are good and evil equal and opposite?

In many ethical systems good and evil are seen are equal and opposite.

In monistic systems, like Taoism, good and evil are seen as equally relative and illusory. This is reflected in the design of the Yin Yang symbol. In dualistic systems, like Zoroastrianism, good and evil are seen as equally absolute and hyper-real, originating from separate sources prior to the creation of the universe.

A Biblical Perspective

But is this a biblical understanding? Not at all. If you read the book of Genesis you will see it affirms that, in the beginning, there was only God and there was only good. Evil came later.

This is significant. For it implies evil is a corruption of good, and in a sense, not as real as good.

A Quantum Analogy

How can this be? How can ethical imbalance arise from ethical balance, from a singular source, from a singular God? I find it helpful to draw an analogy from physics, from the process of spontaneous symmetry breaking which gives rise to, amongst other things, the Higgs boson.

Imagine the ball in the above quantum field diagram is a marble, initially perched at the top of a slope. The initial condition is one of perfect balance, perfect harmony. This condition, however, is inherantly unstable. Once the marble is released it is inevitable that the marble will roll down the slope. Which way? To the left? To the right? Who knows. All we can know is that, without support, it will roll till it finds itself in a more stable but more imbalanced state. It can roll around the bottom, even to the opposite side, but it remains imbalanced. For while the field is symmetric along the horizontal axis, it is asymmteric along the vertical axis.

Imagine then, that the vertical axis represents the biblical understanding of the fall away from good towards evil. It’s a path that is very broad. What about the horizontal axis? I would suggest we give some consideration to the differences between licence and legalism, between irreligious hedonism and religious hypocracy, both of which Jesus spoke out against.

This is where I think the Yin-Yang symbol can maybe be revisited and maybe even redeemed for Christian use. For I would say it represents the view of this diagram, one-dimensionally, from above. From a Christian perspective it does not represent good and evil as equal and opposite, but legalism and licence as equal and opposite … equal and opposite evils.

Forgiveness then, in this analogy, is an anti-gravitational force. And what forgiveness looks like will differ, depending on where you find yourself rolling around the rim. Too much our our ethics are, unfortunately, focussed on the other side of the ethical divide (the horizontal axis), rather than transcending the ethical divide altogether (the vertical axis).

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