Ideas – Good and evil


‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.’ -Isaiah 5:20

For lack of a better word, and to avoid cliches and the pitfalls of misunderstanding, I will use the word Ideas to describe that which lays behind the concept of Good and Evil.

On the very simplest level, Evil (and Good) exists outside the individual person and his physical makeup in the form of Ideas. Those Ideas may be indoctrinated into the person, such as a young Muslim who is taught from childhood that it is good if he straps on a suicide belt and kills Jews in a pizza parlor, and he will be rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise. This is an evil Idea. Such Ideas may be spread to permeate an entire society, such as was the Nazi Idea in Germany with its murderous anti-Semitism, which is an evil Idea. Ideas, good or evil, are spread from outside the individual through writing and art and education and the media, and thus affect the behavior of persons and societies, and bring about good or evil results into the world.

There are Ideas which are bad in that they are built upon a false premise of errant assumptions, and therefore lead to evil results. The pleasant banner over the French Revolution- Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite- led to national chaos and the guillotine and streets running in blood. The ‘equality’ meaning ‘sameness’ promised by atheistic, materialistic Communism based on a false Idea contrary to the nature of humans, led to oppression, poverty and the murder of millions.  Islam of the Quran based on primal fear and forced submission has long been known by its fruits of hatred, intolerance, backwardness and unending wars and terror. Bad Ideas.

In the marketplace of Ideas there are some very good ones. There are good Ideas, such as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which have been passed down from the biblical writings for over 3000 years, and have had some positive effect upon humanity. The basic Idea at the very foundation of the Bible is “You shall love”. E Pluribus Unum (‘out of many, one’) and One Nation Under God are good Ideas, but their reversal becomes a bad Idea that leads to division and dissolution of the unity of a free nation, just as the good Idea of Christianity has caused evil when tragically misused contrary to its Founder’s tenets. Fire may cook the food and heat the house, or burn the house down if misused.

Ideas existed long before Muhammad and pre-dated Plato and Buddha and Zoroaster, and even Moses. Ideas are like clouds that build to fullness and then precipitate into ideologies and philosophies and those to political movements and those, when two contradicting Ideas attempt to occupy the same space, to conflict, and the last place the Ideas meet in conflict is on the battlefield of war.

But if one were to part the curtain to find the source of Ideas, and what fuels them, one might find Truth and its opposite, Lies. Ideas shape Ideals, true or false ones. The introduction of the Idea that the God of Truth is ONE and only was revolutionary, an affront that shattered the multiplicity of gods and goddesses that had shaped the paradigm of the ancient thought world, even the intelligent philosophical Greek world that has shaped much of Western thought. The oneness of the Creator- an Idea so simple that many find it hard to grasp- who had created a beginning with purpose, implied the oneness of all his creation, and thus the promise of an eventual coming of shalom (a dynamic of all things working together for the good, not a cessation of anything- except evil). Then the oneness of reality will cause a unity of the Creator, mankind, and all creation, without further conflict.  As it is written prophetically, “In that day YHVH will be king over all the Earth, and his name one” (Zechariah 14:9).

YHVH the Creator is outside of His creation as much as I am outside of the art that I create- but I do exist out here. YHVH is especially outside of rebellious men, who do not seek to invite Him inside. To be forever outside the light of YHVH is Hell, trapped inside of our own lonely selves and Ideas and desires, and separated unto a long self-chosen exile in outer darkness. A sad Idea.

The greatest Idea has been given from Heaven. “It is not in Heaven” (Deut. 30:12), which means it is now given to humankind in the Torah and the Prophets and the King Messiah, and thus the free choice is given to us: “This day I lay before you life and death, the blessing and the curse, therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live!” (Deut. 30:19).  Which is a very good Idea.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.