So, like I said, we’ve been dealing with the wrong question for the past couple of millennia. What’s wrong with it? It’s too static, too shallow, and frankly too boring, because it’s too predetermined. It has no satisfying answer and never will. It does nothing to lead us to a true understanding of the nature of man. I think the real question is, what is the true nature of man?
Where do we go from here? Perhaps Catholicism has a thing or two to say about it. The Catholic understanding of evil is that it is a lacking of something. This is very different from the picture of evil we get in something like Star Wars, where the evil Sith are a positive force acting against the good Jedi. According to the Catholic understanding, what does an evil thing lack? It lacks the Good, which is contained entirely in the one true God, who is the wholeness and perfection of being. So anything outside of God’s wholeness and perfection is inherently lacking, in other words, evil. This is what we need in order to understand the nature of man.
If you’re still with me, good work. So here it is, my answer to my 6th grade teachers at last. Man is not inherently good, nor is man inherently evil. Man is inherently desiring of the good, but lacking the fullness of the good. God is the fullness of the good: He is eternal, uncorrupt, not lacking in any way, completely unified. If He were not one of those things, He is not God. So if God is the fullness of the good, i.e. perfection, then we can obviously see how man is imperfect. We die, we suffer pain, we hunger, we thirst, we mess up, we act meanly, we act stupidly, we act selfishly, we hate, we envy, we lust… the list goes on.
There is good news though! This does not mean we are doomed by our imperfection. Like I said, we are desiring of the good. The deep desire of man is to attain that perfection that we lack. We were created for this, to become perfect! To be made whole by it, to allow ourselves to be possessed by it. Until that happens creation itself is incomplete, we are enslaved by our imperfection. But if we follow this part of our nature, to be taken into God’s perfection, and constantly orient lives towards that greatest of goods, we will draw closer to it and begin to build lives of goodness. When we realize that God is the good we are striving towards, that’s where the game changes and we can completely win over our imperfection. See, deists had it wrong, God is not watching from a distance; God is close and intimately involved in our lives. When we make an effort towards the good, towards God, He is able to magnify that good in our lives and draw even closer to us. When we draw close to God and He draws close to us, the result is fullness of life. That is essentially what heaven is, the fullness of life, to live eternally in the presence of God. It’s not predetermined for some to make it and others not to, it is entirely in our ability to choose it. That is the great adventure of life, to choose fullness over our incompleteness, heaven over hell, faith over doubt, hope over despair, and love over apathy.