The Rev. Lynn Sullivan, Garden City Community Church, Garden City:
I think the word necessary may be misleading. Does evil exist? Yes. Is it necessary to his plan? No. I would like to believe evil is not part of God's master plan. Through the act of freewill, it does exist. Evil can become extinct if humans would direct their lives toward God and focus on what God requires as shared in Micah 6:8:
"To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God."
According to the book of Genesis, the concept of good and evil existed simultaneously. However, God wanted to protect humans from experiencing evil (Genesis 2:17, 7:1). God's desire was that evil not be prevalent on Earth. After the flood, God made a promise to Noah, "Not to curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart was evil from youth" (Genesis 8:21). God's desire again and again was to "purge evil from our midst" (Deuteronomy 17:7).
There is a saying by an unknown author: "All the water in the world, however hard it tried, could never sink a ship unless it got inside." All the evil in the world, the wickedness and sin, can never sink your soul's fair craft unless you let it in.
Pastor Charles Byer, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Aquebogue:
Evil came about when there was rebellion against God, whose plan was that everyone would be obedient to him. In the beginning, God created angels and mankind. Somewhere after creation, the angel Lucifer decided to rebel and was thrown out of heaven. He chose to tempt mankind, and mankind, instead of listening to God, listened to the other evil voice. That is not part of God's plan. His plan is to destroy all evil.
So often, we push ourselves away from God, which is what evil wants us to do. I believe things happen to increase our faith and reliance in him. There is no evil in God. Evil exists outside God. Some may ask the question, why doesn't he destroy evil? He does have a plan to destroy evil - on the last day. He wants us to have the opportunity to know Jesus and his salvation.
Rabbi Marc Gruber, Central Synagogue, Rockville Centre:
I think evil is a necessary part of the relationship between God and humankind. If we, as humans, are to truly have freewill and be moral agents, it is necessary that we not only act to do good, but we also have the real, not just the theoretical, ability to do evil. If you can't do evil, your choices to do good aren't relevant.
I think it goes back to the notion of the first sin. In my mind, the first sin was not the disobedience by eating from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The sin is when God goes to Adam, asks him if he ate from the tree, and Adam passes the buck and says Eve gave it to him. He knew what he had done and chose to pass the buck. The second sin is when God asked Eve, and she said the serpent made her do it. You become responsible for your actions once you know what you're doing.
So, yes, I do think evil needs to be part of the fabric of our world. It is our job to balance it within ourselves.
Patrick Duggan, pastor, Congregational Church of South Hempstead:
Definitely it is a part of God's plan. Evil is a fact of our existence. I think it is a presumptive question. Who are we to decide whether there is to be evil? We don't have any control over the existence of evil. What we do have control over is whether to perform or not perform acts of evil.
Whether we choose to do good or evil - that is a more pertinent question. God teaches us in the major texts of the existence of evil. He loves humanity enough to reveal to us its existence, and he cares about us in evil and good times.
I think people do think that there should be no evil. I'm not suggesting people shouldn't ask the question. Anything we ask of God is OK. I'm questioning the thinking behind it that indicates we have an effect on God's plan.
Evil is a fact of our existence from almost the moment of creation. The question should be, what can we do to live a faithful life in the midst of evil and to help others impacted by evil? It is how we function in the midst of evil. That is what determines being a person of faith. If humans had written the Bible, we'd have taken out all the bad parts.