August 10, 2020

Another Look: Surd Evil, Serpents, and the Cosmic Battle

Note from CM: I expressed some of the most important developments in my thinking about creation and life in this world in this post back in 2010. I continue to find it relevant, and never more than in these days through which we are living.

• • •

Another Look: SURD EVIL, SERPENTS, AND THE COSMIC BATTLE
Originally posted July 3, 2010

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking)

A common Christian viewpoint attributes all the world’s disharmony, chaos, trouble, evil and its consequences to Adam’s sin. I have come to think the Bible does not teach that.

True, Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…” However, this text only says that human death is the consequence of our forefather’s transgression. Furthermore, it may be speaking only of human death of a certain kind — covenantal death, exile, separation from God, condemnation. As I read it, Adam and Eve were created mortal, subject to physical death. When they lost the Garden, they lost access to the Tree of Life, which was their hope (and the world’s) of both immortality and God’s eternal blessing.

Be that as it may, you find nothing in this text about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, accidents, plant and animal death, disease, or any other “natural” forms of “evil” in the world. You won’t find them explicitly in Genesis either. Is it possible that the chaotic and destructive aspects of life in creation, elements that we would have a difficult time defining as “good” (as in Genesis 1) find their source somewhere else?

This article tries to help us think about that question. It suggests that the world Adam entered was not the “paradise” we imagine. The Garden in which he and Eve lived was rather an enclave protected from a harsher world around them.

In conjunction with this post, I also want to recommend a piece on the same subject — “Death and Evil existed before the Fall” at Austin’s Blog. Both of us owe our understanding primarily to the teaching of Bruce Waltke, whose Genesis commentary and OT Theology discuss this subject.

Despite one common interpretation of the fall story in Genesis 3, I have come to think that the story of Adam and Eve’s transgression and its consequences does not indicate a radical change in the nature of creation itself as the result of human sin.

Some will object, and say:

If, before the fall, plants and organisms decayed, if carnivorous animals ate other animals, if earthquakes shook the land, if meteors crashed onto the earth’s surface, if entire species died out and became extinct, if bacteria and viruses caused illnesses and suffering, if accidents occurred, causing injury and pain, if ancestors of humanity and perhaps even other human beings on the earth before Adam and Eve lived and experienced the vicissitudes of life and then died, if as Tennyson famously wrote, nature was “red in tooth and claw,” even at the beginning, then doesn’t that undermine the teaching of scripture that all these evils are to be attributed to the fall of humankind and the entrance of sin into the world?

I don’t think so.

Chaos at the Beginning
The first indication that all is not right in God’s creation is not in Genesis 3, but in Genesis 1:2 — “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.”

The story of the six days of “creation” begins with the world already present, covered in darkness and watery chaos. This negative state is hostile to life. The Hebrew words tohu wabohu (formless and void) indicate a trackless wilderness, an inhospitable environment incapable of sustaining a “good” existence.

In his commentary on Genesis, Bruce Waltke elucidates the theological implications of this. This negative state at the beginning of creation indicates the presence of “surd evil” — evil that we cannot rationally explain. The origin of this evil has not been revealed to us. It is not dualistic, eternally existing and co-equal with God, for the Bible makes clear that it ultimately operates under his sovereign control. Nevertheless, we see it operating in the world before human sin.

The precreated state of the earth with darkness and chaos suggests that everything hostile to life is not a result of sin. This is Job’s discovery (Job 38-41). Job is mystified by his whole experience of suffering. God’s response is to make clear that everything negative in creation from the human perspective is not a result of human sin. The chaotic forces — sea, darkness, and the like — are a mystery to human beings. Although these forces seem, for the moment, hostile to life, human beings can still trust the benevolence of the Creator because the malevolent forces of creation operate only within his constraints. (p. 68f)

One main point of the creation account in Genesis 1 is to show how God brought order to a chaotic earth and made it habitable for his creatures and humans. He turned tohu into tob (good). “All is bounded by God’s control” (Waltke, p. 69).

Surd evil was present before human sin, and continues in the world under the providential oversight of God until the day it too will be swallowed up in new creation.

A Dark Power in the World
Another indication that there is more to evil in the world than that which results from the fall is found in Genesis 3, before the account of human disobedience.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’” (3:1)

Before Adam and Eve take their first bite of forbidden fruit, the author introduces us to the serpent. I don’t think Moses had anything against snakes in particular, although forty years in the desert might have given him an aversion to them. The text suggests that there was a Dark Power behind this serpent. Animals don’t talk in the Bible unless some spiritual personage gets hold of them and makes use of their tongues.

From whence did this Dark Power come? Does not his very presence, his questioning of God’s character and words, his active role in tempting Adam and Eve to disobey God, testify to the fact that all was not right in the world even before human sin?

The Cosmic Battle
Although we commonly go to Genesis 1-2 to study the story of creation, there is more than one text discussing this subject in the Bible. A common theme in these passages is the “cosmic battle” by which God tamed the forces of chaos and established order in the world. This emphasis is also present, though muted, in Genesis 1.

As Peter Enns writes:

One of the ways the Old Testament describes creation is through a conflict between Yahweh and the sea (or “waters” or one of the sea monsters, Leviathan or Rahab). Sea is a symbol of chaos, and so Yahweh’s victory in the conflict establishes order. He is the creator, the supreme power. Israel’s proper response is awe and praise.

Some examples:

Psalm 104:5-7
He established the earth upon its foundations,
So that it will not totter forever and ever.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters were standing above the mountains.
At Your rebuke they fled,
At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.

God did not just “separate” the waters, he rebuked them and they fled to their appointed locations. This pictures God and “the waters” in conflict with one another, and God putting them in their place.

Psalm 89:8-11
O LORD God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty LORD?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
You rule the swelling of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.
You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain;
You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.
The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours;
The world and all it contains, You have founded them.

Our Creator is the one who rules over the seas, stilling them, and crushing the enemy forces of chaos that exists within them, here called Rahab, the great sea monster.

Psalm 74:12-17
Yet God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You broke open springs and torrents;
You dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
You have made summer and winter.

Note how God’s creation acts are described as “deeds of salvation (deliverance)”! It took his “strength” to divide the waters, which involved breaking“the heads of the sea monsters in the waters” and crushing “the heads of Leviathan.” Note also how the emphasis of the text is bring order out of chaos, of “establishing boundaries,” thus organizing his creation so that it is “good” for his creatures.

Job 38:4-11
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements — surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed”?

See also Job 41, where God graphically describes the power of Leviathian: “Who can confront it and be safe? Under the whole heaven, who?” (Job 41:11). God the almighty Creator, that’s who! He and he alone is able to thwart the forces of chaos, command the raging sea into its place, and tame the wild beasts of the sea that foment disarray and destruction.

One evidence of God’s final victory in this cosmic battle is Revelation 21:1 — “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”

Is this “cosmic battle” emphasis seen in Genesis 1, the foundational account of creation? Yes, there are at least a few indications that this “cosmic battle” against the sea and Leviathan inform the author of Genesis 1.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. (1:2)

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (1:20-21)

God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ (1:28)

We’ve already discussed how the negative state described in 1:2 suggests a creation in which surd evil is present even before the fall. In fact, the word “deep” in Hebrew is very close to the name of the Babylonian god “Tiamat,” the power of the ocean. In their creation epic, the god Marduk kills Tiamat, splitting her in half, and uses her body parts to make heaven and earth. Genesis 1 makes a subtle allusion to this myth as it portrays God taming the darkness and the deep.

In verses 20-21, note now God mentions only one specific creature in sky and seas: the great sea creatures. This may be read as a polemic against Babylonian myths representing these sea monsters as great powers that the Babylonian gods had to defeat in order to achieve victory. In contrast, the one living and true God, creator of land, sea, and skies, simply brought forth these creatures and populated the seas with them. They are mere works of his hand.

Verse 28 says that part of humankind’s vocation is to “subdue” the land. This is a word that indicates a battle that humans must win against elements of creation that resist the “good” order God set in place.

What does this “cosmic battle” emphasis say to our subject? It says that the Bible portrays the presence of forces and powers opposed to God active in the universe and in the world before the first act of human sin. God had to perform “acts of salvation” (Ps 74:12) even to create the world! In creation, he delivered the world from conditions of chaos and disorder, bringing order and “goodness” to it, so that his creatures could live in his blessing. Those forces are still present, but they are kept within the boundaries that God’s sovereign, providential rule has established.

What about Romans 8?
Paul seems to infer that creation is “groaning” because God subjected it to the curse delineated in Genesis 3. Here is Romans 8:18-25 (NASB):

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

C. John Collins suggests that the key term in Rom. 8 is “slavery to corruption”. In the LXX of Genesis this term “corruption” is used, not in Genesis 3, but in Genesis 6:11-13, where it says that the world became corrupt in God’s sight because “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” Collins writes,

Seen this way, the creation is “in bondage to decay,” not because of changes in the way it works but because of the “decay” (or corruption) of mankind, and in response to man’s “decay” God “brings decay to” (or “destroys”) the earth to chastise man. The creation is “subjected to futility” because it has sinful mankind in it, and thus it is the arena in which mankind expresses its sin and experiences God’s judgments. No wonder it “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God,” for then the sons of God will be perfect in holiness, and sin will be no more. (Genesis 1-4, p. 184)

Human sin did not introduce all forms of evil and chaos into the world, but it did intensify them. Human beings, who were called to exercise dominion over the world, have become corrupted, and under their rule the world sinks even deeper into chaos. Acting out in a world where surd evil often rears its ugly head, voluntarily in league with the Evil One who first tempted them to sin, aligning themselves and cooperating with the cosmic forces opposed to God’s rule and righteousness, sinful human beings threaten to turn tob (good) back into tohu wabohu (an uninhabitable wasteland).

This effort shall not prevail. Our hope is in God, who in Jesus is making a new creation. In the new heavens and new earth, all forms of evil and chaos shall be destroyed, and everything in heaven and on earth reconciled to God through Christ.

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:8-9, NRSV)

Comments

  1. Burro (Mule) says

    There is a mountain that could be said about this, and it needs to be said. The idea that all men come into the world since the Fall with a contaminated ‘nature’, and that this wicked ‘nature’ is the fount of all pestilences, plagues, earthquakes, droughts, and natural excesses in the natural world, has itself brought forth a harvest of noisome doctrines in Western Christianity.

    Sin corrupts. It leaves its mark on everything it touches. It’s no wonder we cannot escape its grasp unaided, and thus we are not Pelagians. But the greater danger is to make alliance with the forces of chaos and dissolution.

    • –> “But the greater danger is to make alliance with the forces of chaos and dissolution.”

      I forget where I read it now, but I saw a fairly recent account of a former Satanist who finally decided to bail when he realized that, despite appearances to the contrary, all Satan was really interested in was his own demise.

      I try to keep that in mind now regarding both God and Satan, especially when appearances seem counter to either one’s character, nature, and motive:

      -God is the author of life. Despite appearances that seem to suggest otherwise, always keep that in mind.
      -Satan is the author of death. Despite appearances that seem to suggest otherwise, always keep that in mind.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        The enemy loves, inasmuch as he can be said to love anything, the certainty and abstraction of mathematics. Zero is his favorite number, because of the dearth of transformations that can be effected with it. He loathes the open-endedness of living systems, even of chemical reactions. If he had his druthers, all the elements would be as noble and inviolate as argon, and this fair green earth of ours would circle the sun as a charred carbon, in perfect obedience to the laws of physics.

        He’s a great one for law, he is.

        – A brilliant scientist with a touch of poesy. He didn’t believe in the Blessed Trinity , being Jewish, but he did believe in the adversary.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          If he had his druthers, all the elements would be as noble and inviolate as argon, and this fair green earth of ours would circle the sun as a charred carbon, in perfect obedience to the laws of physics.

          Like the scene in one of Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels of a Plane of Perfect Law, completely fixed, static, and unchanging for all Eternity.

  2. There’s no question that evil was already in the world before Adam and Eve took the bite. Otherwise, where did the serpent get its inspiration?

    The first “fall” was the devil himself. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.” That may be part of the cosmic battle that’s described in Revelation, and the defeat of Satan is already guaranteed.

    About the cross: was the sin of Adam and Eve (or the rebellion of Satan that got him thrown out of Heaven) a mistake, a disappointment to God, that he had to send his only son to die as a “patch” on the fallen condition of humans and on the cosmos itself? If it’s a “patch,” then what does that say about God’s declaration that his creation was “very good?” What does it say about God’s sovereignty?

    Or (and I usually hate either / or scenarios), Is Christ on the cross the meaning of the universe, the hinge on which all history swings, the very love that moves the sun and moon and stars? If that’s the case, then Adam and Eve’s sin (and Satan’s rebellion, I suppose) would be subordinate to the cross and not the driving force necessitating the cross—and these events would be subsequent to the cross in God’s creation, though they precede it in chronological time.

    Sorry. I’ve been staying up too late listening to John Prine, including about three versions of Sam Stone, who came back from “the conflict overseas” with shrapnel in his knee and “a purple heart and a monkey on his back.” But the morphine eased the pain…

    “There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm where all the money goes.
    Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose.”

    It’s a tough thing to ponder, the cross. Which comes first, Christ or the sin that he saves us from? Oh, never mind the timeline, or which came first on the calendar; that’ll all melt. I think the cross comes first. Now how to fit this other stuff around it.

    Pray for John Prine. He’s in critical condition with the virus going around.

    • Christiane says

      Praying.

      I love the music of John Prine.

    • I don’t know his music, but I certainly will pray for him. God help him.

      • flatrocker says

        A true American treasure. Might I suggest a playlist.
        1. Paradise
        2. Sam Stone
        3. Angel from Montgomery
        4. Hello in There
        5. Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
        6. Six o’clock News
        7. Illegal Smile
        8. That’s the Way the World Goes Around
        9. Dear Abby
        10. Spanish Pipedream

        Dear Lord, protect this man. Surround him with your Angels (especially those from Montgomery)

        • Good list. And “Paradise” deserves to be at the top. Don’t forget “Flag Decal” though.

          I’ve got Youtube going now. I’ve heard all of these, some of them without knowing the titles. And I didn’t know that Spanish Pipedream was John Prine. I’ve heard others sing it.

          Joan Baez posted a tribute to him yesterday, recorded in her kitchen and singing Hello in There. Look for a youtube of her entitled “For John Prine.” It’s low-budget, but great performance.

        • Brianthegrandad says

          Thanks. Just discovered him a few weeks ago from a podcast mention. Thoughtful music.

    • Dana Ames says

      May the Lord continue to help John.

      Ted, your musings are resonant of Orthodox understanding. The Cross is the center of everything, and Christ always comes first. Do listen to Fr John Behr on YouTube; latest is his lectures on the Gospel of John (he just published a book on this), or see the 8-part Advent retreat he gave in December at Little Portion Hermitage, the monastic community John Michael Talbot founded. Mind-bending – in the best way!

      Dana

      • Thanks, Dana.

        Several months ago I mentioned you in a conversation with the pastor who lives next door, because he studied with Orthodox while in seminary, and concentrated in patristics. I emailed him a comment from you on iMonk, with some of the books you recommended, and he lent me a couple of them—St Athanasius On the Incarnation and John Behr “The Way to Nicaea. They’re right here beside me but I’ll confess I haven’t cracked Behr’s book yet. And I need to follow through on Athanasius too.

        I did know that you Orthodox are big on the Incarnation (in fact, the conversation was during Advent) and I guess it stands to reason that it’s related to the cross. Most of us tend to think in terms of the incarnation and cross as vehicles to the Resurrection.

        I also used to like John Michael Talbot. Haven’t heard him in years.

  3. Christiane says

    Psalm 74

    “Yet God is my king from of old,
    Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth”

    https://youtu.be/cpkdCQVnyvs

    ‘Salvation is Created
    in the midst of the Earth
    O God, O Our God
    Alleluia”

  4. Is the coronavirus God’s creature? I’m not talking about whether it was engineered by the Chinese government (though I don’t buy that), or the result of bad human relationship to the environment (not buying that either), or a natural development of evolution which operates in some way autonomously from God (how could nature be autonomous from God?), or demonic entities have sway over the biological development of life forms (again, how could that be?), so please don’t ask at that level. I’m asking whether the life/half-life (some biologists say viruses are not quite living things) form, the thing that is coronavirus, belongs to God as its creator? And if it does, as I think it must, why is he its creator? What purpose does he have for it? Does he delight in it the way he delights in the play of Leviathan, and the rest of creation?

    • anonymous says

      ” virus:
      any of a large group of submicroscopic infectious agents that are usually regarded as nonliving extremely complex molecules, that typically contain a protein coat surrounding an RNA or DNA core of genetic material but no semipermeable membrane, that are capable of growth and multiplication only in living cells, and that cause various important diseases in humans, animals, and plants” Merriam Webster Dictionary

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > how could nature be autonomous from God?

      Honestly, I have never, and do not, see the problem with that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > And if it does, as I think it must, why is he its creator?

      In a real-world experiment little robots, set in competition with one another, and having the most rudimentary kind of AI (Artificial Intelligence), ‘discovered’ the tactical advantage of Deceit – they began lying to each other – in a mere ~50 generations.

      By some truly bizarre Theology did their Human maker’s “sin” pass on this creation? No. It just is.

      Was the Roboticist-Scientist-Engineer a Liar-Maker? No.

      Theology is the wrong question – so all answers will be wrong. I know, personally, that it is a struggle for Religious people admit, but Theology is a great steaming heap of the wrong questions.

      • Theology is also the asking of the right questions. There are many theologies–plural. Some are good.

        • I think both you and ATW are right. Theology is both good and bad.

          The problem I see more and more lately, though, is people trying to win people over to the “right theology,” rather than win them over to Jesus Christ.

          This makes me sad.

          • Exactly. I’ve heard a lot of bad theologies. And when “right theology,” or correct doctrine, or correct church politics, or correct discipline, become more important than the gospel of the grace of Jesus, the theology becomes heresy. Much of it’s only a power trip.

    • If there is anything that could be said to have been a creation of the devil, I’d say viruses are the best candidate. Most bacteria serve useful purposes, or are harmless; I don’t know any such purposes viruses have.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Inserting novel DNA into their hosts?

        • Which at best leads to a runny nose, and at worst death. I’m still not seeing the upside to this, but perhaps a geneticist or microbiologist can correct me on that.

          • Spit-balling here…

            Perhaps so that we’re less susceptible for the NEXT crappy virus that rears its ugly head? I mean, most flus would wipe out 90% of the world had there been no series of flus before them, right?

            That’s what makes this one so unique: it’s unique. But maybe this will better prepare the generations of humans to come to the NEXT ugly thing.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            I was under the impression that a large number of mutations are a result of viral infections and the efforts of the immune system to adapt to them.

            These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning of things—taken toll of our prehuman ancestors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle, and to manyour living frames are altogether immune….
            By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are.

            HG Wells The War Of The Worlds

            Forgive me if I appear to flee from from the cruel God into the arms of uncaring Science. Life is tough and the Universe is a beautiful and deadly place. I think it is so by design. I don’t understand why, but I think God wants warrior sons and daughters, not bleating lambs complaining about injustice.

            • Clay Crouch says

              Just exactly what do you mean by warrior sons and daughters?

              • Burro (Mule) says

                Exodus 15:3-9; 21

                There are forces of non-being loose in the cosmos. YHWH is opposed to them, and there will be those who ally themselves with Him, and those who will ally themselves with His enemies.

                I have much less of a problem with the genocidal parts of the Old Covenant than many on this board. There is a large part of me that wishes things were still so, that I or my sons could bury an axe in someone’s spine, pull it out of their still-twitching body, and feel righteous about it. There are Christianities that still allow for this, but they aren’t very popular on this board.

                More’s the friggin’ pity sometimes.

                But the Incarnation changes everything, and the Orthodox Church teaches me that this instinct is only to be exercised in the pursuit of self-preservation or the protection of others, and even then needs to be properly confessed and repented of. Such Malacandrian impulses need to be channeled against those elements in my own heart that align with chaos and non-being.

                • –> “I have much less of a problem with the genocidal parts of the Old Covenant than many on this board. There is a large part of me that wishes things were still so, that I or my sons could bury an axe in someone’s spine, pull it out of their still-twitching body, and feel righteous about it. There are Christianities that still allow for this, but they aren’t very popular on this board.”

                  Umm… so no recognition on your part that maybe YOU are the one whose spine might need an axe to be buried?

                  See, therein lies the need for Christ. In the Old Covenant, it was always “the other guys” who needed the axe in their spine. Righteous wrath was always reserved for “someone else.”

                  So how do you feel about the genocidal parts of the Old Covenant if it’s YOU who God has his wrathful eye on?

                  • Burro (Mule) says

                    I would bind my arm to the might of Chemosh and devil take the hindermost.

                    • LOL.

                      And btw… I didn’t mean my questions to you to seem as provocative/confrontational as they might have seemed. I was asking to seek to understand!

                    • Burro (Mule) says

                      Honestly, it’s kind of scary for me that this should be hard for anybody to understand. I had a house invasion recently. I didn’t buy a gun, but I did buy an axe.

                    • Oh, I understand completely the desire for wrongs to be righted and people to receive justice. Especially when confronted with a real life harm like you experienced. And God definitely has that in Him. But spiritually it ignores all that I myself deserve, thus my struggle with wrathful God of Justice as portrayed in the OT. Zap the bast*rds around me while passing over me, would be my frequent cry.

                      I think what you’ve made me consider is that “real life experience” and “good theology” sometimes don’t mix…?

                    • I had a house invasion recently. I didn’t buy a gun, but I did buy an axe.

                      You’re David, the Dustin Hoffman character in Straw Dogs: “Jesus, I got ’em all.”

                    • David in Straw Dogs used a bear trap.

                    • Among other things. But by the end of the movie, he would have gleefully buried an axe in somebody’s spine, pulled it out their still twitching body, and felt….satisfied, if not self righteous about it. Very Old Testament, a la Sam Peckinpah.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Moderated

      • Clay Crouch says

        A malthusian check?

  5. anonymous says

    All Creation awaits its deliverance 🙂

  6. senecagriggs says

    Question: “Why does Isaiah 45:7 say that God created evil?”

    Answer: Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Version reads, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” How does Isaiah 45:7 agree with the view that God did not create evil? There are two key facts that need to be considered. (1) The word translated “evil” is from a Hebrew word that means “adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, misery.” Notice how the other major English Bible translations render the word: “disaster” (NIV, HCSB), “calamity” (NKJV, NAS, ESV), and “woe” (NRSV). The Hebrew word can refer to moral evil, and often does have this meaning in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, due to the diversity of possible definitions, it is unwise to assume that “I create evil” in Isaiah 45:7 refers to God bringing moral evil into existence.
    __________

    https://www.gotquestions.org/Isaiah-45-7.html
    (2) The context of Isaiah 45:7 makes it clear that something other than “bringing moral evil into existence” is in mind. The context of Isaiah 45:7 is God rewarding Israel for obedience and punishing Israel for disobedience. God pours out salvation and blessings on those whom He favors. God brings judgment on those who continue to rebel against Him. “Woe to him who quarrels with his Master” (Isaiah 45:9). That is the person to whom God brings “evil” and “disaster.” So, rather than saying that God created “moral evil,” Isaiah 45:7 is presenting a common theme of Scripture – that God brings disaster on those who continue in hard-hearted rebellion against Him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      You really need to team up with “Mr Jesperson” on the Wartburg Watch comment threads.

      He’s been getting longer and longer with chapter-and-verse Proof Texts about God sending Pestilence.

    • Clay Crouch says

      Perhaps there’s another way to read the Bible than the way you were taught? Just saying.

    • senecagriggs says

      It’s Scripture people. Some of you appear to be truly offended by Scripture. What the heck.
      ______

      I didn’t actually add anything to the comment. I did point you towards Isaiah however. I find Scripture to be filled with wisdom and surprises. It has shaped my thinking over my lifetime.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Surd Evil = Ungoliant, not Morgoth.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Morgoth – Chaotic evil
      Ungoliant – Neutral evil
      Sauron – Lawful evil

      or better, the 2016 election choices

      Clinton – Lawful evil
      Trump – Chaotic neutral

      Not much of a choice

      • Well I don’t accept any form of essentialism; people aren’t “evil”, they perform acts that result in evil. Trump is not evil but his willful stupidity results in great evil. In that sense he is not “neutral” at all. Something to remember this fall.

      • Loki – Chaotic neutral.

        So we have Loki running the USA. We’re in trouble.

        • Christiane says

          Yes. I can see this too.
          Actually, when the whole trump scene started, I thought Steve Bannon was ‘Loki’ personified. Bannon’s philosophy connected with Trump’s love of chaos and lack of oversight of his goings-on, and we got ‘trumpism’ on steroids.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Bannon = Alberich

            It seems like a million years ago that Bannon, Gorka, and the Real Nazis had the inside track with Trump.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        or better, the 2016 election choices
        Clinton – Lawful evil
        Trump – Chaotic neutral

        More like
        Clinton – Cersei Lannister
        Trump – Benito Mussolini

  8. There is the interpretation of Genesis by its composers. There is the interpretation by later Jewish thinkers. There is the interpretation by early Christians. There is the interpretation by later Christians. And these interpretations are by no means the same.

    As far as Paul is concerned I don’t think he makes a distinction between physical death and spiritual death. To him sin and death were actual cosmic powers dominating the cosmos. We mustn’t forget the early Christians were thoroughly apocalyptic in their thinking.

  9. I made the mistake of checking out the news headlines just now. Surd evil is unleashing an apocalypse in our metropolitan areas, in our country, and across the world. My God. It makes me cry, and not only in fear for myself and my loved ones. Good Lord deliver us.

    • “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
      “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
      And he replied:
      “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
      That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
      So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
      And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”

  10. Ben Simkins says

    Turning up a bit late here, but CM you seem to have recapitulated a goodly part of the reasoning from God’s Good Earth, that was reviewed here not long ago. With just a few differences:

    – Jon Garvey doesn’t think that pre-existing death is ‘evil’. For one thing he refutes the “red in tooth and claw” as a valid summary of life on this planet: most animals live a fairly peaceful existence (in spite of nature documentaries’ sensationalisation of their sometimes violent last moments).
    – He also says that we interpret as evil things which we probably just don’t understand. Death seems evil to us, but it is also natural, and inevitable: without death the world would be overflowing with an ever-expanding number of immortal creatures.
    – He doesn’t believe that Satan’s evil “came from somewhere else”, nor that it is as big a deal (from God’s perspective) as we imagine. Satan was (is?) an angel who thought he knew better than God: the idea of having puny, material man be at the centre of His creation was anathema to him, so he figured that if he pushed man into rebellion, that would put things back to rights. Maybe something analogous with Judas here, who by some readings thought he was going to force Jesus’ hand and finally start the rebellion against the Romans?)

    All interesting stuff, for sure.