Monday, July 27, 2009

Understanding God and the forces of evil

I was going to blog about something else, but I go where the need is greatest ;-)

People who know me know that I love the Rev Billy Graham, and am a great fan of his. When I used to post links, before I simplified this blog, his daily question column was highlighted. I urge you all to read his daily column; it's just wonderful.

He's limited by the space of the column, but I am not, ha, so I will add things to what he says, as I will today.

Today's questioner asks the Rev Graham if God is strong enough to overcome evil. Billy Graham gave a great answer, which is that yes, of course God is, and that the only thing that God "cannot do" is to lie, be false, do anything imperfect or evil since God is of course the source and thus the purity of all perfection and goodness (my words not his). I'm just doing a summary as lead in to what I want to add.

However, I spotted something that I'm used to looking for, which is any potential error in assumption that is behind the question itself. This is not criticism, as there is no bad or dumb question except for the question that goes unasked. But sometimes, in fact often, a person asks a question assuming something that is false (behind the question itself), and he or she then assumes that if the questioner answers the question that the conscious or unconscious background assumption is also true. This is an urgent case of this phenomenon in today's column.

I am quite certain, since I've heard this background assumption MANY times before, that the questioner is asking "if God is powerful enough to overcome evil" while at the same time assuming that God IS combating evil at this time. Thus the questioner logically wonders why evil seems so strong if God is combating evil, and God is all powerful. Well, here's the rub. God is not combating evil at this time, as he has left THAT to human free choice. Here is the how and the why.

Adam and Eve, through their free choice, selected evil over good. Adam and Eve had perfection of life as provided by God in the Garden of Eden, yet as soon as they were offered "more," (and the only thing that "more" is, really, is power over other humans via evil knowledge and deeds), they accepted the serpent (Satan's) offer.

Likewise, Satan appears to Jesus, offering him power over the world (which Jesus already has, but Satan means that he wants Jesus to "power share" with him, which means to gain presumably "greater power" since evil deeds, which God will not do, would be "OK.") Jesus of course not only turns down the "offer," but corrects Satan's misconception that any additional true "power" can even be offered, since it cannot. There is perfection of "power" only through God, and only in total service and obedience to God, the source of all power, both on earth and in eternity.

Now, here's where modern people are often confused (the truly older generations were not confused about this), so you young people, pay particular attention to this. Yes, Jesus was given by God to humans to redeem them from original sin, the sin of disobedience caused by Adam and Eve. We've discussed many of the "reasons" and gifts that Jesus brought, such as bringing God's face to humanity, fulfilling the role of Messiah and Savior, the New Covenant, etc.

But neither Jesus nor any of the prophets, nor any human alive has done what the questioner and many assume is actually happening, which is to lead or declare combat "against evil."

Understand this difference. There is a huge difference between refuting evil (proving that evil is wrong) and "declaring war 'against' evil.'" Neither God nor any of his holy humans, or any human that ever lived, or ever will live, is actively "combating" evil. Why? Because to combat evil means to erase humanity and bring about the end of all time. Evil is "baked into" the human condition and psyche because of their own brokenness, woundedness and continual evil choices through the generations. If God actually "declared combat 'against evil'" God would simply do what he is going to do one day, as explained in the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) and allow the end to all humanity, rendering the Final Judgment.

You young people have grown up with a fantasy and science fiction view of being a "hero" who is "for good and against evil," which is totally wrong headed. It's not your fault, since you were raised that way without understanding. Genuine heroes, including, and especially, the saints, live among evil infested and evil choosing humanity, and REFUTE evil by LIVING goodness as mandated by God. Evil is "combated" only through the myriad of individual and group choices that people make in normal life. It is not some "toon" with skinny superheroes "fighting evil," and with people (or aliens, or 'mutants') conveniently labeled "good or evil," "hero or villain." That's not life, that's not reality, and it's also not how evil and good work.

Remember that Jesus himself, who is all goodness, would not allow an admirer to call him good. Jesus did that to point out that only God is good. What does that mean? That means, as the Bible constantly teaches, that ALL humans carry the capacity and the active accommodation of evil, ever since, and indeed, as a consequence of, Adam and Eve's first choice to do so.

Previous generations were never under the delusion, that moderns are today, that humans are running around all full of goodness and sugar and 'light,' but fall astray due to that bad old evil. No.... not exactly. As Jesus has stated, no humans are good, only God is good, in the absolute sense. So it's not like perfectly good humans are running around then being tripped up by some 'agent of evil.' Evil is carried and nurtured and accommodated within each and every human, and all societies, generation after generation. Understand there is evil on a grand scale (such as Nazism) but also on the day to day accommodating of evil in the mendacity of the ordinary lives of average people, as they accumulated knowledge of evil, accept evil and indeed even re-label evil (fool themselves that what they are doing is normal and not evil), as regular tools in their lives. There is also the enormous evil of 'missed opportunity,' where people allow evil to happen and deny the choice of goodness and sanctity.

Remember that Adam and Eve did not help the serpent run out and do an evil deed. Adam and Eve chose to accommodate evil, by accepting its knowledge.

All humans enable evil and all generations accumulate knowledge of evil, and expand their accommodation of it, lately of an alarming degree.

So you must understand that God is not 'combating evil' because that would assume that there are "two sides" in a conflict, those who are 'good' and those who are 'evil.' Humans are not good (in the sense of being comprised entirely of goodness, or the potential for being all good), and all humans have at the very least a widespread daily accommodation of evil. For God to 'combat evil' he will allow humanity to destroy itself (under the Antichrist) and then he will send Michael to "officially" 'combat evil,' which means Satan is chained, sure, but um duh, that's because all humans are dead so it's moot whether he walks among them supposedly "causing evil," or not, since the vessels of the potential for evil, humanity, will have all perished and been judged.

So sure, God can "combat evil" with a nanosecond of his tiniest amount of will power, and he will do so, and that means the end of all things human, with the entire world where humans chose evil in the first place passing away out of existence. The resurrected who occupy the world to come, the New Jerusalem, will not have even a speck or particle of temptation to elect evil, so evil will not exist at all, since it will never be given an opportunity for 'birth,' in the world to come after this one is destroyed.

People need to stop thinking about "combating evil," and instead, combat personal and group sin and temptation, so that you can hope to be saved and achieve heaven, and the resurrected world to come, and not go, as MANY, so very many have and will go, to hell.

I hope this helps.