Friday, July 28, 2006

Testing some heresies, Part 3: God says He created evil

Here is the definition of the Jewish word for evil:

H7451

רעה רע

ra‛ râ‛âh

rah, raw-aw'

From H7489; bad or (as noun) evil (naturally or morally). This includes the second (feminine) form; as adjective or noun: - adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease (-ure), distress, evil ([-favouredness], man, thing), + exceedingly, X great, grief (-vous), harm, heavy, hurt (-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief, (-vous), misery, naught (-ty), noisome, + not please, sad (-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked (-ly, -ness, one), worse (-st) wretchedness, wrong. [Including feminine ra’ah; as adjective or noun.]

A lot of Bible translations have substituted the English word 'evil' with 'calamity' as though that will get God off the hook for what He says.

Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. (ra‛ râ‛âh) I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.

Lam 3:38 Out of the mouth of the Most High cometh there not evil(ra‛ râ‛âh) and good?

Ecc 1:13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven: it is a sore travail (ra‛ râ‛âh) that God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith

2Sa 12:11 Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will raise up evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

Pro 16:4 Jehovah hath made everything for its own end; Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Jer 4:6 Set up a standard toward Zion: flee for safety, stay not; for I will bring evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) from the north, and a great destruction.

Jer 6:19 Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.

1Ki 22:22 And Jehovah said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets…

1Ki 22:23 Now therefore, behold, Jehovah hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and Jehovah hath spoken evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) concerning thee.

Psa 105:25 He turned their heart to hate his people, To deal subtly with his servants.

Jer 18:11 … Thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I frame evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil(ra‛ râ‛âh) way, and amend your ways and your doings.

Isa 63:17 O Jehovah, why dost thou make us to err from thy ways, and hardenest our heart from thy fear…

Jos 23:15 … so will Jehovah bring upon you all the evil (ra‛ râ‛âh) things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which Jehovah your God hath given you.

Amo 3:6 Shall the trumpet be blown in a city, and the people not be afraid? shall evil(ra‛ râ‛âh) befall a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?

Job 2:10 … What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil(ra‛ râ‛âh)?

1Sa 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

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Ah yes, the God of the Old Testament. He was pretty harsh back then, huh? It's a good thing He's not like that any more. Oh wait…

Act 5:4 … How is it that thou hast conceived this thing in thy heart? thou has not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came upon all that heard it.

2Th 2:11 And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: 12 that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

2Co 12:7 And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. 8 Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness….

Rom 9:22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction:

Rom 11:32 For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Rom 13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. (This includes Hitler.)

Rev 6:4 And another horse came forth, a red horse: and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another: and there was given unto him a great sword

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Why can't we just believe what God says in the Bible? Why can't Christains embrace the idea that God makes bad things happen all the time? (And then recognize they are only bad from our perspective as pre-resurrected mortals.) We say we do, but why do we contradict it with our own ideas such as Free Will®? It reminds me of another incident in the Bible:

Mark 8

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

God speaks pretty plainly about creating, causing, and using evil. But we pull Him aside and rebuke him with our doctrines because we do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. We focus on this life so hard that we can't fathom the big picture. We can't comprehend that this life is a vapor, a fading flower. We think that evil in this world is the worst thing in the universe. Why don't we take comfort in the fact that God says HE is in control of evil, not Satan or humans? Aren't we supposed to trust God?

It might help if we re-frame the issue. If we look at life from a mortal point of view, with our natural tendencies that tell us that death is the worst thing that can happen to a person, we will not understand God and His work at all. But if we view evil, calamity, darkness, etc. as the fire that is purifying us, life takes on a whole new appearance.

So why? Why did God make evil? Why does He make us suffer? Why does He slaughter whole people-groups? Why did He make mankind wicked?

Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Rom 8:20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Rom 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!

I think that's a partial answer. Our anguish and torment are His process to bring us into His eternal family. But then, let's always remember that we can't figure it all out! His judgments are unsearchable. His wisdom so deep that it is beyond our understanding. So why try? Well, because He tells us to. Why fight temptation? Why love our enemies? Because the One Who's wisdom is deeper than ours tells us to.

So I find is possible to recognize evil as a tool that God uses on us and for us. But if God creates and uses evil, doesn't that make HIM evil? Well, if a blacksmith uses fire on his creations, does that make him fire?

I think the idea of Good and Evil is a relative one. God put the knowledge of both in the single forbidden tree. That leads me to wonder if it's possible to know one without the other. I know I couldn't know light without darkness, sweet without bitter, hot without cold. Now these are all sensory perceptions so the analogy could fall short, but it sure lines up well. Could we know the Goodness of God without having experienced an evil world first? (I'm not offering answers here, just questions.) I'm not saying that good needs evil in order to exist like some eastern religions and philosophies. I'm saying we wouldn't know good without first experiencing evil.

I submit to you that the only way to reconcile the God who destroys infants, causes prophets to lie, deceives nations and judges them for it, with the God Who embodies Love, is to recognize that this life has a purpose other than being happy and comfortable. We need to lay aside our earthly concerns for comfort, health, wealth, and survival. And beyond that, we need to recognize that all the pain we encounter is for our good. It takes a lot of faith to do that. To believe that when a parent goes crazy and murders their own kids, or a dictator gasses thousands of people, or that when our children come our less-than-perfect, that there is a good reason for those things happening. They are not good relative to our experience, of course not, they are evil, God condemns them, and we should work to stop those things. But they are good in the absolute sense that our souls are being prepared for perfect justice and all joy.

If you've followed me so far you may be inclined to use Free Will® as explanation for all this horrible evil that God uses for good. But I think if God didn't want the responsibility for evil He would not have put in writing all the dozens of examples of Him causing it.

Here's a hypothetical… God wants sons and daughters, but there is no way to commune with these creations in the way He wants without them going through a process that involves bad stuff happening to them. (Bad from their perspective for a very brief moment.) So He creates humans as little sinning machines. He puts them next to a tree with forbidden fruit that He knows darn well they are going to eat. He creates a being that will be His Adversary who expedites the process. But before all of this occurs, He creates a Son Who is slain before the foundation of the world. At a certain point in time, He sends this Son to remedy the sinning machine dilemma. The humans live, die, and 'sleep' until judgment. Judgment day comes, everyone is raised from the dead, those who were preordained to hear and obey Christ are joined with Him and judge the world (1 Cor 6:2). Those who did not are put in a lake of fire to burn away all their wood, hay, and stubble, then are joined with Christ and All is in All.

I'm probably wrong about most of this. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of my little brain and spiritual understanding, this fits best with what I understand at the moment. (I would make a crappy pastor.)

With that big-picture view in mind, several problems are solved that I've never heard good (as in, settled-my-mind) answers for.

First and foremost, it means God didn't mess up. At all. He's not operating a plan B right now trying to cut as few losses as possible. I'm sorry, but that is just how the modern evangelical take on the whole thing looks. They say God intended for man to be perfect and live in harmony with Him in the garden forever. But, whoopsey! It just didn't work out. Now the Devil is winning by a landslide, taking billions of people to Hell™ with him, and it's up to us scattered few to save as many as we can. I hope I'm not being sacrilegious here, but that's just a crappy plan. It would totally make sense if God was not all-powerful or all-knowing. But I'm pretty sure that He is, and I'm not going to pretend that any part of this reality is not under His complete control.

This is where the idea of predestination is intrinsically divisive. Not in the sense that I think those who believe in Free Will® are evil and stupid. But in the sense that it radically affects your view of reality and God. If God really HAD to give us Free Will® for His plan to work, and He knew that in so doing, billions of souls would be eternally tormented, than He is either evil, or operating on a whole different logical and ethical paradigm than us. Whereas if He knows what He's doing from the beginning and applies evil to us for "a moment" in order to bring His whole creation into His family, than He is consistent with what He says in the Bible.

But the current take is that He made us with Free Will®, knowing we would sin and make each other's lives miserable. Then, He punishes us in this life for sinning. Then, He punishes us with death. Then, He punishes us for eternity because we sinned. (Minus the tiny percentage that heard the Gospel and repented.) It just doesn’t make since. I can't keep pretending that it does. There has to be something missing from our equations.

And the thing that jumps out at me is the factor of post-resurrection activity. The Bible is very clear that there are all sorts of important things that happen after our life on earth. What is unclear is what exactly those things are. Because all of them are symbolic. I assume this is because we can't understand spiritual reality. Hopefully no one believes that Jesus is literally a lamb with seven eyes, and simultaneously a lion. Or that believers are resurrected as sheep, and unbelievers as goats. Or that the lake of fire is a literal lake with literal fire that literally burns the flesh of those inside it. Beyond the symbols we have conceptual ideas such as judgment. I think these kinds of concepts are inter-dimensional. Love, Mercy, Justice, etc. These things are understood by men, angels and God. In fact their very meaning and definition comes from God. That is why I don't think you can say that "God is Love" is consistent with "Eternal Torture of the Wicked". I understand that we humans don't fully 'get' what love is completely, but we would have to be completely reversed to associate Love with torture. Same thing with Justice. Modern Christianity teaches that a woman in China who steals a chicken, never hears of Jesus, then dies, will be punished eternally. If our conception of Justice comes from God, then this can not be Justice. Sure, we humans have never achieved perfect Justice, but we have a recognition of its basic substance. And eternal torture for chicken thievery ain't it. But I'll be getting into Hell™ next time.

Back to the big picture view I painted. I like it because it gives God enough credit to say He's in perfect control. It incorporates evil in all its manifestations as a tool that God uses to change us into His children. And no matter how unspeakable that evil is, like the rest of our life, it is a mist that fades away. It means Satan is not a rogue being, foiling God's attempts left and right. He was made specifically to introduce and cultivate the evil in the world. (Sowing the tares.) And as a created being he was designed to do exactly what he does. Nothing more or less. And most of all, this big picture view paints a totally victorious God. The kind of God who can lead an army into battle and win without any casualties. You know, a perfect God.

Rather than a God that tells us to show mercy and love to our enemies, then turns around and eternally tortures His enemies. Rather than a God who tells us to strive for justice, then turns around and ignores justice because He can. Rather than a God who created Free Will® which overpowers His own will. (The ultimate logical fallacy.) Perhaps it is possible that God created man's will in such a way that it could overcome His own will. Perhaps He could create a stone so large He could not lift it. But then… He wouldn't be all-powerful, now would He? And He would be a liar for all those times He says that His will WILL be accomplished. And why would He make a rule like, "I can never overcome man's Free Will®." Then go and break it with the conversion of the worlds most famous Christian? (Paul)

Another great thing about this viewpoint is the comfort it provides me when it comes to the suffering of me and my family. Rather than seeing us as victims of the powers of darkness, or suffering because we don't have enough faith to compel God to free us from our suffering, we are being forged in the fires of God. He is working us into a beautiful thing. He is humbling us, teaching us patience and perseverance. Faith, hope, and love are being burned into our souls. Those everlasting qualities that bring us into communion with Him.

God didn't create us so we could have a nice life in a nice house with air conditioning and 3 cars. When I'm creating a sculpture I'm not concerned with any sort of attempt to minimize the amount of 'pain' my creation would go through with the poking, prodding, carving, baking, etc. I'm concerned with the end result. I think God is much more concerned with our eternal relationship with Him than our momentary affliction on this earth. God subjected us to vanity, (mataiotēs mat-ah-yot'-ace From G3152; inutility; figuratively transientness; morally depravity: - vanity.) not because we chose it, because He has a process in mind. He designed us this way. It wasn't an accident. He's not on Plan B, and all will end in triumph, not tragedy.

But what about all those verses that talk about hellfire and damnation? That's next.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are getting harder to respond to in short commets.
If God created evil as you suggest, and we have no free will, who goes to hell and on what basis? Shouldn't God be in hell?

When God says he creates "evil" as you say, does it really mean the same thing as the evil of the devil or sin? Like when God says he Hates Esau. does he truly hate Esau the way you or I might hate someone?

Unfortunately, without being able to explain, I think not.

2:10 PM  

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