“The devil” is best imagined not literally, as some demonic figure lurking in the shadows, but as a symbol of a deep theological truth — namely, that the evil we experience in history is more than the sum of its parts and transcends logical explanation… There is a dark spiritual force in evil as we experience it. (Long)
Today I’m continuing in the blog series on theodicy, based on Thomas G. Long’s book, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith…
The links to each of the blogs in this series are Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Guest Blogger Mary Vanderplas), The Shaking of the Foundations, The Impossible Chess Match, The Climax of All Misnomers, Road Hazards, The Soul’s Complaint, Awakening, by Asia Samson, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, David Will Live Again, Howl: Job and the Whirlwind, Christ is the Yes of the Universe, Theodicy of Protest. My apologies that it’s been over six months since the most recent post in this series. In order to avoid confusion, please take a few minutes to scan through these to re-familiarize yourself with the series before you continue reading.
In his exploration of theodicy, Long asserts that evil is God’s enemy.
This begs the question, if evil is God’s enemy, and God created everything, and everything that God created He called “good,” then how did evil come to exist? Long creates a list of four ideas, possible explanations as to how evil came about:
- God is the author of both good and evil and made the creation as a mixture of good and evil, for whatever divine reasons.
- There are two “creators,” a good one and a bad one. God is the author of the good aspects of creation, and the force of evil is the author of the bad ones.
- God did not fashion the creation ex nihilo — that is, out of nothing — but started with some raw materials already at hand. As for the origins of these raw materials, we cannot say, but the potential for evil was already present in them, like impurities in clay. God’s creation is a work in progress, and all of the evil has not yet been eliminated.
- God is the one and only creator, and the creation was made “very good.” But something happened after God’s creative act to introduce evil into the goodness of creation.
Long dismisses number one because it makes God the author of evil, and since this is “not the God we meet in Christ, this can’t possibly be true.”
I can’t help but wonder how Long explains Isaiah 45:7. In The Problem of Evil by John Essex, he writes, “In the book of Jeremiah alone, there are more than thirty references to God either doing evil or repenting from evil which He had purposed doing, and there are similar passages in other books.”
Long rejects number two because it “forces us to imagine creation as the eternal battlefield of two rival deities.”
Interestingly, there are two creation accounts in Genesis. One account states that Elohim said, “”Lo, I have given to you every herb sowing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which [is] the fruit of a tree sowing seed, to you it is for food,” (with no mention of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, no prohibitions) and the other states that Jehovah God “layeth a charge on the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden eating thou dost eat; and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it…'”
Long discards number three because “Yahweh, the God of Jesus, arrives on stage late in the game and begins to influence an already existing creation.”
Some Christians don’t believe in the trinity of God but believe that Jesus came from God (the Word of God) and then created everything. John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 1:2 all indicate that creation is dia (through, for the sake of, because of) Christ.
Another thing to consider is the difference between Genesis 1 in which God “made” (prepared) stuff and Genesis 2 in which God “formed” (gave physical form to) stuff. According to Genesis 1, God finished “making” stuff, called it good, and rested. In contrast, according to Genesis 2, He never called the “formed” stuff good or rested from forming stuff.
Long chooses number four as the only viable option, saying that evil is “an intruder into the goodness of creation” that “did not come from the hand of God.”
Rather than just taking Long’s word for it, prayerfully examine these ideas for yourself. I’m not planting any flags here; I’m just presenting some information to explore. “Test everything. Hold on to what is good.”