Everybody knows there is something about human life
“Everybody knows there is something about human life that is out of line or out of whack… every day brings us fresh news of old evils—of nature ravaged, of God blasphemed, of people cheated, battered, terrorized. Every day brings us news of people whose misery is almost impossible to fathom” (From: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., 49ff).
- Please take some time to reflect deeply on this important subject.
All sin is evil, but is all evil is sin?
“Evil is what’s wrong with the world, and it includes trouble in nature as well as in human nature.
It includes disease as well as theft, birth defects as well as character defects.
We might define evil as any spoiling of shalom, any deviation from the way God wants things to be.
Thinking along these lines, we can see that sin is a subset of evil: it’s any evil for which somebody is to blame, whether as an individual or as a member of a group.
All sin is evil, but not all evil is sin.
A killing by a two-year-old who picks up a gun is a terrible evil, but not an actual sin, at least not by the two-year-old. But a premeditated killing by a drug dealer of a drug enforcement officer is both evil and sinful. …
In short, sin is culpable evil.
God hates sin not just because it violates law, but also because it violates trust.
Sin grieves God, offends God, betrays God, and not because God is touchy. God hates sin against himself, against neighbors, against a good creation, because sin breaks the peace — in the first place between the sinner and God.
Sin interferes with the way God wants things to be. That is why God has laws against it. God is for shalom and therefore against sin” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.).
Sin is not normal:
“Because sin spoils the way things are supposed to be, biblical images for sin suggest that it is deviant behavior. In the Bible, to sin is to miss the target, to wander from the path, to stray from the fold. A sinner has a deaf ear or a stiff neck. To sin is to overstep a line or else to fail to reach it; that is, sin is either transgression or shortcoming. These and other images tell us that, in a biblical view of the world, sin is a familiar, even predictable, part of life, but it is not normal. And the fact that ‘everybody does it’ doesn’t make it normal.”
“Given its source in God, goodness is original, normal, constructive. Evil is secondary, abnormal, destructive. In fact, evil needs good in order to be evil” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.).
Every Jekyll has his Hyde
John Stott emphasizes how we are beings of dignity (as made in the image of the good Creator) and depravity (as those who have fallen from that image). But we cannot by our own intelligence and strength solve our dilemma.
“Faced with the horror of their own dichotomy,” Stott wrote, “some people are foolish enough to imagine that they can sort themselves out, banishing the evil and liberating the good within them.”
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
“The classic expression both of our human ambivalence and of our hopes of self-salvation was given by Robert Louis Stevenson in his famous tale The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). Henry Jekyll was a wealthy and respectable doctor, inclined to religion and philanthropy. But he was conscious that his personality had another and darker side, so that he was ‘committed to a profound duplicity of life’. He discovered that ‘man is not truly one, but truly two’. He then began to dream that he could solve the problem of his duality if only both sides of him could be ‘housed in separate identities’, the unjust going one way, and the just the other. So he developed a drug by which he could assume the deformed body and evil personality of Mr. Hyde, his alter ego, through whom he gave vent to his passions—hatred, violence, blasphemy and even murder.”
“At first Dr. Jekyll was in control of his transformations, and boasted that the moment he chose he could be rid of Mr. Hyde forever. But gradually Hyde gained ascendancy over Jekyll, until he began to become Hyde involuntarily, and only by great effort could resume his existence as Jekyll. ‘I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.’ Finally, a few moments before his exposure and arrest, he committed suicide.”
“The truth is that every Jekyll has his Hyde, whom he cannot control and who threatens to take him over. In fact, the continuing paradox of our humanness throws much light on both our private and our public lives” (The Contemporary Christian, John R. W. Stott).
No human being is irredeemable
“Because evil is so deeply entrenched within us, self-salvation is impossible. So our most urgent need is redemption, that is to say, a new beginning in life which offers us both a cleansing from the pollution of sin and a new heart, even a new creation, with new perspectives, new ambitions and new powers. And because we were made in God’s image, such redemption is possible.”
“No human being is irredeemable. For God came after us in Jesus Christ, and pursued us even to the desolate agony of the cross, where he took our place, bore our sin and died our death, in order that we might be forgiven. Then he rose, ascended and sent the Holy Spirit, who is able to enter our personality and change us from within. If there is any better news for the human race than this, I for one have never heard it” (The Contemporary Christian, John R. W. Stott).
God is not the author of evil
“An essential part of Christian teaching is the truth that God is not the author of evil. God is good, and his original creation was good. This is an important element in Christian teaching because if God had created evil then his essence would contain both good and evil and there would be no hope for good to triumph over evil. There also would be no basis for a doctrine of salvation, for God could not save us from evil if the same evil was part of his own nature. There would be no basis for fighting injustice and oppression against cruelty and corruption, for these, too, would be reflections of God’s own nature, and therefore, inherent in the world as he created it.”
Origin of evil
“But if God is good and creation is good, what is the ultimate origin of evil? Again we turn to the early pages of Genesis, where we are told about the temptation of Eve by a powerful spiritual being who appeared in the form of a serpent and offered an alternative worldview or a competing truth claim to spread his destructive ideology. He started with a question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). Then, having raised doubts, he moved quickly to a direct contradiction to the divine word. The evil one boldly announced: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). He blatantly confronted the truth with a lie.”
“And where did this serpent—this evil being—come from? Throughout history, all cultures have had some concept of evil as a real entity, some force personified as a devil or an evil god—or what philosophers call “presence.” Only in the Bible do we learn the true source of this evil one. There is an invisible realm of spiritual beings and there is a moral battle in this invisible world, just as there is in the visible world. Occasionally Scripture pulls back the curtain to give us a brief glimpse of that invisible battle.”
“One of the main characters in this battle is a fallen angel, a once-perfect being who made a moral decision to rebel against God. This being is called “the accuser” or “Satan” or “the devil.” In the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job, Satan boasts that he moves freely “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it” in his search for souls to corrupt (Job 1:7).”
“Thousands of years later, the apostle Peter, apparently picking up this image from Job, warns that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In the Gospels, we learn that after Judas made his fateful decision to betray Jesus, “Satan entered into him” (John 13:27), a phrase that tells us an evil spirit can extend its grip deep into a person’s soul once that person has made the decision to betray the Lord. Jesus warned that Satan’s primary mode of operation is deceit: “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44)” (From How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson).
The reality of Satan
“The Bible is so full of references to the devil that it is impossible to hold to the Christian faith without accepting the reality of Satan. His existence is taught in seven Old Testament books: Genesis, 1 Chronicles, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah and affirmed by every New Testament writer.”
“Jesus clearly believed in the personal existence of the devil (Matt. 4:1-11; 13:39; Lk. 10:18; 11:18). In fact, in 25 of the 29 passages that refer to Satan in the gospels, Christ is speaking. If such a basic biblical teaching as this were dismissed as outdated superstition, we would have grounds for questioning the Bible’s authority in everything it says.” (Martin R. Dehaan II)