The history of evil

The ambition of an angel led to the suspicion of Eden (that the best life is outside of the will of God not within it). This led to the delusion of self-rule (which only resulted in bondage to sin and death). The cycle continues — ambition, suspicion, delusion, death.

Creation took its first turn toward disaster when the ambition of an angle incited a revolt against the Creator. It was a delusional and arrogant bid for autonomy. 

How irrational for a created being to think of autonomy as a possibility! The only real option for created beings is dependence. It’s a delusional  and dangerous fantasy for creatures to make a bid for self-rule and self-determination.

Yet because we’re created as moral beings, we’ve been given a kind of freedom to choose without coercion. This gift was given to us to be either honored or to be abused. We chose the latter. We still choose it.

It all began when a created and subordinate being declared “I will” in a universe where there had only been one will. A revolt began and disaster followed. The cycle hasn’t changed.

It begins with discontentment with one’s place in the will of the Creator. Discontentment involves contemplation of the pleasures of self-rule. It fosters a desire to be in control, to call the shots, to set the agenda, to define the boundaries, to be Master of my fate and Captain of my soul, to alter destiny… These are the delusional bids of dependent beings.

The seeds of discontentment are planted when creatures lose sight of the glory that belongs to them as beings made in the image of God. Discontentment easily leads to an imagination for and pursuit of lesser glories. Those who take this path might think of themselves as wise, but only fools “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:22-23).

The suspicion of Eden was ignited when an ambitious angel offered a different version of reality. “For God knows,” Satan said, “that when you eat from it (the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The language is intentionally deceptive. Humans were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27) so how could “you will be like God” hold any power to tempt? Likeness had boundaries that distinguished created beings from the Creator. Rebels resent and resist boundaries unless they get to set them. Is it possible that the good life is found outside of the will of the Creator, not within it? This was the suspicion of Eden. It continues each day.

How should we access the moral categories of “good and evil”?

In keeping with reality as we know it, God created humans as moral beings and gave them ethical imperative when he said, ““You are free to… but you must not…” (Genesis 2:17). If the original man chose to violate the “you must not” part, his culpability would lead to judgment — “when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). 

But before this ambitious angel could incite the suspicion of Eden, he had to deny the consequences of violating the boundaries of God’s will. Along with his denial was a deceptive invitation to reach for autonomy – “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).

This “Knowing” was more than “knowing about something.” It carried the weight of self-determination. It was based in an offer to step outside the boundaries; to declare personal independence by violating the only prohibition given by the Creator.

The language is somewhat cryptic. What was the lure? What did the mother of humanity see as “desirable for gaining wisdom”? (Genesis 3:6). After disobeying God, in what sense were “the eyes of both of them opened”? (Genesis 3:7). Opened to what or to whom? How did their perception or perspective change?

It appears that a vision of life that flourished in fellowship with the Creator and His creation narrowed destructively toward self-centeredness. What was about God and others became about me and mine. The delusional bid for autonomy turned life’s meaning and purpose toward the self. Protecting self, even at the risk of hurting others surfaced quickly. “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Genesis 3:12). The history of victimization and blame began. It continues.

The delusion of autonomy began with a delicious but momentary indulging of the pleasures of what appeared to be “good for food and pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:5). But it ended in death. It always does because “…each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

“Sin in Genesis 3 is like a contagion, transmuting from shame and vulnerability to heightened alienation, even to the point where Yahweh’s own voice is no longer invitation but threat. Cain’s murderous act results in his exile (Gen. 4:1-16); a restless, godless society emerges (Gen. 4:17-24; 5:28-29); global violence leads to global destruction (Gen. 6:1-9:18); sin within Noah’s family leads to the enslavement of one people by another (Gen. 9:17-27); and, finally, the imperialism of conquest leads to the confusion of languages (Gen. 11)” (from, Body, Soul, and Human, Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible, Joel B. Green).

The history of destruction began in this way.

It continues. I read about it each day in my newspaper and fight it each day in my heart. Discontentment. Suspicion about the pleasures of life outside of the boundaries. Restlessness, violence, destruction and death.. A delusional bid for autonomy. Pursuit of diminished glory. The shrinking of life into a wad of self-absorption. Sin and Death. A life-pattern of  flight and hiding. What a sad exchange for life!

 Love wins

Gratefully, the original narrative of death was conquered by the merciful and loving pursuit of the living God. From the beginning, He is the Seeker of those who flee and hide. No man (of himself, in himself or by himself) seeks God. God is the only seeker.  We respond only when He seeks. Unless He pursues, we remain in flight.

God’s pursuit culminated in an unimaginable divine entrance into the created world. The Creator, Lawgiver and Judge became man to become our Redeemer. God accepted a costly rescue mission to save us from sin and death. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, NLT).

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4,14). 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son (Jesus Christ) also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’…. First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”  (Hebrews 10:5, 8-10).

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

“if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

When our Savior faced the impending judgment for our sins, a window to the mysterious intensity of His costly sacrifice is opened when we learn that, Jesus “knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done'” (Luke 22:41-42). In some way, Jesus entered and conquered the conflict of the will that was traced to the origin of sin. Union with Him is our only hope for freedom from bondage to sin and death. 

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Romans 6:5-12).

The Creator, Lawgiver and Judge—The Master of our fate and Captain of our soul—is also the Redeemer, “There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. “Turn to me and be saved,  all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:21-22).

with gratitude to our great God and Savior,

Steve Cornell

 

This entry was posted in Accountability, Afraid to die, Afterlife, Anthropology, Atheism, Atheists, Christian worldview, Christianity, Creation, Death, Death of Christ, Depravity, Despair, Devil, Evil in the world, Evil One, Fear of death, Forgiveness, Freedom, God, God's Patience, God's Heart, God's Will, Gospel, Grace, Hamartiology, History, Imago Dei, In Christ, Jesus Christ, Loss, Mercy, Origin of Sin, Problem of evil, Punishment, Radical love, Reconciliation, Repentance, Resurrection, Salvation, Self-deception, Sin, Suffering, Theodicy, True Christianity?, Violence, Wisdom, Worldview and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The history of evil

  1. Pingback: Before you blame God | WisdomForLife

  2. Pingback: A realistic understanding of life and the world « WisdomForLife

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