Satan, I gotta hand it to ya. You’re brilliant. Ultimately a loser, but still.
Evil and its demoralizing impact on our world is a reality of life. However, to deny, shun or blame God as a result of hasty thinking is a mistake. Intellectual honesty requires more than a glance.
Many people turn their back on God or the concept of a Christian God because they can’t reconcile the evil, pain, suffering and general rottenness in the world with an all-powerful, all-loving Deity. I understand. Look at abortion. Day in, day out––about two souls a minute––an industry tantamount to a killing machine delivers babies on a long but tiny conveyor belt to any number of hands that rip them apart. Hard to fathom any sort of caring transcendent being in this scenario.
To this point, smug critics of my Catholic faith aren’t too impressed with my God. They sarcastically suggest that He’s in a Barcalounger, feet up, apparently content with the hellish fate of so many babies. If I tell them they have it wrong, they would ask why He doesn’t do something about it. Of course, they’re more than happy to answer their own question.
“Because, there is no ‘he.'” Silly man.
However, if you try to explain abortion et al. as an acceptable feature of God’s creation––and here’s where I undoubtedly fail as an apologist––friends look at me as if I’ve been drinking too much of the brain-numbing God Kool-Aid.
Satan is a perplexing element of existence, seemingly a part of reality’s scaffolding. It’s as if he’s a universal constant–like gravity. With the skill of a dancer, he moves among us. Floating. Hunting. Scoring.
He’s carved a niche as a diabolical puppeteer–plying his devilish trade by ensnaring the unsuspecting in black puppet strings. His antics also play mind games when trying to put them in the context of a world created by and from love. One can only imagine his hatred and disdain for the Catholic Church.
The world is a big place so evil is always popping up somewhere. Every day. We hear or read about it, some of us have seen it and some of us may have experienced it. However, evil also furtively probes the human landscape looking for weakness and opportunities. It’s a target-rich environment.
Can we really point to an act or event and say it’s evil? Or bad luck? Is it fair to call the behavior of a psychopath evil when he’s simply insane? If you’re on the receiving end of vitriolic hate, is that in the realm of evil?
I don’t know. Maybe.
Let’s look at it from another angle. Assume that Satan exists and he’s the author of evil. So what is his primary job description? It’s turning people against God. As a start, he can do it directly by subjecting them to all manner of viciousness. Consider the case of a sadist who is co-opted by the Devil and repeatedly tortures someone. How often is a victimized, suffering person going to get on their knees and give thanks to the Almighty?
Alternatively, Satan can cast doubt on God’s goodness indirectly. Perhaps he could have a hand in the following: a random July 4th celebratory bullet could kill someone’s mother or hate speech could incite a suicide bombing or scores of small children could be killed at school. In most cases, those left to deal with the horror aren’t going to be receptive to the concept of infinite, perfect and divine love.
And, of course, there’s war, poverty, hunger, the list is endless. So, is it a surprise that an omnipotent loving God is doubted?
I’ve been asked before if I’ve experienced evil. I’d have to say yes. Unequivocally. A child of mine was aborted. That story here.
What’s interesting to me is that for most of my life I ignored or denied God because other temptations were so time-consuming. I was a busy man. Coincidence? Or was Satan working double shifts to keep me away from God?
Yes. He was doing his job.
Here’s the crux. If I reasonably contemplate my physical existence and accept scientific inquiry, it’s clear to me that the universe and everything in it is a result of an intelligent designer. That signifies a Creator. Even one of the foremost atheists in the twentieth century acknowledged the existence of God because the evidence of design was so overwhelming. As he’s admitted, at one time the universe wasn’t. Now it is––compelling evidence of a transcendent causal agent in his view.
Continuing, if I look at the Creator’s plan for man’s salvation as evidenced by the Old Covenant and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the New––the lead actor as it were––virtue/good and sin/evil would have the main supporting roles. Continuing my theatrical analogy, free will would be the underlying motivation as to whether one wears the white hat or the black one.
So, from my perspective, there is a God, there is a plan, and our will is free to choose between God and Satan, good and evil.
As for free will, let’s be clear. Thank God I’m free to hit a golf ball with my driver; I’m equally as free to hit my dog over the head with a crowbar. If God blocks my freedom––or the serial killer’s freedom––whenever it’s about to be unwisely exercised, am I really independent? No, I’m not. I would be enslaved by God. So how could I possibly “choose” to love Him if He controls my choices? The genius of God’s plan is that He invites me to love Him–but I can say no.
For some reason of late, evil seems to be as conspicuous as the little girl in red in Schindler’s List. It hasn’t blended in––I see it everywhere.
In Gregory Boyd’s book Letter from a Skeptic, his father asked a number of piercing questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is the world full of so much suffering? Is our freedom of will worth the suffering? Why are so many innocents harmed or killed in natural disasters? Why did God create Satan? Is God really all-powerful?
Dr. Boyd’s answers to his father were right on target. “What is the freedom to love or not love unless it is freedom to enrich or harm another?” Or another perspective. “Our earthly temporal lives are but a brief prelude to a life that is going on forever. For a great many this life is indeed filled with nothing more than pain and suffering, but from an eternal perspective, this is only a small part of the whole story.”
As for the pain and suffering in the natural world, Dr. Boyd argues that it’s the “result of evil people, not nature, and that even the pain caused by most natural disasters could be minimized or eliminated if humans were what God created us to be. Take famines, for example. Do you think anyone would ever starve if everyone loved his neighbor as himself?”
The thought that a loving God may have compensatory rewards for those who are caught in the crosshairs of both moral and physical evil is intriguing. What might those be? No one knows, but from my wishful perspective, maybe the pain and suffering is minimized by the intervention of God’s comforting mercy.
Satan, the fallen angel opposed to God, gets the last word from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 395. “The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He can’t prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him.’”
The ultimate genius of God, as evidenced by the creation of everything from nothing out of perfect love, would not create an imperfect plan for man’s salvation. Therefore, evil, in all its hideous manifestations, has a role to play in our lives. Good comes from bad I tell myself. Never forget the Cross.
Since I trust in God, I embrace His wisdom.
Who am I to pick a bone with the Conductor of the Universe? He allows the diabolical puppeteer. I just try and keep clear of the puppet strings.