by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.
We live in the midst of spiritual warfare. This is the reality of being a part of creation where Satan prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8-9). The Scriptures make it clear that all of creation is in need of redemption. While most Christians assume that the cross was only about saving humans, the scope of Christ’s saving work was far vaster than that. It is cosmic in nature.
Paul teaches that in Christ, God was at work to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20, emphasis added). Similarly, Paul says the whole creation has from time immemorial been groaning to be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
One can only reconcile two parties if these parties are currently hostile to each other, and one can only liberate something if it’s currently oppressed. These passages are thus teaching us that everything in creation is, at least to some degree, currently out of sync with the Creator and oppressed by hostile powers. Christ died not only to reconcile and liberate humans, but also the whole of creation. Someday we will see his victory fully manifested. At the present time, however, the world remains under the curse and is not reflective of the Creator’s good designs.
In 1856, Darwin wrote to a friend. “What a book a Devil’s Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.” The massive violence, suffering, and waste we find in nature today and throughout the evolutionary process struck Darwin as more reflective of the Devil’s character than that of an all-good Creator. It was one of the reasons Darwin, who once aspired to be a minister, abandoned his belief in an all-good and all-powerful Creator. This problem continues to be the most common and most forceful argument against this belief.
We can begin to understand why God must allow humans to inflict suffering on one another and the animal kingdom, for without free will we wouldn’t have the capacity to love. But why would an all-good God create a world in which animals survive by inflicting incredible suffering on other animals? Why would a loving God create a world in which innumerable parasites, viruses, diseases, and genetic mutations torment and kill millions of adults, children, and animals every year? And why would a beneficent Creator allow “natural” disasters like earthquakes, tsunami’s, hurricanes, droughts, and famines to afflict nightmarish suffering on millions of humans and animals? All of these aspects of nature deserve a place in Darwin’s hypothetical book of nature, written by “the Devil’s Chaplain,” for all seem to reflect the character of a malevolent Devil more than the character of an all-good, all-loving and all-powerful God.
The reason nature to a large degree looks like it’s written by “the Devil’s Chaplain” is because it is, to a large degree, corrupted by the devil. And the reason God has to allow Satan and other evil powers to carry out their destructive designs is the same reasons he must allow humans to do so: free will. Unless these powerful angelic beings had the capacity to choose against God and use their “say-so” at cross purposes with God, they couldn’t have had the capacity to choose for God and use their “say-so” to carry out his will in any significant, loving and morally responsible sense.
This means we don’t need to blame God for all the violence, suffering, and death we (as well as animals) suffer at the hands of nature. God is truly all-good. There isn’t the slightest tinge of malice in him. The carnage we find in nature, as well as in human history and society, is not reflective of his beautiful will. An enemy has done this (Mt. 13:28).
Understanding the full scope of Satan’s corrupting reign, extending even to the way nature currently operates, is helpful in waking up to the reality that we live in the crossfire of a cosmic conflict. Our commanding officer has entered this enemy-occupied war zone and dealt a fatal blow to the principalities and the powers, and he now calls on us to cooperate with him in rescuing the world from these destructive forces. This is no time for living like we’re on vacation so that we can live out the American Dream. It’s time to wake up to the reality of the war and use our “say so” for the kingdom of God.
Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist, and author. He has been featured in the New York Times, The Charlie Rose Show, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and numerous other television and radio venues.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!