Writer's Note: In large part, this series is theological reply (an apologetic) to the free thinking unbeliever who questions the apparent inactivity of God when the wicked prosper at the expense of the innocent. There is no good (merely) intellectual response, dry eyed and sheepish, when children die in a Thai "free fire" zone, any more than a morose rejoinder sufficed when police set fire hoses and attack dogs on black children in the American South.
No, silence and inactivity will not do. There is evil in the world. Evil exists, acts, demands its own. Christians possess a sound, intellectual, theological, spiritual explanation of God's actions. We just run away from God as though the divine/religious answer is unworthy.
The second of the two proposed New Testament passages (Matt. 17:14-21) positing Christ's active opposition to evil may not be any more creditably Biblical than the first (John 8:3-12). This may be a virtue for its acceptance means the church, led by the Holy 'Spirit, with time to think about what Jesus does do, apportioned this story a place in the brief pages of the New Testament gospel story. The evangelist's reprisal of a recurring event, Jesus and His active opposition to demonic evil, promotes a regimen of spiritual muscle-building.
The Apostles, unable to free a young boy from the grips of demonic possession, announce their frustration to the Christ. Jesus has no apparent limitations in this matter. He is fully prepared to preach deliverance to the captives, in whatever captivity He may find them.
"This kind," he announces to his beleaguered believers, "go not out but by prayer and fasting."
"You are in the big leagues now," He might have easily told us. "They throw nasty stuff at you up here.''
Evil is not an easy opponent. When we see evil at work, big league evil, no weak-kneed equivocation suffices in reply,
In one of his atheistic presentations, pundit Christopher Hitchens sets out the plight of a young girl, an innocent taken against her will, for no reason, imprisoned and cruelly abused by her kidnappers. At a routine time each evening after their duties are done the young girl's kidnappers return to use her again. Each night she has no choice but to succumb. After the last one is finished with her, each night, the young girl prays for God to help her, to relieve her outrage, to set her free. Each night for month after month, God is silent, apparently inactive.
Evil is a virus, I think, on the human genome. It mimics the appearance of good, for it is not other than a relative of the healthy cells on the double-helix of human spiritual destiny. The body would reject the virus outright if it were too different, or, if it were completely other, the body would not recognize the potential destruction of a virus and give it no place. It is a medical theory, we are told, that viruses are particularly fond of healthy tissue because this is its closest kin in human cell structure.
So it is that the virus, evil, mimics the healthy kindness of the wholesome human soul to take its place, out of exaggerated desire.
Then, sexual love expression becomes outrageous rapine. Tolerant submission of the tactile female to male urgency is the defenseless cry in the night, night after night. God seems absent when evil is not answered.
Some evil goes not out by prayer and fasting. what in any world does this mean?
- The worst things that come to us in this world are from the other. Fear not, we are told, forces that break and tear the flesh. Fear, instead, that which can doom the soul. We live in flesh and blood now, so there are those things that instantly offend the flesh. It is not what evil does to the body that is most offensive. We will live in the soul much longer.
- God does not owe us victory over that which we will not oppose. The universe is not random, we believe, things happen for a reason. If there is a reason for wicked prosperity and innocent suffering, it cannot be laid at the feet of God. God does not do evil, nor tempt men to do evil. If this is true, it follows as day to night that God's people can neither do evil, tempt others to evil, or placidly allow evil in the world, in our midst or in one's own (redeemed) life.
- Evil is ungodliness (Romans 1:18). The corporate Christian (Big Business but With a Cross) cannot be allowed to hide behind its corporate charter. If one accepts the explanation that individual evil is permissible in a Christian structure because "the denomination is larger than any one person," you immediately dismiss these things; the worth of one soul, the presence of the Christ as primary in the structure and the necessity for spiritual muscle building to triumphantly in the face of those who "go not out but by prayer and fasting."
Ungodliness is a broken relationship between man and God. Unrighteousness, which always eventuates from ungodliness, is broken relationship with others. An ungodly person cannot keep the law of God because he lacks relationship to continue with God. Ungodliness is not just ignorance of God. It is, at least, willful unconcern for the presence of God who makes Godself known in a hundred ways to each age since the beginning of time.
The man/men who outrage the innocent girl cannot claim privilege, play the victim (of surroundings, of stress, of substance abuse). Unrighteous acts, acts against the flesh, are ungodly acts. God opposes evil. The fellow who knows God must actively oppose evil, as well.
The better response to evil is the godly response. God remakes evil men into the image of God when relationship is restored. If we care for the soul of the evil perpetrator as much as we care for the outraged flesh of the earthly victim, we ought to actively oppose evil.
Tomorrow: Free Church Tradition: Active Opposition to Evil-Part Three
Opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of the church I serve or any other person or organization.