Evil has been described as God’s problem. In a simple form, it is stated as a question. How can a God of infinite love allow so much evil to exist in the world? In this context, evil includes suffering of all sorts, including disease, famine, pestilence, war, birth defects, mental disorders, rape, and abuse, especially child abuse.
Why do I say that preachers are deceptive about the problem of evil? I say this because the preachers have no answer to the question except a fabricated falsehood.
A short bit of history. The first four books of the Hebrew Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were written by an unknown author or authors about 1440 BCE. Deuteronomy was written between 800 BCE and 600 BCE. The first five books of the Hebrew Testament were written between 3450 and 2600 years ago.
During this early time, suffering was considered a punishment from God. The basic idea was that God intervened in people’s lives, handing out rewards and punishments, based on how people behaved. If you sinned, you were punished, in this life. If you were righteous, you were rewarded, in this life. Whole tribes might suffer a disease or famine if some people in the tribe were committing sins.
The book of Isaiah, written about 500 BCE says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV) This is a clear statement that God is responsible for both good and bad events. God creates the storm and the rainbow that follows. God creates the evil of war and then makes the peace that follows.
It wasn’t until the time of the Book of Daniel, about 165 BCE or about 2180 years ago that a new idea for dealing with evil was introduced. Many things had happened to the Hebrews. One of the most important is that they had been engaged in trade and conflicts with other tribes and countries. Those groups included the Persians whose religion was quite different from the Hebrew’s worship of Yahweh.
The Hebrews saw a conflict in that there were some evil people who prospered and some righteous people who suffered. How could a God of infinite love and infinite justice allow this? The simple answer from Isaiah did seem adequate for this complex question.
The Hebrew theologians borrowed an idea from the Persians; the idea that there were two competing forces struggling for domination of the world. This was the Persian idea of duality, the struggle between light (good) and darkness (evil). For the Hebrews, Yahweh was the good force, the force of light. For the commander of the evil army, the Hebrew theologians picked Satan, from the book of Job. Satan became the evil force, the force of darkness.
Satan had been a minor character taking part in God’s council in the book of Job. There is no evidence that Satan was disguised as the snake in Genesis. This idea is part of the falsehood.
[Note: many of the ideas about Satan are not from the Bible but from books like Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” published in about 1320 and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, published in 1667. You can read a summary of “The Divine Comedy” here and you can read a summary of “Paradise Lost” here.]
With the duality of good and evil, the Hebrew theologians had a quick and ready answer to the question of good people some times suffering and evil people some times prospering. It was Satan.
What does this have to do with the preachers? The preachers have studied the bible and biblical history; they are aware of the facts I mention above. However, today’s preachers are even more intent on blaming Satan for evil. If they were honest, they would simply answer the question of evil with: “I don’t know.” They are not content with that answer. They want people to fear something so that people will turn to God for help. Satan is set up as the boogey-man to frighten people.
When you know something is false but you present it as truth, you are lying.
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