"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door." The Statue of Liberty (P.S. Please be so kind as to enter through the proper channels and in an orderly fashion)

Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bad Theology...Or Satanic Inversion?

Evil is the inversion of Good. In Milton's Paradise Lost, Lucifer boasted, "I will make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven," and spends many stanzas leveling the playing field with rhetorical tricks and moral relativism to equalize the respective values of Good and Evil, rotating the moral universe so that the poles rest on the same horizontal axis.

Then there is a quick exchange of cards, the rotation continues, and--from Lucifer's egocentric point of view-- the universe is turned upside down, with Lucifer at the apex and God at the bottom.

Up now equals "down," and down equals "up."

And voila: Milton's Lucifer steals the show as a freedom-fighting hero of sorts struggling out of the hands of an angry and oppressive Tyrant (i.e. God).

That it is Lucifer who demonstrates unbridled anger and boasts of his intentions to oppress and torment the entire human race is besides the point (as Lucifer himself assures us)...or is God's fault (as Lucifer explains with rationalizing sophistries).

It's all projection and rhetorical tricks, of course, as God Himself is Immovable, and Lucifer--a.k.a. Satan-- though deluded accordingly, knows it and must finally admit that spite is his motivation (though he manages to somewhat justify that, as well).

Nevertheless, the deft card-exchange can lead to confusion when the proverbial wolf-in-sheep's-clothing flashes credentials:

Virginia Tech mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui played this hand: "Jesus loves crucifying me."

That Jesus card was stolen (and shuffled in to a deck that was not full to begin with).

Christian Doctrine holds that Christ allowed Himself to be crucified in our stead in an act of selfless Love because he was not fond at all of seeing us suffer (no less "crucified"), however deserving.

Seung-Hui appeared to be the only one enjoying crucifying people for the purpose of satisfying his own selfish--and vindictive-- ego and sense of "just deserts," so he was simply projecting his own darkness on God--precisely like Milton's Lucifer did.

True, Christ told his disciples "Pick up your cross and follow me," but that was in the context of a wicked world that "loved to crucify," and Seung-Hui was an agent of that world, crucifying others, and then killing himself.

And it was utter destruction, not redemptive Salvation.

"Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people," Seung-Hui played again.

Right. "The People." Seung-Hui was acting on behalf of generations of faceless, nameless, anonymous people while massacring weak (i.e. weaponless) and defenseless people who had faces and names.

Meanwhile on the cross, Jesus prayed for his crucifiers (both for those who had faces and names and for generations of us afterward, who continue to crucify, however unwittingly): "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

It was such forgiveness, and Love, which has inspired generations of "weak and defenseless people" to be strong and able to withstand--and prevail against-- hate and violence.


Blogger Kelly said...

Well said!

"Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil." BofM

10:50 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well, I don't know if he should be demonized too much. He was diagnosed with autism when he was younger and was bullied around quite a bit.

At the same time, I find it difficult to muster pity because on top of having mental problems, he was also an asshole, pure and simple.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

My problem is those who will say that good is evil and visa versa.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Phelonius said...

I always like the take on evil by Thomas Aquinas. He basically stressed that evil was not a 'thing' or even anything necessarily personified by a spirit being or a physical being. His claim was that evil is the absence of good. In other words, if a person accepts his or her responsibility (and the joy) of living to the good as much as possible, then the place for evil is very small indeed.

This argument was primarily aimed at the dualist theologies in which the creator God created both good AND evil. If there is not a real thing, good, that is pursued, then the absence of good is ipso facto evil. In this understanding, one cannot really embrace evil as much as one 'avoids' good.

In the case of a complete madman, I think Thomas would have argued that he was impaired to the point that he did not know the value of pursuing the good. To your point, John, then this guy cannot be demonized in that sense. That does not mean that the responsibility is not his, and his alone, it just means that we cannot guess what the Maker's judgment will be.

I think Milton's Lucifer falls under this category rather well. The absence of loving the supreme God is to love the self as supreme instead. That, the sin of pride, is considered by Milton as the chief of all sins. That was why his Adam fell from grace, as he was tempted and fell from grace by wanting his own good rather than that of God.

2:43 PM  
Blogger John said...

I tend to agree with that, i.e. evil being the absence of good.

It's logical.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

John, along the lines of evil being the absence of good...

Darkness is the absence of Light. I can agree with that.

and James, I agree that we cannot know the judgement Cho will face. We do not know what motivated this young man to commit such a heinous act.

Also, I do not believe that God created Good or Evil.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Phelonius said...

Kelly, interesting.

That is a lot like the tradition of "Deism." Would you be willing to elaborate on the cause of good?

12:53 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Though it may have elements of "deism" my belief is that God is involved in our lives so far as we will permit.

I believe that God IS good. I also believe that He allows evil to be present to allow us to choose between good and evil. If we are forced to choose good, are we really good?

Pardon my reference again to the Book of Mormon, but it is key to formation of my understanding or rather belief of the nature of God and good and evil.

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...,righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

I present this as my personal beliefs on the subject and by no means expect anyone to see it as I do.

I like this debate.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Hey, John, on another subject. You might be interested in this blog entry at...Born again Redneck...

He gives his grades on the recent republican debates.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Phelonius said...

That is the basis of deism, in a sense. It is not the hard deism of Thomas Jefferson, where God creates that world and then steps away to watch his creation run like a clock. There is a link between this line of thought and that of Aquinas. Thomas would not agree that God allows evil to exist, per se. He would agree that God allows us a free will so that we can choose between Him and hell, so to speak.

There is a difference between definitions of evil. One person may say, why does God allow disease and hunger, floods and earthquakes?

Those things, in Thomistic thought, are better represented as accidents of nature than evil. The reason is that nature presents trials to us as well, but these are not brought about, necessarily, by any kind of rational or irrational choice. They happen because nature exists and nature is based on rude survival.

True evil, as you also represented, is based upon the choice of a being that has the ability to choose. God, being all Good, is one choice. One can choose God or "Not God." The reason that that is evil is that all things that are "Not God" are by definition, evil.

This is the basis of salvation. If a person were an object that is truly evil, then there can be no forgiveness of sins. God cannot forgive an earthquake because an earthquake is acting out the natural forces of nature. A lion eats what it kills because it must. Humans, on the other hand, are the only creatures that are truly capable of choosing between a good and a "not good," so there is still room for a redemptive act.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

"One person may say, why does God allow disease and hunger, floods and earthquakes?"

How we deal with adversity is another part of the equation. Do we turn bitter or do we rise above. Many have turned against God for things that have 'happened' to them by way of nature.

While at the same time, many have become great because of the choice they made to make lemonade out of lemons.

"True evil, ..., is based upon the choice of a being that has the ability to choose. God, being all Good, is one choice. One can choose God or 'Not God.' The reason that that is evil is that all things that are 'Not God' are by definition, evil."


I also agree that Mankind are the only ones who have the ability to choose between these two dichotomies.

5:51 PM  
Blogger John said...

"Why does God allow bad things to happen?"

That's not some profound theological mystery that takes a lifetime of exegetical study to glean out of The Bible. It's spelled out quite plainly in the first book (Genesis): Live in this paradisical utopia (i.e. Eden) under One Rule and nothing bad will ever happen. Choose to break the One Rule, however, and you're on your own (and don't blame God for what happens).

9:18 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

John, exactly!

It's all because we have agency. We are free to choose for ourselves, but not free to choose the outcome of those choices-- natural conscequences or otherwise.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I nabbed this discussion and posted it on my own blog...sans your entry on Cho and a few off topic items.

8:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home