Response to Mainstream Christianity: The Source of Evil
This document is divided into four subsections:
- Precis of the mainstream Christian Position.
- Failings of these teachings.
- Precis of the Christadelphian Position.
- Link to Wrested Scriptures Page.
The Wrested Scriptures Page lists passages commonly used to defend the erroneous views and outlines the correct understanding of these passages.
In referring to 'Mainstream Christianity', we speak of the principal Christian groups, such as Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc.
Please excuse the directness of the sections below; due to the nature of the media, we felt it was best.
Mainstream Christian TeachingMainstream Christianity, in the tradition of most religions throughout history, has long upheld the idea of an external, super-natural source of spiritual evil. Through the use of a collage of unrelated passages stripped from their contexts, a web of scripture has been built to attempt back up this pre-conceived notion, who's true roots lie in paganism. A fanciful picture has been created of a fallen angel, that at some time in the remote past challenged God's authority in the very heavens, and was then cast down to earth with his followers, the demons. This creature, wholly dedicated to evil, is said to vie with God, using humanity as its' battle scene, and people as its' puppets.
- The Bible persistently points to man as being the originator of sin and evil, and wholly responsible for his actions. (Gen. 6:5, 8:21; Mrk. 7:21-23; Jer. 17:9; Jms. 1:13-15, 4:1; I Pet. 2:11, 4:2; Rom. 7:17 - 8:13; Gal. 5:16, etc.). The battle in this world is between flesh and spirit, our will vs. God's will.
- God repeatedly affirms his uniqueness and all-powerfullness in the world - including with regards to evil and darkness, and events we, in our limited view of the world and human affairs, regard as evil. There is no other in this universe who would contend with God. (Is. 45:5-7; I Sam. 2:6-8, Dt. 32:39; Prov. 16:4; Ecl. :14; Lam 3:37-38; Job 2:10, 6:4, 10:2, 19:6 & 21, 23:16, 27:2, etc.)
- The biblical labels 'satan' and 'devil', are in fact common terms meaning a generic 'enemy', 'adversary' or 'slanderer'. Any basic concordance study will reveal that these terms are by no means consistently used to denote a particular person or being, rather in each appearance they must be interpreted through their context. Their use ranges from describing the angel God sent to oppose Balaam in Numbers 22, to the judaizers in Paul's letters, to the adversaries raised up by God against Solomon in his old age, to God himself in I Chron. 21. Check it out for yourself - the terms refer simply to opposition, even holy opposition against evil.
- The passages that have been used historically to support the traditional image of
the devil - Is. 14, Ez. 28, Rev. 12 - are all clear examples of wresting scripture to
support a pre-conceived notion. Each of these passages (and a few others) either:
- clearly identifies the person being referred to as someone human and known in their time,
- or is prophetic and highly metaphoric, and can't be taken literally without rendering it's context meaningless,
- or both.
- If a powerful being devoted to evil exists, either the God of the Bible is not all-powerful, or he allows it's existence. If such a being does exist, and God is allowing it to exist, there is no Biblical explanation for the phenomenon, the knowledge and understanding of which would be essential to our having a clear relationship with God. To assume the existence of such a being without God providing a good explanation would be a tremendous stumbling block in our understanding of who God is. How could we trust in the power of a God who can be successfully rebelled against by his own heavenly minions? How can we trust a God who allows into the world, to drive us to sin, a being like the traditional devil? In the Lord's Prayer, we pray that 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. If God's will is done in heaven, the traditional rebellion of Lucifer and his followers must have been allowed. Biblically, this is entirely untenable.
- In I Cor. 10:13 it says that God does not allow us to tempted beyond our strength. This leaves no room for supernatural tempters. Or if we want to say that one does exist, then God must be monitoring him so that he doesn't assault us beyond what we can handle. Again, this picture just doesn't make sense.
- And how about events like the flood? If man is not the ultimate source of sin, why destroy mankind in the flood? If mankind was led astray by the machinations of a superhuman evil being, it doesn't seem quite fair (not to mention effective) that man be the one destroyed.
- In James 1:13-15, the writer tells his readers to never claim that God tempted them, but rather that temptation comes about as a result of our own desires. This passage is enlightening by it's omission. No other alternative is contemplated. James points out two alternatives: either temptation comes from God or from our own minds; and it's not God, so obviously it's our own minds.
What the Christadelphians Believe
We believe that God is the only spiritual power that exists. God is all-powerful and wholly good, and would by no means allow rebellion in his own domain, the heavens. Mankind was given free will to either please himself or please God. Because pleasing self provides such visible, short-term sensual benefits, the world is riddled with selfishness and evil. We do evil because we choose it, and we're prejudiced towards it because it feels good, or is convenient in the short term, or whatever. The work of Jesus saves us from our nature, and the sin inherent in it, not from some external source of evil. Throughout the Bible are many vivid metaphors illustrating the reality of sin in the world and in our lives. We believe that ignorance and prejudicial interpretations of the Bible have led to the creation of a unique 'satan' person. This belief in a unique 'satan' or 'devil' is not born out by even the most cursory of studies of the use of these terms in Scripture.
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