3 Types of Evil: Part 2

Part 1 of this post proved very popular on Facebook. If you haven’t read it yet, head on over to get caught up. Lots of good questions and discussion. In light of that I thought it might be a good idea to flesh out some of the ideas in that post and try to answer any questions that arose.

What should be obvious from part 1 is that evil is a complex subject. For sake of clarity I am using evil as a catch all for everything bad that is in the world. I base this on the statement God repeatedly makes in Genesis after creating stuff: “Everything is very good.” For me that means that if something is bad then it isn’t a part of the original creation. Jumping off on this, I think that our theologising is misguided when we start from the concept of original sin since Adam and Eve were created with original righteousness. So my conceptualisation of evil includes death, sin, suffering, sickness, injustice, rebellion, and self-righteousness/self-trust and anything that causes these things. 

I actually expected most of the comments to be about structural evil since that is a huge topic in the church today. However, as it turned out, most comments related to personal evil and natural evil. 

Any discussion of evil has to start with Genesis 3 where we see the story of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden. It’s interesting to look at the three types of sin that are talked about in this passage.

Personal Evil. We begin with the curses that are placed upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent for their personal sins. It is important to point out however, that even though Adam, Eve, and the serpent sinned personally, the bible treats their personal sin differently that our personal sin because their personal sins had an effect on everyone else.

As Saul Samante asks, “Is it safe to conjecture that these three evils are not really separate entities but deeply connected with each other? Let me put it this way: Personal evil (Adamic sin), gave rise to cosmic and systemic evils. Prior to the fall, everything was perfect and harmonious. After the fall, cosmic harmony disintegrated and human structures or systems became oppressive.”

Romans says that death entered through Adam’s sin. This is significant for the rest of our conversation because a large part of our understanding of natural evil is connected to death. We will expand on this below.

Structural Evil. We also see Adam’s sin as it affects his family namely Eve and their unborn children. So here we see that Adam’s personal sin has an effect upon the structures of the day, in this case family but of course eventually expand on to become greater structures in society. As Mike Swalm points out,

“Your examples of systemic evil, for instance, could they stem from some of the systemic curse language (your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you/enmity between woman and serpent etc)?”

Mike is on the right track. The language used in these two phrases is significant in that we see linguistic parallels between this passage and the account of Cain’s sin a few chapters later. Take a look:

In Genesis 3:16 God says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

In Genesis 4:6, God says to Cain, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

These simple words set the stage for the battle of the sexes. They set up a struggle of evil desires that each party will have as a result of sin. The woman will desire to control her husband in the same way that Cain’s sin desired to rule over him. On the other hand, the husband response is to rule over his wife.

Of course God had already told us what the relationships should be: a “helper who is right for him,”taken not from his head nor from his feet but from his side. It is a statement of equality, of companionship, of working together, of partnership.

Natural Evil. We also see in the in the curse on Adam that his curse will impact the ground or the environment around him and this is a curse as it exists upon the natural world. Whereas prior to this the ground would give up its riches willingly to him, after the sin he would have to work for these riches with the sweat of his brow and his work would be less than productive. 

Lex Ely Aspiras asks, “In natural evil, what makes natural phenomena evil? It is easy to understand that when people suffer because of typhoon Ondoy, this indeed is evil. Somewhere in the world, a storm is raging without affecting any human being, is this also evil? An earth-size storm is raging in Jupiter for centuries, is that evil? Sunspots adversely affect life on earth, are sunspots evil? Beyond earth’s atmosphere up to the edge of the observable universe, everything appears anathema to life as we know it, is this “everything” evil?”

We saw above that Romans says that death entered through Adam’s sin. This is significant because a large part of our understanding of natural evil is connected to death. It seems that prior to Adam’s sin, there was no death. That means that because death is a direct result of sin that things that cause death are also a part of the evil that pervaded the universe after Adam. Following this along further, events that seem normal in today’s world — typhoons, earthquakes, floods, pandemics — may have existed in the past but they certainly didn’t cause death.

One question we need to ask is, “What is the cause of these weather patterns?” Certainly they are natural but are there also other causes for them? The Bible pretty explicitly says that some weather patterns such as storms, pandemics, and famines can be caused by sin. I have written about that here

There is actually some evidence that weather patterns prior to the flood were different that the weather patterns we have now. Genesis 2:5-6 says there wasn’t any rain but that a mist or underground water watered the earth. This seems to imply that the rains that came before the flood were something unique and unknown during those days. All that to say that storms may not have existed prior to Adam’s sin.

Where do the Spiritual Powers fit into all of this? Another aspect of evil emerged from the online discussion, particularly by Rei Lemuel Crizaldo and Rene del Barrio. “What about,” some asked, “The evil associated with spiritual powers?” We do see within the story the reality of spiritual powers because the serpent, who we later discover is the Satan, is in fact a spiritual power. Because of the curse we see that his power is limited through this encounter because he can no longer walk upright but must crawl on the ground dragging his belly. The question remains as to where these spiritual powers fit into today’s world.

Ultimately the question associated with this is, “Is Satan responsible for causing some of the evil in the world, too?” Many stories of people’s encounters with spiritual evil exist. I have heard stories of people being freed from spiritual oppressions that have caused mental illness and even death. The Bible also has countless examples of Jesus freeing people from unclean spirits. It cannot be denied that spiritual powers exist and are active in the world.

One thing the Bible does say about spiritual powers, however, is that their power is limited. Statements like “Don’t give the devil any opportunity to work,” “Resist the devil and he will run away from you,” and “Put on all the armor that God supplies” mean that it is within human power to not be overcome by Satan. 

Jesus, in the direct context of a discussion of whose power he is using — Satan’s or God’s — says that he needs to “tie up the strong man.” The strong man in this case is the devil.

The Book of Revelation speaks of the end of all kinds of evil, including the end of rebellious spiritual powers — Satan ends up cast into the bottomless pit and the lake of fire. Evil is eventually eliminated from creation and we get a glimpse of what life will be like without any evil.

So it seems that if we give permission or opportunity for these powers to exert themselves then they will. And it appears that if we do not give permission or opportunity then these powers cannot act.

So what then of Job? While it is true that God and Satan do have a conversation or two about Job it’s also important to note that it is in fact God who brings up the subject, not Satan. God clearly lays out the rules of engagement for how Satan is to tempt Job and in the end it is God who is glorified, and Job who is vindicated. Satan is by no means the hero of the story. Also note that Job’s trials were implemented through structural evil (bandits & enemies attack on his flocks), natural evil (a windstorm destroys his kids’ house, fire falls from heaven and consumes his flocks, and boils cover his body), and personal evil (Job prayed for them that God would forgive any sins his kids may have committed). So the tripartite theology of evil is even seen here.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash.

ECQ na naman! “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

English

ECQ[1] na naman! Dahil kay Delta Variant ng COVID-19 itinaas muli ang ECQ sa QC. Ito ay para sa ating kaligtasan. Pero, nakakalungkot diba? Akala natin na ok na tayo dahil higit pa sa isang taong nag social distancing, naghugas kamay, nag suot ng facemask at shield, nag stay-at-home pa. At lahat tayo ay ready magpabakuna pag oras natin. Pero mukhang wala sa atin kamay ang solution sa problema nito.

Sa mga ganitong panahon, naalala natin ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita noong Jeremias 29:11, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi sa kasmaan n’yo, at plano para bigyan kayo ng pag-asa na magkaroon kayo ng mabuting kinabukasan.” Napatanong tayo kapag naalala natin ito ng “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

Kinakailangan natin balikan ang konteksto nitong verse sa Biblia upang sagutin ang tanong natin. 
Sa panahon kasi ni Jeremias, hindi maganda ang kalagayan ng bansang Israel dahil sa kanilang mga kasalanan. Ang biling ng Panginoon kay Jeremias ay maipahayag sa mga taong bayan kung ano ang plano ng Panginoon sa kanila. Sabi kasi ng Panginoon na dadahihin sila sa Babylonia bilang parusa ng kanilang mga kasalanan. 70 na taon ang panahon ng kanilang pagkabihag na binigay ng Panginoon sa pamamagitan ni Jeremias. Pero ayaw maniwala ng mga taong bayan at ng mga ibang mga false prophets kaya sabi nila na hindi sila tatagal sa Babylonia. Mga dalawang linggo lamang ang panahon ng pagkabihag doon. 

Kahit pinaparusahan sila ng Panginoon, ok sa Kanya na mawawala sila sa Lupang Pangako for 70 years dahil kapag nasa Babylonia nasa kalooban pa rin sila ng Panginoon. Kahit tayo ay nasa ECQ or anumang antas ng restrictions, nasa kalooban pa rin tayo ng Panginoon!

Unang una, sasabihin ko sa inyo na kahit naniniwala ako na ang COVID-19 ay isang masamang bagay, hindi ako naniniwala na ang COVID-19 ay isang parusa ng Panginoon. Pero naniniwala ako na hindi normal ang pagkakasakit. Noong nilikha ng Panginoon ang sanlibutan hindi pa kasama doon ang sakit (Genesis 1:31). Ang sakit ay dahil sa kasalanan ng mga tao. Kaya may mga sakit ang mundo natin ngayon pero may darating din na panahon kung kailan mawala ang mga sakit sa mundo (Pahayag 21:4). 

Meron tayong pwedeng matutunan mula sa sinasabi ni Jeremias patungki sa mga bagay na hindi normal. 

Medyo kakaiba ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita. Imbis na maghintay lamang ang kanilang pagbalik, dapat makikisalamuha sila sa bago nilang lugar. Magiging bahagi dapat sila ng Babylonia — “Magtayo kayo ng mga bahay at doon kayo tumira. Magtanim kayo at kumain ng inyong ani. Magasawa kayo at nang nagkaanak kayo.”

Hindi tumitigil ang buhay kapag hindi normal ang ating kalagayan. Hindi pwedeng magsabi ng “pag maayos na ang buhay ko tsaka ako ako kikilos.” Sabi sa atin ng Panginoon, “Kumilos na kayo kahit hindi pa ayos ang kalagayan mo.” 

At hindi lang yun. Dapat din “Tumulong kayo para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod sa pinagdalhan sa inyo.” Ano ba’ng ibig sabihin?

  • Maging masunurin tayo sa mga batas patungkol sa pandemya kasi “para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod.” 
  • Mag hugas ang ating mga kamay, mag-social distancing tayo, mag suot tayo ng facemask at face shield, manatili tayo sa bahay kapag kinakailangan, at mag work from home tayo kung pwede. 
  • Magpa lista tayo sa pagpapapbakuna at pag dating ng panahon magpabakuna tayo. 
  • Ipananalangin natin ang mga taong namamahala sa COVID-19 response ng bansa. 
  • Tulungan natin ang mga taong nahirapan dahil sa pandemya. 

Pagkatapos ng sinabi nito, sinabi ng Panginoon, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutuparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi kasamaan nyo.” Ibig sabihin, depende din sa atin pagsunod ang pagtupad ng mga plano ng Diyos. 

Meron kasing tao na binabaha ang bahay. Kaya umakyat sa bubongan nya at nagdasal, “Panginoon iligtas mo ako sa baha.” 

Meron dumaan na rescue mula sa baranggay. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Meron dumaan na taong naka-banca. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

May dumaan na helicopter nang lumalapit sa kanya. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Sa wakas nalunod sya sa baha at nag-puntang langit. Pagdating nya doon, nag-tanong sya sa Panginoon. “Lord, bakit hindi mo sinagot ang aking hilining sa iyo? Bakit hindi mo ako niligtas sa baha?”

“Ano ba?” sabi ng Panginoon. “Nagpadala ako ng rescue, ng banca, at ng helicopter pero ayaw mong sumakay!”

Minsan kasi naghahanap tayo ng milagro pero ang tugon ng Panginoon ay ang mga normal na bagay. 

Paano ka bang sinasagot ng Panginoon ngayon panahon ng ECQ muli? 

Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang puna.

Ginagawa ng mga kaibigan ang pag-share. 

Larawan ni Erik Mclean sa Unsplash. 
__________ 
[1] Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ang ECQ ay Enhanced Community Quarantine. ang ECQ ay ang pinaka-mataas na antas ng anti-COVID-19 measures na pwedeng ilagay ng Philippine Government. 

It’s ECQ again! “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

It’s ECQ [1] again! Due to Delta Variant of COVID-19 the ECQ was raised again in Quezon City. Even though it’s for our safetly, it’s sad isn’t it? We thought we were ok because for more than one year we have social distanced, washed our hands, worn a facemask and faceshield, and stayed-at-home. And we are all ready to get vaccinated when it’s our time. But it seems like things are out of our control. 

At times like this, we remember what the Lord said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not for your evil, and plan to give you of hope for a better future” (God’s Word). This makes us ask the question, “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

We need to go back to the context of this biblical verse to answer our question. In Jeremiah’s day, the nation of Israel was in a bad state because of their sins. The Lord’s command to Jeremiah was to reveal to the people what the Lord had planned for them. The Lord said that they would be taken to Babylon as punishment for their sins. The period of their captivity given by the Lord through Jeremiah was 70 years. But the people and the other false prophets did not want to believe so they said that they would not stay in Babylonia. They said the captivity there would only be about two weeks.

Even if the Lord was punishing them, it is ok with Him that they will be gone from the Promised Land for 70 years because when they are in Babylonia they are still in the will of the Lord. Even if we are on ECQ or any level of restrictions, we are still in the will of the Lord!

First of all, I will tell you that even though I believe that COVID-19 is a bad thing, I do not believe that COVID-19 is a punishment of the Lord. But I do believe the illness is not normal. When the Lord created the world, disease was not included (Genesis 1:31). Sickness is due to sin. So while there are diseases in our world today there will also come a time when the diseases of the world will disappear (Revelation 21:4).

We can learn something from what Jeremiah says about things that are not normal.

The Lord said something different to the Israelites. Instead of just waiting for their return, they should socialize in their new place. They were to be part of Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant and eat your crops. Get married and have children.”

Life does not stop when our condition is not normal. It is not possible to say “when my life is in order I will act.” The Lord tells us, “Act now, even when things aren’t perfect.”

And that’s not all. You must also “Contribute for the good and prosperity of the city to which you are brought.” What does that mean?

  • Let us be obedient to the laws regarding pandemics because “for the good and development of the city.”
  • Wash our hands, wear a facemask and face shield, stay home when necessary, and work from home if possible.
  • Let’s make a list of vaccinations and when the time comes we will be vaccinated.
  • Pray for those in charge of the pandemic restrictions, that God may continue give them wisdom. 
  • Find ways to help those who are in need because of the pandemic. 

After saying all of this, the Lord then says, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not your evil.” That is, the fulfillment of God’s plans also depends on our obedience.
There was a man whose house was flooding. So he climbed on his roof and prayed, “Lord save me from the flood.”

Soon after that a rescue vehicle came from the local government unit. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

Someone passed by in a small boat. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

A helicopter passed by as it approached him. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

He finally drowned in the flood and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked the Lord.

“Lord, why didn’t you answer my request to you? Why didn’t you save me from the flood?”

“What?” saith the Lord. “I sent a rescue vehicle, a small boat, and a helicopter but you want to get in any of them!”

Sometimes we want a miracle but the Lord’s response is something more normal.

How is the Lord answering you now during this ECQ repeat?

Feedback is always welcome.

Friends do the sharing.

Photo by Erik Mclean at Unsplash.
__________
[1] For those who don’t know, ECQ is Enhanced Community Quarantine. ECQ is the highest level of anti-COVID-19 measures that the Philippine Government can put in place.

Thoughts on drought in a very dry year. Is this drought a call for justice?

Saskatchewan is in the middle of a drought. A drought in its simplest form is when there isn’t enough rain to make the crops grow. The lack of snow and rain over the past year, coupled with record-high temperatures, have succeeded in drying out the soil to the point where crops are not growing. It isn’t the first drought to hit Saskatchewan and probably won’t be the last. Some say that drought is a direct result of climate change, which some say is caused by human activity.

The plight of the Saskatchewan farmer has more meaning for me this year since my wife and I have been spending a lot of time on the farm. It makes me want to find ways to help.

The Bible says that drought can at times be a sign of God’s judgment against structural evil. It got me thinking. Is it possible that the current drought is connected with recent revelations about Canada’s founding principles? For those unaware, headlines in Canada have been dominated by stories of the Indian Residential School System, an official policy by the Government of Canada and church groups to “remove the Indian” from First Nations children — basically the government of Canada had a policy of cultural genocide against First Nations peoples in an effort to both make them better citizens and to convert them to Christianity. North American society has also been rocked over the past several years with calls for justice for the systemic mistreatment of women, for systemic racism, for legacies of slavery, and for other historical injustices. I have written about some of these things here, here, and here.

At this point I need to offer some clarification lest I be misunderstood: As I have written elsewhere, structural and natural evils are different from personal evil. Structural evil is a system or pattern of beliefs or activities in an organization or culture that hinders or opposes the advance of God’s kingdom in this world. Natural evil includes things like famine, drought, disease, wild animals, floods, storms, and disease. So any judgment on structural or natural evil is not on individual farmers for their sins but on society as a whole for its sins.

But even though the reasons may be systemic, the impact is indeed personal. There are mental stresses associated with farming and drought. Farmers are extremely resilient. I recall a conversation I had with someone in the Ag industry in Saskatchewan a few years ago. He said he respects how farmers are able to do everything that they can to grow good crops but the fact remains that a major part of farming is out of their control — namely the weather — and that they continue to do it year in and year out regardless of how the previous year went.

In times like this, Christians like to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads, “However, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, search for me, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear ⌞their prayer⌟ from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their country” (God’s Word).

Of course Canada has never claimed to be Christian nation so I am genuinely not sure how this verse can be applied today, but the Bible gives many examples of God’s interest in the nations including both blessings and curses.

The very first mention of natural evil in the Bible is in the context of farming. Adam was told by God in Genesis 3:17-19:

”The ground is cursed because of you. Through hard work you will eat ⌞food that comes⌟ from it every day of your life. The ground will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow, you will produce food to eat until you return to the ground, because you were taken from it. You are dust, and you will return to dust” (God’s Word).

So it’s not completely crazy to assume that the land responds to structural sin, meaning that even if the 2 Chronicles 7:14 quote isn’t entirely apropos for today’s world, it might be apropos for drought situations since the immediate context of the verse is drought brought upon by society’s sins.

In any case, what would “humble themselves and seek my face” mean in light of the new call for social justice?

One aspect would have to include repentance. Repentance is hard to do because it involves not only humility but admitting that we are wrong. I don’t know about you but I don’t like doing that. So just at that level repentance is problematic. How much more public repentance?

Another aspect would have to be renovation. Repentance also includes making sure the future is better. It means changing the way I think and act. It means rectifying the past — rectification means rebuilding or renovating those past actions that I want to repent from. Renovation is hard because it starts with tearing things down. Some use the word “deconstruction” for this — a rather complex term that we don’t have time to go into today. I will say this, though. While deconstruction may include the use of a sledgehammer, it also has a level of control. It’s not mere demolition but needs to have some order to it, it needs to be systematic, and it needs to be useful.

The Bible does speak of a generational aspect to sin, which connects us to the sins of the past even if we weren’t present during those times. The lives we live today may have been directly impacted by decisions made by our progenitors and that means that we may still benefit from their sins.

Reconciliation also has to be a part of it. To be reconciled is to have a restored relationship. It is what happens when people humble themselves, repent, and renovate.

So then, how can we help farmers? We need to make some decisions. What does our nation need to repent from? What do we need to tear down? What do we need to renovate? How can I participate in building a new nation?

Maybe we can start here:

  • Revisit “truth.” Is what I think to be true actually the Truth?
  • Repent & Ask Forgiveness.
  • Practice Reconciliation.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Maud Correa on Unsplash.

3 Types of Evil

The years leading up to the pandemic have exposed a variety of bad things in the world — things that perhaps in the past were not as noticed by people not directly affected. These issues include the #metoo movement, racism including Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, Asian Hate, and Residential Schools, and violence such as the militarisation of the police.

One area of dispute is the extent of evil in the world. Some people simply say things like, “I am not racist so racism isn’t real” or “I have an indigenous/black/person of colour friend who hasn’t experienced racism so it isn’t really an issue” or the kicker “Once people accept Jesus they are no longer sinners so things like the mistreatment of others will just disappear.”

These various approaches view evil as being something personal and so provide personal solutions to it. And this isn’t all that surprising given that the default message of the evangelical church over the years has been, “Invite Jesus into your heart and your sins will be forgiven.”

Evil, however, is much more complex than simply being personal. In fact there are three types of evil, or sin, that are discussed in the Bible: Personal evil, natural evil, and structural evil.

In this post we will take an introductory look at each of these types of evil with the hope that a renewed understanding of these will lead to justice and change in society.

Personal Evil.

Personal evil has been the central way that people in recent times have understood evil. There are three ways to approach how the Bible understands personal evil, each one from a different cultural perspective.

Guilt to Innocence is the most common understanding of personal evil, largely due to the predominance of western Bible interpretations. It uses a courtroom as its motif. This understanding has led to popular gospel presentations such as the Four Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, and the Roman Road to salvation. The emphasis to this approach is that all are guilty of sin and are thus in need of righteousness. This perspective is common among individualistic societies.

Shame to Honour is another perspective on personal evil. In recent years, students of culture have seen that many peoples on the earth do not see things in light of guilt and innocence. Some people better understand a proper relationship with God through concepts of honour and shame.[1] Shame to Honour emphasises relationships and how they can be restored. This perspective is common in communal societies.

A third approach to understanding personal evil is Fear to Power. In recent years, students of culture have seen that many peoples on the earth do not see things in light of guilt and innocence. Some people better understand a proper relationship with God through concepts of Power and Fear. Jesus overcame the power of Satan and death on the cross and gives power to those who are afraid.

Natural Evil.

Natural evil includes things like famine, drought, disease, wild animals, floods, storms, and disease.

Floods: God brought “a flood of waters on the earth” (Genesis 6:17).

Thunder, hail, lightning: God “sent thunder and hail, and fire came down” (Exodus 9:23).

Destructive Wind: God sent a “great wind” that destroyed Job’s house and killed his family (Job 1:19). Earthquake: By the Lord “the earth will be shaken” (Isaiah 13:13).

Drought and Famine: God will shut off rains, so neither land nor trees yield produce (Leviticus 26:19–20).

Forest fires: God says, “Say to the southern forest, ‘I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree’” (Ezekiel 20:47).

These events affect people all over the world and the results are often not good. A super typhoon went through the Philippines a number of years ago. In a small coastal town many lives were lost as logs from the mountains were washed through the town. Those logs were seen as a curse. About a week later, a small island community was awakened by cries of, “Thanks be to God. He has provided these logs for us. Now I can build a house/boat/business.” Those same logs cursed a week earlier in another place were now seen as a blessing.

It’s important to point out that these natural evils started with the curse in the garden of Eden, where, because of Adam’s sin, the ground was also cursed. It is this curse that leads to the examples listed above.

Structural Evil.

Structural evil is a system or pattern of beliefs or activities in an organization or culture that hinders or opposes the advance of God’s kingdom in this world. There are structured evils rooted in society’s prevailing religious, social, economic or political systems. The key element of structural evil is that it is organizational, a pattern or network that opposes the Kingdom.

Examples of structural evil include things like tax evasion, caste systems, dowry, sexual mutilation, slavery, racism and apartheid, colonialism, and bribery or governmental corruption.

Key elements of structural evil include the existence of a wicked power or spirit. Structural evil is also corporate, either organizational or institutional. It is systemic, with patterns, networks of activities or parts. It has a multiple nature including laws, law enforcements, culture, taboos, attitudes, beliefs, lack of alternatives, and repressive rule. It can be social, political, economic, or religious. It aims to create chaos, division, injustice, human suffering or natural damage. It opposes advance of Kingdom of God.

The good news for structural evil is that at the cross Christ defeated sin, death, and Satan. These now have no hold on believers. All authority is given to Christ … He is far above all and every other name. The Church as His Body shares this authority over Satan & evil spirits. In Christ the believer is given the authority to disciple nations.

Conclusion.

The church needs to further develop its theologies of evil so that we can both acknowledge the extent of evil in the world, and also find better ways to deal with it. Emphasis needs to continue, of course, on repentance from personal evil, but we also need to incorporate ways to repent from both societal and natural evils.

What do you think of this 3-part framework?

Feedback is always welcome!

Notes:

1 Other great sources of Honour-Shame based theologies include works by Jackson Wu, Jayson Georges, and Werner Mischke.

Image by Paulette Vautour on Unsplash.

Of monuments and unmarked graves: Is it right to commemorate those responsible for the residential school system while ignoring its victims?

There have been many calls over the past years to either remove statues/honours or preserve them. Most recently in Canada these include people connected to the Indian Residential School System, including statues of Sir John A. MacDonald, the university named after Egerton Ryerson, and the honorary degree given to Bishop John O’Grady by the University of British Columbia. Those on social media who oppose removing memorials see them as a part of history that shouldn’t be changed.

How can we navigate issues like this? One good place to start is by understanding the difference between the Past and History — and no, they aren’t the same thing.

The events of the Past are unchangeable. The past rolls on continuously and inexorably. But there is no DVR or VHS for the past. The only thing that can be changed is the future. As Jose Rizal said, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” [“Whoever doesn’t know how to look to where they came from will not arrive where they are going.”]

History, on the other hand, is different from the Past. History is the interpretation of the events of the past. Because it is interpretation it is subject to change and reassessment.

Now let’s apply these ideas to statues. Is a statue the past or is it history? It’s history because it is the commemoration of a person deemed significant in the past. As Charlottetown, PEI, Coun. Greg Rivard says, “I don’t think removing a statue erases any history. A statue is symbolic of something, and I don’t think right now that the statue is symbolic of the right things.”

What about a grave? Is a grave the past or is it history? Graves are the past. This is because in most cases, actual people are buried in a grave. There are of course many types of grave. There are marked graves, complete with gravestone and epitaph. There are commemorative graves — for example the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — where the person buried within is unknown but is representative all those who died for their countries but remain unidentified. Then there are mass graves or unmarked graves. Mass graves generally hold the bodies of those who have died in a tragedy.

Now what about when the victims of those memorialised and commemorated with statues are buried in unmarked graves? In May 2021, the unmarked graves of 215 First Nations children, whose deaths were undocumented, were discovered on the grounds of a former Residential School in Kamloops, BC. It doesn’t seem right to continue to commemorate or memorialise those responsible for the residential school system when these children have been abandoned and forgotten does it?

But it is one thing for this to be socially reprehensible. We also need to ask what the Bible says about stuff like this. I can think of two ideas in the Bible that apply here.

The Bible has a high regard for children:

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are an inheritance from the Lord. They are a reward from him.”

Jesus had a high regard for children, even when society seemingly didn’t. We see this a couple of times, including Mark 10:13-16 that says, “Some people brought little children to Jesus to have him hold them. But the disciples told the people not to do that. When Jesus saw this, he became irritated. He told them, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me. Children like these are part of God’s kingdom. I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive God’s kingdom as a little child receives it will never enter it.” Jesus put his arms around the children and blessed them by placing his hands on them.”

Matthew 18:2-5 says, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Caring for widows, orphans, and foreigners is important to God:

James 1:27 says, “Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.”

The Bible even has harsh words for those who don’t treat children appropriately:

“These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be drowned in the sea with a large stone hung around his neck” (Matthew 18:6).

A millstone around the neck certainly isn’t commemoration is it?

Feedback is always welcome!

Image by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.