Defining Evil

Last week, I presented the definition of good, based on your world view.  Now, how about evil?  Good and evil are parallel to and inseparable from life and death. In Red Pyramid world, whatever keeps me from being happy is evil, most of all other people’s contrary opinions and rules. What is especially evil in Red Pyramid world is any disposition that does not affirm, fight for, and fund my claims to and methods of taking happiness. Here is a powerful source of conflict in Red Pyramid world, where some people call others evil for opposing them, but refuse to consider themselves evil for their opposition to others. People in Red Pyramid world demand a world without evil, which results in burdening everyone and everything else with the task of always, only, ever supplying happiness according to each demanding person’s preferences.

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In Green V world, evil simply means the opposite or opposing force, like gravity. Evil is a necessary and unavoidable opposite of good. Light and darkness, heat and cold, thirst and drink, fatigue and rest. There is, at least in theory, the possibility of the opposite or absence of anything good that God created. If life is good, what should we call death? Evil. If God designed creation to work in a certain way, anything that opposes or corrupts that design is evil. The beauty of Green V world is that we have time in a material place in which to learn how good “good” really is and why, and also by experiencing how bad evil really is and why.  And all this learning happens within God’s gracious and wise providence, so that all things work together for good.

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What is good?

What is good?  What does that word mean?   Red Pyramid world is the product of evolution and is therefore accidental. There is no God or design in creation by which to know what is good. Might makes right. A person has very little time in a strictly material and intensely competitive world; everyone is trying to gather more stuff under them to keep from drowning, even though they know drowning is inevitable. Whatever makes me happy with the greatest intensity more of the time with the least cost or commitment from me is good in Red Pyramid World. What of it?

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In Green V world, God’s design in creation determines what and explains why things are good. Good is comprehensive, including all things material and immaterial, in time and in eternity. We have time in a material world to spend on learning that love is the greatest good. We have biblical history and especially a history of the life of Jesus that records and explains goodness. Here one saves one’s life by losing it, finds the greatest gratification in self-sacrifice, and discovers what real power is by subjecting oneself to the service of others according to God’s design.

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Defining Death

The last definition we considered is the meaning of life.  Now, let’s define death.   Death is the opposite of life, in both world views. As you may recall, Red Pyramid world assumes that the only reality is physical and accidental. Therefore, death is assumed to mean the cessation of physiological function, then decay and one’s return to dust. You die, you’re dead, it’s over. Dying, then, also has to do with the absence of or frustration in getting happiness for oneself. A Red Pyramid person would rather be dead than unhappy, which is why abortion, euthanasia, and mercy killing makes sense in this world. Delaying gratification is like being dead while you wait . . . and what if waiting isn’t worth it? Consider the sensation of a drowning person sinking: unable to climb up out of the water or worse, in spite of all the climbing and things/people climbed upon, sinking still.

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In Green V world “death” means “negative relationship.” Therefore, there are only two deaths. One is the death that Adam introduced and passed on to all human beings—the negative relationships that come from pretending to be god—contrary to God, one another, and all truth. The only other death is the one that Jesus died in place of everyone and from which He delivers us. In John 11 Jesus said, “Whoever lives (that is to say, is honest about dependence on Me), will never suffer negative relationships” for at least two reasons. First, God makes all things work together for good to those who love Him. Second, only a soul regenerated in the image of Christ loves God and this soul thrives in loving others. Love turns every potentially negative relationship to positive because God has given us a soul that can never die and a human nature in time to spend freely in pursuing what is positive, what is best for others. Consider what it means to never actually know death (absolute permanent negative relationships) because Jesus has known it in our place.

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Note: People who claim Christianity betray the fact that they assume Red Pyramid world in the way they speak about death and dying. For example, when “Christians” claim a right to grieve because a loved one has died, they indicate disappointment with God’s failure rather than gratitude for God having delivered loved ones and survivors from death.

The Meaning of Life

How is life defined, based on world view?  The Red Pyramid world assumes that the only reality is physical and accidental. Therefore, life is reduced to the ability of our body to please itself – which is why modern “life” is also primarily about instant gratification of every kind of appetite, especially sexual. A person “living” in this world is like a person drowning, frantic to get up and out of the threat of sinking down into death. Accumulating material things seems like it would lift one higher above the threat of death while also increasing the amount of happiness drawn from those things. But everyone in this world sinks down just the same, sooner or later.  And that sense of impending doom is like a heavy, dark cloud bearing down on the person who is already terrified of drowning … so what becomes of happiness here?

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In Green V world, “life” has to do with positive relationships. A person’s physical being is called “living” only to the extent that it is in positive relationship with nature (including its own health) and with other people. In this world view, the eternal soul is the essence of the person, which means it can be happy all the time because it recognizes the value of all relationships, whether pleasing or challenging (notice these terms replace “good” and “bad”).

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Thus, Jesus said that whoever is honest about dependence on Him will never die. Thus, God makes all things work together for good for those whose souls are regenerated from above, from the Word.  And these souls live always and forever. Now we can make sense of Jesus’ command to love our enemies since we have a physical nature to use in the service of and for the benefit of all, especially those who consider themselves most opposed to us. Jesus is life itself; we see Him living in the gospel history, and we experience His life as He continually wakes us up to realize the truth.

Justice

Justice is the word we’re considering today in this series of how world view defines words.  Justice has to do with what is good, right, and fair. In Red Pyramid world “good” is what makes me the happiest most of the time. If I can’t be as happy as I want in Red Pyramid world, I might as well be dead.  This is why euthanasia, abortion, and mercy killing are genuinely considered good. In Red Pyramid world, might makes “right” because it would be unfair to expect a person to do less than they are capable of in their desperate competition for happiness. Red Pyramid world accepts survival of the fittest as factual and natural. Freud sees it as sexual and without responsibility because consequences besides happiness are seen as threats to happiness.

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In Green V world, there is the Creator and His creation where all things work according to His design from His love. Justice has to do with what is fair and equitable, like doing unto others as you would have them do to you. God creates all things and bears responsibility for all things; His happiness comes from giving all that He is and has away, as we see in the life and death of Jesus. The Son of God gave Himself in place of everyone because that is just. He gives our lives back to us because that is love. God gave us a physical life in time and an eternal soul so that we could learn what justice really is (giving our lives to others) and so also know what happiness really is (from the eternal soul’s perspective).

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For these reasons, “maturity” in Red Pyramid world means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want without anyone else being an obstacle or detraction. Maturity in Green V world means discovering true happiness as love for others presses you under more and more people and closer to God.

Defining Knowledge

As I continue this series of defining key words based on world view, let’s take a look at the word knowledge.  There are three main characteristics of knowing in Red Pyramid world:

  • First, what people claim they know has more to do with what they want than with what actually is, really. Many people claim they know that all religions are the same, without having studied any of them.
  • Second, people often claim to know things when they really just know about them—something they heard or have heard about. If you ask a person to elaborate on what they say they know, they are unable to. People claim that scientists have proven that evolution is a fact and the Bible is false, but if you ask them to tell you about that science, they cannot.
  • Third, claims to knowledge are too often aggressive and arrogant. The less certain a person is about what they claim to know, the more insecure and thus, the more violently defensive and intolerant they are to any challenge. People claim that gender identity is a social construct, arbitrary, and something a person has a right to choose (or change). If you challenge that claim, you are likely to get a ferocious response.

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There are also three main characteristics of knowledge in Green V world.

  • First, knowing has more to do with connectedness than with conclusions. Scientists and theologians alike “know” their subject because they are immersed, wanting to learn about God’s design in order to help others benefit.
  • Second, immersion in a subject makes a person modest in what he claims to know and also makes that person eager to collaborate with others, especially with challengers. Such modesty increases even as certainty increases for ideas that are enduring.
  • Finally, knowing is the product of broad and enduring study. Each day a person engages the day with gratitude and anticipation for how much there is to learn and in how many ways.

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Tyranny makes claims to knowledge in order to force people into bondage. The genuine pursuit of knowledge liberates people to a life united in study, collaboration, and helpfulness.

Let’s Consider Science

Continuing this series of world views and word definitions, let’s take a look at science.   “Science” is a Latin word for “knowledge.” The Red Pyramid world view claims to know things as facts, but these claims serve the pre-commitments of people who are desperate to acquire greater happiness.  (“Religion” in this world view is treated in the same way.)  For example, Charles Darwin was not an atheist. However, people wanting to be free of feeling guilty for the way they pursue happiness insist that evolution is a fact that proves the Bible is wrong and that there is, in fact, no God that we must answer to. Other people who want to keep some kind of god in their life are willing to concede that ideas about god and religion are a matter of personal preference and thus each person is free to invent a god who exists to support the individual’s pursuit of happiness, whatever that is.

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Let’s take a look at the definition of science through the Green V world view.  Here, science and religion are completely devoted to the pursuit of just one thing—truth. There are still plenty of credentialed scientists and theologians/philosophers who work together in pursuit of evidence of truth and a reliable understanding of that evidence. This pursuit is fundamental and essential because the truth (reality as it really is) is what governs us. The science and religion of Green V world bring us together in a positive and collaborative effort to learn. For example, science finds the purpose that can be found in every element of nature and the Bible explains the nature of that purpose. The content of a healthy, happy material life is complimented by a divine understanding of God’s intent that our lives be devoted to love for one another, soul and body. What we learn in this way makes substantive and enduring joy, peace, and hope.

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What is your religion?

Last week, I proposed a definition for the word “faith”. What other essential words have a very different meaning depending on our world view? In the weeks to come we will look at words that are integral to our understanding of the world around us in contrast to the world of God’s design.

Let’s start with RELIGION. “Religion” means “what governs.” Therefore, everyone is religious because everyone does certain things religiously. You can look at the lives of others (or your own life!) and identify their religion, often in contrast to what they claim. The desire for happiness is the universal religion of human beings. The world we live in makes all the difference.

In Red Pyramid world, happiness displaces virtue.  Happiness isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Happiness as fast and often as possible, governing, rationalizing, and justifying every human effort to get happy.

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In Green V world, happiness follows virtue, which means happiness is constant and durable. The best way to happiness is to seek the happiness of others—substantive, lasting happiness that comes from realizing God’s design and providence. As we lose our physical life for the sake of others, we discover our own living soul.

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Defining “Faith”

With The Green V view of the world in mind (discussed in the last post), can we remember a definition for “faith,” “belief/believe,” and “trust”? Remember that all of these words mean the same thing and translate a single Greek word: pistis/pisteuo.  The translation of that word, “Honesty about dependence,” begins to make sense of what the Bible and universal human experience intend to teach us.

Just as the gospel has been confined to the idea of forgiveness in popular thinking, so also the terms associated with salvation have been confined to “faith.” There are some important points to consider here.

First, popular and religious opinions assume that “faith” is a matter of personal preference—the way any individual would like things to be, but with no necessary relationship with the truth. In fact, the word “faith” in the Bible means, “honesty about dependence.” Honesty is the appropriate relationship to truth and honesty is not something we invent or do; honesty is what we realize about the truth when we are at rest (when we are not thinking, speaking, or acting to the contrary).

Second, from honesty about dependence we think about the magnitude of God’s dependability. Honesty about dependence makes us mindful and conscious of all that God provides for us, more than we can imagine really. Take a moment and think about everything God created and sustains, from the farthest reaches of the universe, to our own sun, to the beauty of nature around you, to your senses that take it all in, to your heartbeat and respiration.  These are all constant, wonderful, ever-present witnesses to God’s will that you live. This is why the opposite of faith is not unbelief but works (Romans 4; Ephesians 2; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; Matthew 18). Biblical Christianity reveals the unimaginable—that God provides all things to us in abundance and works all things for us so there is nothing left to get or do for ourselves. All that is left is for us to realize this truth by passing along to others what is divinely “too much” for us to keep to ourselves.

Third, the Bible describes salvation in conjunction with many words besides “faith.” For example, Luke 1:50 says that God’s mercy is upon those who fear Him. Psalm 34 says God’s salvation is with those who are poor, fearful, seeking Him, broken-hearted, and possessing a contrite spirit. Psalm 37 mentions those who seek refuge in God. Psalm 41 says the person who considers the poor is under God’s care. Proverbs 22:4 uses the terms “humility” and “fear of the Lord.” All terms of salvation have one thing in common: a person without means of denying the truth and thus are honest about dependence on God who is absolutely and always dependable.