What about the dark side?
First of all, for those who read my blogs semi-regularly, let me say that I am very flattered that some of you actually noticed that I hadn’t posted for over three weeks. It has been a very busy stretch, what with company year-end bookkeeping, Marion being away for over a week, and the usual family, work and church commitments. I’ve missed blogging and hope to resume posting on a roughly weekly schedule, although that depends partly on what topics suggest themselves – I don’t really plan these things very far in advance. It’s nice to know that my blogs were missed by at least a few people! Incidentally, two of my sons – Joe and Reuben – have recently started blogging and seem to be having fun with this new adventure. Their blogs are very different from mine but I am enjoying them.
Much has happened in the world since I last posted. In particular, there was a massive earthquake in Haiti on January 12. Many of us probably know someone who was directly affected in some way. Marion and I discovered that a friend from Russell — an Ottawa police officer with whom we had lost touch over the last few years — had been serving in Haiti for nine months as part of a peacekeeping mission and was there during the quake. The leader of his mission was killed, and Martin (our friend) only escaped death because he had left his hotel a few minutes before the quake. Although his scheduled time in Haiti had come to an end, he stayed on for several days to help with the relief effort and was profoundly moved by the experience.
How does one account for such devastation? There’s no easy explanation as to why such things happen. Jesus did warn his disciples that wars, famines and earthquakes would become regular occurrences in the years preceding his return, so if we are aware of the signs of the times we shouldn’t really be surprised by such things. Yet our hearts cry out at the extent of the destruction, and we ask – if God is good, couldn’t He have prevented such misery?
This of course is a huge topic and I won’t attempt a complete answer, but let me say three things in response to this question. First, from a Biblical perspective, the world as we see it today is not the perfect world that God created. It has been marred by human sin and failure, and the Bible makes it clear that this disruption has had cosmic effects. Secondly, God has not distanced Himself from our pain but has entered our broken world in the person of His Son Jesus, who willingly entered into our suffering as an innocent victim and bore it for us to purchase our freedom. Thirdly, from the very beginning God’s good plan for the world has been opposed by an evil power, a liar and deceiver whose purpose from the beginning was to steal, kill and destroy, and the world will not experience lasting peace until he is finally overthrown and Jesus reigns on earth as undisputed Lord.
In the wake of the Haitian earthquake, American televangelist Pat Robertson made some very controversial comments linking the devastation in Haiti to an alleged pact with the devil made by Voodoo leaders in 1804. The historicity of this particular claim is hard to establish, but whatever one thinks of Pat Robertson and his comments, there’s no denying that Vodou religion – a syncretistic mix of West African spiritism and Roman Catholicism – has had a big impact on Haiti. There’s also no denying that Haiti has had a very dark history for many years, long before this latest earthquake. My purpose is not to defend Pat Robertson, but whatever you think of his off-the-cuff ramblings, don’t be too quick to dismiss the idea that the spiritual choices and beliefs of a nation’s leaders will affect the destiny of that nation. Haiti’s political leaders – themselves practitioners of Vodou – have done no favours for their people. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to Haiti over the past few decades, poverty remains rampant. Corruption and callous disregard for the needs of the poor have characterized Haiti’s leadership for many years. The Biblical understanding is that all forms of evil – corruption, injustice, poverty, witchcraft, demon-worship – come from the same root. Ultimately, they arise from humanity’s choice to turn away from the true and living God and serve other gods. The only solution for such misery is for nations and individuals to turn back in humility to the healer of our souls and the restorer of nations.
I am a rational person who works in information technology. I understand science and the materialistic world view. I used to be an atheist and was raised in a climate of liberal humanism that was very skeptical about the supernatural. Despite that background, I have come to believe in the reality of the supernatural – both good and evil. I have found that most people – both Christian and non-Christian – have a high degree of respect for the person of Jesus Christ. Many consider him to be a great spiritual teacher and a wise man. Yet this great spiritual teacher presented himself as being the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, and he clearly believed in the reality of Satan and demons, although he was not in the least afraid of them or intimidated by them. So at the very least, in the interests of intellectual honesty, if you are going to take Jesus seriously as a great spiritual teacher, you have to take his view of the world seriously as well. If he claimed to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, he was either right or wrong in this claim. If right, the only reasonable response is to worship Him. If wrong, he was either deluded (insane) or a liar. Reading the gospels has led me to the inescapable conclusion that he was neither insane nor a liar – and of course, if he were insane or a liar, he would not be a great spiritual teacher. My conclusion is that he is who he said – the Son of God and the Saviour of the World. Once I accepted that conclusion, believing in the reality of Satan was easy – and it made sense of a lot of things that otherwise made no sense (such as how an evidently good and beautiful world could at the same time contain such evil – or how people with such potential for creativity and goodness could produce so much darkness).
Does this mean that I blame the people of Haiti for their misery? Not at all. My heart is stirred with compassion for them, they have been often in my prayers, and Marion and I gave what we felt we could afford to help the relief effort almost immediately after hearing news of the earthquake. My point is simply this. Although short-term relief is clearly needed, money and human effort alone will not solve Haiti’s problems – or Canada’s, for that matter. Ultimately, only Jesus can bring lasting blessing to any nation. The true story of the world is of a people who were made in the image of a good Creator and fell into darkness because of a choice to turn away from Him towards independence. That choice was instigated by the ancient Serpent who leads the world astray. One of the main ways he leads people astray is by concealing his existence and at the same time whispering in our ears that we are independent and fully capable of solving our own problems without God. That belief is itself our main problem. Yes, there is a dark side, and it does matter what you believe and who you serve. Religion is not an answer – religious systems are the territory of the Dark Lord and only keep people in bondage – but a restored relationship with the Lover of our Souls brings true and lasting freedom. The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. One day the light will rule completely and the darkness will be destroyed forever. That being the case, I choose to walk in the light of the Son of God now, while I still have the choice.