Sunshine and Rain for Everyone
Written by: Robert Brinsmead
God is not in the business of punishing humanity. Humanity does enough of this to itself by wrong doing or even wrong choices. There is enough “weeping and gnashing” of teeth going on in humanity without having a god who threatens more of the same. Society does not need jails to sadistically inflict more punishment on those who had punished themselves. We need to be enlightened to understand why the so-called great Christian nation of America locks up and sadistically punishes more people in the prison system that anywhere else. As I wrote more than 20 years ago in my essay on The Prison System, this evil system is driven more than is realized by the perverse orthodox Christian doctrine of atonement which is nothing better than old pagan payback justice and revenge dressed up in the garments of Christology. It ought to be clear enough who it is that lusts after the blood and gore and all the sadistic elements of human suffering. This is not the God of Jesus whose unconditional compassion, like the sunshine and rain, is directed to the good and bad alike.
In his earliest days, Luther said that if the Jews were treated right they would respond to the Christian gospel, but he later found that no matter what, the Jews would never embrace the Christ of faith. This so exasperated Luther that he went off on such a bitter tirade against them that many trace the roots of the Holocaust back to Luther’s denunciation of the Jews. Paul exhibits the same kind of exasperation near the end of his public ministry and does not show the same optimism which he expresses in his letter to the Roman Church. But what does all this prove about love? One could easily right a tome on the failure of love. Hosea certainly did not live to see his hope in the eventual triumph of love vindicated. Even the teaching of Jesus about it got hijacked by the teaching about Jesus, all summarized in Christology, where he was elevation to the status of divine.
The main problem that puts our thinking on the wrong track is beginning with the assumption that there was a Finished Creation. To move to the starting point that creation is not yet finished; that the earth and universe are still in process of developing, and that humanity is in process of developing, is a major paradigm shift. Even unconsciously, our thinking tends to start out with the old grand narrative about a finished Creation somewhere in the deep past. This thinking has become like the floating filaments of the air that we take in unconsciously.
It is this starting point of a Finished Creation that becomes the basis of the whole outlook of Declinism. In this, the Second Law of thermodynamics and entropy overwhelms. This is the view of most of the Biblical writers, including Paul. The earth is viewed as waxing old like a garment ready to be laid aside. It is all like a battery that is running down. More and more the earth groans under the weight of disease. The original man lived a thousand years, but as EGW says, for thousands of years mankind has been decreasing in physical strength and mental powers. So the concept of a finished creation becomes the basis of all apocalyptic thinking. It is all rooted in the old grand narrative that has become as obsolete and as passé as the Flat Earth Society. And as part of this very flawed story there is the view that in this original finished creation there was no imperfection and above all, no death.
The reality is very different. What this old view fails to recognize is the triumph of constant renewal, development and the trajectory of improvement in the universe in general and the earth and humanity in particular. Death is not something imposed on an original finished order as a result of human sin. (Paul’s view in Romans 5). Death is no stranger to the reality of this process of constant renewal and development. Death is written into the fabric of the created order. The renewal process would not be possible without it.
Great stars thousands of times, perhaps millions of times larger than our sun had to die (supernova) and give up their existence to create the elements (carbon especially) so that life on this earth could be made of star dust. Far from being the only place where there is “catastrophic” turmoil and death, this little earth, unlike most of the very barren universe as far as we can discover, is the only place we know of that is teaming with life, and indeed this little Blue Planet appears not to be the most dangerous place to be, but the safest place to be and the most supportive and conducive to life.
Without death, there could be no new life, and without new life, there can be no improvement, advancement, development toward something better. The old T Ford was a marvel in its day, but we don’t keep making that primitive model or stick to the aircraft of the Wright brothers! Species that have unsustainable or non-adapting features die out and are replaced by others with better genes. There would be no trajectory of development, no progressive evolution apart from death. We all must die in order that a better world and a better humanity can enter the stage.
The whole cellular life of living things (plant or animal) have to go through the process of mitosis (cell division and birth) and apoptosis (cell death). If the old cells don’t or won’t die so that they can be replaced with new ones, then we have cancer. That’s what cancer is – cells that resist the process of apoptosis. Nutritionists now tell us that some foods like raspberries are rich in a phytochemical called ellagic acid, which helps the body cells go through this necessary process of apoptosis. There was cell apoptosis going on here on earth millions of years in every living thing millions of years before humans arrived. So we have to joyfully embrace the reality that death is one of the essential aspects in the renewal process.
A French intellectual said, “God is dead; Marx is dead; and I am not feeling too well myself.”
“Making light of evil” is not a new objection. That is the traditional response to anyone who proclaims the graciousness of God. They said that of Jesus, and to Paul’s “by grace are you saved”. Some objected that he was saying, “let us do evil that good may come.” And Duke George said of Luther, “That man’s doctrine would let you sin with confidence.” It is the mainline argument against Universalism and prison reform. You don’t have to earn it….it is a gift of the judgment.”
For me, the best way forward in time of grief is to engage life, go on living as enthusiastically as one can for as long as one can. Plan, build, read, engage in the social process, and never stop believing that “the best is yet to come.”
If an atheist was a consistent sceptic, he would be sceptical of his own atheism. The way to make some real progress is for one to remain sceptical of one’s own untested assumptions.