Jul 23 2012
The Evil of Denial

Watching coverage of the crimes at both Penn State and a Colorado theater, it becomes apparent:  There's stuff you're supposed to say, and stuff you're not supposed to say.

"Tragedy" is okay. "Mentally ill" is okay.  "Evil", with a capital "E" - not so much.  

This is because acknowledging evil is allowing that there exists something beyond our tangible, test-able world that wants to do us in... and that means our whole western edifice crumbles.  And so, instead, we resort to the language of neurology or we talk purely about upbringing, or we change the subject to safer ground, talking about preferred go-to explanations, like weapons policy or parenting failures.

Having the fortitude, in a culture that fancies itself "rational", to acknowledge evil, is not easy.  But you know what?  It might be easier than the alternative, of trying to explain holocausts, mass-murders, planned starvations, sexual abuse of children... with a vocabulary stripped of the words to to acknowledge the presence of actual, spiritual evil.  Denial may be natural, but that doesn't mean it's simple to pull off.  It can take years, not to mention, say, thousands of professors, to help us get past our barbarian suspicions that something transcendent is afoot.

Even Christians are embarrassed by it.  Some, of course, blame the devil for everything - that's one error - but others don't want to blame him for ANYTHING.  We're embarrassed, I think, because we don't want to seem so...so... backward, so out-of-step with our modern, western culture.  (Funny, isn't it?  In almost all other parts of the world, people have no problem whatsoever acknowledging realms of spiritual evil. And the same westerners so intent on cultural openness will immediately reject the idea of spiritual evil as backward. Same thing happens in discussions of sexuality.)

But eliminating the vocabulary of evil, the reality of Evil, doesn't leave us in a more enlightened world.  It does the opposite.

Timothy Keller:

The Gospel is the only approach that truly is not simplistic, that looks at the messed up families, looks at messed up hearts, looks at messed up neighborhoods and says, "There's biological problems, there's sociological problems, there's psychological problems, there's moral problems, there's spiritual problems, there's demonological problems...we're going to look at all of those things, we're going to deal with all of them. All of them!" ... Until you embrace the Christian understanding of evil, you are reductionistic, you are simplistic. You'll either make the liberal mistake of underestimating cosmic evil, or the conservative mistake, frankly sometimes of just saying we can't do a thing.

Of course, there is a stream of the Christian religion, in the west, that happens to be embarrassed by any aspect of the Bible that contradicts our reigning culture, and - guess what? - decides that the culture pretty much has it right, actually.  And there is another stream that embraces The Devil as all-explanatory, from why I caught a cold yesterday to why the sink got clogged when we were in a hurry.

As C.S. Lewis points on in The Screwtape Letters, both outlooks, themselves, may be suggestions of the Enemy.  The Gospel, thank God, actually gives us the resources to call evil for what it is, and provide a context for it that keeps us from being frightened.

Bad news:  Evil actually exists.  Even if we modern westerners might try to ignore it.

Good news: God knows it.  He does not escape it.  He sees it.  He does not detach Himself from it.  And He tells us that not only CAN it be defeated, not only are we to play a part in that, it WILL be defeated.  For now, we mourn with those who mourn, but joy comes in the morning.

Categories: Culture
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Comments (23) -

7/23/2012 12:27:33 PM
Jeremy Poling United States
Jeremy Poling
Just like you said many deny the existance of evil because they would then have to accept the existance of God. Also it is scary to believe that evil actually is here on earth. That also means if I dont believe in God the safe bubble of control that I live in would no longer be safe. God made it clear that the devil is the ruler of the physical world and being the ruler means he has the ability to influence the world we live in the way he sees most destructive. Using his greatest tool deception he misleads many into believing he simply doesnt exist.
7/23/2012 12:43:45 PM
Kat United States
Focus on the Family's The Truth Project covers this.  Colossians 2:8 "Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ." Refusing to acknowledge Evil is to fall for the lies of the world.
7/23/2012 12:50:31 PM
Roni Allen United States
Roni Allen
pretty right on
7/23/2012 1:25:19 PM
Jeremy United States
When I was a kid, I knew this was true, I knew evil existed outside of me, outside of humanity. But somewhere I forgot. I honestly never put evil into an external reference frame, and chalked everything up to us, our hearts, our capacity for it.
Only recently I read the final third of Wild at Heart where he talks about having to fight, that evil exists and will attack us, and we have to fight for our families. I had to stop, I had to put the book down and figure this out, was it true, why had I not thought about this for decades. I went and found out what Peter Kreeft had written, I read what Billy Graham had written and realized that I had been living in some weird dream for 20 years. Then I finished the book and everything he said started coming true, I am seeing the world with new eyes, and it is scary.
7/23/2012 1:39:19 PM
Kate United States
I live in Colorado Springs and have seen this disaster hit Colorado right after the Waldo Canyon Fire here in the Springs displaced hundreds of people.  The scary thing is like you said, Brant--evil is prevalent in this world, whether we admit it or not.  But the amazing thing is what God does with us in the midst of all that evil, chaos, and havoc--He tells us to live in Him, through Him, with Him.  And really, I've seen the Waldo Canyon Fire (which hit a bit closer to home--same thing's probably happening in Aurora and with Penn State) that it's bringing community and people so much closer together than they were before, and best of all, it's giving us an even greater chance to share Jesus with the hurting people the disaster affected.  I'm not trying to pretend that these things don't affect me--I've had a hard month, a lot's happened, and it's hurt.  I'll never be the same.  But at the same time, I'm holding onto God's promise that He's making beauty from the ashes and pain in my life and in our lives right now.  Praying!
7/23/2012 1:53:36 PM
Vilppu United States
I love how you use Tim Keller's writings throughout your blog. I'm just finishing The Reason for God (and absolutely love it). Some of the concepts and points Tim makes are pretty advanced, so it's awesome to see you dig into them one at a time (not to say that's all your blog is), from a different perspective, with different insights. Love it!
7/23/2012 1:59:43 PM
Kay United States
Ephesians 6:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
7/23/2012 2:59:47 PM
Brandon United States
Good blog.. Finally someone that acknowledges that evil can be the root cause of many things. I agree with you on many things just disagree of why christians don't recognize evil.
7/23/2012 3:08:11 PM
Cheese Doodle Bandit United States
Cheese Doodle Bandit
That being said, how much of God's church will be ready to see the truth when the Antichrist makes an appearance?
7/23/2012 3:32:22 PM
Toby Cook United States
Toby Cook
     Seems that the dis-use of the word evil is related to something going very wrong in our world, specifically with the "civilized world".  In this extremely liberal society that has been built in place of our Christian roots (speaking in America), nearly everything has become acceptable.  The obvious repercussion in making everything right; wrong is disappearing the farther we move from God.  People want to blame TV, Movies, Music for this moral decline.  The fault in these things is that as a whole our society has made the violence and profanity OK, the televised nudity and exposure to immoral lifestyles common place.  Same with promiscuity, alcohol abuse, even the decline of our respect for country and authority in the lives of the populous as a whole.  
     Along with the removal of the word Evil from media, the simple term Wrong when referring to behavior is in fast decline.  According to most psychologists even telling our children their actions are wrong can be detrimental to their development.  The problem is, when everything you feel, think, say, or do has become labeled Good and Right...  Then there's nothing that can be Wrong or Evil.  This is a systematic attack on our moral welfare, have no doubts on this my friends, this is not the design of God.
   One Love, One Way!      
7/23/2012 3:51:57 PM
Yuli United States
This is very true..not only should we aknowledge evil, but know that it has been conquer.
We should cover ourselves by the blood of Jesus Christ every day for that very reason. I was thinking this individual could have been a doctor and we tend to put all our trust on doctors rather than on God. How many evil doctors do we have? And my evil I mean how many are devil worshipers, how many lead a double life? I have heard of doctors that when oporating they offer those souls to satan. The spiritual battle is real and our protection is the blood of jesus christ and our armor: The word of God, salvation, the good news, faith etc.. I love how you bloged about this because I think we need to be reminded more that the battle needs to be fought and God does not leave alone in it.
7/23/2012 4:46:57 PM
Rene-Houston United States
I hunt the evil many say doesn't exist.
7/23/2012 5:30:47 PM
wiserd United States
Well explained Brant, alot of times we dont even want to mention the devil for what he is. Though I wont always bring up the realization of the spiritual world to just anybody(they seem to think im some kind of freak); Im not afraid of satan, most of the time whenever I sense evil I get closer to GOD and almost always a light comes through. Our GOD helps fight for us!
And youre right Brant we must play a part in it. Through JESUS we overcome!
7/23/2012 6:40:20 PM
Tim Kuchnsky United States
Tim Kuchnsky
It's so much easier for people to wrap their minds around a lie that there is no God because, "if he was real, He would have never let this happen".  It goes to show that the "carnal mind is enmity against God".  Believing that there is evil in this world also takes faith too and it is not so easy for folks when they don't believe in God anyway.  Some evil unseen force at work would require an antedote of some kind.  Some unseen good force also at work.  I have heard some of the guys around work chalk up the Colorado shootings to merely, "no conscience people that were born that way".  Sad.  I truly believe God is for us and not against us but I must confess I too have a hard time wondering why a Christian in the theatre or adjacent theatre would not posess the annointing to stop, possibly prevent the attacks?  I only bring it up because I have heard of such exploits by great men and women of God.  Would I have had the faith to charge a man weilding a gun and tell him to stop in jesus name?  I dont know.  God is faithful though and he does grieve with those who are grieving.  Lets embrace the hurting ones right now.
7/23/2012 6:42:18 PM
Tim Kuchnsky United States
Tim Kuchnsky
I suer hope that didnt sound insensitive.  I just wonder how much power we really have as the redeemed.  Could we/I have stopped it?  Praying for all those hurting.  Stay strong guys!
7/23/2012 11:36:49 PM
Daryl United States
I'm not entirely sure how relevant it is, maybe it's just of intrigue; but remember Augustine's criticism of the dualistic religions? That evil has no separate existence of its own; that evil lies from the distortion of the positive.  
7/25/2012 4:03:53 PM
Corey United States
" Having the fortitude, in a culture that fancies itself "rational", to acknowledge evil, is not easy. "

i agree with this blog except that i don't think anyone's ever been afraid publicly to say "evil",

instead i think people have been afraid publicly to say "satan", because angry atheists will scream in a shrill voice that "you're a fool believing in an invisible magic God", and many have been afraid of that.

but i think the pendulum is swinging in the right direction at this time and more and more are encouraged to openly say i believe in and follow God, i believe satan exists, i believe we are in the midst of both earthly and spiritual warfare.

20yrs ago i used to try to say these things openly, and was mocked, so i mostly just clammed up  because i'm not willing to alter my message to appease atheists.

today i'm much more encouraged to say things openly again, and i've learned there's no use wasting my precious time "debating" any of it with atheists, i just walk away from them.  i give my time instead to anyone willing to listen, and not any of my time to those only trying to mock.  

7/26/2012 2:06:34 PM
Lisa United States
as I was "assisting" my children with cleaning their room, I was listening to air1. Brandt was speaking about a guy named Adam, I caught a bit of what was being said. How Adam had lost his dad, and that his mom was mad. I often question things like what Adam was wondering too. Can people forgive a person who kills like the guy that committed the massacre at the theater? Who is to blame? Reminds me of the Book of Job. Job is in deep distress after losing not only his livelihood, but his children. All throughout Job's distress, his "friends" are telling him that he must have done something wrong to deserve what happened to him. When God responds to Job's distress, the Lord answers Job (38 chapter) "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?...Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." The ending result of Job's distress? God not only gave Job back everything he had lost, but doubled it. Job never gave up faith. Faith is our connection with God. There are times when we question why God allows things to happen, but the ending result is based on faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3). The only people that I have really lost (aging grandparents), I know abit about loss. Our lives have already been written before the foundation of the world. Faith, our connection with God, is what keeps us going. This is my faith.
7/29/2012 9:39:49 AM
Melissa United States
I think it is a little more complex than that.  When I see pictures of that man, I see someone who is as bewildered by what he did as we are.  My sense is that he IS mentally ill...which in turn made him very susceptible to the influences of the devil.  Therefore, his actions were evil but he is just a broken man.  I pray for him and everyone else who was impacted by this horrible horrible situation.
7/31/2012 9:13:30 PM
Corey United States
come on Brant, make another blog!

how long we gotta wait?

what the poop?

*runs and hides*

*comes out of hiding briefly*

how about that new Mola Mola photo?
it's pretty silly.
*goes back into hiding*

8/13/2012 12:47:48 PM
Sarah Rooney Canada
Sarah Rooney
While I agree with the basic argument of the post, I would like to add that western culture *does* at time acknowledge evil - but only when referencing "the other" - some non-westerner. And there is a racial element at play when we create the narrative for tragic events like these. If the perpetrators of these crimes had been say, Arab... then we have no problem using words like "evil" and "terrorism" (and rightly so). But if they are white, they're actions are not seen as acts of terrorism, but actions resulting from "mental illness." Kind of interesting...
8/25/2012 10:59:45 AM
icthus United States
I'm amazed at how many Christians seem to react when the world acts like the world (i.e. enemies of God).
Our job is not to boycott, or strike, or fight, or scream at the opposition who are lost (without a shepherd) . . . though our response to the Chic Filet was spot-on; mostly.
The Bible was written by disciples for disciples and the reason we act wrong is because we're taught wrong. We need to be discipled by disciples, not by those who make $$$ marketing Jesus.
The Bible (Jesus, Paul and those who followed "Jesus") warned these times coming to His very elect, that the Church would sell out and become like the world . . . Our job as disciples is to make disciples (Not converts), baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Not Church members for tithing), teaching them everything Jesus has commanded (not teaching them doctrine). We need to learn how to see evil as Jesus did and to learn how to LOVE the unlovable. Our point of veiw is twisted and our 'thinkers' are broken. We must renew our minds, and all the more as we see the DAY approaching; as Jesus said, let those with ears to hear and eyes to see . . . to those who comprehend, stand strong and be couragious beloved.
8/25/2012 11:05:03 AM
icthus United States
How we label or name a thing is important. We need to see as Jesus did and label things as Jesus did . . . which of course requires us to know Jesus and to actually study what JESUS taught.
This requires work on our part instead of parroting what we hear from others, or from the pulpit.
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