Four Types of Evil, Part III

Spiritual evil and the violence in nature cause people to lose their faith in God. Can this be prevented?

By Brian Lowther

Editor’s Note: Over the past few weeks here on the RWI blog, we’ve been exploring Ralph Winter’s Four Seeds of Destruction. Today, Brian Lowther finishes his three-part series examining Seed #1: The Seed of the Problem of Evil.

In my last blog entry I looked at a few examples to substantiate my hunch that when we battle certain kinds of evil, it shows that God is not the source of these evils, that he does not condone these evils, and that he is actively and visibly opposing these evils through us. I think this idea and these examples go a long way in preventing people from walking away from faith. Today I’ll continue in that vein, with some examples from the categories of Spiritual Evil and Violence in Nature.

1. Spiritual Evil

I think it's safe to say that believers are doing what they can to address the roots of Spiritual Evil by casting out demons and delivering people from demonization through the name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I won’t pretend to know much about the prevalence of this kind of demonic activity or the ins and outs of deliverance ministries. When the demonic activity described in the New Testament happens today, my initial response is to categorize it in a medical or psychiatric sense (e.g., seizures, self-harming behavior, schizophrenia, muteness, etc.) rather than demonic activity. I’m admittedly out of my depth when deciphering between demon possession and medical or psychiatric maladies. Having said that, I know there are legitimate deliverance ministries out there. Chuck Kraft’s Heart’s Set Free ministry is the first one that comes to mind. And to me, the existence and earnestness of these ministries says something about God. 

What do these things say about God? When believers are active in conquering the roots of this kind of evil, it says that God does not intend for people or the world to be infested with evil spiritual beings. And this allows believers to trust in God’s goodness, which prevents them from losing their faith.

For an fascinating blog entry about demonic activity and our response to it, see Roger Olson’s Should Western Christians Rediscover Exorcism?, including the comment thread. I also recommend the dispassionate way this man shares about his own experience in The Washington Post: How a scientist learned to work with exorcists.

2. Violence in Nature

In Part I of this series, I brought up the common assumption that violence in nature is normal and necessary and thus the way God intended things. I think this causes scores and scores of people to lose their faith in God, one prominent example being Charles Darwin.[1]

However, I’m not convinced that it was always necessary for animals to kill one another to survive. It doesn't seem that was the case in Eden. Even from an evolutionary perspective, life appears to have evolved for over 3 billion years without the violence and the killing normally associated with evolution.[2] Perhaps it is necessary now. But that doesn't mean it is how God intended or wanted it to be,[3] or how it will be in the future when the wolf will live with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), or how we should foresee the kind of world God wants us to work towards.

Am I asking Christians to refocus all their attention on genetically re-engineering wolves so they won’t hunt, kill and eat lambs? No, I’m asking whether God wants us to do anything about a much more potent and efficient killing machine: the mosquito. Bill Gates—who is spearheading efforts to eradicate malaria—has said that the mosquito is the deadliest animal in the world.[4] When it comes to killing humans, no other animal even comes close. Actually, if we are talking about malaria, the plasmodium parasite in the gut of the mosquito is the real culprit. And, while Christians are noted down through history for being kind to people who are sick and helping them get well, we are not well known for fighting the viruses, the bacteria, and the tiny parasites—as in the case of malaria—that cause some of our most harmful diseases. We mount no offense against the pathogens themselves .

While treating the symptoms of diseases like malaria is necessary and perfectly good, ignoring its roots says something about God. It proclaims loudly and embarrassingly that “our God can merely get you a hospital bed to lie on [with a bed net perhaps] and a ticket to heaven,” [5] but either he does not know of the real cause of malaria, does not care, or does not have the ability to do anything about it.

One solution to this problem is a very public, top-to-bottom stance against disease at its roots, both in our theology and in our practical efforts. Otherwise I think people will continue to assume that God intended and created diseases like malaria and all violence in nature and thus will continue to lose their faith. 


As I said before, I think God has called us, commissioned us, and prepared us (i.e., he has given us the wisdom, ingenuity and the ability to work together, plus a Wonderful Counselor) to battle the four types of evil I've covered in this series. When we do, I think that says that God is not the instigator of these evils, that he does not approve of these evils, and that he is unmistakably opposing these evils through us. Being convinced of this, and being aware of and partnering with those who are attempting to fight evil at its roots, will go a long way in ensuring that people never turn their backs on God’s goodness and his powerful love.

But that’s just my speculation. What do you think?



[2] This was during the pre-Cambrian era when life forms were very primitive. See:

[3] See Genesis 1: 29, 30: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.


[5] Ralph D. Winter, “A Blindspot in Western Christianity?” in Frontiers in Mission.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army medical researchers take part in World Malaria Day 2010, Kisumu, Kenya US Army Africa/Flickr

Brian Lowther is the Director of
the Roberta Winter Institute