By Ralph D. Winter
Originally published on September 18, 2002, Revised November 26, 2002
The following are some tentative observations and thoughts which we may do well to take into account at least hypothetically in the attempt to form an overall understanding of the story of life on this planet and the stridently apparent contradictions to that development, thus finding an answer to the common perspective that God, not Satan, is the author of disease and suffering. Some of these thoughts are secular hypotheses. Others are distinctly Biblical and/or theological convictions. They are by no means all equally credible or substantial. Yet they are here because they all seem to contribute in some way to a single integrated understanding of earth history, divine initiative, the diabolical factors, and the meaning of all this for our mission in this life.
The Complexity of the Microbiological World, the Vastness of Outer Space
The sheer physical extent of the marvels and glory of God’s Creation has fairly recently at least doubled with the discovery of the incredible complexity of the microbiological world. While the Hubble telescope has also “doubled” our awareness of the vastness of outer space, in that area we do not see the same sort of creative ingenuity as in our own planet’s record of the development of life and the intricacies of the microbiological world.
One function of this supposition is that it buttresses the idea of “intelligent design” and thus the existence of a Creator God.
Angelic Participation in the Development of Life
One can imagine the existence of angelic workers for God, created by Him, possessing free will (thus enabling revolt), learning over the eons of time and working under God as His primary means of developing life forms on earth.
One function of this supposition is to offer an explanation for the very lengthy period of the development of life: it has taken as long as it has not because God is slow to work but because He has been eagerly following the progressive accumulation of the knowledge and skills of His finite angelic creatures.
The Cambrian Period - The Fall of Satan?
Then, there is now the widely held scientific conclusion that predatory life forms first appeared at a certain, specific historical moment (the Cambrian Period, about 550 million years ago).
One function of this supposition is to suggest that this is the point at which a highly placed angelic worker and many angels turned against God and began the systematic despoiling of His creation. That is, this is when “the Evil One” rebelled and “fell” and he and his angelic followers (now called demons not angels) set about to tear down and destroy the work of God.
Meanwhile, the remaining faithful angels immediately were pressed to develop defensive forms of life—crustaceans, porcupines with bristling quills. An immune system was developed to fight off the newly devised invading forms of life developed by demonic forces for the purpose of distorting and destroying every form of life and defaming the God of creation. These destructive forms of life include not only large predatory animals visible to the unaided eye, but also destructive viruses, bacteria, and tiny parasites which can only be seen with the use of special instruments.
May we then understand the creation of homo sapiens as soldiers to be allied with the good angels in the battle against the Adversary and his demonic angels?
One function of this supposition is the idea that, (coming after eons of distortion and destruction of a good creation), the Garden of Eden scenario might thus be seen as one in which this “human” new life form was seduced by that same Adversary through diabolic delusion. The result has been a human being that is seriously hampered in, and diverted from, its potential role as an ally against that Adversary.
Another corollary is that the result has then become that our theological focus tends to block out all other concerns of God beyond the salvation of man, the restoration of human original vitality. It is as though man’s restoration is now God’s central concern rather than homo sapiens being a significant ally against the works of the devil.
Old Earth or Young Earth, or both?
What if Genesis 1:1 does not refer to the origin of the universe but can just as correctly refer to the beginning of God’s restoration of the earth following a major asteroidal collision?
Genesis events may thus describe a new “young earth” period following an immensely long “old earth” period, thus underscoring the existence of two different “falls,” Satan’s original rebellion and Adam’s tempted disobedience.
Why are Practically All Deaths Premature?
But, are we too calloused to be adequately aware of the apparently intentional destruction saturating all nature, the truly major violence and evil, such that practically all deaths are premature, even of humans (e.g. mainly through war and pestilence—see Causes of Death in America)?
Intelligent Evil Design
Is the development of resistant strains of dangerous pathogens an unguided evolutionary process or the result of intelligent evil design, and are genetic “defects” often actually intelligent distortions not defects?
Is it not also true that, in addition to the pervasive distortion of creation by the activity of diabolically violent and predatory forms of life, creation destruction has been accomplished perhaps even more by means of “diabolic delusions”? Take some examples.
- The delusion that widows can achieve a higher-level reincarnation through self-immolation on the funeral pyre of a deceased husband
- The delusion that one can achieve a virginal maiden-filled paradise by means of self-bombing in the midst of non-Muslims
- The delusion that a man can achieve a cure for AIDS by means of intercourse with a virgin
- The delusion that certain diseases can be avoided merely by altering conditions of environment, such as cold and dampness (tuberculosis), stress (duodenal ulcers), fatty foods (heart disease). The delusion that these are not the result of infections.
There is to be considered the theory that a serious syncretism became part of Western theology, through Augustine, to the effect that all evil is actually of God and, though we may not understand its meaning, it is nevertheless part of His purpose.
Thus, if evil pathogens are of God, this tends to blind us to the need to work to destroy them.
Augustine was enveloped for a while in Manichaeism, a strong, Mormon-like form of Christianity. This group believed there were two equal Gods, one good, one evil. In his eventual reaction against this concept he virtually rendered Satan unemployed, while God, for often mysterious reasons, was thus the author of all evil.
Ironically, New Testament writers, over 300 years before Augustine had not wholly rejected the new insights they gained from their time in the land of Mani—where Zoroastrianism had afforded them a better insight into the prominence of Satan’s role in life. They now recognized the role of a powerful fallen angel as an Adversary to God’s good creation. Augustine’s delayed reaction, however, was to throw it all out in favor of the Old Testament’s consistent framing of all events as of God, with no room for an active NT Satan (except in I Chron 21:1 where, after returning from the Captivity, the writer acknowledges that 2 Sam 24:1 could more precisely have stated that Satan was the one tempting David to sin rather than God).
Survivors or Soldiers?
There would seem to be very little awareness among Christians today that the Christian life is that of a soldier in a war—a war to conquer evil and destroy the works of the evil one. Most Evangelicals believe somewhat anthropocentrically (humanistically) that the rescue of man—not the defeat of Satan—is God’s chief concern. Thus, to Evangelicals, saving souls is paramount rather than glorifying God, and therefore the Christian life is one of survival not really a battle against “the works of the Devil.”
Thus, it would appear that deliberate attempts to glorify God are actions of war, and will likely involve conflict, deception, struggle, injury, and premature death.
The Impact of Printed Bibles
There is the explosive impact of the emergence of printed Bibles. This suddenly (in three centuries) drew the northern European civilization up to the level of, and finally way ahead of Islamic civilization. It is also true that the Arabic language is not easily printed with moveable type, and that the Quran would not have the transforming effect of the Bible even if it had become widely translated and printed. In fact, its wide distribution might heighten appreciation for the Bible.
The unexpected discovery, with our moon landing, that the moon craters are not volcanic but impact craters and the subsequent rush to discover on earth similar impact craters and hence “extinction events.”
This is an insight which makes the Darwinian theory of gradual and unguided evolution much more difficult to hold.
Two Different Ways the Bible Describes Evil
To understand the comparison already mentioned as the “Rosetta Stone” of Biblical interpretation, namely the comparison between II Sam 24:1 and I Chron 21:1—the evidence of two distinctly different ways of describing evil, a part of God’s sovereignty but also the initiative of Satan.
Ralph D. Winter (12/8/24 – 5/20/09) was an American missiologist and missionary who became well-known as an advocate for pioneer outreach among unreached people groups. He founded the Roberta Winter Institute in 2001.