We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

The Argument from God’s Non-Violent Creational Ideal

Hello blogging community. Thanks for tuning in. I’m getting a lot of feedback on my recent posts about “natural evil,” and I appreciate it. Some of it has been people offering criticisms of my view, and I appreciate that as much as the positive feedback. It’s an “iron sharpening iron” kind of thing.In his great book Mephistopheles, Jeffery Russell said, “No theodicy that does not take the Devil fully into consideration is likely to be persuasive.” This is my conviction in a nutshell. I’m suggesting that we simply cannot adequately explain “natural” evil unless we accept that Satan and other rebellious cosmic forces have had a corrupting influence on it. At the same time, however, I certainly am not denying that there are other considerations to factor in.

For example, one can argue that there are inherent limitations in any created reality. And one can argue that an element of chance, leading sometimes to unfortunate results, must be present in creation in order to attain other goods. I agree with this. I’m simply saying that I don’t find these considerations adequate in and of themselves to explain all that needs to be explained. Nor do I see why we would refrain from appealing to hostile cosmic forces when Scripture (I am arguing) gives us grounds for doing so.

Now, in my previously three blogs I’ve reviewed three arguments supporting my Satan-in-nature (S.I.N.) hypothesis. I shall now offer a fourth argument. It’s what one might call The Argument from God’s Non-Violent Creational Ideal.

In Genesis 1.29-30 the Lord says to humans:

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 on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”

Notice, God didn’t give animals to each other to eat. Nor did God give animals to humans to eat. This is reiterated in Genesis 2 when the Lord tells Adam he was “free to eat from any tree in the garden” (vs. 16-17). Adam was not free to eat any of the animals.

It seems, then, that the food chain in God’s ideal creation was non-carnivorous and non-violent. I have to, of course, grant that there’s room for debate over how literally or figuratively these passages should be interpreted. But even if one sees these chapters as mostly, or even totally, figurative, I don’t see how one can get around the implication that God’s ideal creation was, and is, non-violent.

That non-violence was part of God’s original design for creation is reiterated when God makes a new covenant with humanity after the flood. The covenant of Gen. 9:1-4 parallels the covenant of Genesis 1 very closely, except that God now concedes the reality of fear, dread and violence in creation. To Noah and his sons the Lord says:

Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

Notice that, in contrast to Genesis 1, the entire animal kingdom now has “fear and dread” toward humans. Also in explicit contrast to Genesis 1, God now allows humans to eat meat (so long as the blood is drained out) just as God previously allowed humans to eat vegetation. This sharp and explicit contrast highlights the fact that God’s ideal creation included no fear, dread or violence. I submit that the fear, dread and violence that we now find permeating nature no more reflects God’s ideal for nature than the fear, dread and violence we presently find in ourselves reflects God’s ideal for us.

Related to this, scripture teaches us that someday the creation will be free from this fear, dread and violence. This supplies further proof that fear, dread and violence was never part of God’s creational ideal. Isaiah gives us an eschatological vision of the coming Kingdom of God when he writes:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

Infants will play near the hole of the cobra;
young children will put their hands into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6-9)

When the reign of God is fully established on the earth, the fear, dread and violence between animals, on the one hand, and between animals and humans, on other, will completely cease. God’s ideal for creation will be attained. There will be a “new heaven and a new earth” (2 Pet 3:13; Rev. 21:1).

We of course find it hard to imagine what this renewed world might look like or how it would operate. We simply can’t conceive of a lion that eats “straw like an ox.” But this is simply because the only lions we are familiar with are the kind that eat lambs instead of straw. Paul teaches that the nature of humans and animals in the coming kingdom will be as different from the way they are now as a plant is from its original seed (I Cor.15:37-44).

I see no reason why we shouldn’t conclude that this same difference applies to the distinction between God’s original ideal for creation and the violent creation we presently find ourselves in. In the beginning God’s creation was non-violent. In the end God’s creation shall be non-violent. And this is enough to tell us that there’s something fundamentally wrong with our present violent creation.

What’s wrong with it, I submit, has something to do with the one who is called the lord of the world (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), the god of this age (2 Cor 4:4) and the principality and power of the air (Eph 2:2).


Related Reading