I’m summarizing my case for my belief that “natural” evil can only be adequately accounted for if we accept that fallen spirits have, to some extent, interfered with God’s good creational design for nature. In the previous post I gave my “Argument from Animal Suffering.” In this post I offer my “Argument From Demonically-Influenced Infirmities.”
The Gospels frequently (but not always) attribute infirmities to demonic activity (I’m using “infirmities” here to cover all forms of illness, disease, and disabilities). In Luke 13, for example, Jesus comes upon a woman who has a deformed back and says, "How long should this woman, a daughter of Abraham, suffer under Satan's oppression?" Peter summarized Jesus' ministry in Acts 10 by saying that Jesus went about freeing people from Satan's oppression by healing them of their diseases. In fact, the word the Gospels sometimes use for disease or infirmity is mastix, which literally means "flogging." (I review all this material thoroughly in my book, God at War).
Now, there are three points that I think are significant about this as it concerns the issue of accounting for "natural" evil.
First, there’s no reason to think that a scientist couldn’t give a perfectly natural explanation for these infirmities that the Bible attributes to Satan and demons. They are, on one level, simply the “natural” results of natural processes working in accordance to the laws of nature.
This establishes that there’s no intrinsic incompatibility with attributing infirmities to spirits, on the one hand, and explaining them in natural terms, on the other. This is actually a very important point, since the most common objection to the view that spirits are responsible for some aspects of “natural” evil is that these evils can be accounted for scientifically.
Second, and closely related to this, if infirmities are the natural result of natural processes operating according to the laws of nature, on the one hand, while also being, at times, the result of demonic activity, on the other, then it seems that the laws of nature as we now find them must to some extent be demonically influenced. In fact, the New Testament says that Satan holds the keys of death (Heb. 2:14). Yet, death is a natural result of natural processes operating according to the laws of nature. This should be enough to tell us that natural processes can, in some cases, and to some extent, be satanically influenced.
Third, for Satan and demons to be involved, on any level, with bringing about infirmities, they must be able to affect matter. And if they can affect matter to bring about human infirmities, on what basis could we argue that they can’t affect matter to bring about other aspects of nature that seem incompatible with the perfect goodness of God?
On top of this, we need to remember the incredible stature and authority ascribed to Satan in the New Testament. He is called (among other things) the “lord” (archon) of the world (Jn 12:31, 14:30; 16:11), the principality and power of the air (Eph 2:2) and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). He is said to control the entire world (Jn 5:19) and to own all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-7). In this light, why should we think it impossible that this fallen archangel, along with his minions, has messed with the natural order of things?
Consider also that humans have the capacity to affect natural processes, for better or for worse. For several millennia we have brought about new breeds of domesticated animals, for example. And today, we’re acquiring the power (Lord help us!) to genetically engineer everything from ears to new-and-improved immune systems. If we as intelligent free agents have the “say-so” to impact the natural order, why think spirit agents uniformly lack this capacity?
Recall that in Genesis 6 we’re taught that angelic beings materialized and had sex with “the daughters of men” (Gen. 6:2,4). Their offspring were apparently hybrid creatures who were abnormally large. Hence they were called “Nephilim.” If that isn’t messing with the natural order of things, what is?
So, we have solid biblical reasons to conclude that spirits can affect matter and mess with the general order of things. And from where I sit, this provides us with an important component of an adequate explanation for why nature is so “red in tooth and claw,” despite having been created by an all-good, peaceful, Creator.
More to come in subsequent blogs.
and be kind to animals!