Acts of Good and Evil

 

You may have noticed by now, and if you haven’t I apologize for the spoiler, that this world is a very strange place. We talk of the Creator who made all things good, who gives all good things. And yet. You don’t have to look around for very long to notice that not all things are good. A mind can bend and a heart can break under the weighty presence of darkness in this world. We have a problem. We profess the goodness of the Creator, and yet all around us is the evil of his supposedly good creation.

          Act I: Consider the Toxoplasma Gondii. T. Gondii is a parasite, which for some particular reason, is only capable of reproducing in the guts of cats. So, picture this scenario: The parasite is in a cat’s gut, and it lays its eggs. However the gut of the cat is part of a larger digestive system whose end result is a pile of droppings in a discreet location. Oftentimes, a few days later, this same pile of droppings becomes lunch for a rat. So now our friend T. Gondii has a problem. For the sake of reproduction, it desperately wants to be in the gut of a cat, and yet that is the absolute last place its new host wants to be. So, this little parasite travels from the gut of the rat up into the brain, specifically the section of the brain that controls such things as fear, anxiety, and terror, and once there is able to “switch the commands” of this section of the brain with the part of the brain that controls attraction. T. Gondii, a microscopic parasite, is able to make rats find cats to be attractive, thus causing the prey to desire to be near the predator, often allowing the T. Gondii to find itself back in the gut of the cat. Where did this diabolical parasite come from? Did God look down upon Toxoplasma Gondii and say, “It is good?” Was the death of prey by predator created into the fabric of the universe? Does this mean that God is the author of death? How then can he be Good? And if he is not Good, how can he be God?

 Ergo.

 God must not exist. We must be the product of the random throws of the dark and uncaring universe. There is no meaning, there is no purpose, all that is, is all there is, and anything more is the projection of fanciful human wistfulness. It is only thus that the world can make sense. Take away the divine and you can easily make sense of pain, famine, death, Sandy Hook, Toxoplasma Gondii.

However.

Act II: Consider the vampire bat. An animal that lives and travels in packs, vampire bats have been a source of much curiosity among evolutionary scientists. The logic of the world without God is that only the strong survive. The weak were meant to die off, and are only a hindrance to the pack. When scientists first began to study vampire bats they were shocked to find that these blood sucking creatures engaged in surprisingly altruistic actions. While observing a pack that had come back from a feeding, scientists noticed one of the bats going around the pack, cuddling up to other members of the pack. In response to this cuddling, the other bats would regurgitate some of their own meal into the mouth of the beggar. Scientists tested this, by holding back one of the members of the pack while the others were fed, and then watched as the hungry bat made rounds around the pack and others in the pack gave up a portion of their own hard won meal to feed this ‘weaker’ bat. So. It seems that even though this world is dark and evil, there is a capacity for goodness sewn into the fabric of nature. How, in a world without God, can we account for this goodness? If there is no meaning, then where did our capacity for understanding come from? Why are we so susceptible to beauty? How do we make sense of the man who jumps onto the subway tracks to hold the stranger who is having a seizure in the path of an oncoming train?

Act III: So what are we to do with this strange world? There is darkness, there is light. We have the capacity to view a sunset and to have our breath be taken out of our lungs in amazement, to have tears come to our eyes as we take in the display of color, and yet that same sun can give you skin cancer. Around the world, countless people are killed when the earth heaves and quakes, causing fissure and cracks that destroy cities. And yet, without the movement of earth’s plates that cause earthquakes, the mountains that we lift our eyes to would not exist. The same ocean that we find great pleasure and enjoyment in can be whipped into the fury of a destructive flood. How do we make sense of a world where those who selfishly take lives live among those who selflessly give theirs? A world with both Toxoplasma Gondii and vampire bats?

Act IV: There was a tree in a garden. We know it as the tree of the knowledge of both good and evil. When Eve took a bite of that apple, she gave us the strange juxtaposition of being aware of, susceptible to, capable of, both good and evil. Humanity still bears the image of God, and yet we bear the blight of original sin. Nature, likewise, was created good, and yet is under the cruel weight of the curse. The optimistically spiritual person struggles with the darkness in this world. The atheist desperately tries to explain away the good. It is only with a true Biblical understanding can we make sense of this strange world.