Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good and Evil

Here's the continuation I promised on Friday of the thoughts prompted by my reading of Dean Koontz's One Door Away From Heaven, which hinge on the nature of good and evil. This question, this examination, this setting together for contrast of good and evil is something Koontz does often.

Unfortunately, the more I've come to understand about God's word, the more I see Koontz doesn't know what he's talking about. Thus it's no surprise that he's a best-selling author with 40 some books to his credit and a vast following of fans. And if he doesn't understand the difference between good and evil, he's certainly not alone. It is not in Satan's interest for people to understand and he works hard through his army of fallen angel-minions to see that they don't. One of his methods is to make people think the whole dichotomy doesn't exist -- there really isn't "evil" per se. It's just a perception. There really aren't demons and a devil, that's comic book stuff. (It's interesting to note that he never really goes for the argument that there isn't good, though perhaps with the rise of postmodernism he's moving in that direction -- but that's another subject).

One of the things I don't think people realize about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden was that the good was not divine good. This was not the difference between Satan's evil and God's goodness. Adam and the woman already knew about God's goodness. What they didn't know about was Satan's evil and his form of goodness.

Another thing I think many don't realize is that Satan and his followers really don't, as Koontz in his One Door Away from Heaven described, "seek only to serve entropy. They love chaos, destruction, death." Satan isn't trying to do away with God, he's trying to take God's place. He wants the power, he wants the worship, he wants to do good.
"I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God (other angels), I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (Is 14:13,14)
The Most High is not into destruction and death and entropy. The most High is into creation and order and stability.

Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer remarked in his Major Bible Themes,

"Satan is not aiming to promote sin in the world. He did not purpose to be a fiend, but rather to be "like the most High"; he is not aiming to destroy so much as he is to construct and to realize his own ambition for authority over this world-system with its culture, morality, and religion (2 Co 11:13-15). The impression that Satan is the direct cause of sin is not true because human sin is said to come directly from the fallen human heart (Gen 6:5; Mk 7:18-23; James 1:13-16)
It's this good on the part of people that Satan most wants to promote -- good performed by people, or human good. That's the knowledge that the woman gained: the idea of doing her own thing for good. Even Satan's invitation to her was to do a good thing: "Eat that fruit and it will make you wise. You will be as smart as God, and that would surely be a good thing. You could converse with Him better, know better what He wants from you, understand Him better. Be His friend better."

When she brought the fruit to the man, there's cause to think she might well have believed she was helping him out, for Paul tells Timothy she was "quite deceived." And if she'd realized she was naked, why didn't she hide from the man and cover herself with leaves before approaching him? Why did she bring him the fruit? Why only after he had eaten did they realize they were naked and go looking for leaves to cover themselves?

Human good, creature credit is what powers most religions. It's what powered the unbelieving Pharisees in Jesus' day and prevented them from seeing the truth of who He was. It is way worse than sin. Sin was dealt with on the cross. Human good blinds. Human good feels good to those who perform it. It feels right and keeps people from the truth, from freedom, from really knowing God.

Just like Cain bringing all that produce, the work of his hands, they think their good works will please God. Cain probably expected God to tell him he'd gone above and beyond, bringing an better offering than Abel's. He totally didn't get the point of the slain lamb as a picture of the offering God himself would eventually make to pay the penalty for man's sin. He didn't understand that he was depraved and that nothing he would ever do could come close to the perfect righteousness of God. He thought he could by his own actions please God.

Believers do this as well. Paul warns the Galatians about it: having come to Christ by faith, will you then be perfected by the flesh? Your own efforts? Your own good works? He warns the Corinthians of the ministers whom Satan sends out among the brethren to teach others how to be righteous. They look good. They look spiritual. They seem right. And they are not.

All of which is why the theme in Koontz's book so annoyed me. Here it is as he stated it:

"None of us can save himself; we are the instruments of one another's salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into light."
He did mention God in the book. In fact, it was by the savior-angel character's bonding with a dog that the character could perceive God. If this character touched a dog while it was sleeping, he would experience the peace and joy of knowing God as the Playful Presence perceived by dogs all the time. Moreover he could teach people to do the same and by this "save the world," because in perceiving the Playful Presence they would experience joy and peace and would know they were unconditionally loved.

Jesus was mentioned in only one conversation and that mockingly. When one of the heroines is trying to get a PI to help her, she is quite pushy and he remarks at one point,
"You ought to sell Jesus door-to-door. The whole world would be saved by Tuesday."
Later in that same conversation, she says, again echoing the book's theme,
"Sometimes a person's life can change for the better in one moment of grace, like a miracle almost. Someone so special can come along, all unexpected, and pivot you in a new direction, change you forever. You ever had that experience, Mr. Farrel?"

He grimaced. "You ARE peddling Jesus door-to-door."
So weird, so close to truth. Yes, your life does change for the better in one moment of grace, and it is a miracle when you believe in Christ and are made new, given eternal life right then and there. He, Jesus Christ, is the one so special who comes along and can pivot you in a new direction, change you forever... It seems amazing the words uttered by this character can be so close to the truth and yet, be derailed by focusing on the wrong object.

But this is what Satan's cosmic system and deception is all about. A little bit of truth, maybe even a LOT of truth, and a little bit of lie, and it's all distorted.

So that's why this wonderfully written book annoyed me. Because the author used truth to cloak a dreadful lie, because he even used it to slight the Lord. Instead of seeking God through his Word, through believing in Christ we are advised to find a sleeping dog. This sounds absurd as I set it down, but because Koontz is so good at what he does, it is not nearly so laughable in the story. And truth distorted by one little lie, the whole cloaked in a wonderfully appealing cloak of "rightness", has always been Satan's best work for deceiving people.
"And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world..." ~ Rev 12:9