Re: [asa] red in tooth and claw

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sun Nov 29 2009 - 09:09:49 EST

Heya John,

Actually, my response is meant to be very different from what you've taken
from it, at least in part.

Yes, I am saying that Christianity has an answer to these questions of
natural evil, and the cross is where this answer is most striking. Christ's
death with a tremendous tragedy, a reason to scatter and hide and be
sorrowful - before He was resurrected. After the resurrection, his death and
torment were not merely coped with. They were changed completely. What was
previously grave evil was not only soothed, but itself became downright
instrumental and - I would maintain, in some ways - actually good. I'm
oversimplifying here, of course. But Christianity does not push Christ's
suffering under the rug and simply talk about the resurrection and the life
of the world to come. It is, at least in my experience, regarded as
something good, a gift from God itself.

I'm not merely saying 'well, we shouldn't worry about death and pain and
suffering, because all that is going away someday!' I'm going three steps
beyond: I'm saying that pain and suffering, particularly in terms of natural
evil, plays an instrumental role - and insofar as we know that God can turn
evil into good, evil is not only to be endured, but celebrated.

That's probably going to make me stick out like a sore thumb in this
discussion, but I'm going to stand by it to the end. And I extend this even
to the natural world - whatever pain and suffering is present in nature, it
is a mistake to call it senseless and irrational, and doubly a mistake to
regard it as the whole story. I disagree that as Christians (or even as
theists in the broader sense) we should or have to judge nature by what we
know is an incomplete picture - in fact, I think this incomplete state of
affairs is precisely what must be stressed again and again. As should the
fact that God is not merely the God of men, but the God of all - nature and
animals certainly included. And that acting as if this isn't the case (as if
God has a plan for man, but - because we aren't privy to all of God's
thoughts - He apparently has no plan for nature) is a grave mistake.

Keep in mind, I also (if I recall right) pointed out how it was difficult to
respond to Oscar's adviser's query, lacking more details about what problems
he saw in nature - so I'm not going to pretend my answer is even directed
squarely at his adviser's worries. But I'm giving an answer in the direction
I see it heading, broad as it is.

And I'm also not going to pretend that what I'm saying here is common
Christian orthodoxy, and certainly not that I'm chastising everyone for not
adhering to it. While I think thoughts along these lines are found
throughout Christian writings (even Aquinas, with his thoughts on evil, goes
in a direction I'd say is close to this - and Leibniz comes very close), I
realize I'm very likely the odd man out here. Indeed, from my perspective
the problem of evil (natural and moral both) does not exist - it is a
non-issue. That alone would put me at odds with even the boldest modern

On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 6:31 AM, John Walley <> wrote:

> I think Schwarzwald's right in that Christainity is unique because Christ
> has conquered death and we no longer have to fear it. So death where is thy
> sting? And I guess that could be extrapolated to pain and suffering as well,
> "to live is Christ, to die is gain", but these are all pragmatic, coping
> strategies. They don't get to the root issue at hand which is why this
> suffering exists in the first place.
> Notice Oscar's advisor did not query which God has the most
> practical offering or most fulfilling theology, he wanted to know why he
> should be lieve in God at all. And none of these responses have really dealt
> with that head on in my opinion. This discussion may be an interesting
> apologetic for people who are already Christians and trust God, but for
> those on the outside looking in with cruelty in nature as the stated
> objective, I suggest we have to be able to deal with this more directly.
> John
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Sat, November 28, 2009 10:10:45 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] red in tooth and claw
> What if nature isn't actually as brutal as we take it to be? And really, of
> all the religions that could or should cringe because of any 'brutality' we
> project upon nature - and a lot of it is projection - doesn't it seem odd
> for Christians to do it? The religion with the incarnate God who was
> betrayed, tormented, and executed? Isn't ours the one religion, regardless
> of particular sect, which makes it abundantly clear that one should not
> judge a reality by its incomplete history?
> The one lesson I take from Christ's death and resurrection is that it's a
> drastic mistake to regard torment and death as the final lesson in history,
> whether it be human history or the greater, natural history. And the idea
> that Hitler's eugenics was in any way a correct reflection of evolution as
> we know it - particularly given what we've learned since then - seems
> dramatically naive.
> Count me in the apparent minority of Christians who don't think the habits
> of the natural world pose a problem for our theology, and in fact bolsters
> it. The problem isn't the facts on the ground, but the perspective.
> On Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 9:57 PM, David Clounch <>wrote:
>> >Sculptured indeed! Well-stated, Bernie. You are exactly right that this
>> is something for Christians to struggle with, and I wish I had a complete
>> answer.
>> People say Christianity is brutal and bloody. And God is a mean inhumane
>> jerk for acts like slaying an entire enemy army in one night.
>> Well, why then do they think evolution is kinder and gentler? The
>> bloodiness and brutality of Christianity is a matchstick in a firestorm
>> compared to the competition in biology.
>> What about te ideal of the lion laying down with the lamb? What if nature
>> is brutal because it is corrupted by the rebellious? And God would have it
>> be different?
>> On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 7:49 PM, Merv Bitikofer <>wrote:
>>> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>>> However, and I had glimpses of this as a Christian even, I think the
>>>> ‘red in tooth and claw’ is a tremendous acknowledgement of how evolution
>>>> works. The ruthlessness of nature, even Hitler eugenic-style thinking, is
>>>> how evolution created the wonderful life forms that we witness today.
>>>> Nature/evolution isn’t just ‘red in tooth and claw’ as some unfortunate
>>>> thing, but it is the way life is SCULPTURED. Life is SCULPTED by evolution
>>>> by “tooth and claw.”
>>>> I’m not saying Hitler and eugenics are right. I’m saying that the
>>>> ruthless nature of evolution being ‘red in tooth and claw’ is a major
>>>> component for getting life as beautiful as we know it today.
>>>> For example, why are so few creatures born blind? Because they quickly
>>>> get eaten, with not much chance of their genes being passed on. Same thing
>>>> with many other defects.
>>>> …Bernie
>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> Sculptured indeed! Well-stated, Bernie. You are exactly right that this
>>> is something for Christians to struggle with, and I wish I had a complete
>>> answer. But I do have part of an answer that is of course, unavailable to
>>> you at the moment. And that involves God's use of suffering to craft us.
>>> Christians have long lived with the paradox of accepting suffering, yet
>>> while praying to be delivered from it. None of us wants it, by definition,
>>> and yet we realize (usually only in retrospect) that we were made stronger
>>> for having gone through it. This is only the human element and makes no
>>> pretension of addressing all of nature. But if I was to begin to craft an
>>> answer, I would start with the incarnate Christ entering into humanity,
>>> indeed, into nature. George Murphy's book "Cosmos in the Light of the Cross"
>>> is helpful in this regard.
>>> By the way, you seem to want to remain morally above things like eugenics
>>> or the whole "tooth & claw" scenario. If these things are but the brutal
>>> tools that sculpted beauty (according to you), then why do you find them so
>>> objectionable? On what basis do you object? You'll note that I object to
>>> them too even while I acknowledge their existence. Christ calls me to live
>>> above any such natural law and to reject "survival of the fittest" as a
>>> means of living with my neighbor. But you have rejected Christ, and that
>>> basis is not available to you (unless you want to engage in the irrational
>>> practice of cherry picking things you like about Christ's teachings while
>>> yet thinking Him and his disciples as deluded fools or power-hungry frauds.)
>>> Since you no longer have the Christian basis available and yet regard
>>> Evolutionary wisdom as a kind of guiding light, on what rational basis do
>>> you wish to continue objecting to nature's enlightened evolutionary teeth &
>>> claws whether they come in the form of eugenics or otherwise? Do you not
>>> quite trust the capable hands of evolution to do what needs to be done?
>>> --Merv
>>> Internal Virus Database is out of date.
>>> Checked by AVG -
>>> Version: 8.5.425 / Virus Database: 270.14.76/2518 - Release Date:
>>> 11/21/09 19:41:00

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Received on Sun Nov 29 09:10:22 2009

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