Re: [asa] red in tooth and claw

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Nov 29 2009 - 09:46:55 EST

Schwarzwald wrote:
> 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.
I hope you didn't mean that the way it sounded: ... evil to be
celebrated!? Taken at face value, that seems like heresy. I would rather
have chosen a word like 'redeemed' (i.e. you did say 'God can *turn*
evil into good --which is significantly different than *calling* evil
good. And I would say rather, then that evil is not celebrated, but
conquered. Just quibbling over words, but the details can be important.
> 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.
... is a *grave* mistake!? Obviously the pun filter on my email server
must be malfunctioning. :->


> 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 theologians.
> 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
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Received on Sun Nov 29 09:47:22 2009

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