All Things Vile and Vicious

(Christy Hemphill) #1


Jeffery Mays at Novare Texbooks wrote a nice three part series on natural evil and teaching children. He addressed a lot of good questions all of us wrestle with like:

Are there aspects of the study of creation that aren’t “fit for children?”

What do we make of fecundity, the apparent wastefulness of nature where species produce astounding numbers of off-spring because so few will survive?

How do we think of parasitism in a good creation?

In the last post, he examines common YEC appeals to Scripture to support the idea that death and predation are a result of the Fall.

The end has an interesting take on predation in light of the Eucharist which is novel, at least to me. I’m going to start a thread on the open forum to further delve into those ideas.

(Laura) #2

Thanks for sharing! I can no longer even read the word “fecundity” without thinking of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. :smiley:

(Phil) #3

Reminds me of how Jesus spoke of the sparrows and ravens in Luke 12:
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

Yet we know sparrows are food for various creatures, and ravens are scavengers. Certainly supports a love of creation by God beyond what we often consider in our self-centered ways.

(Randy) #4

Very nice. I am signing up :). thanks.

(Timothy Willett) #5

A very unfortunate translation that has skewed many into believing that the Bible teaches the world was originally created without any evil or violence is the translation of the Hebrew word ‘tanniyn’ (plural ‘tanniniym’) in Gen 1:21:

NIV: So God created the great creatures of the sea
ESV/NLT: So God created the great sea creatures
KJV: And God created great whales

All of these translations make it sound like Gen 1 is just saying God created a bunch of fish.

Compare to the other uses of this word ‘tanniyn’:

Ex 7:12: “When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent.”

Deut 32:33: " Their wine is the poison of dragons,

Psm 74:13: “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons

Isa 27:1: "In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon.

The last one is very noteworthy as this is clearly a verse, among others, that Revelation 13 is likely alluding to when it speaks of a 7 headed 10 horned “beast” rising out of the sea.

I was shocked when I studied Gen 1 and the ancient near eastern concept of the Sea representing death, chaos and disorder, and discovered that Gen 1 was clearly depicting chaos (sea) and chaos creatures (the tanniniym), being part of his good creation from the beginning. Went against the entire story line I had been taught from youth that the world started out perfect, we messed it up, then God had to send Jesus to come fix our mess.

(Ashley Lande) #6

Ohhhhh no no no… Obviously I was not holding to the EC view on these things and didn’t know it. I find it impossible to accept that some aspects of creation are “very good” and not a result of brokenness and the whole creation groaning. My soul balks at things like that parsitic wasp, and I think it is with good reason.

So, I only read the second article, but I found it interesting and a little ironic that he quoted Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - I happened to read it a couple months ago and loved it. But one of its most striking passages for me was where Dillard was lamenting the ugliness of much of nature and concluded that her aversion forced the conclusion “either nature is a monster, or I am a freak.”

The conclusion “it’s all very good and the only reason we balk is just that His ways are higher than ours” I just cannot accept. Why do we try to protect our chickens from predators? Why do we have pets? Why did my husband not just shrug and run over the nest of baby rabbits he came across this summer while mowing instead of lunging backward to avoid it?

My soul balks at the conclusion that it’s all good and I just can’t see it. That idea troubles me very very deeply.

(Ashley Lande) #7

Plus what are we to make if passages such as Romans 8:18-21 in light of these theories? And the morality which Jesus presented? It just does not feel right to me at all. Honestly, it would become difficult for me to continue in Christian faith if I believed that creation were not broken in many ways and included in the coming restoration of all things and a new heaven and new earth.

(Ashley Lande) #8

Okay… one last thing. I can’t imagine telling my kids, after watching them instinctively recoil recently while we read about a particularly nasty insect parasite, “actually, this is a very good part of creation which God made and we should rejoice in it and be thankful for it”. They know something’s not right. We know something’s not right. Anne Dillard knows something’s not right. So did Paul. I just don’t see how we can cram all this in under the “his ways are higher than ours” umbrella. Honestly, while the author seems to imply saying creation is broken is a cheap “kitsch” cop-out, I kinda feel his way of explaining it is.

(Timothy Willett) #9

it sounds like you may have missed some of the authors points and also are misunderstanding what Genesis 1:31 means when it says ‘tov meod’ (very good)

First ‘tov’ does not mean morally good or perfect, it means something closer to functional. God’s declared his creation very functional, not morally good or perfected.

There are 2 “problems” right from the start in Genesis 1: on day 2, heaven and earth are separated and that is why day is not even declared good, then on day 5 you have the ‘tanniniym’ as I mentioned in my last post.

The author points out that God is a master artist and in the same way that Shakespeare wrote tragedies and still wept when the characters died at the end, he still thought of it as ‘good’ (even though he considered the deaths in one sense of the word ‘bad’ as they made him weep, but they were ‘good’ in a different sense because it wouldn’t be a great story without them). This is a better idea of what Genesis 1 means by good.

Paul says that creation is groaning in birth pains, but in the same train of thought, he previously said that we have been made heirs with Christ…“provided that we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him”, and he says similarly in 2 cor that this “light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal wait of glory beyond all comparison”. Thus Paul never saw the current sufferings of this present age a an accident that God never intended and that we only have to go through because things got messed up and off track, but something that God beautifully designed from the start to prepare us to become heirs of Him and of His creation.

Thus the temporary state of this world is a good part of God’s design to prepare us to co-rule with him for all of eternity and as the author is pointing out this means we need to have an appreciation for it and wrestle with this all being part of Gods design and not an accident caused by Satan or us messing things up.

Genesis 1 declares it was all part of Gods good design in creation for forces of evil and chaos to be present from the start. These forces are shown as being defeated in Revelation when the beast is defeated, the sea is no more and heaven comes down to earth.

Yet one of,the points the author is making is that if we view the current state of nature as a result of Satan or of human sin, we give them to much credit and avoid seeing these part of Gods masterfully design and we should instead appreciate all aspects that the master artist has made, and like Shakespeare weeping over his characters dying at the end this isn’t contradictory to seeing God as one who also hates evil and is one who is compassionate in our suffering, and also is not incompatible with the future Christian hope of a day when there will be no more suffering, chaos and violence.

(Ashley Lande) #10

Thank you, this helps!


A good way to teach children about evil is by telling them stories. That’s how people learned about evil for virtually the entire history of humanity. Teach them about David’s evil actions, about the sins Moses committed and pain he went through, teach them the fairy tale stories of our civilization … It’s all very good. Stories aren’t arbitrary. They’re messages that have been passed on for thousands of years and serve a purpose for teaching about the human condition.

(Randy) #12

To quote GK Chesterton,

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”