Natural vs. Supernatural Dualism?

(Numbers Logos) #1

God’s creation of the universe was not a fast breaking slam dunk with no opposition on the court. Without opposition, a perfectly good God would have created a perfectly good universe of perfectly good worlds populated by perfectly good people universally in harmony with Himself. But God’s perfect goodness is opposed by the unfathomable power of cosmic “nature.” Almost as unfathomable as His own.

In a “natural” state, the universe would be nothing.

Things we call natural in the broadest sense—all that we experience with our senses and scientific instruments—are unnatural, or supernatural, because they are something from nothing, violating what would be the “natural” state.

The supernatural is sufficiently powerful to claim victories over the “natural,” such as creation of the universe and the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the powerful pull of the “natural” is not yet vanquished nor denied its own corrupting victories.

The pull of the “natural”—its rebellion against the unnatural (supernatural)—finds expression in sin and disasters, manmade and otherwise, events and conditions we may blame on Satan.

The supernatural vs. “natural” conflict may be the source of, or synonymous with, other bi-polarities: God vs. Satan, creation vs. void, light vs dark, good vs. bad, love vs. hate. Life vs. death?

“Natural” and “Supernatural” are Modern Terms, Not Biblical Ones | The BioLogos Forum
(Roger A. Sawtelle) #2


This kind of dualism is foreign to the Bible, but finds a ready audience in Greek dualism common ancient times and our own. Sin is real, but it is not “natural” as many think, which is part of the problem of evolution being the origin of sin.

(Numbers Logos) #3


My comments are an exercise in theodicy, not dualism. In other words:

God created the evolution of atheists and loves them as much as He loves us who already embrace that love appreciating the awesomeness of it.

Atheists cannot take all the responsibility for their doubting Thomas response to God. I believe doubt and division were baked into the cake before there were space or time. My speculation is that God was an immaterial cognitive force outside of space and time, but He was not alone in that description. I call the other cognitive force “nature” because I don’t know what else to call it, and it seems natural to me that the immaterial status quo would naturally be incapable of, and naturally resistant to, anything else. But here we are, in a material reality. Because? God didn’t like the status quo of eternity past and used the mysterious and awesome power He had to create a universe large enough to beat the odds against grateful cognition. The odds were great because He was opposed by the almost as formidable anti-creative force of “nature.” To the oppositional participation of the anti-creative force I attribute most of the negatives we experience, including, natural disasters, illness, injury, malice, mistakes, blasphemy, mosquitoes, etc. In our frame, most of us perceive the duration of this “evidence” challenging God’s omnipotence as endless fore and aft. But in God’s frame, from His creation of time until His ultimate defeat of the anti-creative force and to eternity beyond, the moment of challenge to His omnipotence may be likened to the twinkling of an eye, to page A1 in an encyclopedia…

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #4



Thank you for the explanation. While I understand your motivation, I disagree with your solution. Of course we are trying to understand something very basic here which is most difficult, so that is not surprising.

One thing about your solution which I can agree with is that it recognized that the universe is not a simple place, Materialists see the universe as a simple, monistic place, which has no place for rationality, purpose, and diversity because they are no material.

However the reason why it has taken time to produce the universe as we know it is not because of opposition by some negative force, but because the universe is complex and it has taken time for the process of change from relative simplicity to relative complexity. Also because God values time, history. and humans.

Yes, God could have created the universe yesterday, which means that you and I were never really born and never lived until yesterday. It would mean that the dinosaurs never really went extinct, Jesus was never crucified, and WW2 was never fought. Of course without a past, we really do not have a future or even a present. The past means pain and suffering, but also achievement and growth. No gain without pain to quote Poor Richard’s Almanac.

From a selfish view without history there is no need for our existence. Adam and Eve could represent the human race and live forever maybe with Cain, Abel, and Seth as one happy family.

Pain and suffering are the result of death. We die because we and other creatures are material beings that wear out and run down. If we were purely spiritual beings, we would be like angels and not be born and not die, but God’s Goodness and Wisdom made the universe pout of matter/energy and made us in God’s own Image and called it all Good.

Humans are like God because we are Triune, that is we are both Complex and Unified beings. We have power to create, the ability to think, and the will to act, similar to God’s Trinitarian nature. That is why God created this complex/one universe for us and perhaps other similar beings that may or may not exist. God did not do it for Godself, except that for some reason God choses to love us despite our nasty ways, which includes Christians and non-Christians.

(Numbers Logos) #5


You speculate that “God could have created the universe yesterday” (i.e., one day?). But for the fun of it, He chose fifteen billion years to create and evolve results that are spectacularly good but amply contaminated with imperfection?

You speculate against “the opposition of some negative force.” If there is no sovereign force or power in nature, or elsewhere, then what function or reality exists to define godly supernatural?

Time consuming complexity was the “choice” imposed by necessity. It is supernatural because it is God being superior to something (force of nature?) not nothing (no negative force). Creation, time consuming and complex, is the ultimate supernatural miracle that cosmic nature, given a lesser god, would not have countenanced.

Tornadoes and train wrecks are not good, and there are those in the faith community whose premature concept of His omnipotence leads them to slander God as the cause or (allowing) condoner of these evils. I have suggested that unchallenged omnipotence will eventually and eternally replace the temporary challenge by some negative force that sustains these evils.

Mornings in the park, I address “Father God, creator of the universe and all good, thank…” As prelude I attempt to visualize seen realities in the context of the universe inadequately but fervently imagined.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #6


“All things work for good for those who love God.” Romans 8

Since ALL things, including tornadoes and train wrecks which occurred this week, work for Good, then ipso facto they are good. In the end all things work for good for God’s people and thus nothing is evil.


That is false, Roger. It is evil to call evil good.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Also, Malachi 2:17; Mark 3:4; Romans 3:8; Rom 12:9; Rom 16:18;

(Connor Mooneyhan) #8

Adding onto what @johnZ said, there is a clear theme in the Bible that evil is definitely in the world. This is especially evidenced if you believe that sin is evil. In Romans 8:28, the verse you quoted (which I will requote), it says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (NKJV). Here, Paul isn’t saying that all things are good, rather he is saying that God can (and does) make good out of any circumstance. This is what you said, but your fallacy was the supposed ipso facto statement that just because a group of things “a, b, c…” eventually results in thing “z”, the group of things is thing “z”. A physical example of this is planks of wood. We have a set of planks of wood, and we give them to a carpenter and say “build us a chair”. So, the carpenter takes the planks (the group of things) and places them in certain ways to become a chair. We sit on it to test it out, and it doesn’t fall. Therefore, it now functions as a chair. One could say about this scenario “all the wood planks worked together to become a chair”. This is true because someone intervened and said “okay, these things exist as they are. Let me orchestrate these in such a way that they will become something good”. This is exactly what God does with situations and things. Even though there are evil things, he can use those evil things to create a good outcome.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9


First of all I did say “all things work for good,” Paul did and I agree.

Second, I would say that things are not evil or sinful, people are evil and sinful. I might even agree with the NRA that guns don’t shoot people, people using guns shoot people. Where I would disagree with the NRA is that I would think that it is wise and good to limit the access to guns for criminals, minors, and others who might be likely to shoot people.

Evil requires evil intent or careless disregard for the safety and well being of others. Things, not even tornadoes and train wrecks have that, although a wreck might be caused by person(s) with evil intent or gross carelessness, whereby it is the person(s) who are evil, not event itself.

Third, as Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit.” Life, which includes all that we are, is good and life in Christ produces good fruit.

Remember the words of Joseph to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “What you intended for evil, God turned into good.” He was not denying the evil of his brothers, but claimed that his enslavement led to good for everyone and therefore was good.

God the Father created all things as good through the Logos, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It was only humans who brought evil and sin into this world. Even so God the Father is still working through the Holy Spirit to reconcile all things in Jesus Christ and make all things good. Finally Jesus Christ will return to bring all things under the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as It is in heaven.” This is a promise as well as a request.

Sadly there are some people who are so intent in having their own way that they refuse to accept the power and goodness of Jesus Christ and they will be separated into their own world where they will have their own way.

(Numbers Logos) #10


Your definition of evil is not wrong, but it is narrower than the noun form defined by Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary: 1. a: the fact of suffering, misfortune and wrongdoing b: a cosmic evil force 2: something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity. I might have used a less ambiguous word but this definition fits my use of this one.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #11


Death certainly causes sorrow and distress, but theologically as far as I am concerned death per se is not evil.

Please give me your definition.

Buddhism defines suffering as evil. Christianity does not.

(Numbers Logos) #12


My definition of evil = context + Websters + johnz, all above.


Theologically, Roger, we know that even if God brings (or allows) evil (destruction, pain, suffering, drought, poverty, plague, death) on people, God himself is not evil for doing so, because God is a just God, pure and holy, and perfectly just in what He does. Is death evil?.. The tree of life implied something better than death, and Jesus’ resurrection also implied a victory over death, just as his life was a victory over sin. God’s punishment of death for Adam and Eve implied that death was indeed not to be desired, and not God’s original intent. But even the evil of death is a portal for good, for our reunion with God in a more perfect complete way. The death of Christ, and his resurrection, gave us life. So God often turns evil for good, whether it is the evil of man’s intentions or the evil of perverted nature. Often the evil we experience is even the mechanism for the good that God wants for us; so our suffering can bring us back to God when we stray. If we do not accept the good, then the evil remains for us. But God wins in the end, no matter what.

(Numbers Logos) #14


Definition revisited.

My use of the word “evil” as an antonym for good(ness) can be more convenient than precise.
Clinging to the convenience, allow me to define evil thus: Contrary to the perfect goodness of the God of ultimately unchallenged omnipotence.

These evils are included in previous comments as “sin and disasters, man made and otherwise, events and conditions, imperfection, negatives,” etc. These evils outnumber and do not include any biblically recorded acts of God managing the temporary challenge to His omnipotence.

To the oppositional participation of the anti-creative force (cosmic nature) I attribute the negatives we experience. Even God’s own painfully experienced interventions are indirectly attributable to the anti-creative force. Absent the opposition, God would be presiding over the perfection described in the second sentence of this conversation and no such intervention would have been required to keep it that way

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15

@johnZ wrote:

Theologically, Roger, we know that even if God brings (or allows) evil (destruction, pain, suffering, drought, poverty, plague, death) on people, God himself is not evil for doing so

John, first of all God does not bring pain and suffering on people. God allows pain and suffering to happen to people. There is a huge difference. When we look at Job which is the primary HB source, we see that YHWH allows Satan torture a good person Job to test his faith. James a primary GB source says God does not test people with evil, but God allows misfortune to happen.

Second, you for some reason did not list those things which are really evil such as crime, betrayal, lies, war, etc. If we could get rid of these sins, the world would be a much better place even if disease, storms, poverty, and death remained, right? Non-believers see the threats to humans as physical, which science can treat, but Christians must focus on the spiritual and moral. What good would it be if we could find the cure to every disease, but the world is destroyed by war, which could have happened in my lifetime?

Thirdly, Evil and good are not clearly marked off. By most, if not almost all criteria the Pharisees and the Sadducees were good men, but they were not, except for Nicodemus and maybe some others. Good is that which is in harmony with the Will of God, even though in the short run it might mean pain and suffering, like Jesus going though the Crucifixion. Evil means going against the Will of God, which means putting oneself first as those who say Hitler as a strong leader.

Fourthly, Death is created by God, and while death is not to be sought after, it is to be accepted as part of God’s Will and creation. The death that Adam and Eve received was spiritual death, not physical death. Death and suffering caused by evil intent are evil, but do not make the victim evil, but mark the perpetrator as evil. However it is true that evil often tempts the victim to respond with evil.

That is why forgiveness is do important. Forgiveness stops the cycle of hate and evil and exposes evil for what it is. Again natural events are not evil in that they are not intentional and do not require forgiveness.

We humans must take responsibility for the evil that fills our world and seek healing and salvation. The pain and suffering that is found in the physical world can be alleviated and avoided to some extent, but that is not the prime focus of our lives, as some people want to believe.

You might be interested in my paper, God and Freedom, found on the Academia website for a more extensive exposition of this theology. It is also found in my book, the GOD Who RELATES.

(Numbers Logos) #16

Thank you for the patience and insights shared.

If a benevolent God had a pre-creation blank slate and unchallenged omnipotence to bend creation to His perfect will, then why did He fill it with imperfect humans (omnisciently?) knowing they would be responsible “for the evil that fills our world…”? Is the answer in the speculative top lines of this conversation or in a Satan who had more to do than torture Job?



9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a] the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.

There are many similar examples, where God punishes Ahab and Jezebel to be eaten by dogs, or Jereboam not to have male descendants beyond his son, or the flood itself, or the plague on Israel for David’s sin of pride and disobedience counting his army, or his continual promise to Israel to punish them for their sins. It is not evil, for God to bring evil on those who deserve it. That is the conundrum.

Joshua 23:15 But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.

And there is the example of Annanias and Sapphira dying in their lie to Peter.

The semantics of God allowing or causing evil to come on us is dealt with us in a way to make us feel better, so we say God “allowed” it. Which is true, but God did not merely permit, since he permitted it specifically to punish. The permission was so purposeful, that in Joshua it says “God will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened.” It was not a random permission, but permission with necessity, with a purpose in those cases. In Job’s case, it had the purpose of proving righteousness to Satan.

Life was created by God, and so the end of life is death, which was caused by man’s disobedience, but became also God’s response to sin… (end of life). Adam and Eve received both physical and spiritual death; that is obvious.

But God is not evil, a priori, ipso facto, etc. And the rest we mostly agree.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #18


Justice is not evil. Justice is good. Justice is not misfortune. This amply illustrates the folly of saying that evil is that which causes pain and suffering. If getting a filling at the dentist evil.

However much of misfortune is not justice as we saw with Job. If you do not understand the message of Job, you do not understand the Bible or God.

While faithful Christians do feel the results of sin, they are not punished by God.

If the words of God to Adam and Eve were meant to be about physical death, then it would have happened shortly after the event, which it did not, They died spiritually. God is not unjust so as to uncouple the sin from the punishment. They lived a long time after the original sin.

If God did not mean spiritual death, then the serpent was telling the truth when it said they would not die as a result of this act.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19


Only God is perfect and without sin. To create humans who would be perfect and without sin, God would have had to have created an perfect copies of Godself Who are omnipotent and all wise.

I cannot speak for God as to why God created us, except the Bible says God loves us, even though we are evil. I think it is the reason why humans have children who must live in this dark and selfish world. God looks at the positive side of life, just as most people do, and you should also.

God the Father so loved the world that He sent His Son so we might have eternal life with God. God did not send Jesus to condemn us, but to redeem us. Life is worth living, so death is not to be sought, after, but when it is time to go, it is time to go.


Some of what you say Roger, is true. But aren’t you being somewhat one-sided, one dimensional? I agree justice is not evil; justice is good. Did I not say that even if God brings evil upon people, God is still good, because God is just. But punishment is a type of evil, as the book of Joshua says, and as we understand by common sense, which is purposed for good. We want to change the language, but illness of an innocent child is a type of evil; we would not argue that it is to be desired. It is only because it is a type of evil that it can be punishment. But, and this is a big but, God is not evil to do it, as a judge is not evil to send a murderer to a prison which may be perceived as undesireable to the prisoner.

The filling may be painful, or not so painful (usually not so painful these days), but the cavity is undesireable, part of the ungood part of the creation we now live in.

Aren’t you being a bit simplistic? We know that faithful christians sometimes experience their pain and suffering as punishment, but as christians, they know the punishment and correction is for their benefit, so they know the punishment is good. We know King David, a faithful man, was still punished for his sins with Bathsheba, and with counting the people against God’s wishes. The entire nation was punished (by God) for David’s sin. Of course, faithful people are not punished for their faithfulness. But even in their faithfulness, sometimes pride, conceit, disobedience take place. Think of Moses, striking the rock to bring water to Israel, not following God’s explicit instructions, and taking too much credit. Did God not punish this faithful leader by not permitting him entrance to the promised land?

Of course, we agree that spiritual death was indicated in the gardern of eden. You read that in my previous comment. But that does not mean that physical death was not indicated. There is no divine indication that a punishment must always be defined by human timelines. It took God a long time before he finally exiled the people of Israel and Judah, even though they often worshipped idols many years before this exile. We do not have the right to say that God did not do it fast enough. Nor do we have the right to say, that God never did it because he would have done it faster. We do not have the right to judge God. We cannot judge God’s justice. God said it. God prophesied it. God did it. At the time He chose to do it. Not in our time. Not in our opinion of the right time.

What does it mean to die spiritually? Spiritual death is separation from God. Spiritual death is lack of communion with God. Spiritual death is giving in to sin, being a slave to sin. Denying Christ. Denying the power of God.

The serpent was lying with a half truth, which is often worse than a complete open lie. They died physically rather than living forever with God, as God promised for us and all believers. They certainly died. But it took a while. They died spiritually partly, because they could still pray to God, and God still spoke to them. But the communion with God was strained, broken, imperfect, tainted. They were ashamed. They walked often in disobedience. Death became part of their life. They knew this in a heart-breaking way when Cain slew Abel. It was evil for Cain to kill Abel? How do we know that? Because it resulted in death. And they could see death (deterioration) in their own lives, their own bodies, as they grew older. The serpent was lying in many different ways, although he made his lie look like truth.

However, you are right in this… not every evil that comes upon us is necessarily a punishment for our sins. Just as many people in Israel were punished for the sin of King David, rather than their own sin, and just as Job was not suffering for his sins, and just as the blind man Jesus healed was not blind because of his sin or his parent’s sin, so we need to know that our suffering is sometimes not a direct punishment for us. On the other hand, it is interesting in the book of Job, that Job learned something from his suffering, in his relationship with God. He learned he did not have all the answers.