Understanding Evil

This is an after-the-fact write up of a sermon given at Restoration Messianic Fellowship on 24 Feb 18. Normally my sermons are recorded, edited and then posted to my podcast. In this case, both of the normal recording systems failed. Additionally, the midrash afterwards where we discussed the sermon also had a recording failure. This indicates to me that either God or Satan did not want this word spreading beyond those who were in church that day. Since the talk exposed the methods of evil, I'll assume God was not the roadblock.

The idea for this talk came from a blog post by Bruce Charlton where he said (paraphrase) that when evil is dominant in a society, it is coercive and ugly. When virtue is dominant, evil is seductive and beautiful. Looking at our society through the lens of the media, we see rampant violence, hysteria and sheer ugliness mostly on the left of our political spectrum. Two examples: women marching, faces contorted with rage, wearing hats symbolizing the reproductive function they deny; Florida students at a CNN 'town hall' consumed with howling hatred for the NRA - the only organization that had nothing to do with the deaths of their classmates in a school shooting.


After Creation, evil is the earliest subject addressed in the Bible. Since it is the subject of the first human vignette in Scripture, we may assume that God thinks that its understanding is fundamental to our perception of ourselves, of how we live together and of our relationship to Him.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the first mention of the word 'evil'. It is clear that Adam had the ability to choose to either obey or disobey before he ate the forbidden fruit - else he would not have eaten. So disobedience and evil are not the same concept. Disobedience surely follows evil, but it is possible to disobey without the knowledge of evil. Here I will suggest that the knowledge of good and evil presents the question of who gets to define what is good or what is evil. Before eating the fruit, those decisions rested exclusively with God. Afterwards, we became like 'gods' having the ability to make those distinctions ourselves. For lots of reasons, we do not do a very good job with that capacity.

Consider the first story after the Garden. Cain decided to bring a sacrifice to God and he brought salad. His brother Abel brought an animal. Both men believed that their offering was good. (Surely Cain had no intention of insulting God with his offering.) When reality intervened in the form of God's rejection of his offering, Cain murdered his brother. Notice that Abel had nothing to do with the transaction between Cain and God, yet Cain's rage was so strong that he was moved to murder an innocent man. Cast back to the example above of the CNN 'town hall'. The NRA had nothing to do with the security failures that allowed a gunman to murder school children, yet the audience was moved to murderous hatred against it.

The ability to know good and evil is called autonomy; from the Greek meaning 'self law' or a law unto oneself. Autonomy is one of the things modern man prizes most highly. Its source is in the Garden and it is the cause of all of the misery and death in the world today.

The Tactics of the Evil One

Having gotten the fundamentals out of the way, let's look at how Satan operates to get us to choose evil (as God sees it) over good. These techniques are progressive.

The first tactic is temptation. Here the evil presented is beautiful and desirable. In the Garden, the fruit was beautiful to look at and desirable to make one wise. The people we lust after are attractive to us; the power we desire can be used to make the world better, etc. At this stage, the thing desired is not evil itself. What makes the choice evil is that it is forbidden. As a hypothetical example, if I were to desire another man's wife, she would not be evil or ugly; she would simply be forbidden to me. Were her husband to have relations with her, that would be good. Were I to do so, it would be evil.

Should temptation fail, the next tactic is deception. Here the enemy lies about either the situation or its consequences. So in the Garden, the snake said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

While outright lies are effective, there are two other variants of lying that are more so. The first is confusion. In this case we are presented with a flood of conflicting information on some topic such that we cannot discern what is actually true. This is always the case whenever some major news story breaks. The first reports are always shaped by what the news media wants the truth to be. So in the case of the Florida school shooting, the initial reports blamed the 'gun culture' and we only learned of the massive failure of all levels of government days later.

Illogic and inconsistency are very effective in sowing confusion. People with a Biblical world view waste a lot of time trying to untangle conflicting statements and apply logic to any event. From the point of view of Evil, this is a benefit. The attempt to point out fallacy and hypocrisy simply wastes time and mental resources. Those who are evil are incapable of embarrassment. The fact that inconsistency really bothers us is a bonus. Once you recognize that a person or institution is inconsistent and hypocritical, simply label them as evil and move on. Debating with the likes of CNN or Planned Parenthood is a waste of time. They are evil and can be safely disbelieved on all subjects.

A final deception tactic is co-option where evil people infiltrate and organization and corrupt it from inside. From the outside it looks the same and still demands the same respect. Look at many of the old denominational churches. They have been take over by liberals and are run by and for sexual defectives. They advocate abortion, 'alternative' marriage, etc. They can safely be ignored on any subject they teach.

Having mentioned temptation and deception, the final tactic is intimidation. That stage occurs when virtue no longer dominates in a society. The velvet glove has come off and the corruption rises to the surface. Those who point out the prevalence of evil are mocked and attacked. They may lose their jobs or be subject to violence. Remembering that Cain was moved to murder, the rhetoric of the modern left leaves no doubt that they see murder as an option. That is where we are today in the United States. Western Europe is even farther gone.

Why Do People Choose Evil

There are four reasons for people to choose evil over virtue. The first is appetite. As mentioned above, when virtue is dominant, evil presents itself as beautiful and desirable. All of the vices are corruptions of things God has designed for our benefit and enjoyment. Sex and marriage are a great gift from God. Pornography and prostitution are its corruptions. God provided plants to nourish and heal. Drug addiction and gluttony are their corruption.

The second reason people choose evil is ignorance or confusion. If, for example, the church and society say that self mutilation is natural or desirable, many will be deceived and deny what they are, searching for something that is not attainable.

The third reason is fear. Once evil reaches the coercive state, resisting will have a real cost. Since lots of folks don't see what's wrong with, e.g. same sex marriage or abortion, they will not take the risk of speaking out or acting against evil.

The final reason that some people choose evil is simply because it is evil. This is the end game. Once Satan can get people to curse God and choose evil, he has won them. God has built repentance into His universe and the way of return is open to those who fall into evil out of appetite, ignorance, confusion or fear. Once a person has explicitly turned his back on God and chosen evil, conscience will no longer induce him to turn.

As far gone as our society is today, there is still hope for us. God has built us with a conscience and a sense of eternity. Satan may win tactical victories but will not win strategically. That is why societies rise and fall. Even the most corrupt nation can have a rebirth.

What to Do

First, fear not. Courage will often win the day and may turn the lost and confused back to God. In any case, it is commanded. If you're going to suffer for your beliefs, hold them courageously.

Second, know who you serve and why. A clear notion of what you believe will deprive the enemy of one of his most powerful weapons - deception and confusion.

Third, don't buy into the hate. The enemy hates us and shows it every day in the news. It is easy to respond to hatred with more of the same. There are two problems with hatred. First it drives away those who might be reached by love and reason. Second, it corrodes the vessel that holds it. Hatred will turn you into someone you don't want to be. This too is a weapon of the enemy. The time may finally come where your appropriate response is violence. War after all is Biblical. Should that become necessary, don't hate.

Finally, speak the truth. Fudging or shading things to avoid conflict is a waste of breath. If you must speak, say what God would have you say to the best of your understanding. Evil marches on when it is not opposed by truth and virtue.