Sunday 7 August 2016

Since we are living in such evil times of value-inversion - why doesn't God intervene to stop it?

(This important question - or something like it - was posed by William Wildblood in the comments to the previous post on Screwtape and Wormwood - here is my attempt to answer it concisely.)

The difficulty I am having in responding to your question may be related to the several assumptions embedded in it - for example, about our nature as Men and God's potential powers, and the purpose of mortal life.

If we accept that these in The West are the most evil times in history - in the sense that more (numerically and proportionately) people would reject salvation than ever before, due to the prevalence of value-inversion; then the first thing that strikes me is exactly that Men do not want to be saved from their current situation - indeed they want more of the same.

The situation resembles that of loving parents whose child has left home to live with an exploitative brainwashing cult to which she has become devoted. The parents know where she is, and could go and get her - but they also know that she would strongly resist being rescued (let's say she is devoted to the cult leader who abuses and enslaves her), and if rescued would be utterly miserable and try to return to her captors.

The parents may write to her, may send all kinds of messages to assure their daughter of their continued love, but she will not read the messages.

God is in this situation with the added aspects that the cultists and their victims and the weeping parents are all equally his beloved children; and the children are able to deny God's existence and assume that they arise spontaneously and accidentally and have no responsibility to anybody else.

In such a situation God cannot do much more than stand ready to respond to individuals if and when he is acknowledged and asked. Or else the whole scenario can be wound-up - which is the end of this earth, and the trajectory of humanity in it arcing to a conclusion; the end of the 'experiment' of mortal life.

The prophecies are that - sooner or later - this point will be reached, and the earth and all the people on it will be ended (and a New Jerusalem arise) - and it seems that we are now in the End Times, or Latter Days as it becomes clear that the point approaches and can only be delayed but not averted.

But why does God allow the demons to work? Well, the demons are his children too; and the demons are at one end of a continuum of goodness and evil in which everyone is mixed (in Mormon theology, Satan and demons are pre-mortal spirit children who have chosen the wrong side, and are forbidden to incarnate).

I think that God's tolerance of the continued existence of demons indicates that they cannot be beyond hope of reform - across the vast timescale of eternity. God could not 'kill' demons, but they could be stripped of their powers or confined if or when they were beyond possibility of repentance - and perhaps this has indeed happened to some of them (we would not know) but the ones we do experience presumably have not reached that point.

(A microcosm of the problem God faces can be imagined if a loving Father had many children among whom there was one in particular of great ability who preyed upon, tormented and corrupted the other children; and others who were themselves similarly wicked and had chosen to side-with the one most-wicked child. There comes a point at which a loving Father will feel that he must 'write-off' (e.g. dis-able, exile, imprison, 'kill') the one worst, and perhaps some more of his more-wicked children - for the sake of the less-wicked ones. But that is a last resort, and would probably lead to an eternity of irreconcilable fear, resentment and hatred from the written-off children - and may also have a terrorizing and paralysing effect on the less-wicked children who are, after-all, themselves all somewhat wicked, and who have experienced in themselves exactly the same kind of wickedness as was more extreme in some of their siblings.)

Why are the demons not sequestered from good people? If we consider the problem from a spiritual level - I think that demons are like vampires, and can only spiritually-harm those who 'invite them in' - so the demons remain present and active in human affairs because humanity has invited them to stay and continues to want them as guests.

The earth and mortal life are partly what we need, and partly what we make of them - a mixed picture. The reasons why bad things happen are therefore manyfold and must be understood in an individualised way and from an eternal perspective of soul.

I don't think humans are cognitively capable of understanding why everything happens everywhere and to everyone, and how it all interacts. But I do believe that we can learn by revelation why this particular thing has happened to us here-and-now; if we are open to accepting the true answer when God gives it, which may not be the answer we wanted to hear.


David Balfour said...

A mostly satisfying answer Bruce and I feel intuitively it rings mostly true in its broader resolution. As you yourself say though the finer, more minute details of the situation are likely to remain onscure to us at this stage but we surely know enough not to invite them in or repent when we succumb to various temptations to sin. Incidentally, do you see any value to praying for or psychically projecting sincere positive emotions and hopes towards the spiritual welfare of demons? Perhaps some *or all* may yet repent in the fullness of eternity? And by extension is there any hope for Satan himself or do you believe he is permanently outside of the pale and unable to atone for the most collossal of all sins?

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - Aside: Great news, hope to see you soon.

wrt Praying, I don't see anything wrong with any positive prayers of any kind.

wrt Satan - I suppose there must be hope, since (being part of God's creation, and necessarily not being 100 percent negative/ destructive) he is not totally evil; and by my earlier argumet, ifthere was no hope then he would be neutralised or sequestered in some way.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks for your long and considered reply, Bruce, which is very helpful. I would just add that I think the present time is like a stress test that enables those who pass it to make greater spiritual progress than would be possible in more harmonious times when the incentive is not so great. When the world is in ruins it is easier to turn to God. Also, I don’t think those who fail the tests of the current time are damned (to use emotive language),or not most of them any way. I believe there is now a winnowing of souls and those who don’t ‘make the grade’ will be placed in environments more suitable to their spiritual understanding or lack of it. They will have further chances to turn to God but might to have to work harder to purify themselves of that in themselves which has stopped them doing so on this occasion. Repentance is always possible but that is still only the beginning of the spiritual journey.

Orrin Ahola said...

I have found the recent posts about good, evil, demonic forces, God, and this insane world highly stimulating. Thank you.

I will readily admit I am in the "torn" category -- I succumb to the temptation by sin pretty much out of habit at this point, but my conscience is annoyingly potent in the extreme. It will not let me rest. I am always called back to consider my thoughts and deeds and consider another way.

A corollary question that I have about this recent theme of posts is:

How can we tell God answers? I am not sure I see that. There have been times when I lived a cleaner life, one of humility, stillness, mindfulness, and moderation. In my own way I reach out. I call out in earnest for some sense of guidance, reassurance, etc. It never seems to be forthcoming. The silence becomes deafening. I eventually lose faith. And the cycle repeats.

I think perhaps 2 or 3 times in my life for brief moments I have experienced a shift in perception that has pealed back the veil so to speak. There was a sense of something beyond the five senses. But I also wonder if it was perhaps only an hallucination.

Again, where is the evidence our prayers are answered? Perhaps for some it seems so. For many others not. I do not mean to come across argumentative. I sincerely would like to understand. As you have mentioned with other questions, there are probably some false assumptions built into my question.

John R said...

When you talk about demons being invited in, what about the demons no one would willingly invite in? I can understand a pervert inviting a succubus or an alcoholic inviting the rage that follows his drinks but if we assume everything is living then surely things like diseases and motor accidents are demons. I don't think anyone would invite them, so why are they allowed to exist?

Or to use a more concrete example it is near unanimous that ticks and mosquitoes serve no higher ecological purpose that couldn't be filled by other non-parasitic non disease vector insects. If humanity is an inchoate God wouldn't the proper decision be eradication of insects who cannot be redeemed and have no purpose beyond reproduction and disease spreading. Why wouldn't a stronger God rid the world of suffering that serves no purpose such as cancer or tornadoes?

Perhaps the purpose is hidden to immature beings such as ourselves.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Orrin - These may give some suggestions that might work for you:

Bruce Charlton said...

@John R - That is a different question altogether - you are asking why life is not completely pleasant all the time. The short answer is that mortal life is not meant to be pleasant as a priority - it is a means to an end.

Essentially, the way to reason it is to start with knowing what God is aiming for, the nature of Men, and that the aim is not for mortal life to be pleasant in and of itself, but for it to be about experiences of value in eternal, resurrected life.

Luqman said...

It could be that he is intervening to stop it, just in ways not immediately apparent to us. Even just the prick of conscience is a significant intervention. If the game is all about salvation vs. damnation, a lot of the apparently horrible stuff we see must not be very important at all. Suffering that leads to salvation is no victory for the demonic forces, as you described in a previous post. This could be a suffering of the spirit as well as the more mundane sort. The modern world may be a deadly trial, but as a result navigating it is likely more significantly inoculating against evil.

While these years are probably the best candidate yet for the end times, there is some sort of agitation under the surface and tangible reasons to hope.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - There are also consequences of modernity (the genius famine, the decline of intelligence, mutation accumulation/ mouse utopia, the inexorable rise of bureaucracy etc) which have already ended qualitative technological advance and initiated decline - and will thereby save us from what would have been the nightmare of transhumanist spiritual oppression.