What is it teaching us?
Consider the scorpion. It’s carefully designed to be formidable and dangerous, with an armored exoskeleton, strong pincers that grab its prey, and a lightning-fast stinger that injects excruciatingly painful poison. After its prey is dead—or at least no longer moving—the scorpion devours almost all of it, whether an insect, a grub, or a mouse.
Most people find the scorpion to be a loathsome creature. Its very existence is problematic and raises an uncomfortable question: Did God create scorpions? To answer that question using only the Bible and logic, I’d offer a grand-unification argument on the subject of sin, suffering, and the current accelerating decay of our environment. I would begin my argument by pointing out that the Bible says God is love; it’s the essence of His character. What kind of world, then, would such a God create?
Love—Creation’s Organizing Principle
In Job 38:6, 7 we find that “the morning stars sang together” when the world was created. If the new creation had been inconsistent with the character of God, the angels would not have responded with song. They would have, instead, been appalled.
So the world, as originally created, must have been consistent with the character of God; love would have been its organizing principle. I conclude that all things in such a world would give as the basis of their existence; everything in it would pass on a blessing with each interaction, and nothing would take as the basis for its existence. We catch a glimpse of this in Genesis 1:29, 30, where we read that everything—everything!—in that perfect new world ate plants. The taking of life was not designed into God’s newly created creatures.
We find a bookend to universal vegetarianism in Isaiah 11, where we encounter striking descriptions of the re-created earth: the lion and lamb will lie down together. Bears will graze, and lions will eat straw. It will be that different. That passage promises, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (verse 9).
A world with love as its organizing principle, in which nothing hurts or kills as a basis of its existence, is radically unfamiliar to us. It is a world in which there are no threats and in which even basic biological systems (such as the digestive tract of a bear) fundamentally differ with what we currently see all around us.
How Did This Happen?
So how did the world, created in perfection, get to be so at odds with the character of God? The Bible provides a riveting story in response to this question, and, tellingly, the story is provided in nonlinear fashion, such as found in the book of Revelation.
The story begins in Ezekiel 28 with an extensive description of Lucifer, who was beautiful, wise, and covered in jewels and gold. Lucifer was not just any angel; we’re told in verse 14 that he was the anointed covering cherub. We don’t know what the hierarchy of heaven is, but Lucifer was very, very highly placed. If we say God was the emperor, then perhaps we can say Lucifer was the prime minister.
Lucifer was perfect until, one day, iniquity was found in him; he became proud and vain (see Eze. 28:14-17). The story picks up from there in Isaiah 14:13, 14, where Lucifer says, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; . . . I will be like the Most High.” For Lucifer, it wasn’t enough to be prime minister; he wanted to be emperor.
Offering a New Model
So what did Lucifer do? He started the very first political campaign, recruiting angels to his side. As with any political campaign, he attacked his opponent’s character. He also began articulating his plan for a superior administration of the universe; he offered a different model, whose organizing principle is selfishness. We read that “war broke out in heaven” (Rev. 12:7). But this word “war” (Greek: polemos) means not just “war” and “battle” but also “argument” and “contention.” It’s the root for the words “polemics” and “politics.” So this war was primarily a battle of opposing ideas, and Lucifer—now renamed Satan—succeeded and drew many to his side; a third of the angels in heaven joined him (verse 4).
Satan lost his campaign and was cast from heaven to earth, along with the angels he recruited (verses 7-9). Here is where it all comes together, because on earth he conquered Adam and Eve and took as spoil the only thing they truly possessed: the dominion that God had given them. Satan became the “prince” of this world (John 12:31, NIV). Here, he had both the power and the opportunity to continue his campaign and implement his plan. Satan can’t create—God is the Creator—but Satan certainly can pervert and effect fundamental changes. So he set about showing the universe that his plan would work brilliantly.
But here is Satan’s problem: his plan is a complete disaster. A world organized around selfishness results in death, destruction, and suffering—the decline of everything in it rather than advancement to Godlike status. It’s a terrible plan, not least because selfishness collapses in on itself, with terminal consequences for the environment and human society.
Hope for the Future
What we see around us—conflict, hunger, disease, and natural disasters—are the natural consequences of this disastrous plan. God will allow it to go on only until Satan has not one argument left that his plan is better and that God’s character is tainted. Until then, we are called to be living examples of God’s kingdom of love, passing along a blessing with each interaction, proclaiming and defending His character to a selfish world. That, at least, is my Scripture-and-logic argument.
To view Christiansen’s video Earth Is a Battlefield, go to artv.adventistreview.org.
Scott Christiansen is an evangelist for the Northern New England Conference and author of the book Planet in Distress. He lives in Milton Township, Maine, United States.