This article is excerpted from Winter's Editorial Comment in Mission Frontiers, Jan.–Feb. 1998 issue.
Hugh Ross refers in his recent newsletter to the same amazing new book we mentioned last fall—which verifies the existence of cannibalism everywhere in ancient times. He comments with sage insight that secular scholars had been reluctant, he suspects, to acknowledge such widespread cannibalism because “belief in Satan is even more politically incorrect than belief in God.” Now, that is a significant observation!
Wait a minute!
Are the tobacco interests now buying off the state governments the way the riverboat casinos are buying off the Mississippi river city governments? Is the practice now of cutting the states in on tobacco’s assured profits from mass addiction something that will decrease or prolong addiction? As soon as those profits become addicting to the state governments, will the fight against nicotine be replaced by the need for continued flow of money? Are we already feeding a monster that is devouring our people? Thousands of teens per day start into addiction to nicotine. … Oh, God, who is devouring our people?
Who is devouring our people?
Satan’s greatest achievement is to cover his tracks. This issue arose poignantly in the TV debate last Saturday: Both Philip Johnson and Michael Behe (as well as Buckley) were arrayed against some nice people who feel evolution is necessarily explained by purely natural processes.
At a key point during those two hours a pleasant Canadian professor/philosopher (Michael Ruse) asked the question, “Does your God create parasites?”
Ebola virus as seen under a microscope.
Neither Johnson nor Behe were quite prepared for that. For them it is enough right now just to prove that only a guiding Hand can explain the “irreducible complexity” we see in the micro-world of the human cell, which is “the evidence of intelligent design,” and the startling and mysterious “gaps” in the record of the rocks.
I asked Phillip Johnson myself, face to face, four weeks ago at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, if it were not necessary to go beyond the recognition of “intelligent design” to “intelligent good and evil design.” He said, “I’ll have to think about that.” (I had suggested that it is very common to attribute computer viruses to the existence of malevolent souls who are out to destroy everyone’s computer memory; why not attribute the real viruses that assail us to the malevolence of Satan?)
I came away from watching that two-hour TV debate feeling that a major reason why some very honest and thinking people find it hard to believe a Creator God is in charge of things is precisely due to the unacknowledged factor of Satanic, destructive opposition to God’s creative benevolent design. Only the presence of Satanic efforts in the constant damaging of God’s creative intent can explain the pervasive, insidious, painful horror of the destructive parasites of our world.
World population, sin, and disease
What does population explosion really mean? Stepping back for a second, consider the truly amazing fact that for many, many centuries due to hatred, unrestrained bloodshed, and microbial assaults, the incredible potential of population growth on a world level simply did not happen.
Let me explain that. We are now ending the second millennium AD, aren’t we? For the entire first millennium world population didn’t go anywhere. Only in the Christian West did it even begin a tiny expansion. According to the January 1998 issue of National Geographic, the growth was then only one tenth of one percent per year until AD 1700. But, as hygiene and increased food production began to batter down the destructive forces, and colonial expansion put an end to hundreds of local wars in Africa and Asia, world population began to explode.
To get perspective, if the population of the entire globe in Abraham’s day (estimated to be 27 million in 2000 BC) had grown at the present rate of world population growth (1.7 percent per year), world population would have shot up from 27 million to 6 billion in just the next 321 years.
A second example: if the 2 million population of England in AD 440 (at the time of the withdrawal of the Roman legions) had grown at the current rate of world population growth, England would have multiplied 38,275 times in the next six centuries to become 76 billion people by the time of the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1066! That’s over ten times the present world population—in England alone.
But no growth took place during those hundreds of turbulent years between 440 and 1066. Why? Unending tragedy of war and bloodshed and pestilence—first the invasion of the pagan Anglo Saxons and later the invasion of the pagan Vikings. Once those illiterate invading savages (ancestors of some of us) became Christians things began to settle down. And the population began to grow, albeit slowly—slowly until Satan’s insidious inroads at the microbial level were intelligently and specifically resisted. Then disease was reduced and growth picked up speed.
Yes, evil was dramatically unmasked when the very existence of microbes was discovered. Who would have thought that tiny little things smaller than you could see with the naked eye (20,000 on the face of a smooth, clean front tooth) would be a source of such staggering global suffering and tragedy? People were as confused about how to fight these evil bugs as we are about how to fight nicotine and STDs which are devouring our people today
Did God create these evil bugs? That is what some of the evolutionists are wondering about. (Are the grisly predations of life against life on this plant His ideal?) That is why some of them cannot believe in a divine creator—they are as unaware of Satan as we are. Have we gotten accustomed to rampaging evil within God’s creation? as mentioned above, Hugh Ross says in his latest newsletter, Reasons to Believe, “belief in Satan is even more politically incorrect than belief in God.” (4th Q, 1997, page 8—better yet, write for this superb resource, Box 5978, Pasadena, CA 91117).
So we began to fight the microbes that were designed to destroy. Some specialists just a few years ago thought that all disease could be shortly eliminated from this planet. No one apparently realized that Satan’s evil, dark angels would continue to invent new ways to penetrate our body’s defenses. The wonder drugs of sulfa and penicillin and a myriad of antibiotics were for a time another optimistic marvel.
But the true scope of microbial evil was, and is, underestimated. Just as once we thought we could do nothing to fight the plagues at their source, we now continue to give up easily with the newest species of tuberculosis, malaria, and many other maladies that distress and destroy and hold the world captive to torturing pain.
Where is missions in all this?
Don’t we know now where we stand? Can’t we realize that merely sending out friendly missionaries is not enough—that God is expecting us to fight Satan back at every level? What does “Thy Kingdom come…deliver us from evil” mean? How can people around the world convert to a God Who appears not to care and/or does not understand how to deal with malaria? Or who Himself tweaked the DNA to produce ingenious parasites? What sort of good news is that? If God’s missionaries don’t toss a penny into a fundamental assault on malaria, how can anyone believe that an omnipotent God cares?
Now we know—or we should know by now—that the mysteries of viral illnesses can be combatted, and that God is expecting us to not just lie down and let the plagues roll over us, can we in good conscience go around the world with a gospel for everyone that tells people about a loving God but does not identify Him as being willing and able to fight the Satanically inspired diseases that are killing people right and left? Can we tell people to “be warmed and filled and believe in Jesus as you die?”
I have a hunch that somewhere along the line we got off the track of glorifying God by fighting Satan and his perversions, and got more interested in bailing out of this world, getting ourselves and our friends to.
Is not our faith easier to share, and our God easier to understand, if we decline to use the phraseology of hyper-calvinistic fatalism in favor of the Bible’s nuanced descriptions which allow for a Satan who is walking about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour? Doesn’t this put the blame where it belongs, tracing motivations and intentions more clearly?
God creates and restores. Satan destroys and perverts. That’s it. Let’s not let children and adult seekers be confused. More important still, let’s not confuse ourselves about what God allows indirectly and what He initiates directly.
Life is a test, an extravagant opportunity—for most Americans. Most people in the world, by contrast, have no word in their vocabulary for leisure. The pressures under which they live are so bitter, so relentless, that life is just one long imprisonment in despair and hopelessness. Meanwhile, for most Americans leisure is often merely opportunity to waste their talents in trivia.
Dear friend in Christ, how are you living your life? How much of each day do you “dwell in distraction?” Is your daily experience a moment-by-moment, more-and-more discovery of the person, the purposes and the glory of the Living God? Or is it messy survival, a life of meaningless, mindless struggle 99 percent of the time?
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and life more abundantly.”
But this does not at all mean that all evil will be conquered before the end of history. At the end there will still be tears to wipe away (Rev. 21:3). No, sorry, history may end in a global conflagration of atomic warfare. That, in fact, could happen tomorrow. But, meanwhile our task is to honor and glorify God and to lead all peoples to “declare His glory.” That is the over-arching task of the believers. It is a lot more, not less, than winning people to Jesus Christ. It is called Missions.