It doesn't happen often but on occasion I get mildly peeved by the ease with which even reasonably well-informed folks violate the most basic tenets of Biblical theology. One of these is the issue of polarity, or in simpler terms: of good and evil.
The root of good & evil
Much of the Old Testament was compiled and redacted from very old sources and traditions during the Babylonian exile. That means that the Old Testament is as much a respectful commentary on the reigning theology of Babylon as the gospels are of the dominant Greco-Roman schools of thought (the New Testament authors reviewed Greek Homerian and Stoic notions with reserved favor but treated the Romans like bananas).
The Old Testament emerged from a basin of Zarathustrianism (or Zoroastrianism), and Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) is the celebrated inventor of monotheism.
That is to say: Zarathustra overthrew indigenous pantheism in favor of a system that involved one sole supreme deity who was still aided and thwarted by a lot of forces, spirits and demons. One very important idea of Zarathustra, which has managed to pervade popular understanding of reality, is that the cosmos is the stage upon which forces of good battle forces of evil in an eternal struggle. To Zarathustra, these forces were polar opposites and approximately of equal strength.
|Zarathustra promoted the still hugely popular bi-polar reality model of good versus evil|
Zarathustra's idea's were certainly brilliant, but his idea of the eternal battle between good and evil was one hundred percent at odds with the Hebrew idea of how things worked. Zarathustra thought he lived in a bi-polar reality, but the Hebrews were pretty sure that reality was mono-polar. Particularly the prophet Isaiah had very little patience with the bi-polar reality model of his northern neighbors, as he roared:
I AM YAHWEH! And there is no other! Besides Me there is no god! I will equip you, even though you don't know Me, so that folks may know from dawn to dusk that there is no one beside Me.
I am Yahweh, and there is no other. The One forming light and creating darkness; causing good (Hebr: tob) and creating evil (Hebr: ra'). I am Yahweh, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:5-6).
Satan (and here we go) is a created creature who lives within the same created universe as we do, and he has to obey the same natural laws of God, whether he likes to or not. And he can only get to people who fail to align themselves with the laws of nature, who are like the weak and ailing of a herd upon which predators focus.
Satan has no grip on 'healthy' people who follow God's law to the last minute detail (if that were possible). Satan can only try people the way an engineer test-runs an engine, and can only apply negative effects when the people fail in their designed function.
Darkness and light relate relate in a journey, not a battle
We are on a journey. We came from somewhere and we're going somewhere. The Creator made creation with a specific end-result in mind, and when folks dart off into literally a dead end, God issues a correction. This correction is understandably experienced as a negative to the correctee, but the unforeseen alternative is infinitely worse.
Balaam, He became satan to him (in the sense that God was performing satan's function of opposing, not in the sense that the two are the same one - Numbers 22:22) and when Saul needed a swift kick in the head, God sent him an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14).
Similarly, the Mosaic Law was not issued as a code of conduct that had to be followed, but rather an explanation of why the doodoo was hitting the fan. Contrary to popular belief, the Law was not something that had to be kept, but rather something that had to be transcended.
The Law is like a blue print that builders need to finish their building. When the building is finished, the blueprint has become obsolete because it's now manifested in the building. Likewise when the Law states "you will not kill" it states that at some point in the future (a) we won't be doing any killing, and (b) this rule has become obsolete by fulfillment.
The purpose of the Law was to point out failure (Romans 7:7), which was also the job of satan (namely that of public accuser or prosecutor). Jesus obviously fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), and with that He put both satan and the Law out of a job.
|painting by Les Bryant|
Just read Creation!
But even to people who lack the Scriptural versatility of a six year old, simply looking at creation will tell the observer that we're living in a mono-polar reality and not a bi-polar one.
Darkness is not the opposite of light but the absence of it, and the difference is not subtle.
Darkness is the absence of light, not the presence of something else. When we switch on the light in a dark room, nothing leaves and nothing is replaced.
Light is substantial and consists of energy. Darkness is not substantial, and it doesn't consists of anything. Darkness is emptiness. It can not be made to go away; it can only be filled and only by light. Light can fill darkness but darkness can not fill light.
Light has a source. Darkness has no source. Light can carry information. Darkness can't. Light travels and can go into a certain direction. Darkness doesn't consist of anything and can not travel. Light consists of colors. Darkness has no shades.
Light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It consists of unpolarized energy and as such is the source of all matter in the universe. Hence it existed before all things and since electromagnetism holds electrons to atomic nuclei and atoms together in molecules, it literally holds all things together (John 8:12, Colossians 1:16-17).
Light is the engine behind all chemical and most physical processes, including life. At light speed, time freezes and all distances become zero, which means that the speed of light is not a speed (there are no seconds or meters at light speed) but rather the edge of the universe!
Darkness is the absence of light, not the opposite of it, just like ignorance is the absence of wisdom, and not the presence of something else. To build something, one needs knowledge. To tear something down, one needs no knowledge. To love someone, one needs to know someone. It takes no knowledge to hate someone.
Evil is ONLY the absence of good, and good is the ultimate objective of the universe and the ultimate destination of everything in it: a finished building, a completed knowledge, and a perfected love.
Be excellent in what is good, have no idea about evil (Romans 16:19).