Ever pondered what is a shadow? I am almost afraid to admit I have. Maybe I should not admit that to freely. Then again, some who know me may say that is probably one of the least wastes of my time I have engaged in. Recently I was sitting on a plane and happened to look out the window. It was interesting because it was a cloudy day, yet the sun was shining. I happened to look down and the shadow of a cloud could clearly be seen upon the ground beneath me. Interesting to stop and think about for a second: what is a shadow?
It is probably safe to assume that most of us have seen shadows. Even the other day, I noticed our dog, Rolo seeking a shadow to stand in on a hot day. The shadow afforded by a tree, provided a brief reprieve for Rolo from a south Alabama sun that was beginning to give a taste of things to come. It struck me that in the case of the tree’s shadow, we actually even give it a unique name–shade.
So, back to the central question concerning the existence of shadows. A shadow is not really a thing, instead it is the actual lack of something–light. Maybe to even raise the concern of my friends a little more, I have even considered whether light or dark truly exist. Theology and cosmology both seem to agree that darkness preexisted light in our universe. However, the source of the light preexisted the darkness. So dark really seems to be the absence of light. I think this could be summarized that darkness has no ontological status — darkness as a thing does not exist.
That may or may not be new information for everyone. Some may still be wondering what “ontological” even means. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. As Greg Koukl says, ontology deals with the nature of existence. If something exists, like myself, then I have ontological status.
A shadow does not exist. Instead, it is simply the absence of light. If we took away the light, the shadow itself would be replaced by darkness. Absent the light, a shadow cannot exist.
So, how about the title, “Shadows of Evil”? What I have also pondered is the existence of evil. However, I think a shadow shares certain aspects with evil, neither have an ontological status. Evil does not really exist in separation. If you look around the universe, you cannot find anything that would be called evil. Evil cannot adhere itself to another object and impart anything. Instead, evil is the absence of good. Just like we don’t know a shadow without light, we don’t really know evil without good.
The problem of evil is perhaps one of the most simple questions that plagues people when they consider whether God exists. Even if they would perhaps be contemplating whether God exists, it seems that with the prevalence of evil in the world that we see, how can a benevolent God exist? Fair question.
When we read Genesis 1, there are numerous places where we read that God said creation was “Good”. It takes quite a while for evil to appear on the scene. We get all the way to Genesis 2:9, which if you were to be open to the concept of evolution, is probably a period marked by billions of years… Even if you want to hold to a literalist view of Genesis, it takes a whole chapter, everything has been created before it makes its first appearance. You can say that it doesn’t appear in creation until creation is storied as a narrative which is the sense of Genesis 2:9. We don’t see evil as a condition of man (Genesis 3 only says man now possessed the knowledge of the distinction between good and evil) until chapter 6. So evil takes its time getting out.
It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. I would offer that while I agree with that, I also think that we can’t lose perspective that it is the actions of other men that are the cause of evil. I understand that some people will say that not all evil is caused by man, that there is in fact a category called “natural evil”. However, I don’t really think of the results of a hurricane or a tsunami as “evil”. The cause of an earthquake is the shift of tektonic plates, unfortunately, the planet we live on is destined to suffer from these shifts. There is no intent to cause destruction of homes built upon beautiful overlooking cliffs in an earthquake. Others may carry a concept of natural evil, but for this discussion, I am setting that aside.
You see, God didn’t create evil. He created good. It is when Good is absent that evil can be observed. Just as when the light is blocked we see the shadow, when good is absent we can see evil. Ravi Zacharias has offered that evil is when a thing does not do that which it was created to do–when it fails it’s purpose. I like that definition.
So when we want to raise the objection about the existence of God based on the problem of evil, we might do well to stop and question ourselves regarding how we have not fulfilled our purpose. Even absent a belief in God, I think most people would still say that they have at times acted in a way that they knew was not good. They have obscured the good they knew to be and in its absence allowed existence to evil. Maybe it is not a great evil, maybe just a small thing. Maybe calling it an evil is almost hyperbolic. Still, when we
compare our actions to perfection, then it seems that it does not take a great departure from good to really give substance to evil.
In Luke 18:19, Jesus asked the young man why he called him good? Jesus replied that only one was good, and that was God. I have also heard Ravi explain an answer he gave on an exam he had to take for his denominational credentials. The question that was asked was something like, “God is perfect, explain.” As Ravi relates the story, the space for the answer was brief, “For only by being brief, could one hope to avoid heresy!” he quipped. The beauty of his response was along the line that, “Every being besides God finds the reason for their existence externally. God, is the only being that exists independent of any other cause. In this, God is perfect.” When even the best of us are compared to His perfection, the gulf can never be little.
I find it interesting that the Hebrews had a concept of light as the ideal. Scripture tells us we are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5). If we are the light of the world, then we can deny the existence of shadows. If we live as the light, we can also deny existence to evil. This seems a high calling. It can’t be done by chance. Albert Einstein once said that ““Only a life lived for others is worth living”. When questioned about the greatest commandment, Christ gave two. “He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10)
Ravi Zacharias tells a story of a young father that is asked by his daughter why her Mother died.
He spoke of a child who lost her mother and asked her dad ‘If Jesus died on the cross for our sins, why did mommy have to die?’ The heartrending question left her father at loss for words. Later when they were driving down, the father noticed a huge truck traveling alongside. He noticed the shadow of the truck and asked the little girl to have a look at it. He then asked her, ‘If you were to be run over by either the truck or its shadow, which one would you choose?’ The daughter replied, ‘the shadow daddy, because the shadow wouldn’t hurt’. The father smiled and replied, ‘When Jesus died on the cross, the truck of God’s judgment went over Him, so the death we go through is only the shadow of death.’ quoted from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/words-of-encouragement-from-the-bible.html