Charles Darwin and the Satan he saw in Nature

You know what scientific observation helped destroy Charles Darwin’s faith?

Incredibly, it wasn’t “natural good” (i.e. The wonder of nature), but rather “natural evil” (i.e. The horror of nature). By “natural,” I mean “within and according to nature,” specifically viruses, bacteria, diseases and cancer-killing elements which kill millions and torment millions more, humans and animals alike, not to mention earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, mudslides, and volcanoes.

Darwin couldn’t believe a good God would create such a frequently vicious creation.

“What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low, and horribly cruel works of nature!” Charles Darwin (Francis Darwin, ed., More Letters of Charles Darwin, 2 vols. [New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1908], 1:94).

Let me offer an analogy.

There are very many people who, being beautiful on the outside, nonetheless have something drastically wrong going on internally. Strongholds of homicidal hate, bitterness, impatience, addiction, cruelty, pettiness, vanity, unforgiveness, revenge, and jealousy.

Even though all can see their external beauty has God’s wondrous fingerprints, the toxic fruit falling from the misshapen parts of their soul does not accurately represent the way their creator formed them. Some tragic and dastardly deformation has happened. “An enemy has done this,” Jesus once said.

If this can be seen with human creation, how much more is it apparent with the rest of creation. Creation often shines with so much “natural good”–radiant beauty, often utterly breathtaking, YET continuously and capriciously alternates with “natural evil,” a radioactive ugliness most often utterly bone crushing.

This topic so very many ignore. And it’s a tricky one. Having a bi-polar “mother nature” can either rob us of our faith in God, as it did Charles Darwin, or it can strengthen our resolve that “natural evil” is a deformation frequently caused by hostile unseen cosmic forces.

These forces “we wrestle against” Paul alternately describes in Ephesians as: “the prince of the power of the air… the devil… the rulers… the authorities… the cosmic powers over this present darkness… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places… the evil one.” Ephesians 2:2, 6:12, 6:13. Jesus called these evil forces the “devil and his angels,” Peter referred to this force as “Satan, the roaring lion-like figure whom we are to steadfastly resist in the faith,” while James likewise called this force the “devil we are to resist in the wake of our obedience to Christ.” Matthew 25:41, 1 Peter 5:8, James 4:7. The beloved John, who wrote more about the love and light of God than any other apostle, also wrote the most about this personal force of evil, naming him “Satan”… “in whose power the whole world (including creation) lies,”… “the liar and murderer from the beginning, the father of our lusts”… “the one whom when we sin it is, in fact, HIS lusts we are performing”… “the great dragon… that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world… along with his angels” John 13:27, John 8:44, 1 John 3:8, John 5:18-19, Revelation 12:9.

Here are some stunning quotes about what we call “natural evil.”

“Nature does not abhor evil, she embraces it.” Howard Bloom. The Lucifer Principle, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.

“Man…trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law –
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrek’d against his creed/”
Tennyson, In Memoriam

“No theodicy that does not take the Devil fully into consideration is likely to be persuasive.” Jeffery Russell, Mephistopheles (Cornel University Press, 1986).

“We trust that God is love, but we also believe that God is the Creator of nature, and nature simply does not seem to point to a God of love. Parasites, viruses, bacteria, diseases, and cancer kill millions and torment millions more, humans and animals alike. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, mudslides, and volcanoes do the same. And the animal kingdom is, as Tennyson said, ‘red in tooth and claw.’ (So is the human kingdom for that matter). The creation looks almost as much like it was created by a cosmic predator (I Pet 5:8) as it does like it was created by an all-loving, peaceful, benevolent Creator. There seems to be a ‘Lucifer Principle’ at work in the world….” Greg Boyd.