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The Devil’s Chaplain

• Greg Boyd

God is love, and our job is to receive and replicate that love. This means that it is crucial that we rightly perceive what God’s love actually looks like, something that some find challenging in the midst of creation that is overrun by violence. How then do we reconcile the nature of God’s love when nature itself seems to point to anything but love?

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God has invited us to participate in the four directions of love, which complies with the kingdom of God. God pours God’s love into our God-shaped vacuum. We reflect God’s love back to him, and then we overflow with love toward each other. Together we overflow with love toward the earth and animals. In this way, God’s triune love is replicated to expand the domain in which God is king: The Kingdom of God. When we and the creation are fully restored, this is what it will look like.

Our central job is to manifest in the present as much of the what will be true later on. This is what it means to “seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

However, this depends upon our perceiving God as being a God of love, which for many people this is problematic. If God is love, and if God created the world, why is creation one of “Red in Tooth and Claw”? If we perceive God as being a monster, then actually being free to love this God and express God’s love to others is virtually impossible.

When we honestly look at the violence in our world that is woven into nature, and we combine that with the fact that God created the world, then what is one to think about the meaning of “God is love”? Charles Darwin lost his faith in God, large in part, because of his observations about nature. He wrote, “What a book a Devil’s Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.”  -Charles Darwin

The Bible reveals that source of this evil is not the Creator, but the devil. Sickness, death, and violence are not rooted in God, but in the evil one. This is found in a variety of passages, including 1 John 5:19, Romans 8:20-22, and Colossians 1:19-20. Nature as we now know it is corrupted. Understanding this is crucial to perceiving rightly God’s love. God is not behind this evil. Nor was it something that God didn’t want to stop. The issue is that love requires free will on the part of the one being loved. Loving creation means that those within it have to be given the freedom to choose not to receive and replicate that love. Now the world reflects a long history of rejecting God’s love. As Athenagorus, a Church Father from the second century, wrote, “All suffering and violence in creation is the result of the corrupting influence of an evil ‘ruling prince’ and ‘the demons his followers’” (A Plea, 25).

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Topics: Kingdom of God, Love, Problem of Evil

Sermon Series: 4D Love

Downloads & Resources

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Study guide
Stephen Fry Interview Clip

Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 22:36-40

    “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

  • Genesis 1:28-30

    God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 

  • Colossians 1:19-20

    God is at work to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

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7 thoughts on “The Devil’s Chaplain

  1. Gailen says:

    Remarkable insight and truth…seemingly like us all, God is vulnerable…but, He will overcome.

  2. Becky says:

    Amazing teaching, Greg. A true feast of inspiration!

  3. Michael says:

    In Genesis 3:17-18 we see that part of the reason nature began not working the way it did originally is because God cursed the ground. Now, is cursing the ground “benevolent”? Except for this passage, I like the idea that nature acting badly is caused by evil principalities, and not God, but I don’t see how these verses fit into that concept.

  4. Mike says:

    Greg also said that God originally gave some control of nature over to the angels, and when some angels went rogue, God couldn’t take back that control, because that would mean He never really gave it to them. That doesn’t make sense to me. Why would taking it back mean He never gave it?

    1. Ben says:

      This one goes full circle! God is all-knowing, so he knew which angels would rebel. For Him, revoking control from them would be the same thing as never giving them choice in the first place, which defeats the purpose of giving it in the first place.

  5. Susan says:

    When was the last time we just went through a whole book or gospel, line by line, word by word, studying what God has to say without having to find a way to make it fit into our lives to find it interesting or important. I miss that! We would be in a book for months or even years studying all the richness of God’s beautiful truths. I am hungry for just solid biblical teaching again.

    1. Paige Slighter says:

      Hey Susan, thanks so much for your feedback. We appreciate your input and will keep it in mind for the future.
      -Paige from the Communications Team

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