Study Guide: The Devil’s Chaplain

Sunday October 20, 2019 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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?

Extended Summary:

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).

Reflection Questions: