On the Paradox of Creation or, Between Light and Dark


DSC01983If one reads the Bible carefully, it is easy to see that the coming of Christ into the world was a type of second creation. In the first part of Genesis, God speaks into a dark void, into an abyss of nothingness, and draws forth everything. In the beginning of the Gospels, eloquently stated by St. John the Apostle, God sends the Light into the World, a Light not overcome by the darkness. In the first creation the world springs forth from nothing. In the second creation, the world exists, but is spiritually dead and physically dying from the sin thrust upon it. The Light comes into contact with the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it.

In the first creation, human destruction begins in a garden. Adam and Eve rebel against God and choose their own path, they choose autonomy. The first man and the first woman speak for all humanity at that point and direct the human will away from God. In the second creation, human glorification begins in a garden. It is here that Christ says, “Not my will, but yours” to God, deifying human nature. In the second creation, human glorification culminates in yet another garden, the garden of the tomb. In this final garden, Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener (though not inaccurate). In the first creation, in the first garden, man hid from God and blamed woman; in the second garden, God finds those who have been hiding for so long and instructs the woman to give this news to man.

All of creation has found itself somewhere between these two gardens. We have teetered towards the Garden of Eden or the Garden of the Tomb. When we war with each other, send countless bodies to an early grave over land disputes or selfish ambition, we move closer and closer to the pride and arrogance that forced us out of paradise. While disease and the elements serve as a natural consequence of our rebellion, we remain in the Garden of Eden when we fail to help out the victims of these acts. We push ourselves closer and closer to the Garden of Eden when our own flaws, our own evilness, or worse, our apathy aides in the suffering of these victims.

There is a reason God would not allow us to return to the Garden of Eden, not as some punishment, but as an act of grace. If we were capable of even glimpsing at what we lost we would despair and lose hope. We would go mad and find nothing but regret. There is a reason that only the greatest of saints have ever been allowed a glimpse into what was lost, and it is only because of their humility. Yet, even those who saw the paradise we lost still felt burdened.

We attempt to return to the Garden of Eden, but as some hapless subject in a Greek mythology, the harder we try to move back to Utopia, the further we move away. We have created a myriad of utopias, all attempts to get back to some perfect state. The 18th and 19th centuries gave us political ideologies that implanted these utopias into the minds of revolutionaries. These revolutionaries acted as midwives and in the 20th century we saw the early births of these utopias. In the end, the 20th century became the bloodiest century in human history. We lost 4% of the human population (over 109 million deaths, though many government sanctioned murders are simply not included). In our attempt at various utopias, various Towers of Babels back to the Garden of Eden, we only intensified our hellish experience.

Yet, in other parts of creation we have tended more towards the Garden of the Tomb. While we can never return to the site of our greatest tragedy, we can move forward to the site of our greatest triumph. We have, at times, made strides towards this new paradise. We love and cherish the arts, beauty, poetry, redemption, and the like because they all point to love. Within love there is only beauty, no ugliness, because love is the ruling virtue in the Kingdom that has come and shall come.

Yes, evil happens, but those who move towards the Garden of the Tomb will bring goodness to these evil acts. They will feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, and help the helpless. As we move further away from the Garden of Eden and more towards the Garden of the Tomb, we begin to sense the redemption of creation, we begin to see it in our own acts and in the acts of others.

Paul succinctly wrapped up the two gardens in Romans 8. He contrasts the past/present with the future, of a present groaning caused by a past offense that will be removed in future glory. Creation in its current state, then, is quite the paradox; it is beautiful, yet fallen, groaning while knowing it will be made new.

What is good and beautiful is logical and rational, even supra-rational (that is, beyond our ability to reason, but not irrational). Beauty comes from God and God is incomprehensible and supra-rational. God is not irrational in that He doesn’t make any sense, but God is supra-rational in that He is beyond our reasoning. The beauty that flows forth from Him, an uncreated energy of God, is supra-rational.

Evil, on the other hand, is always irrational, yet masked in logic. A dictator commits genocide, which is irrational, but provides an incredible calculus to justify his actions. On a smaller scale, a man will cheat on his wife and provide some logical matrix that justifies his actions. A child steals from his parents and justifies his actions. Evil is always irrational, always illogical, but always defensible via some twisted use of logic. Therein lies the problem of evil and why Christians struggle to respond to it; we are always attempting to provide a logical explanation for something that is by nature illogical. There is no reason in evil, no logic to be found, and therefore it cannot be explained as, “Well A, therefore B.”

One cannot explain darkness by appealing to the properties of light, except to say that darkness results from the lack of those properties. Likewise, one cannot explain evil by appealing to logic and reasoning when evil lacks the properties of logic and reasoning. We can certainly explain things about evil in a logical manner (as to why it is here, what caused it, why it’s bad, and so on), but none of this addresses the ding an sich (thing in itself) of evil, mostly because there is not ding an sich of evil. Evil, in an ontological sense, doesn’t exist and therefore cannot be deduced to a series of equations and argued away via propositions.

Rather, for those of us who live amongst this groaning creation, awaiting the day of reconciliation, the answer to evil is to overwhelm it with good. The answer to the problem of evil is not a logical one, but an existential one. The answer to the problem of evil is not to explain what went wrong in the Garden of Eden, but to point to the Garden of the Tomb and move toward it. The solution to the problem of evil is not to hide behind the bushes of logic to hide our naked ignorance (as Adam and Eve did), but to embrace the mystery of the risen Lord and go and tell others what He has done (as Mary did). There is a paradox behind our beautiful yet fallen creation, and the more we embrace that paradox and recognize it for what it is, the better equipped we are to move our world towards light, towards the Garden of the Tomb.

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