(Phrase coined by Paul House)
When George Bush was President of the United States he named several nations in the world as an axis of evil. Many, mocked him. I don’t question that the nations he named were generators of acts of evil against their own people and also against other nations.
My contention would be that President Bush did not go far enough. The majority of Americans don’t really believe in evil the way that God describes it. But, as time marches towards its end, the things that have restrained evil will diminish, evil will appear to prevail, and surprisingly most people will “tolerate” it, as long as they are left to be happy!
Sin breeds evil, sinful acts. All of us were born in and with sin, and live committing sinful acts, acts of evil. Sin is a state of lawlessness, lawlessness against God, His righteous nature and His expectation that we would choose righteousness, live righteously, and thrive in righteousness. Evil is the opposite of the good of righteousness. Evil is the distortion of all of the good of righteousness that actually makes us human from God’s perspective.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-20)
Even with our lawlessness, God had an answer. We have been born again in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is, those of us who have chosen His offering for our lawlessness. The price for our lawlessness, life in evil, has been paid for by God Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. What we could not do for ourselves, God did for us. (Romans 8:1-4)
But evil, sinful acts, persist. For those of us in Jesus Christ, it persists as an ever present temptation from the residue of the “flesh”within us. The flesh cannot dominate us as it does before we are “healed” by God. But it can pursue us. (Romans 6:1-14). For more on this see my two books on the flesh and victory over it. https://www.dwightpaulsmith.com/home
Equally important, because people are evil, evil animates the world structures: government, business, family, law and justice, etc.. The degree to which evil rises in our perceived idea of “evilness” depends upon other potentially restraining factors.
One, the cultural influence of the people of Christ. This does not mean that righteousness is forced upon culture. But, the expected impact of salt and light of the Christian community ought to give the culture and its structures “pause” to consider. When historical and philosophical ideas jettison Biblical ideas of righteousness as defined by God, the “pause” moments decrease, and the restraints to evil diminish. When the people of Christ do not allow God the Spirit to build lives of salt and light in and through them, the “pause” moments dangerously decrease.
Two, the law of the land. It does not have to be law built on Biblical ideals, but, can simply be norms of how proper people treat each other in a particular culture. All cultures have historically evolved norms of relationship: people to people, people to the land, people to assets, etc. One can break these norms and find themself ostracized from the culture.
Within this “order,” parents and grandparents, and often supported by the community, raise/enculturate their children to appreciate these norms as beneficial to all.
“Laws are meant to restrain evil. And as law restrains evil it is also pedagogical. By restraining evil we are instructing toward the good. But when lawmakers are detached from the ultimate lawgiver, they are only influenced by un-illumined reason. Man left to human reason alone will descend into chaos. That is the crisis we face today. Many of our laws are actually promoting evil and teaching society that evil is good. It is a strong delusion likened to 2 Thess 2:11. “ (Dan Trippie)
Three, history lends light on what happens when norms are ignored. There is nothing new under the sun, says Solomon. Yet, what has happened in the past is instructive to what is happening in the present. Consequences are always the result of decisions. Better to understand and weigh what those consequences might be before actually moving ahead too quickly.
Many around us today have thrown off the “shackle” of history, rewriting events from present points of view or, disregarding it all together. Moving ideas of ontology, self, nature and the ills of former epochs of history, leave us bereft of a history that instructs the present.
All three have been greatly “disturbed” by the increasing contact and homogenization of a global culture formed less and less by local and historical norms, ie parents and family. Instead, the mega cultural norms are being formed by people distant from us, but ever present through media and social media. We have always had divided and new ideas about who we are as persons, how we organize ourselves and what life ought to be about.
A closer look at the ideas of today, may in fact reveal repetitions of philosophical and religious ideas that have existed for thousands of years. They have simply been repackaged in new forms. From the Biblical perspective, they are repackaged forms of very old heresies.
For us, God has already spoken. As we will see a bit later on. God has revealed natures and standards that He gives us to understand ourselves and the world from His point of view. And, if we are convinced about His most basic assessment of us, that we are born in sin, then nothing that sinful man comes up with to disagree with God ought to surprise us.
The beliefs of these new influencers have little to no philosophical or historical cultural pushback. Instead of family and parents forming the norms of their children, they are being formed by these distant, largely unrestrained people whose lives have little to no boundaries, value in history, much less do they value “righteousness.”
The daily distancing from historical norms, and, most importantly from Biblical norms, taking place in successive generations widens the boundaries of restraint, distorts the definition of evil and leads a people head long into the chaos of unrestrained evil. Eventually, any and all boundaries of restraint are rejected. When the restraint finally disappears all together, anarchy ensues.
Anarchy does not always have to yield to violence. But, it always results in lawlessness. And, the results of lawlessness yield a moment in history, personal, national or global, when God “releases” us to the fullness of lawlessness. “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts....” (Take a look at the whole passage, Romans 1:18-31)
The initial impacts of this lack of restraint may at first appear to be “soft,” largely sight unseen. Slowly, norms of purity, give way to indecency. Norms of equity give way to corruption and injustice. Norms of community give way to self service. Norms of civility to malice. Etc.
Most important to me in this writing, are the words of the apostle Paul as to the root of this global lawlessness, in Ephesians 6:10-13 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
While this passage has been used, even by me, to demonstrate how we can do daily battle against Satan’s designs, it may in fact have a much larger implication, germane to today. This larger implication does not negate the need for each of us to be personally watchful, and to put on the full armor that God has prepared. Our personal warfare however, is set within a much larger warfare going on cosmically and globally.
Satan and his minions hate God. From one point of view, we could say that they are evil incarnate. They would like to live “boundless” in this evil. And, though God seems to have given them great freedom, they still act within His sovereign authority. See Job 1 and 2. Their day of judgment has already come. While we received salvation in the obedience of the Son of God, Jesus who is the Christ, at the same time, their judgment was set in place (Luke 10). Their day of the final execution of God’s judgment is yet to come. (Revelation 20)
For this time, our time, Satan is allowed to move his minions like on a chess board to stymie, if he could the mercy and grace actions of God, targeted especially on and through those of us who follow the Lamb.
All of this is set on a larger stage. Satan is hateful, and recognizes what a heart of lawlessness is like in people. If he can’t undue God’s sovereign march through human history, he can attempt to make human experience as ugly as possible!
This is the greater arena of these words of Paul. The world is a hostile place to righteousness. If they hate the sin that is exposed by the life and witness of the Word of God, in Jesus and the Bible, so they will hate all who follow the Lamb.
Sight unseen to us, and even to the actors of human history is the orchestration of Satan and those in his kingdom, the true axis of evil. The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil, are all arrayed across the world looking for access to sow seeds of lawlessness. Where they can, the boundaries of any form of human “decency” begin to break down. Where they can, these spiritual evil forces, sow seeds that can and will make hell out of human existence.
And so, we stand on a precipice of spiritual anarchy in our own nation. We have sold our corporate soul to the devil!
While wealth increases for some, a deepening number of people fall into poverty. Disappointment gives way to despondency, which in turn gives way to anger, leaving only malice. Marriage gives way to divorce, which in turn gives way to broken families ending in whole generations of wounded children. The joy of sexual intimacy in marriage gives way to adultery, ending in over 60 million babies aborted since the mid 1970’s. Over 1.5 billion globally. And, as you know all too well, the list could extend.
And, Satan rejoices. His human instruments are the pathway to this misery. Sometimes out of ignorance, they are willful collaborators with satanic initiatives. Often, however, they know what they are doing, but sin has so seared the heart, that conviction about the standards of God are ignored. The results are that they are enriched with power and wealth. The powerless are abused, used, oppressed, robbed and at times, enslaved.
Of course God has a plan for all of this and all of these who participate in evil, lawlessness, rebellion against God. Most important for us, what are we, the children of God to do in the midst of this?
Paul uses warfare metaphors to describe our response. But it is a totally different kind of warfare. We don’t take up arms and fight the powers that be, most importantly as individuals. But, we do take up armament that God has provided to wage war against the true enemy, the satanic kingdom.
The various pieces of the armament listed by Paul, are, I think, self evident in meaning. Especially when they are used to wage war against our flesh and satan’s regular enticement to distrust God. But what does it mean to wage war in this greater, global sense?
“Against the rulers of the darkness of this world - The rulers that preside over the regions of ignorance and sin with which the earth abounds... The earth - dark, and wretched and ignorant, and sinful - is just such a dominion as they would choose, or as they would cause; and the degradation and woe of the pagan world are just such as foul and malignant spirits would delight in. It is a wide and a powerful empire. It has been consolidated by ages. It is sustained by all the authority of law; by all the omnipotence of the perverted religious principle; by all the reverence for antiquity; by all the power of selfish, corrupt, and base passions. No empire has been so extended, or has continued so long, as that empire of darkness; and nothing on earth is so difficult to destroy.”
“I do not regard this passage, therefore, as having a primary reference to the struggle which a Christian maintains with his own corrupt propensities. It is a warfare on a large scale with the entire kingdom of darkness over the world. Yet in maintaining the warfare, the struggle will be with such portions of that kingdom as we come in contact with and will actually relate:
to our own sinful propensities - which are a part of the kingdom of darkness;
with the evil passions of others - their pride, ambition, and spirit of revenge - which are also a part of that kingdom;
with the evil customs, laws, opinions, employments, pleasures of the world - which are also a part of that dark kingdom;
with error, superstition, false doctrine - which are also a part of that kingdom; and,
with the wickedness of the pagan world - the sins of benighted nations - also a part of that kingdom. Wherever we come in contact with evil - whether in our own hearts or elsewhere - there we are to make war.” (Barnes notes)
Allow me to build a suggested lifestyle that actively resists this global aspect of the satanic kingdom expressed through governments, business, education, etc. To live not by lies, as Alexander Solzyhenitsyn said in his last address to the Russian people before his exile (http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/SolhenitsynLies.php).