The Dark Night, Starry Night

Starry Night Over the Rhone
Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent van Gogh 1888 Musée d’Orsay Paris

Oftentimes when life is a long night, when everywhere I look, there is darkness and sorrow,
I’m tempted to resign with Vincent van Gogh, “The sadness will last forever.”
Only if I search attentively and persistently, can I find glimmers of light and joy in the seemingly endless darkness.
Why is there so little light? Why can’t life be like the shining Sun that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day?

Then I’m reminded of the night sky.
Although the dim and distant stars are few and far between, the starry night is beautiful nevertheless.
Parting company with Van Gogh, I will not attempt to make the stars in the night sky shine as bright as the Sun.
For He who forms the light and creates darkness makes everything beautiful in its time.

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32 thoughts on “The Dark Night, Starry Night

  1. Nemo, at first I was not going to respond to this post beyond the above comment, but I have been thinking about this alot recently so I will go ahead and ask. 🙂 you say, “For He who forms the light and creates darkness makes everything beautiful in its time.” In this sentence I am assuming that “He” is God, and more specifically the God of the Bible. If you are not, please let me know. 🙂 Anyway, do you think He creates darkness? For the verse that popped into my head was from 1 John, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” But then, I think about the problem of evil and I wonder if He does, indeed, create darkness. I am curious what your thoughts are, or if you have thought about it beyond this comment.

    PS-I hope you find peace in whatever sadness it is that you have faced.

    1. Yes, I was quoting from the Bible.

      “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
      Isaiah 45:7

      “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
      Ecclesiastes 3:11

      I don’t have any thoughts on evil that’s worth mentioning at the moment, except that one needs to define evil before discussing whether God creates evil. What does Plantinga say about it?

      1. Basically he provides a defense of free will and says that the problem of evil is not logically incompatible with God. 🙂 I think I have to read a predestined viewpoint before I can see if what he says stands.
        Ok. I was just curious if you had any thoughts. 🙂

  2. What are you looking for as far as a discussion of the nature of evil goes? I would say he does not discuss ponerology in depth. The book I read is “God, Freedom, and Evil” and it focuses more on theodicy. The book is brief, slightly more than 100 pages, but is all substance. No fluff at all, almost pure meticulous thought. If you sre interested in reading it, I would suggest a paper copy as it is next to impossible following the arguments in an electronic version. 🙂

    Predestination is like the Christian version of determinism, the idea that all events are determined by outside forces. In this case, God predestines some for salvation and predetermines that others cannot be saved, even if they wanted to. John Calvin popularised and spread this view, I think. And that is about as much as I can say about it, not having studied it much. But I am interested in the viewpoint since I do like to see both sides of the story.

    Someone I know who is a Calvinist is actually the one who recommended Pantinga’s book. He said that although he does not believe his religious philosophy, he thinks Plantinga has constructed the best argument for free will in modern history. So I had to read it. 🙂

      1. I think the existence of evil in the free will argument would obviously be because of abuse, but Plantinga goes much further than that, covering possible worlds containing moral good with no moral evil and many, many other interesting thoughts. Maybe his thoughts were not new? I’m not knowledgeable enough to know. I do know that most of his thoughts I do not understand and won’t until a third or fourth reading lol.

        I’m not sure what the Calvinist says specifically for the origin of evil. “The Many Faces of Evil” by John S Feinberg is in my upcoming reading selections and is it supposedly the best presentation (for the layman) of a deterministic view.

        I recently had a thread in a group discussing the origin of evil and there was one poster in particular who had some thoughts I had never heard before. His suggested reading was a medieval text called Theologica Germanica. Have you ever read it? If you want to peruse the thread, just let me know and I will attempt to post a link.

      2. I’ve never heard of Theologia Germanica before. According to Wikipedia, Luther was profoundly influenced by it , but Calvin rejected it as poison. Interesting.

  3. I think it’s interesting also. For me, I am not so much curious about the existence of evil as much as I am curious about why there was even a potential for evil. And that is why this posters comments were so interesting. His attempt to answer how that potential became actual for free will beings from a perfect God is what makes me want to read it.

    1. I found the GR thread and the poster you mentioned, for I was curious why Calvin rejected the book so vehemently. FWIW, judging by the few posts he wrote, it seems to me that his interpretation of the nature of evil suggests more of Buddhism than Christianity as I understand them, whereas his exposition of faith is more in line with the latter. There is a hodgepodge of doctrines. I also find it strange that he believes Jesus “reflects” the Truth, not He IS the Truth, as is written in the Bible.

      If I understand him correctly, he is saying that evil is caused by ignorance, due to the limit of reason, in other words, the potential of evil exists because we are limited as rational beings, it’s part of our makeup; If I understand the Christian doctrine correctly, evil is the willful rejection of Truth, not ignorance of it. Adam and Eve sinned not because they were ignorant of God’s command, which was as clear and direct as could be, but they turned away from Him, choosing to follow the Serpent rather than their faithful Creator; In the Old Testament, the Israelites sinned not because they didn’t know the Law, but because they willfully disobeyed it again and again.

      1. When I was trying to find out more about it, I did read somewhere that it was associated with some sort of medieval mystical Christian sect, which may explain some of the spiritual similarities with Buddhism that you see?

        The thing that this poster said that I can’t seem to get around is what he said about Word/Truth association. If God created the worlds by the Word of His mouth, and His Word is Truth, then how DOES evil come from that? The ignorance or
        Blindness he refers to makes sense to some degree, but I haven’t read the text yet so…

      2. How does blindness come to exist in the original Creation? If the blindness is by nature, it would contradict the Scripture which says that the Creation is “very good”; OTOH, if the blindness is caused by a willful turning away from the Truth, then it is consistent with the Christian doctrine.

        “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
        Luke 12:47-48

        To paraphrase a line in LOTR, “What we have to decide is not how much light we receive, but what we do with the light we have received”.

  4. LOTR. 🙂

    If there was a willingness In the original creation to turn to evil, or even the potential for that willingness, then I wonder why God pronounced it “very good”?

    1. There was no evil in the original creation, for the creation didn’t willfully turn away from God. There was no “potential” for evil either, “potential” in the sense that evil was dormant and would manifest itself sooner or later if given the opportunity. However, there was a possibility for evil, due to man’s free will. It was possible for him to disobey God.

      Even from a secular point of view, the difference between a righteous man and a wicked man, is not that the former doesn’t have the power to do evil, the possibility and power for evil exist in them both, but the righteous reject evil.

      1. “How does blindness come to exist in the original Creation? If the blindness is by nature, it would contradict the Scripture which says that the Creation is “very good”; OTOH, if the blindness is caused by a willful turning away from the Truth, then it is consistent with the Christian doctrine.”

        In this post you say that creation willfully turned away from the Truth. But then you said, “There was no evil in the original creation, for the creation didn’t willfully turn away from God.” Is there a nuance I am missing or do these statements contradict one another?

        I understand what you are saying about the difference between potential and possibility. However, did not God create potential by giving a command in the first place? No commands, no potential and no possibility. Could there not be free will beings with several moral possibilities, all of which are somehow good without an evil element? Why does evil have to be one of the possibilities? (Insert me virtually stomping my feet and whining like a 2 year old. The problem of the origin of evil really bothers me. Ironically, I still believe in the God of Christianity and am grateful He no longer strikes with lightning. Also ironic, I read the end of the book of Job earlier. )

      2. The world was created in Genesis 1, and the Fall happened in Genesis 3. so at the time of Creation, it was very good before the Fall, if we look at it from the historical pov; OTOH, God also foresaw the Fall and the Redemption in Christ, so the Creation is indeed very good from the eternal pov.

        Could there not be free will beings with several moral possibilities, all of which are somehow good without an evil element? Why does evil have to be one of the possibilities?

        “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

        There are many possibilities, as there are many trees in the Garden of Eden:Man had all the freedom to choose, all the possibilities to explore, that are pleasant both to man and God. I think the abundance in the Garden of Eden signifies the riches of God given man to enjoy. He also gave Man the one choice not to choose Him, so that 1) Man cannot complain that he was not given the choice. 🙂 and 2) Man can be truly free, for he was created in the image of God who is Free.

  5. “The world was created in Genesis 1, and the Fall happened in Genesis 3. so at the time of Creation, it was very good before the Fall, if we look at it from the historical pov; OTOH, God also foresaw the Fall and the Redemption in Christ, so the Creation is indeed very good from the eternal pov.”

    Interesting point.

    “He also gave Man the one choice not to choose Him, so that 1) Man cannot complain that he was not given the choice. 🙂 and 2) Man can be truly free, for he was created in the image of God who is Free.”

    I get point one. I really do. But I don’t think it is entirely true for we were NOT given the choice to exist or not to exist. How free is that? Moral choices come after experiencing the phenomenon of being thrust into existence and we have no choice there.

    And is having that freedom truly the highest thing we could want? What if we were a different type of human that had not that freedom, but were all saved. Thwt sounds better to me. Of course, I am speaking in ignorance since I have not experienced heaven which is supposed to make up for all this.

    As for point two, if God is a free being, then does He not also have the ability to choose evil? And if He does not, or has not ever as the Bible maintains, then how does His free will work? Why could we not also be imbued with the same free will to always choose good as He does?

    Didn’t you say somewhere that you don’t have the faith for all of this? How is it that you are playing the role of convincing me? 🙂

    1. Didn’t you say somewhere that you don’t have the faith for all of this? How is it that you are playing the role of convincing me?

      It is possible that what I’m saying here is all empty speculation and has nothing to do with the Truth. After all, who am I to say what God is or what He does? However, as I said to you elsewhere, if we accept certain premisses about God as true, there are some logical conclusions that follow. I’m not trying to convince you of anything –if Christianity is true, God Himself will convince you of Himself :), I’m only explaining what seems rational and logical to me.

      To have a choice belongs to a living being, not to something that doesn’t exist. We cannot choose between being and non-being any more than we can choose between being God and not being God. When you ask why man can’t chose his own existence, you’re asking why man is not God, because God alone IS and there is none beside Him; When you ask why God didn’t create Man as free and morally perfect beings, you are essentially asking why God didn’t create us as gods, because God alone is Free and Good.

      Impossible and extravagant as it might sound, God gave Man both choices when He created Man. Because God alone is Being, man can choose between being and non-being, by choosing God or rejecting Him; Because God gave us His only begotten Son, man can choose to believe in Him and become sons of God.

      “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
      Galatians 3:26

      If you accept the definition that “evil is a wilful turning away from God”, then God cannot choose evil, for he cannot deny Himself. It is only possible for men and angels to choose evil, i.e., to choose to turn away from God. To be morally perfect is nothing other than to be in fellowship with God. For this reason, God cannot create man as morally perfect beings. Moral perfection is a manifestation of the communion between man and God, not an inherent attribute of man.

  6. “If you accept the definition that “evil is a wilful turning away from God”, then God cannot choose evil, for he cannot deny Himself.”

    I think this contradicts with your earlier statement that God is a free being? Can He be free if He has no choice but to be good? And if this is the case, how are we then created in His image as free will beings?

    “To have a choice belongs to a living being, not to something that doesn’t exist. We cannot choose between being and non-being any more than we can choose between being God and not being God. When you ask why man can’t chose his own existence, you’re asking why man is not God, because God alone IS and there is none beside Him; When you ask why God didn’t create Man as free and morally perfect beings, you are essentially asking why God didn’t create us as gods, because God alone is Free and Good.”

    My point really in bringing up the problem of existence is that your earlier statement, “He also gave Man the one choice not to choose Him, so that 1) Man cannot complain that he was not given the choice.” I feel is often given to me as a sort of consolation answer when wondering about evil. I don’t feel it is a satisfactory comfort when faced with evil because yes, if you believe in free will then we were given a choice about morality, but not the previous decision of whether to exist or not. God made that decision long before we made others about whether or not to reject Him. Again, for those who accept Him, according to the Bible, they will be more than rewarded for their suffering. But to those who reject Him? I hate to use the word “fair”, but is it fair to them to be thrust into existence when He knows they will reject Him and suffer for rejecting Him?

    “Impossible and extravagant as it might sound, God gave Man both choices when He created Man. Because God alone is Being, man can choose between being and non-being, by choosing God or rejecting Him; Because God gave us His only begotten Son, man can choose to believe in Him and become sons of God.

    “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
    Galatians 3:26”

    This is interesting. Are you saying that those who reject God don’t exist? Or is “being” different from “existnce” in some way? And I am not sure that it follows from the verse you quoted that those who reject Him are “non-beings”? I only see from that verse that those who believe are sons.

    1. Can He be free if He has no choice but to be good? And if this is the case, how are we then created in His image as free will beings?

      Free choice and freedom are two different things.

      Free choice means the ability to choose between different options. God cannot choose to be evil, nor can man, because evil has no being- it does not qualify as an option. God cannot turn away from Himself, it is an impossibility by the law of logic and the law of nature; But for man, it is both a possibility and an option to turn away from God.

      Freedom can have manifold meanings, one is to be free from sin, as God is Free. As it is written, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” So the believers shall be set free from sin and enjoy “the glorious liberty of the children of God”.

      I hate to use the word “fair”, but is it fair to them to be thrust into existence when He knows they will reject Him and suffer for rejecting Him?

      Define “fair”. 🙂 Believers or not, I personally don’t know anyone who would choose non-existence over existence unless they have lost all hope.

      1. ~sigh~ I don’t know, Nemo. I feel like I could go everywhere with this. I just don’t know. And obviously, I am not meant to know.

      2. Job is one of my favourite characters in the Bible. The only one who dares to challenge God’s judgment face to face. He cursed the day of his birth when he was suffering, BUT, when life was good in the beginning, he certainly wasn’t complaining, nor did he regret it at the end.

        The question you brought up already presupposes that existence is preferable to non-existence. For it demands a choice to choose non-existence, yet a choice belongs to a living being, not to non-existence. (Was Frankenstein paraphrasing Satan in Paradise Lost when he asked that question? Talking about problematic reasoning. )

  7. “Job is one of my favourite characters in the Bible. The only one who dares to challenge God’s judgment face to face. He cursed the day of his birth when he was suffering, BUT, when life was good in the beginning, he certainly wasn’t complaining, nor did he regret it at the end.”

    This is true in most cases. However, though I live a compartively wonderful life in America, I am overly burdened by the overwhelming evil present in the majority of countries in the world. My world extends to include them and I am burdened on their behalf. I do what I can to help, but that is not much in the face of the need. I suppose this brings up the other question. Is there a disproportionate amount of evil as compares with good?

    “The question you brought up already presupposes that existence is preferable to non-existence. For it demands a choice to choose non-existence, yet a choice belongs to a living being, not to non-existence. (Was Frankenstein paraphrasing Satan in Paradise Lost when he asked that question? Talking about problematic reasoning. )”

    🙂 So the person who would ask such a question desires existence more than they think they do?

    It is true that, technically, choice can only belong to an existent being. However, I don’t think it necessarily follows that there is a PREFERENCE for existence in asking the question.

    I have not read Paradise Lost, only Frankenstein, so I am not qualified to compare them. 🙂 interesting thought, though!

    1. As I said, you have a kind heart. 🙂 You remind me of a story of a writer who started out as a doctor, and treated people suffering from opium overdose, but when he saw that those patients went right back to opium after their treatment, he decided to take up writing to “heal” their souls. I think if he had believed in God, he would have become an evangelist.

      In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus teaches that the end of sin is death, though people who sin don’t always suffer physically.

      So the person who would ask such a question desires existence more than they think they do?

      He doesn’t desire existence, because he already exists; He desires Life, which he doesn’t have, unless he is in God, and that he can choose. That is why Kierkegaard writes that despair is the sin unto death, for in despair, one turns away from God, who is our Hope.

      1. “though people who sin don’t always suffer physically.”

        It’s true. But physical suffering is what makes me struggle with this, though it’s of a slightly different focus. It’s child abuse, human trafficking, women and children tortured by extremists for not converting to Islam, etc. This kind of unadulterated evil is what causes lack of peace.

        “That is why Kierkegaard writes that despair is the sin unto death, for in despair, one turns away from God, who is our Hope.”

        Again, I am a bit in agreement with Plantinga that evil is not incompatible with God in the most general terms (who am I kidding? Like I am knowledgable enough to argue with any philosoher lol). Anyway, I think the God of the Bible is pretty amazing, coming in human form to die for us, etc. So somehow He provides for those enduring the miseries I mentioned above. But still, evil had to happen somehow, and the beginning of all things was with God and His Word which is Truth, sooo I am still back to the unanswerable, “How did evil happen?” If God is all good, then somehow creating this particular world, with Hs foreknowledge that evil would eventually occur, was somehow better than not creating it at all. And I guess that is as far as it goes?

      2. Physical suffering doesn’t concern me as much as evil. People who have faith in God are sustained and preserved by Him, and they have joy and peace in Him even when facing death; whereas those who reject God have no such joy or peace.

        1. Should those who God knew would reject Him have been created at all?
          Yes, because God’s creation is good. The fact that they abuse his gift doesn’t make the gift itself invalid. “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Simply put, God has the right to create whatever He sees fit.
        2. Is existence preferable to non-existence?
          Yes, because there is hope, joy, life and love in existence, but nothing in non-existence. What about suffering? The suffering of those who believe in God is temporary and light compared to the eternal reward; those who reject Him don’t suffer anything more than what they deserve. If that is not the case, there would be no justice in God’s creation, but God has the right to execute justice.
        3. How did evil happen?
          Evil is the willful turning away from God. It happened because, when man was given the choice to believe or reject God, he chose the latter. But even the evil of man works towards good in God’s creation. As Joseph says to his brothers who sold him as a slave, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”.

        “He has made everything beautiful in its time”

  8. “Physical suffering doesn’t concern me as much as evil.”

    Right. The examples I gave I class as evil, not physical suffering, though physical suffering is definitely involved.

    As for points one through three, I understand your point of view. I was not actually asking the same questions again though you had already given these answers as much as I was thinking that this whole question of the origin of evil reslly just goes in circles and ends at somewhere where Job ends. 🙂 (I have had the flu this week so I don’t think I expressed myself that clearly on that last post. Lol)

      1. Speaking of kind hearts, thank you for asking about them! My oldest was really sick with me also this week but is back to running around like a crazy person today. 🙂 I sent my 2 year old off to my mom so he has managed to stay well.

        As for the first question, how detailed of an answer are you looking for? Lol I just read Matthew 8 last night where it says, “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” So I think the Bible teaches that we have healing in Jesus, but do I personally have faith for it? My faith is all over the map right now.

        What do you believe?

      2. I was thinking of this verse.

        “The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.”
        Psalm 41:3

        The verbs in Matthew 8:17 are in past tense, “took”, “carried away”. That is a mystery.

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