Important note: When I shot this video, I thought I had it framed so that you could only see me from the waist up and wouldn’t see that I was wearing pajama bottoms. By the time I realized my jammies were in-frame, it was too late to re-shoot. Not a big problem in the context of the great cosmic conflict between the powers of good and evil, maybe, but still … I didn’t intend for my pajama bottoms to be on the internet. OK, now that I’ve got that off my chest, on to the Great Controversy!
All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.—Fundamental Beliefs, 8
This week’s fundamental belief is one that, as I explain in the video above, was so much a part of my worldview growing up that I never questioned it or even knew that there were Christians who viewed the universe differently. Seeing things in the framework of a great cosmic conflict between God and the devil appeals to my imagination. Is that really what’s going on behind the scenes? I recognize now that the Biblical foundation for this worldview rests on a few carefully chosen Bible passages (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, the first bit of Job, Revelation 12) and that these must be read through a certain interpretive lens to bring out the “Great Controversy” picture that seemed so clear to me as a child.
I’m also starting to understand, as I get older, why this view is unappealing to some people. Some believe it gives too much power to a literal devil. Others believe it would be unfair of God to allow billions of people to be, essentially, playing pieces in a game that’s proving a point about His character to the universe — but that allows those people to suffer horribly, sometimes for the whole of their short lives. But what’s the alternative? A universe of random evil and a God (if one exists at all) who is either powerless to stop it or refuses to do so? That’s hardly more comforting, nor does it create a better picture of God to worship.
So I stick with the Great Controversy picture of the cosmos despite its troubling weaknesses. But I’m interested in what others believe too, and how they explain the problem of evil in the face of a loving God. Because that’s what the doctrine of the Great Controversy really is: it’s Adventist theodicy, our attempt to explain why in a universe created by a good God, horrible things happen. Our answer is, ultimately, look at the big picture. We’re playing a long game here; ultimately your suffering will be vindicated and glory will be yours. Does that “big picture” thinking comfort you or seem remote when everything’s falling to pieces in your life?
I guess one of my struggles is that I’ve lived a pretty comfortable, easy life, with not a lot of suffering (so far). So when I say, “Oh, we’re all part of a great cosmic experiment; God’s justice is being vindicated in the eyes of the whole universe and His way will be proved right in the end!” I hear the voice of some starving person on the other side of the world whisper, “Easy for you to say!” And yet it seems like parts of the world where people have experienced the most horrific suffering are often much quicker to embrace a theology that says that justice and reward are coming at some future time, than we in the West who like our rewards here and now, thank you very much.
What do you think?