Crossing the thin red line: There are answers
The skilful direction of Terrence Malick’s World War II film The Thin Red Line gives the viewer the sensation of being in the struggle for the Pacific island of Guadalcanal. It depicts the stark reality of two groups of men striving to send flesh-tearing projectiles into each other’s bodies, while grappling with their own mind-numbing fear.
One particularly chilling scene involves a U.S. assault on a Japanese encampment. There is a brief frenzy of blinding terror, in which the ‘rules of warfare,’ perhaps inevitably, are among the casualties. The staccato of gunfire, mingled with the roar of charging attackers and dismayed defenders, is soon replaced by the begging whimpers of the maimed and dying.
After the dust has settled and the blood has started to coagulate, the two groups are forced to contemplate each other’s frail but obvious humanity close-up. Surveying this aftermath of horror and butchery, the film’s dreamy soldier-narrator verbalizes the obvious question: ‘This great evil—where did it come from?’
A robust biblical Christianity has always had the answer to this common question. Namely, that things weren’t always like this—a real, historic event brought all evil into a previously good world (see Genesis chapter 3). The film’s opening scenes, set in Australia’s tropical Daintree rainforest, tantalizingly hint at this. We see a soldier playing with native children in idyllic surroundings, an obvious parable of Eden before the Fall.
This ‘problem of evil’ (and the Bible’s answer) involves far more than just the things which people inflict on each other. Even if we could somehow overcome human selfishness, cruelty and war, the world would not suddenly become a paradise in which to live happily ever after. That same Daintree forest, for instance, is home to the savage stinging tree, the most venomous plant there is. Man-eating saltwater crocodiles lurk in nearby estuaries along with the deadly box jellyfish, the most poisonous creature on earth. Even if all these were eradicated, sickness and death would remain to ensure that we still faced the same aching question.
Today’s evolutionized ways of thinking cannot allow the obvious answer that there was a real, literal ‘very good’ world, without such things, followed by a real, literal Fall of the first human couple, resulting in a Curse on all of creation, which has been ‘groaning in pain’ (see Romans 8:20–22) ever since. So the death and suffering we see is really ‘our fault,’ since we have all participated individually in Adam’s rebellion (Romans 5:12–21).
Because of the erroneous belief that ‘science has proven’ that the fossil layers (with their testimony of death, disease and suffering) represent millions of years, even many theologians now insist that there never could have been a real time when evil entered a truly good world—things have been bleeding and dying for millions of years, they think. Thus the certainty of a real restoration to a real future deathlessness, the hope of Christianity’s Gospel, is snatched away from modern man.
Like the film’s narrator, people today still sometimes ask the ‘big questions’ about suffering and evil, but they do so without really expecting a rational answer. Those who have thought through what an evolved (self-created) universe really implies are like the film’s cynical, hard-bitten character played by Sean Penn. Face it, he urges the new-agey narrator, this world is all there is, there isn’t any other reality ‘out there.’ Those dead soldiers, well, there’s no difference between them and the bodies of dead dogs, he says. All things are just randomly rearranged chemicals, so what is evil, anyway?
But there is another reality ‘out there,’ and at some level we all know it (Romans 1:20 ff.). The ‘worldview damage’ that has been done to our culture by the unwarranted rejection of the truth of Genesis is enormous. It has made it increasingly harder to reach people with the real answers to their deepest need—peace with God, the Creator from whom we, and creation itself, have become estranged. Each issue of Creation magazine is designed to help you restore the right foundation, to show a way of looking at the world which makes sense and provides real answers. So read, enjoy—but above all, share this crucial information widely.