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Monday, December 29, 2008


Christmas is done, I am back, and while I have friends remaining to visit, those trips that remain will inspire more articles than they are likely to inhibit.

Tonight I turn my mind to the task of writing a dialog, in the screenplay style.

Lucifer and Michael stand apace from each other and the war rages on around them. Michael adopts a look of great emotion and says to Lucifer:

MICHAEL: “There's only one thing I want to know, Lucifer. How? How did you become free?”

LUCIFER: “Who said I was free?”

I remember reading JOB in a class in college named “The Problem of Evil.” The class itself was an endless collection of people pointing out, one after the other, that if you applied a system of rules, devised by humans and thus inherently flawed, to God, he didn't make any sense. What a silly concept! After all, it seems to me that the most common use of God by man is as a method of dealing with things that don't make sense. The argument “your method of dealing with the illogical is illogical and therefore illogical” is somehow both circular and inane, when stated apart from the usual protective cloud of long words and flowery language. A favorite quote of mine from Quine (though I have taken it quite out of context) puts it best: “Our argument is not flatly circular, but something like it. It has the form, figuratively speaking, of a closed curve in space.

I bring this up, though, because there is a story that has interested me for a very long time, and it is the story of the fall of Lucifer. The bible is vague, and so one is free to throw an amazing degree of personal inflection on the events, both those referenced by God when speaking to the King of Egypt and those referenced by the book of revelations, a book I honestly believe was inspired by an overdose of Opium.

The book of JOB seems to imply that “the adversary” must follow God's rules. But if God's rules apply to the adversary, than why is the adversary so often portrayed as a being apart from God, in opposition to him?

There are two main ways around this. Either the adversary, Satan, the Devil, is a part of God and under God's control, or he is not. If he is, then we run into The Problem of Evil, because if the Devil is part of God or under God's control, the actions of the Devil are God's responsibility and God cannot be wholly good. If the Devil is not part of God, on the other hand, we run into The Problem of Evil because God does not have control over the Devil and thus, God cannot be omnipotent.

There's a third way around this conundrum, of course, and that is that if God made a promise to the adversary similar to the promise he made man (free will), to break that promise would be impossible for a wholly good Deity. If, then, we set aside that frivolous crap and focus in on the matter at hand, it is possible that the Devil, wishing to come home, was willing to play by any rules he was given in order to make his case to God and be allowed home.

What case?

That man is as corruptible as the Devil, and that if man is permitted redemption, so too must fallen angels be permitted to redeem themselves.

The specifics are neither here, nor there. Really, the question itself is interesting. Why not?

LUCIFER: “I am no more free than you, Michael. I perform my function.”

Let us presume that free will divides man and angels. This seems reasonable. After all, the bible never explicitly grants free will to Angels and they never seem to make use of it until the final chapter, revelations. If angels have no free will, this also in some capacity explains the necessity of mankind. God created us to worship him, because the perfect worship of the angels was meaningless. They did not have free will. Their worship was an empty crystal chalice. Pretty, but not terribly successful at slackening anyone's thirst.

If this is the case, revelations itself takes on something of a sinister overtone. God once flooded the world to rid it of the unfaithful, and then promised never to do it again. What, though, was the nature of the flood? If the promise was meant in simple literal terms, God has many other options for wiping most of humanity out. He could cleanse the world in fire, for instance. But presuming God isn't in to cheap tricks, and I suspect he's not, it seems safe to presume his intention was to promise that he would never do anything like the flood again.

The essential component of the flood, it seems to me, is that it is like a dog being beaten for pooping on the rug a week prior. There is no connection, to the dog's mind, between his sin and his punishment. He learns nothing from it. The flood made learning irrelevant, because it killed all the sinners outright, but in God's estimation, perhaps this was a ham-handed way to go about it. Reasonable then, to say to man “look, I don't really regret what I did, but in the future, we'll handle this sort of thing differently.”

MICHAEL: “How do you go against God if you are not free?”

LUCIFER: “Who said I was going against God?”

Revelations is about sorting. The bad from the good, the wicked from the pure, the Christian from the otherwise inclined. It isn't, however, a random sorting. People are allowed to take sides. Then, there is a war, and one side wins outright. According to the bible, God's side wins. The ending is already predetermined.

If the ending is predetermined and Lucifer is aware of this (as he must be) then why even bother? What would he gain? What would anyone gain?

To me, the answer is obvious. Lucifer gains nothing. Lucifer is a tool. God is flooding the world, but this time he wants the side flooded to know why and to understand their sin in very tangible terms. He is directly connecting their sin with their punishment. He even warns them, if they happen to read the book “look, the ending of this thing is preordained. There's a right side and a wrong side, and you'd have to be pretty stupid to be on the wrong side of this one, but if you really, really want to, you can be.”

He lays out a series of appropriately vague indicators that the apocalypse is approaching, sits back, and lets people squirm around trying to figure out when the fight is gonna happen. He waits.

There is no incentive for God to bring about the actual apocalypse. Not yet. As long as people keep trying to figure out when it's going to happen and keep coming up with dates, there will be incentive for people to clean up their act in preparation for the inevitable. When the incentive from that is clearly not working anymore, that will be the proper time for God to show up and say “reminder time, folks, I hope you've read up on the good book” and have Lucifer knock 1/3 of the stars out of heaven.

Lucifer will round up an army of the unfaithful, and God will smite them down. It's a ruthless method of cleaning house, sure, but God never pretended to be a fluffy bunny kind of guy, and his only use of a rainbow, ever, was as a lame apology for a genocide he was already planning to repeat. Let's face it. God, according to the bible, is a hard-ass.

MICHAEL: “But if you're his tool, surely he will spare you!”

LUCIFER: “Does man spare a hammer that has been spent, a saw that has been dulled, or a spoon that has been bent?”

Of course, Lucifer must see this coming. If nothing else, he's got the book to go by. So he knows he's going to be used in this fashion. Without free will, he has no choice, but surely this must wear on his nerves! He must be looking, even now, for any way at all that he can break away from his dismal fate, betray God by not betraying God or by betraying God in a different way. Yet every such thought feeds the fire and makes him more the tool that God needs – a tool which genuinely despises his own master. A convincing, but powerless enemy. An unwilling scalpel.

But like a scalpel, the telling of Lucifer's story humanizes him, which may in itself be an error. To humanize a scalpel is to give it emotions the scalpel cannot feel, and thoughts the scalpel cannot have. Much as observing an electron changes its behavior, attempting to get at the essence of a fallen angel through logic might be the wrong way to explore the subject's essential properties.

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