M.J. Chrisman's Blog
March 6, 2014
“Thumbnail Moon” is a short story that explores the depths of conflicts within marriage. Yes, I know I am not married, but that’s the beauty of fiction writing. I get to not only empathize with my characters and their conflicts, but I also get to experience their issues first hand as I write them.
Bear in mind, this is a somewhat “explicit” story geared more toward a secular audience. But the message and theme still displays Christian elements, such as loyalty, love, and the struggle in between. This post is dedicated to Matthew Simmons (thanks for being such a good friend and brother!)
Of course, I want your feedback. Please tell me what you all think—good or bad—in the comments section below!
(Disclaimer: all characters, settings and names in this story are completely fictional).
The air was stifling and humid, like an abandoned warehouse in the rural south. This was the second time the air conditioner had broke down this month in the small veterinary clinic. Sweat beaded on Dr. Samuel Kurtis’ forehead as he stared down at the old, chocolate dachshund. It was sedated on the x-ray table with a breathing tube lodged in its trachea. The dog inhaled slowly through the tube line, held it, and then exhaled.
Sam slid his wedding ring off and scrubbed in between his fingers and nails in the sink. He had just performed a suture procedure on an injured tabby cat. As he slipped on his lead-filled, x-ray coat, his technician assistant, Erica, turned up the isoflurane valve and pressed against the air bag to help the sleeping dog exhale smoothly.
“Get Dodger’s measurements, Erica,” said Sam. He fiddled with his square-brimmed glasses. Once his vision adjusted, he watched the portly woman reach across the x-ray table to the digital computer. Her vermillion scrub top stretched with her arms, revealing the small of her back and accentuating her rear. A few clicks later, they were set.
“All done, Dr. Kurtis.”
“Watch his breathing,” he said.
Sam and Erica flipped the tiny canine on his back and stretched his front and hind legs to get a shot of the pelvis. Click. Next, they stretched him on his side and aimed the cross hairs just below his abdomen, to get a lateral shot of the intervertebral disk region. Click. The black and white images immediately popped up on the screen.
Sam examined the x-rays scrupulously. The radiology room held a certain quietness about it—a dark sanctuary where inner flesh could be exposed to modern technology. Even with twenty-two years of practice, moments like these never got old.
“How’s his breathing? Check his heart rate.”
Not taking his eyes off of the x-rays, Sam counted to fifteen under his breath as well, just to see how in sync he’d be. Once the fifteen mark passed, he turned and met Erica’s gaze.
“What is his heart rate, Erica?”
Her face went suddenly ghost-like. “He’s only at 35 bpm, Dr. Kurtis.”
“What?” Sam slid his hand under Dodger’s chest. “Dammit! Get me some atropine!”
Erica fumbled through the drawers to grab a syringe. Sam turned the gas levels off and made sure it was just pure oxygen pouring through the line. He slipped a tourniquet onto Dodger’s front leg.
Erica stabbed the needle into a glass vial and drew some of the liquid into the 3-cc syringe. She rushed it to Dr. Kurtis who then stuck it into the dog’s windy leg vein.
“Give him some more oxygen,” he ordered.
Erica leaned over and turned up the dial.
Sam pushed against Dodger’s eyelids. The pupils were rolled all the way back and were a solid white, meaning the dachshund had gotten too much anesthesia. Sam grabbed his stethoscope, pressed the cold chestpiece beneath the dog’s front leg and listened. The heartbeat kept to a dull, sporadic thud. As the atropine worked its way into the cardiovascular system, Dodger’s heart rate finally began to pick up like a clumsy kick drum.
“What have I told you about watching the ISO levels?” Sam shouted. “He could have died!”
“I’m sorry. The vitals were fine until—”
“—until I told you to check! What do they teach you at tech school?”
“It’ll never happen again. I swear. I—I just wasn’t paying attention.”
“The Montgomery’s are important clients, Erica. They shouldn’t have to worry about their dog dying during a simple x-ray check up.”
“You don’t know, dammit. Leave the ISO at 1.0 so I can bring Mrs. Montgomery back to look at the x-rays.”
Erica kept silent and did as he asked.
Sam marched toward the examination room. He took a deep breath and smoothed the sides of his pepper-gray hair.
I shouldn’t have yelled, he thought. He cracked the door open. “You can follow me, Susan.”
Mrs. Montgomery sighed into her cell phone. “I’ve gotta go, Carol. Doctor Kurtis is here now.” She tapped her finger against the smart phone’s glass screen. Her loose curls bounced as she walked with him down the hallway. She fanned her oily brow with a Flea and Tick Remover handout. Her White Diamond perfume reeked of old woman.
“We’ve been coming here for over a month for these laser treatments and x-rays,” she said. “Dodger still isn’t walking, Sam.”
“Let’s take a look.” Sam stopped in front of the computer screen. “I’m seeing some progress here.”
“What are you seeing?” Susan pulled a pair of glasses out of her purse and stared at the images as if they were some enigmatic code.
“I mean, the treatments are working,” he said. “I did a sensitivity test on Dodger’s hind legs before sedation. The therapeutic laser is slowly decreasing the inflammatory cells in his spine and is speeding up the cellular metabolism, which means there’s less pain. If you take a look at his intervertebral disk—” he pointed with his pen, “—we can see some of the inflammation is down. Dodger will walk again but these things take time.”
“Yeah, time and money,” Susan stressed, tears springing to her eyes. “We can’t afford to keep paying for these treatments. We love Dodger… but Phil and I are talking about putting him down.”
Sam didn’t respond at first. He wiped the corners of his mouth and met Erica’s gaze. “You can take Dodger off now. I want you to make sure he wakes up in the kennel.”
Erica nodded and moved toward the anesthetic machine.
“Give me until the end of this week,” he finally said to Mrs. Montgomery. “We’ve come this far—let’s go just a little further. If he’s not better within the next few days, let’s discuss other options.”
“If you say so,” said Susan.
After Erica unhooked the airline, she carried Dodger’s limp body toward the back kennels, making sure to be gentle in her strides.
After work, Sam pulled his ‘95 Chevy up the driveway and threw it in park. As soon as he opened the front door, a cool breeze wafted through the living room. The room had a stale scent to it, like a nursing home. He ventured across the creaky, old house to fetch some candles.
“Sam… is that you?”
“It’s me, babe.”
Sylvia pushed her wheelchair through the bedroom doorway. Her hair, though tinted with some gray strands, was still a brilliant red. She reached up for a kiss and Sam bent over to give it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Getting rid of the old people smell,” he responded. He struck a match and lit the candles, sending smoke rings into the air.
“But that’s what we are, dear,” she said with a smile.
Actually, we aren’t… Sylvia, he thought. He was forty-nine and she was forty-seven. Once the multiple sclerosis set in sixteen years ago, the deterioration in Sylvia’s nervous system didn’t take long to take effect. First she needed a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair. She could stand long enough to get into bed and use the restroom, but even then she needed assistance.
“Did Ruth make us dinner?” he asked.
“Yes, chicken and green beans.”
Sam circled into the kitchen where a plate of food was waiting for him in the microwave. “You didn’t have any dessert, did you?”
“Ruth gave me a brownie.”
Sam peeked his head around the corner. “What did we talk about? You need to cut back. It’ll make it easier on Ruth when she lifts you.”
“I know.” Sylvia sighed. “It was just one though.”
“Did you at least do your exercises today? I told Ruth to make sure—”
“—I did them, all right?” Sylvia locked her wheelchair in place. “Can’t we just sit and talk about something other than how fat I am?”
Sam chewed slowly on the chicken breast as he moved back into the living room. He knelt at her side. “I never said you were fat. We just have to watch what we eat to make things easier. Okay?”
“Easier for who? For Ruth or for you?”
Sam bit the insides of his cheeks. Without response, he rose to his feet and headed for his personal study. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a discolored bottle. The Tennessee whiskey burned as it trickled down his gullet and into his stomach. There, the warmth went off like an explosion, which spread across his chest, sending chills beneath his skin.
“Are you ignoring me?” Sylvia called.
Sam slowly moved back into the living room. He steeled himself beneath the entryway, the bottle dangling from his fingertips.
“I’m not doing this,” he whispered.
“Arguing about nothing. You’re always being difficult and reading into things.”
“I’m being difficult? I’m your wife for goodness sake—not some patient!”
Sam’s fist curled around the bottleneck and his chest tightened. “I don’t treat you like that. If you’re going to be like this then I’ll leave.”
“You’ve been gone for a while now. I don’t care what you do anymore. ”
A deep, hollowed silence invaded the space between them.
Sam marched across the room and grabbed his keys. “I’ve heard enough.”
He slammed the door and hopped back into his truck. As he turned the ignition, the old engine clicked and squeaked noisily like cicadas in the summer. The radio blared to Led Zeppelin as soon as the truck burst to life. Sam took another swig from his bottle before driving across town. Soon, he was at the front door.
I shouldn’t be here, he thought. But he rang the doorbell anyways.
The door creaked open and there, standing in her skintight nightgown, was Erica the technician. Her oversized curves and wide hips were alluring, like a stout goddess’. Aphrodite. No, Artemis, he thought.
“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” said Erica, breaking him from his reverie.
“I wasn’t sure either.”
“Come in.” Erica pulled the door open and stepped aside. “I have some wine, if you’d like.”
“If you insist.”
Sam made his way into the living room and sank into the old, broke-in sofa. He rubbed his temples while Erica moved into the kitchen. Wine goblets started to clink.
“Red or white?” She peered over the bar.
“Whatever helps get rid of my headache,” he responded.
Erica carried the glasses parallel to her breasts as if they were delicate statuettes. She tried to sit down gracefully, like a primped lady would. Instead, she sank in with the broken springs and nearly spilled the wine.
“Woops! That could have been bad.” She chuckled.
“Good save,” Sam acknowledged, taking a long sip. Erica’s smile fell slightly; she took a drink as well. When their gazes met again, her mouth was as red as cherry plums.
I shouldn’t be here. What are you doing, Sam? What are you doing? he thought, but couldn’t take his eyes off of her smooth, red lips.
Erica sat her glass down on the coffee table and leaned in. “Can we skip the preliminaries?” She slid one of her straps off, revealing her bare shoulder. She smiled and waited for Sam to make the next move.
He hesitated, but the longer he stared at the other strap, the more he couldn’t resist. His hand glided over her smooth shoulder and gripped onto the last thing securing her probity. He shivered as her warm skin brushed beneath his fingertips. Their lips instantly locked and her bare breasts filled the empty spaces in his hands. The world spun as Erica rolled on top of him. She kissed and caressed his graying hair; he pressed his body against hers in turn. Her weighty figure pushed him deeper into the broken cushions, smothering his every movement. Erica reached for his belt buckle and started to undo his pants.
Sam pushed her off and raced to his feet, heading for the door.
“What the hell, Sam?”
He could hear her naked form struggling to stand up. Sam pulled out his keys. “It’s Dr. Kurtis.”
He couldn’t drive fast enough. His head was spinning. Whether it was from the alcohol or his heated emotions, he wasn’t sure. The lack of sexual gratification started taking its toll on him.
I shouldn’t have left.
Sam drove to the lake near his house and parked along the shoreline. The waxing moon stretched above the calm sheen of water like a giant thumbnail. The night breeze blew through his open windows and cooled his burning cheeks. As he reached for his bottle of whiskey on the floorboard, his eyes filled with hot tears. He whipped his head back and swallowed the hard liquor.
You’re not going to cry, Sam. And he didn’t. Instead, he drank until every single drop was gone. He stared lazily at the lake for hours until the pale moon disappeared to his left. The sun’s pinkish hue started to emerge over the tree line, just to his right.
“Dammit,” he whispered, his head throbbing like a gong bell.
He reached for his glove box and popped some Advil into his dry mouth. Without stalling, he started the old pick up and headed for home. There was still a hint of drunkenness in his steps as he walked up the driveway. He fumbled with his keys for a second before finally opening the front door.
Sylvia was standing in her nightgown making a seat transfer in the living room. Her hunched form draped over the walker. To the right was her empty wheelchair and to the left was one of the recliners. There was a pool of spilled coffee soaking into the carpet.
“Let me help you,” said Sam, dropping his keys on the nightstand.
“I’ve got it.” Sylvia twisted herself centimeters at a time toward the recliner. Her legs shook like they were going to buckle at any moment.
Sam was already steadying the walker. “You know you shouldn’t be doing transfers without Ruth. It’s just after six. Couldn’t you have waited 30 minutes?”
Sylvia inched herself toward the lazy boy like a toddler would. When her rear was positioned, she let go of the handles and sank into the plush cushion. Her red hair fell loosely against her breasts, frazzled and untamed.
“There’s coffee in the kitchen,” she said, pulling the hem of her gown over her kneecaps.
Sam sighed and moved toward the smell of freshly ground beans. “Want me to pour you another cup?”
“Yes. I didn’t mean to spill mine.”
“I know, honey.”
The two coffee cups warmed the tips of his fingers as he returned. Sam plopped himself into the other recliner chair next to his wife.
“Aren’t you going to clean up the coffee I spilled?” she asked.
Sam reached over and gave her a cup. “Nope. Ruth can try out the new carpet cleaner.”
Sylvia chuckled. They sat quietly for a few seconds, sipping on their warm mugs. Sparrows and finches sang outside the open windows. Sam turned back to Sylvia.
“You know I love you… right?”
She smiled slightly behind her mug. “I know.”
That morning, Sam pulled into the clinic’s parking lot at 7:15. He normally opened the vet office at seven. Already there was a client waiting for him.
“Good morning, Mrs. Montgomery,” he greeted at the door. “Bringing Dodger in earlier than usual, I see.”
“I work all day. This was the only time we could come in. Isn’t that right, Dodgey?” She blew kisses into the wire kennel.
“By all means.” Sam gestured with his hand.
They walked into the empty clinic and headed straight for the exam room. Mrs. Montgomery was careful as she pulled Dodger out onto the counter with his bed tucked underneath his limp legs. Sam pulled out the laser machine. He swayed the laser wand over the dachshund’s pelvis region, back and forth, like the lake’s rhythmical waves this morning.
After ten minutes of therapy, Sam hooked the line back up to the machine. “Okay, let’s give it another shot.”
Mrs. Montgomery folded her arms and leaned away from the table. Sam placed his hands underneath Dodger’s hind legs and pushed his paws flat against the cold, vinyl surface. He suspended the dog’s hind end up for a few seconds and then slowly lowered.
Dodger’s legs trembled and his body quivered, but he remained standing.
February 27, 2014
I dedicate this poem in the series to Matthew Simmons—thanks for always being a great brother in Christ and a good friend!
As always, please tell me what you think of the poem—good or bad—in the comments section below!
“The Blood Book”
“Here, son of dust, take this sword,” said the angel.
I grasped onto the red and cream handle.
“Now,” he pressed, “stand your ground and kill them all.”
The legion of lights marched toward the outer wall.
I marched to the beating drums.
The arrows twanged like flocks of geese, flying
over ramparts and stony buttresses.
I steeled myself with the blade, trying
to rouse the valor of my ancestors.
I marched on through the death cries.
I climbed the ladder and slew hell’s forces.
“Be nimble, son of dust!” yelled the angel.
“Bleed the dark demons and you will bleed not.”
But my mortal soul was sadly fragile—
I saw the gleam in Satan’s sickle.
He bled me and I bled him not a drop.
My life would not hold unless I pushed hell’s
Prince off of its thick, blood-strewn walls.
“I’m not running anymore,” my heart swore.
“You will die here in the shadows, Lucifer—
Prince of light and liars.”
“You will cut me down, son of dust?” he scoffed.
“Nay, the fires burn red. You will die instead,
For I know the darkness lying dormant
in your heart. That alone will be torment enough.”
The guilt in my eyes bled with my hoarse cry.
I drove my blade into his fiery gut.
Then we fell,
deep into the abyss…
my soul to forever wonder…
in outer darkness.
Even in shadows as thick as a veil,
I could hear God’s voice whispering through
hell’s flames, “There’s always a choice, dearest Cain.
You can still love Me without fail.”
February 20, 2014
“All Things” is a poem of unrequited love and of loss. It is interpretive and written in a somewhat “letter” format, meaning it has multiple meanings for the narrator and listener. I dedicate this poem in the series to Joshua Casey—thanks for sharing my love for Greek mythology and ancient writings!
Please tell me what you all think—good or bad—in the comments section below!
I still dream of all things beautiful. Your scent sits on my clothing like a spell and smells of Lacoste, or maybe pine trees. Even as you drift from my senses with every wash and cycle, at least I hold onto our secret.
Interwoven within the very fibers of our fabric, the whisper of our moral indiscretion is stitched with all things hidden and hurtful. It tore you from me, of that I am certain, and so the discoloration sets in. What if we had believed them? What if we had remained chaste, or our chastity restored? Would I still be holding onto all things beautiful?
There is much to be said, so many versus unsung. If I speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love, am I nothing? Do I become no one? If Orpheus could move the gods by picking his lute, why is your soul incessant on turning to stone? If only I had the courage of Prometheus, I would steal back your affection like the red-hot flames of Olympus.
I remember the longing on your breath, the memories in your kisses. We were one and yet separate. Our dreams were lofty and yet foolish. Now I am forced to watch all things beautiful become dull and gray day, after day, after day, after day. If it is faith you lack, believe in our youthful lusts, passions, and inactions—they are all that remain of us.
February 13, 2014
As promised, here is the second poem in my four part series, “To Tell You the Truth.” Also, this post/poem is dedicated to my brother and three sisters. (If you’ll notice, these are some of our childhood memories!)
Please tell me what you all think of my poems—good or bad—down in the comment section below!
Taste the seconds,
Of half eaten corncobs with pulpy kernels
And breathe the dusty minutes,
Of hay-bale-jumping and mud-sliding.
Step into the days,
Of stargazing on rooftops and naming clouds.
All the while, the months are singing,
We will come, we are coming—we are here.
Dive into the years of inevitability,
Of half sight, half colors,
Like graying wheat stalks before winter.
Our blue irises, now laden in snow.
Soon, we will harvest the sweet melodies of our pasts.
The Conductor will lift his baton,
And we, dearest sister, will sing together,
We will come, we are coming—we are here.
Adolescence eternal, how bittersweet is your fruit.
February 5, 2014
“Arcade Magazine” at the University of Central Missouri is going to publish one of my poems, “The Tobacconist as a Pipe,” in its 2014 fall edition. “The Tobacconist as a Pipe” is one poem in my four part series, “To Tell You the Truth.” This is proof that I have not been a lazy writer! Although I have yet to finish my second book in The Remnant series, not only have I been striving to finish that novel (God willing), but I have also been exploring other forms of writing, such as short stories and abstract poetry.
In honor of this “soon-to-be published” work, I would like to share my poem with you, my delighted fans, before it is released in the magazine. Also, each week I will release one poem from my series, “To Tell You the Truth,” before ending with my very first short story: “Thumbnail Moon.”
Please, tell me what you think—good or bad—in the comments below!
“The Tobacconist as a Pipe”
The pipe’s wooden stem stretches over me, a warm cherry wood.
Its bowl deepens and deepens,
hollowed, like the Emerald Isles.
I fill its widened berth with sweet leaves
until they burn and burn,
until my lungs fill with the grayness.
I fill the days with yellow smoke.
My future crackles and chars, like russet embers.
My thoughts drift with whispers of
What do I believe?
Who am I supposed to be?
His fatherly arm stretches over me,
a warm, encroaching embrace.
He bids me “Take your place,”
until I am lost in the grayness.
I will cherish the day I become a man,
then, I will breathe and breathe again.
I am heir to the Tobacconist, who is
hollowed, like the Emerald Isles.
September 21, 2013
Here lies a true beauty—a story with characters and adventures so enticing that it rivals other books in its genre. As we follow the main protagonist, Ziv, on his daunting quest, we travel down a road of spiritual and emotional growth not unlike our own. From Ziv’s haunted past as an orphan, to an uncertain future as a demon hunter, The School of Ministry, book one, provides not only an incredible tale of perseverance, but it also gives readers a fresh perspective of spiritual warfare. Braxton Cosby has written a tale that offers new insight into the incorporeal, and does so in a tasteful way. All are welcome to enter The Windgate, but do so with caution. You might not return unscathed.
Author of The Legend of the Seer
July 12, 2013
We must go, Corylus.
Like a breeze in the pines,
The mountains, they call us.
I am yours, you are mine.
We must go, Corylus.
We must climb the heights.
The wars of our fathers
Have stripped us of rights.
Away, away we go.
Don’t say, don’t say woe.
Away, away we go.
Don’t say, don’t say woe.
May 31, 2013
Thank you all for sticking with the series and contributing to the discussion! This final blog is dedicated to those fine individuals who not only spurred dialogue, but who also gave some fine rebuttal to my arguments.
To maintain a sense of brevity, I will only highlight each individual’s “essential” arguments and then give my responses to their comments. I wish I could respond to everyone’s comments within this blog; however, this post is already too long! For further discussion, please visit the comments sections within each part of the “Evil Doesn’t Exist” series.
*Brandon: “Without resorting to bold assertions, one can easily see where someone could make the argument from the other way around; that there is no ‘Good,’ merely perversions of ‘Evil.’ If all we do is select a state (Good or Evil, however we’re defining them), and say ‘This is the original. The other is a perversion,’ then the discussion quickly dissolves into competing points of view on what constitutes a.) the original position (be it good or evil) and b.) the perversion of the position. There’s just no really rock solid reason to buy either side, aside from a priori commitments to prior notions of Goodness or Evil.”
*My response: “I will contend that if one takes this simple notion of Perversion + Goodness = Evil from a philosophical viewpoint then, yes, perhaps one could flip the phrasing to say Perversion + Evil = Goodness. However, I have two responses to this:
1.) “Let’s take the philosophical ideals I have written and treat them as a theory instead, meaning let’s take the hypothesis (H1) ‘Perversion + Goodness = Evil’ and apply it to the world. We can see how easy this would apply to real world scenarios. Human beings are creatures of habit; we only do something if there is an incentive, or a benefit in the end. This ‘end’ I speak of is, of itself, almost always ‘good’ in and of itself.
“Take, for example, the man who steals for the ‘ecstasy’ or thrill of stealing—or even just to provide for himself. We would not consider the act of ‘providing for himself’ or even the feeling of ‘ecstasy’ as Evil attributes of themselves. However, the means in which he went about providing for himself or gaining his thrill was, indeed, thought deplorable by society.
“Now, Brandon, take the reversal, or the counter hypothesis you offer (H2): ‘Perversion + Evil = Goodness.’ I would assert that if Evil does exist as an entity, and if man wishes to commit evil for the sake of Evil, there would be no real world scenarios where ‘Goodness’ was the INTENDED aftereffect or the ‘end’ product.
“The only example I could think of would be the evil leader (Hitler, Stalin, etc) who commits Evil for malicious’ sake and then, unexpectedly, produces ‘Good’ for some other secondary group. However, I do not see how the original actor would obtain ‘Goodness’ by having a malfunction or a ‘perversion’ of his Evil… not if his intended goal was to gain Evil!
“Thus, if we apply Occam’s Razor to both hypotheses (H1 & H2), we can see that the former one that I propose is the simplest explanation for real world situations.
But, for argument’s sake, (which, I would assert is the purpose behind this lengthy post anyways), let’s say this ‘Perversion + Evil = Goodness’ (H2) were possible, then the ultimate end product IS ‘Goodness’ anyways, which leads me to my next argument.
2.) “No matter how you phrase the hypothesis, the intended ‘end’ is to obtain ‘Goodness’ in some fashion in the real world. Whether you are committing perversions of ‘Goodness’ (Evil/H1), or committing INTENTIONAL perversions of Evil for an UNINTENTIONAL total of ‘Goodness’ (H2)—in sum, human beings are seeking an incentive—or a positive ‘good,’ as a product.
“Thus, I believe we can assert that humanity is ultimately seeking ‘Goodness,’ or is trying to achieve goodness through ‘perversions of Goodness’ (Evil/H1). Therefore, ‘Goodness’ DOES supersede Evil and IS the original of the two. So, to use your wording, humanity does buy into ‘Goodness’ as the ‘original position’ because—according to Occam’s Razor—the simplest explanation would be we are always trying to obtain it. Therefore, ‘Goodness’ must be the ultimate end and thus the originator of the two.
“Whatever moral compass people attribute their actions to, my argument and hypothesis still stands: we are creatures of habit—we take action when there is an incentive. We wish to obtain ‘Goodness’ in life. Some of us choose to do so with acts of ‘good,’ while others commit acts of ‘evil’—or perverted ‘Goodness.’”
Anonymous: “Ok. I’ve become fascinated with your good/evil discussion. Evil is referenced over and over…and over in the Bible, beginning in Genesis 2. In fact, Evil existed before Human Sin.
“Gen 2:16-17 ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ Evil is a perversion of good, yes. But it is still evil…it is no longer good.”
*My response: “Dear reader, I will contend that there was a lot of confusion with my first post, ‘Evil Doesn’t Exist (Pt. 1),’ which is why in my second post I restated to readers ‘…. I feel I must explain that by stating, “Evil doesn’t exist,” I do not mean to say that bad things don’t happen within our world. What I mean to say is human beings are creatures of habit—we take action when there are incentives in place. We wish to obtain “Goodness” in life. Some of choose to do so with acts of “good” (light), while others commit acts of “Evil”—or perverted “Goodness” (darkness).’
“In essence, my argument for the series is to merely redefine what ‘Evil’ means. Yes, the Bible talks about the knowledge of Good and Evil, but ultimately for there to be an entity called ‘Evil’ then God would have had to create it. Obviously God did not create Evil, therefore, in my opinion, ‘Evil’ as an entity doesn’t exist.
“What we see, even in scripture, is perversions of Goodness. People—God’s own creation—commit acts of Evil to obtain something that is ultimately good in the end. If they (you and I) committed Evil for the sake of Evil, then, ultimately, God must of MADE us Evil. He clearly didn’t create us that way. In fact, we can see God created us in HIS own image, which is Goodness.
Do you see what I am saying now? Even scripturally this is true. God did not create the Devil to be Evil. Satan took something good (being like God) and perverted it: ‘I will ascend the throne. I will be like the Most High.’
“Therefore, ‘Evil’ as an entity existing for the sake of Evil is a misnomer and doesn’t exist. However, we see perversions of Goodness since the Fall of Satan and the Fall of Man. What God meant for good was perverted and twisted. I agree the metaphors I used were not clear-cut (Light and Darkness); they were meant to illustrate my points. Nothing more.”
Mark: “I’ve been considering and pondering your claims. I would like not to argue, but offer my interpretation of the eradication of ‘sin.’ Would you agree that dark and light are not binary opposites but rather exist on a continuum? That total darkness and total lightness can exist, but the majority of our physical experience is somewhere between the two?
“In the same way, I refer to the definition of sin, an archer’s term that meant to ‘miss the mark’ or miss the bull’s eye. If sin exists, it exists in form as everything that isn’t perfect, that isn’t the bull’s eye. For me to say that sin doesn’t exist, or evil as you put it, I would have to believe that only the ‘mark’ exists, only the bull’s eye. We could then claim that everything non-center, non-light, non-righteous also doesn’t exist.
Perhaps when Jesus died, he eradicated everything, making everything righteous. In this way, drunkenness, extra-marital sex, murder, all these are no longer sin, for we are made perfect through Jesus’ sacrifice. Therefore all these are also perfect.”
*My response: “Let’s begin by analyzing your definition of sin as ‘missing the mark.’ I agree with this statement wholeheartedly! By saying ‘Evil Doesn’t Exist’ I do not mean to say that amoral acts of humanity are not practiced within our world, but rather there is a focal point of rightness that all men strive for (a bull’s eye).
“However, as stated in my second blog, ‘Objective Morality,’ human beings have a natural intuition of ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ and we recognize that we constantly miss the central target of ‘Rightness’ In essence, when referring to your target metaphor—and when relating it back to my central message—rather than call the entire target ‘Evil,’ we must call the bull’s eye ‘Goodness’ and all of the other outer rings as ‘perversions of Goodness,’ or ‘missing the mark.’
“Do you see that we come back to square one? ‘Goodness’ is the central element that mankind is striving for and is, ultimately, where God is guiding us toward. All else is not ‘Evil,’ but rather missing the mark. As stated in my most recent blog, “The Hope of the World,” once humanity recognizes the ‘Goodness’ behind the act itself (Christ-centeredness), we cannot pervert that action.
“However, I do not agree with your claims regarding Jesus’ redemption. Christ did not die to make the outer rings of the target, now, the central ‘bull’s eye.’ He did not sacrifice his life to make murder, extra-marital sex, lying, or cheating, now, ‘moral acts’ of righteousness. Instead, he died to set humanity free from the deception (that these amoral, perverted acts are what lead us to ‘Goodness’) and opened our eyes to the Truth (that Christ is the ‘Goodness’ we seek, and without him we will continue to wonder in darkness).
Ryan: “ I would like to contend that neither good nor evil actually exist because they are man made concepts that help us put into context the actions other people take. They are simply classifications for people to fall into. Just like a minute or a second isn’t a real, natural thing. Things like good and evil ‘exist’ only because humans say and think they do.”
*My response: “From your standpoint, Ryan, morality is purely subjective; ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ are just words that help human beings attribute meaning to actions. This is a popular view held by society. While I would agree that ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ are based, to some extent, on our social constructs and environments, there is an ‘intuition’ to mankind—a sixth sense about our inner principles—that gives us a deeper sense of morality.
“Timothy Keller summarizes this idea quite nicely when he writes the following scenario:
‘One of the most frequent statements I heard was that “Every person has to define right and wrong for him- or herself.” I always responded to the speakers by asking, “Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about correctness of their behavior?” They would invariably say, “Yes, of course.” Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is there that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?’’’ (The Reason for God, 2008, p. 48).
“Essentially, secularists may deny the possibility of a God (or for the Deist, a Something) who gives us insight into an ‘objective’ morality, but they will always assume (subconsciously, of course) that there is some sort of supreme set of laws that the rest of the world should abide by.
“The common person might say, ‘Murder is bad,’ but who decides that murder is wrong? Who sets the Rule of Law for humanity? Whether ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ are just verbal constructs established to give us meanings in life is beside the point, Ryan. What is important is humanity’s natural tendency to judge the world with standards that are, in a way, transcendental or ‘supreme’ above all others. This, I think, must be answered beyond pure physical processes. Objective morality must stem from a third party source, one that is above our naturalistic world.”
May 10, 2013
God did not create “Evil,” therefore Evil doesn’t exist.
However, God did create a sense of “Right” and “Wrong” within us, so that mankind could distinguish between what is actually “Good” and what is merely perverted “Goodness” (Evil).
We called this “Objective Morality” in our last blog discussion.
So hopefully these philosophical ideals do one of two things for you: (1) either you should be relieved because this means that sin, or Evil, is only a perversion of something “Good” that God has in store for you, (2) and/or you now have some sort of hope of overcoming the Evil within this world.
How will you overcome this Darkness? With it’s opposite: the Light of Christ (love). This leads us to our new topic: the hope of the world. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s discuss the freedom found within the Christian faith.
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.” —William Wallace, Braveheart.
Now that we understand that Evil is only a perversion of something that is “Good,” one must only seek out the source of that “Goodness” to obtain life. For example, as Christians we understand that sexual intercourse is of itself not Evil within the confines of marriage. It is only destructive when it is abused and committed in acts of fornication or adultery.
Do you see where I am going with this?
There is liberty in the Christian faith, not restraint! There is freedom, not confinement. So long as we know the source of “Goodness” (Jesus), we cannot commit evil… just like it would be senseless to try and spend counterfeit money (Evil) when it is more sensible to spend real monetary currency (God’s Goodness).
Author Timothy Keller in his book, The Reason for God, writes:
“James 1:17 says, ‘Every good and perfect gift comes down from the above… from the father of lights.’ This means that no matter who performs it, every act of goodness, wisdom, talent, and beauty is empowered by God…. He casts them across all humanity, regardless of religious conviction, race, gender, or any other attribute to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world” (2008, p.54).
Thus, all “Goodness” found within humanity has been made available to us because God makes it available! This explains why even the irreligious person can have higher moral standards than the newborn Christian. The non-believer can access the “Goodness” of God despite living in his or her own state of perverted “Goodness.”
This is why secularists and non-Christians always attest to the character flaws within Christians. In fact, it was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
However, Christian theology never claims to have an all-perfect community of believers. On the contrary, it asserts that we have a perfect God who helps guide imperfect persons. He recalibrates our “moral compasses,” so to speak.
This relates back to our previous post of “Objective Morality.” We all have a natural intuition of “Right” and “Wrong”—once we understand where those morals come from, we can discover our purpose.
I must note the key difference between Christian and secularistic morality is that theists (in general) believe that humanity is held accountable for their actions of “Right” and “Wrong.” The god of atheism (or lack thereof) premises, “There is no judgment; do whatever seems right in your own eyes.” The God of Christianity says every man and woman will be judged, “each one according to his works” (Revelation 20:13).
Of course, we must keep in mind that Christ was the propitiation of this judgment of “works” for us. Thus, as Christians, we have gained favor with God because we accepted Christ’s “Goodness” and sacrifice.
The purpose behind the “Goodness”
We are then left with a choice: either we can try to earn “Goodness” through our own naturalistic means (and risk falling into the trap of perverted “Goodness”) or we can open our eyes to the purpose behind the “Goodness”: the grace of God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).
It is through the grace of God that we find our purpose in life, which is to relay his “Goodness” to the world! The answer to today’s problems must be dealt with by sharing Christ’s love for tomorrow.
There is a malicious darkness, like a disease, that runs rampant on earth; it is called sin—the perversion of “Goodness.” Christ promises that all we have to do is shine his light in the darkness, because, of course, he has already dealt with sin on the cross.
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
The sooner the world realizes there is no more “sin” issue (or Evil) to deal with, the sooner it will discover the “Goodness” that Christ left behind: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
May 3, 2013
Let’s take a step back. Where were we? Ah yes, we left off with the understanding that “Evil” doesn’t exist and is only perverted “Goodness.”
Here is an excellent metaphor that was shared with me:
There is no such thing as “darkness.” Darkness is merely the absence of light. Scientifically speaking, darkness cannot be measured—not in a room, not in outer space. Light, however, can be measured. We can measure the speed of light, which helps us measure the distances between planets and stars within the great cosmos (light-years). We can also see with Sir Isaac Newton’s “Light Spectrum” that light cannot mix with darkness. In fact, Newton discovered that light can be separated into various shades when shown through a prism.
“Darkness,” however, doesn’t exist—the same way “Evil” doesn’t exist. We experience darkness when we are without light; we experience Evil when we are without God’s Goodness.
Therefore, I feel I must explain that by stating, “Evil doesn’t exist,” I do not mean to say that bad things don’t happen within our world. What I mean to say is human beings are creatures of habit—we take action when there are incentives in place. We wish to obtain “Goodness” in life. Some of us choose to do so with acts of “good” (light), while others commit acts of “Evil”—or perverted “Goodness” (darkness).
My argument for this series is to redefine “Evil”—to establish that God, being all good, cannot create Evil. Instead, he creates a sense of “Right” and “Wrong” within us, which leads us to our new topic: “Objective Morality.”
“I’m right and you’re wrong!”
First, let’s define “subjective” and “objective.”
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, one of the definitions of “subjective” is a “characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind.” “Objective,” on the other hand, is “expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.”
In essence, “subjectivity” means to impose your own thoughts, feelings, will, emotions and prejudices onto different issues of life, whereas “objectivity” means to do the opposite. It doesn’t allow outside forces or circumstances change its “objectiveness.”
In the case of morality, most secularists believe that all notions of “Right” and “Wrong” are purely subjective, inflicted upon us all through sociobiological conditioning.
“I would like to contend that neither good nor evil actually exist because they are man made concepts that help us put into context the actions other people take,” says Ryan Michael, a student and fellow debater from the University of Central Missouri. “They are simply classifications for people to fall into. Just like a minute or a second isn’t a real, natural thing. Things like good and evil ‘exist’ only because humans say and think they do.”
We can see from Ryan’s standpoint that morality is purely subjective; “Right” and “Wrong” are just words to help human beings attribute meaning to actions. This is a popular view held by society. While I would agree that “Right” and “Wrong” are based, to some extent, on our social constructs and environments, there is an “intuition” to mankind—a sixth sense about our inner principles—that gives us a deeper sense of morality.
Timothy Keller summarizes this idea quite nicely when he writes the following scenario:
“One of the most frequent statements I heard was that ‘Every person has to define right and wrong for him- or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, ‘Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about correctness of their behavior?’ They would invariably say, ‘Yes, of course.’ Then I would ask, ‘Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is there that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?’’’ (The Reason for God, 2008, p. 48).
Essentially, secularists may deny the possibility of a God (or for the Deist, a Something) who gives us insight into an “objective” morality, but they will always assume (subconsciously, of course) that there is some sort of supreme set of laws that the rest of the world should abide by.
The common person might say, “Murder is bad,” but who decides that murder is wrong? Who sets the Rule of Law for humanity? Whether “Right” or “Wrong” are just verbal constructs established to give us meanings in life is beside the point. What is important is humanity’s natural tendency to judge the world with standards that are, in a way, transcendental or “supreme” above all others.
So where do these “objective,” transcendental standards come from? From evolutionary processes and ‘naturalism’?
Dr. William Lane Craig points out how the sociobiological position undermines itself:
“Given the truth of naturalism, all our beliefs, not just our moral beliefs, are the result of evolution and social conditioning. Thus, the evolutionary account leads to skepticism about knowledge in general. But this is self-defeating because then we should be skeptical of the evolutionary account itself, since it, too, is the product of evolution and social conditioning!” (On Guard, p. 144)
In essence, it is impossible to gain objective morality from evolutionary processes since they, too, fall prey to “subjectivity.” Objective morality then must stem from a third party source, one that is above our naturalistic world.
So we are left with our instincts of morality, which C. S. Lewis believed were key to understanding the universe:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (Mere Christianity, 1952, p. 38).
We are then left with one conclusion: since people judge the world with a sense of “objective” standards, there must be transcendental, moral laws that help us create those constructs of “Right” and “Wrong.”
Thus, there must be a God (or a Something) who guides mankind’s moral compass, who gives us a sense of what is “Right” and “Wrong.” A God who is bringing mankind back to a state of “Goodness” rather than perverted “Goodness, or “Evil”—from a state of darkness to light.
For me, his name is Jesus Christ.
(Look for “Evil Doesn’t Exist” pt. 3,
on next week’s post, Friday, May 10).