By: Gregory Koukl
A caller referred to a movie like Malcom X, which apparently attacked Christianity and promoted the Nation of Islam and said that in his mind the movement is more evil than a serial murderer. He wanted to get my response to that and I guess I'm going to have to say that I agree with him, as long as I qualify what I mean. It is at this point that I have to do some very, very careful distinguishing between things so that I make it clear what it is that I mean.
It is possible for a thing to be good and evil at the same time -- good in one way and evil in a different kind of way. It's possible for something to be good in the short term but have devastating consequences in the long term. Let me give you an illustration. Let's take a sumptuous meal. Someone makes you a tremendous meal and it's delicious. It has all this wonderful food. You eat it and are deeply satisfied. You have something that fills your body and satisfies your soul through a great satisfying meal, and in that sense it's good. However, what if in that delicious meal there is just a bit of arsenic, and a couple of days later you keel over and die. This meal that was good in a temporal sense had a long term negative consequence that was really terribly evil. So it's hard to call the meal a good thing because of the overwhelmingly evil consequence that it happened to have.
Now this kind of illustration applies to many things that we would call good in themselves. We might see religious movements, for example, that would have an ethic that's very fine and very exalted, an ethic in which we are enjoined to treat people in a way that's very consistent with Christian teaching. We could look at the religion that is promoting a temporal good and we can say that it's a good thing, as far as it goes. But the problem is that the religions that promote temporal good don't just go that far. Generally what they are promoting is not only to help others in a temporal sense, which we can say is good, but they are promoting an entire view of the world which underlies this moral code of conduct. And if one accepts this total view of the world then that view would exclude a Christian view of the world.For example, if you teach Judaism and the fine moral teaching that often accompanies Judaism, you have done a good thing by teaching good morality. People do good things, and follow a moral code, and have a good impact on the world in a temporal sense. But if in the process you are teaching that God decides on your eternal fate merely on the basis of your good works, generally what's built-in is the idea that your good works will outweigh your bad works. One therefore denies the need for forgiveness in salvation through a Messiah. If he denies that Jesus is the Messiah and the source of that salvation then, though in short term you may exhibit more good actions in your life which is good, the long term effect is you have not dealt with the eternal problem, which is the consequence of your own sin before a holy God and you haven't received forgiveness.
So even though you've done some good things temporally, eternally you must be punished for the things you did wrong. The eternal outcome of accepting that point of view is eternal condemnation. The arsenic kills the patient, and the good that has come temporally is completely and infinitely overshadowed by the bad of eternal condemnation.
That's why I think the caller is correct when he said that this movie is desperately evil in that it leads to the destruction of people's souls. That is the greatest concern that anyone could ever have. Jesus said, "Do not fear those who can destroy the body and not the soul, but fear rather him who can throw both body and soul into Hell," which makes the point that there certainly is value to our human lives. It is tragic when our lives are taken away from us against our will in murder like in a serial murderer, but it is much, much more tragic when both body and soul are thrown in Hell forever.
The second issue is the one that has the greater weight of truth, the greater substance from my perspective and overshadows the other issue. That's why we can say it is an egregious evil when a person is murdered, but it's much more damaging because of the length of the consequence of the act -- in this case eternal -- when someone is lost because they have rejected the forgiveness that God offers for the sins that they have committed in this lifetime. If a person is compelled to reject forgiveness because he has embraced an ideology that denies that kind of forgiveness through the Messiah Jesus Christ, even though it offers some other good things in a temporal fashion, then I think it's right and appropriate to judge that system of belief as something that is evil in the final analysis.
I don't know how to get around that. I realize that it sounds very, very harsh, but those people who teach salvation by good works -- even though temporally what they are teaching is something that is good -- ultimately are enemies of the cross of Christ because they have removed the stumbling block of the cross. And as enemies of Christ they are actually doing something that in the long term has an evil consequence, therefore it is evil.
Hard medicine. And this is why I've taken some time to explain very precisely what I mean when I agree with my last caller -- that ideologies are as evil, or even more evil, than the acts of sin that spawn them.
This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show"Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©1994 Gregory Koukl