At Loma Linda, School of Medicine students are required to take religion classes during our first two years. This quarter I've been taking a class called "God and Human Suffering." Various strains of thought regarding the existence of an omnipotent, good God and the reality of evil in the universe have been very interesting to me for some time so I looked forward to this class.
Our instructor, a Seventh-day Adventist physician and New Testament scholar gave us a lecture in our second to last session this week that I was impressed by. We briefly talked about the history of Christian thought on evil and he emphasized Origen and his writing Contra Celsum to give a taste of the thought of the early church on evil. Our professor, Dr. Tonstad, called this a triangular view of history with God, man and Satan all as actors. He then contrasted this with much of modern thought on evil, even thought claiming to be Christian which tends to completely de-emphasize the role of Satan in evil. In his lecture he quoted D.F. Strauss and Barth but the high point of his lecture revolved around a quote from Rudolf Bultmann, "We can no longer believe in spirits, whether good or evil." Bultmann wrote this in Germany, in 1941. In a prior lecture we had watched some of the film Shoah. It was some of the most disturbing footage on the holocaust I had ever seen. Our instructor's point was that if there was ever a time in history when man could believe in real evil, a real evil greater than ourselves in the spiritual world, it was 1941. I think he was right to point out the irony of Bultmann's statement in 1941 and his rhetoric made a strong impression on me. It is amazing that in a time like our own more people than ever before are quick to deny the existence of spiritual evil and the depraved state of man.