As promised, this post will address the question: In the parable of the wheat and the tares, why is anyone who is not a Christian depicted as evil?
The equivalence between atheism and evil does not exist in the world of relative morality. In the world of relative morality, it would be unthinkable to equate secularism with evil. People who espouse relative morality think that everybody is good sometimes, and nobody should be called evil. Secularism and atheism are automatically equivalent to evil only in the world of absolute morality.
Relative morality operates on the basis of the situation which presents itself. Good is defined in personal terms. Evil is the opposite of good, in personal terms. Every situation is different, and good versus evil is redefined for every conflict. Each individual has the power and the right to define morality for himself in each situation.
The rule of self-defense is a good example of a setting where almost everyone agrees that the target of attempted murder has the right to murder his attacker in an attempt to prevent his own murder. The honor our culture gives to people like policemen and soldiers is due to our cultural sense that anyone who risks death himself or even commits murder himself in order to save the lives of others is on the right side of the conflict. In situations like these, almost everyone believes in relative morality.
Absolute morality, the morality revealed by God through the Bible, says that in every situation, you can distinguish between good and evil by comparing the antagonists with God. God is the measure of what is good. Jesus even said, “There is only One who is good.” By that comparison, every human being is evil. This is the reason every person needs Christ, and whoever receives Christ is made righteous by his righteousness. This truth means that when God sorts out good and evil at the end of time, he will see Christians as good, not because they have done more good deeds than atheists, but rather, because they are covered by the righteousness of Christ. Christians look like good rather than evil, because when God looks at a Christian he sees Christ.
Christ acted on absolute morality when he died on the cross. According to the relative morality of the rule of self-defense, Christ had the right, and even the obligation, to defend himself. By that standard, since Jesus the Christ had the both the right and the power to destroy all his enemies, he should have wiped them out. By the standard of relative morality and the rule of self-defense, it was immoral for Christ to “wimp out” and just die.
Likewise, by the standard of relative morality, if Jesus wanted to defend the world from Satan, it was his obligation to stand in the gap and prevent Satan from hurting anyone. Jesus the Christ, God in the flesh, should have stood his ground against Satan and all his minions, using his God-power to fry them to a crisp and save the world. By the standard of relative morality, Jesus failed, because he did not put a stop to Satan’s ability to lead people to evil deeds.
By the standard of relative morality, Christ should be flying around the world yet today, slashing and burning the encampments of Boko Haram who bomb churches and murder Christians in Nigeria. Christ should still be striking down venal politicians to prevent the arrest and torture of Christians who worship in unregistered churches in countries like Kazakhstan. According to the standard of relative morality, if an activist claims that every Christian ought to be imprisoned or executed for interfering with that activist’s favorite behavior, Christ ought to use his holy and righteous power to remove the activist from the picture permanently. Relative morality says that personal threat modifies the rule that life is sacred, and every individual may choose to interpret the threat according to personal considerations. The absolute morality with regard to life is to do no murder. Christ submitted to death in accordance with that absolute morality.
Absolute morality sets the standard for good by measuring against God himself. God alone is good. By the standard of absolute morality, secularism is evil, because it is ungodly. Hinduism is evil, because it is separated from God. Islam is evil, because it rejects Christ. The behavior of secularists and Hindus and Muslims can be, may be and often is very “good” by the standard of relative morality. They may or may not wreak murder and mayhem. That is not the point. The teaching of absolute morality is that there is no comparison between anything human beings do and the deeds of God. Human beings cannot work their way up the ladder of goodness and be like God. Everything that is not God is evil.
Secularists worship human beings, Hinduism worships many gods, and Islam worships a perverted copy of God himself. One is not more evil or less evil than the others. To call them all evil is simply to recognize that they are not worshiping God. They have all made gods for themselves, which is to say that whether or not they say they have gods, they ultimately worship only self. The very fact that they claim to be able to make their own rules and find their own gods means that they have turned against the only God. By that definition they constitute evil in the world. This is the standard by which God sentenced Adam and Eve to exile from the Garden. They had demonstrated that they preferred self-gratification to a relationship with him. They chose evil over good, and the evidence was their willingness to listen to Satan rather than God and then try to hide.
What are Christians to do about evil in the world? Christians are called to eschew the evil, the mindset that is its own god, yet above that call is the call to love all the people anyway, just like Jesus. Christians are called to be like Christ, to live by the same standard that governed Christ’s behavior. Christians are called to share Christ and the blessing of his mysterious behavior with all people. That is because the mystery of the wheat and the tares is really not about the victory at the end. The mystery and miracle of the wheat and the tares is that tares may become wheat. While the tares and the wheat grow side by side, the wheat can share truth with the tares and the tares may be miraculously transformed into wheat.
Where do you see evidence of people choosing relative morality over the absolute truth of God and his love? What do you do about it? Are you engaged in Christ’s work of transforming tares into wheat?