‘Is earth better thought of as Paradise or a spiritual battlefield ?’
One theological idea forwarded in recent years challenges the biblical notion that humans are introduced into a perfect world. Instead, it suggests that our environment has always been fractured and prone to natural disasters. In his book God at War, Boyd outlines a model in which the origin of evil is explained as happening before the creation of humans, brought about by the decision of God to give freewill to all spiritual beings. The result being that some angels use their freedom to oppose God, corrupting themselves into evil beings resulting in conflict in the heavenly realms. Later, these ‘fallen’ angels become an anti-creational force, standing in opposition to God.
The conflict that follows between God and corrupted angels essentially becomes the battle between good and evil. The result of this is that the world sustains damage in such a way that it no longer exists as an idyll because evil is now resident within it. This outcome requiring the early biblical narrative to be revised in such a way that it is no longer seen as a creation account but rather, ‘God’s restoration of a world damaged by a previous conflict which had become formless, futile empty and engulfed by chaos.’
The restoration theory advanced by Boyd develops the idea that ‘the earth is birthed, as it were as if in an infected incubator [because] it is fashioned in a warfare context [being] altogether good, but made and preserved over and against forces that are perpetually hostile to it’ A context in which humans, as God’s agents, are later called upon to conquer an evil being who has invaded creation. So Boyd sees human suffering as an inevitable consequence of a spiritual battle that is currently taking place and that earth and its inhabitants are located in the midst of this conflict. That said, if I remember it rightly, it does not deny the geological processes by which the earth is fashioned and it’s people are sustained day to day through tectonic movement, hydrological cycle, erosion and deposition (to name a few of many).