I had never heard of an insect called an ichneumon until newspaper columnist George Will wrote about it as a metaphor for the City of Detroit’s bankruptcy.
According to Mr. Will, the ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, then the larva which hatches from the egg proceeds to gnaw the insides of the caterpillar. Eventually, it has devoured almost every part of the worm with the exception of the skin and intestines, while it carefully avoids injuring the vital organs. The ichneumon seems to know that its own existence depends on the life of the insect on which it feeds.
Detroit’s government employees’ unions had been living parasitically on their own city, Mr. Will stated. However, in devouring their own host, they were not as smart as the ichneumon insect.
I find that fascinating.
What kind of God would make such a world?
In 1860, an uneasy Charles Darwin confided in a letter to a friend: ‘I had no intention to write atheistically’ but ‘I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.’ –George Will
Interesting having Darwin’s take on the matter.
Now, I’m not a student of Darwin and have no idea all that he wrote or believed, and what else he may have said on these matters. But, in my opinion Mr. Darwin would have benefited from studying biblical theology a little more, specifically the part about the creation being affected by “the fall.”
When Adam and Eve fell, creation itself was turned upside down in certain ways. And, eventually, when the full redemption is completed, Scripture leads to understand, nature herself will be set right also. As Paul said, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). He added, “The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
How, one asks, could nature have been affected by what Adam and Eve did in Eden? I have no idea. Furthermore, anyone with an answer to this is probably engaging in a lot of speculation. Suffice it to say there are many things that take place in this lovely best-world-in-the-universe that defy understanding and may even offend our sensibilities.
Some would say the fact that you and I eat sirloin steaks or chicken strips fall under that same heading of “sinful results of the fall.”
But suppose we use the ichneumon as another kind of metaphor. What about the parasites at work in the Kingdom of God?
1) I think of some liberal preachers.
I’ve seen them attach themselves to strong churches which were built by Godly men and women with biblical convictions. However, once the liberal preacher determined to “enlighten” them, he began to diminish them, destroying their confidence in the Scriptures and convincing them of the impossibility of hell and the unlikelihood of heaven. He scoffed at soulwinning and evangelism and missions, and dismissed as old-fashioned and radical moral standards such as traditional marriage for a man and a woman, fidelity within marriage, abstinence from alcoholic drinks, and the right to life. Before long, the church is heard to say that terminating the life of the unborn is acceptable and executing mass murderers by lethal injection the ultimate sin.
Such preachers are parasites, devouring the host in order to sustain themselves.
2) I think of liberal colleges founded by conservative leaders of the past.
In one state where I served, the entire annual denominational meeting concerned a university that was cutting its ties in order to go its own way, set its own standards, and choose its own trustees. Speaker after speaker rose to tell how his/her parents had sacrificed to send money to that beloved school in lean years as it trained preachers, and how they grieved to see the ungodly positions the school was taking today.
No matter. Those schools took the buildings and endowments raised by solid, conservative, Bible-loving Christians just as surely as though they stole them at gunpoint. The lip-service they pay to the denomination now is a farce.
3) Then, there are the trouble-makers who flit from church to church wreaking havoc.
Congregations should never automatically accept new people into their membership without knowing about them. Some ministers have learned too late that their newest members were parasites, feeding off the healthy church in order to create dissension and destroy preachers.
Pastor Rick told me of one such man who joined his church on a Sunday when he was out of town. Too late, Rick learned the man had torn up the fellowship of the last two churches he had joined. Rick gathered a few leaders for a quiet meeting to inform them. They all agreed to keep an eye on the fellow. Sure enough, some months later, the man asked a deacon to meet him for coffee. As they settled down in the coffee shoip, the man said, “What are we going to do about Pastor Rick?” The deacon smiled and said, “We’re going to love him and support him! Isn’t he great?!” The coffee time ended quickly, and the man soon left the church.
But don’t the parasites do some good?
Sometimes. God can use anyone. And this is what convinces some unthinking Christians that sending their children to that liberal school is safe.
It’s what calms church members who should be up in arms over the antics of the troublemaker and assures them that “he couldn’t be doing all that; he’s such a nice guy.”
Farmers love the ichneumon flies because they eat insects which threaten crops. The caterpillar which serves as the smorgasbord for the larvae eats the leaves of the farmers’ crops, too, so anything that diminishes caterpillars gets the full support of the agriculture people.
Likewise, the parasites among us often do some good.
It’s just that the bad they do is so deadly.
“Now, I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites, and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18).