Seemingly persistent reports of human misdeeds and atrocities might lead us to wonder at the depths of depravity, cruelty, and malice that we as a species are capable of. The Bible indicates that while human beings clearly possess the capacity for both the most noble and the most heinous actions possible, in their "natural" or un-redeemed state, they are more inclined toward ungodly thought and behavior (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 53:1-3, Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 2:14).


Vincent V. Marshburn

Whereas upon entering into the arrangement of atonement via grace, we are renewed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and seek guidance by the Holy Spirit in our attitude and conduct, all the while still contending with temptations and struggles of our "old" yet evidently concurrent sinful nature (Romans 6:6; Romans 7:20, 25; Colossians 3:5; Colossians 3:10).

This is not quite the same concept as dualism, the notion of "equal" and rival forces of good and evil present in the cosmos that clash but somehow "balance" each other out. According to Scripture, the ideal state of the universe is perfect harmony between God and his creation, without conflict or competition.

It may seem normal for people, including believers, to question the nature of and reason behind what we deem "evil." The fact is that while we can possess some cognizance of the truths of reality that address such questions, in our iniquitous state we typically only perceive an imperfect view of the full account.

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 Corinthians 13:12 — in particular, the King James Version, which includes the phrase "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face ..."; I have always found the Early Modern English rendering of this passage to possess a certain aesthetically appealing literary quality, even so far as engaging my imagination. However, it may not be entirely lexically accurate in the sense that the original Greek text refers to observing a mirror reflecting an image rather than peering through heavily tinted glass as the KJV might seem to imply.

Conceivably, either of these interpretations might appear to convey the same intention in meaning. Some will claim that the term "looking glass" is a common description of a mirror, and so is not outside the realm of acceptable linguistic application. On the other hand, it might prove insightful to understand that ancient mirrors were primarily articles consisting of polished metal surfaces (very crude, small glass mirrors did exist but were not as easy to manufacture at the time). While high quality variants were certainly capable of generating decently detailed reflections, a typical metal mirror with a minimal degree of polishing produced a somewhat "cloudy" or obscured image. This may be more in keeping with what the apostle Paul was alluding to. The metaphorical use of mirrors is not uncommon in his writing, and in this context, he was attempting to illustrate our sometimes nebulous, indistinct, or enigmatic impression and awareness of the underlying spiritual substance of existence. In fact, the Greek term that is translated as "darkly" in KJV is that from which we derive our word "enigma."

Throughout history, mirrors and reflections have signified various representations of the soul or spirit. This may play some role in the origins of the superstition of "bad luck" resulting from broken mirrors. Various works of fiction, both classic and modern, utilize mirrors as a method of interacting with spirits or countering evil. Mirrors or the concept of mirrors are also sometimes used to depict what some deem "opposite" or contrasting qualities of humanity — after all, mirrors by design display reverse images.

A well-known episode of the original "Star Trek" television series titled "Mirror, Mirror" portrays members of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise interacting with a parallel universe in which alternative and contrary versions of themselves exist. Conflict ensues when certain individuals from both universes are inadvertently transposed with each other. The Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura with whom we are familiar end up in what later came to be known in Trek lore as the "mirror universe," while their more barbaric counterparts attempt to adapt to the "prime" universe. As one might predict, their experience is quite challenging and troubling, especially considering that in this parallel universe, in place of the principally peaceful and humane United Federation of Planets, there exists a Terran Empire whose overriding motivation is galactic conquest and subjugation.

Near the conclusion of the episode, the "good" Captain Kirk attempts to persuade the "mirror" version of Spock to consider a morally, and perhaps tactically, better approach.

KIRK: You're a man of integrity in both universes, Mister Spock.

MIRROR SPOCK: You must return to your universe. I must have my captain back. I shall operate the transporter. You have two minutes and ten seconds.

KIRK: In that time I have something to say. How long before the Halkan prediction of galactic revolt is realised?

MIRROR SPOCK: Approximately two hundred and forty years.

KIRK: The inevitable outcome?

MIRROR SPOCK: The Empire shall be overthrown, of course.

KIRK: The illogic of waste, Mister Spock. The waste of lives, potential, resources, time. I submit to you that your Empire is illogical because it cannot endure. I submit that you are illogical to be a willing part of it.

MIRROR SPOCK: You have one minute and twenty-three seconds.

KIRK: If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial, doesn't logic demand that you be a part of it?

MIRROR SPOCK: One man cannot summon the future.

KIRK: But one man can change the present.

The basis of many such analogous yet antithetical manifestations is that a "mirror" version of something is essentially its opposite — thus, mirror versions of "good" people are their "evil" counterparts. Again, this seems to allude to a kind of dualistic interpretation of reality which, while not necessarily the most authentic, can often be useful and even appealing for delivering such narratives.

The Bible assures us that there are no specifically good or evil versions of people. We have all gone astray; we all fall short of God's desires and aspirations for us (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:10-18, 1 John 1:8). The Bible also affirms that we are made in God's image and are intended to reflect God's love, grace, and compassion (Genesis 1:26, Proverbs 27:19, Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). So, while it may be true that everyone has a "dark side," it is also true that we possess the capability and opportunity, especially when embodying the reality of redemption, to manifest a "light side." What sort of mirror do we intend to epitomize — one that echoes and expresses the inner opacity of our transgressive nature, or one that exhibits and exemplifies the illumination of God's majesty and generosity?

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.