Table of Contents
Part III: The Problem of Evil
The 'Evils' of Daily Life
often seems that nature is now at war with man, as though he
were an alien suffered with some indifference by a natural order
whose forces of destruction are every once in a while turned
loose with complete abandon to warn this puny creature of his
powerlessness. Such evils seem somehow quite unrelated to man's
disobedience and consequent fall from divine favour.
Unseasonable and devastating floods,
catastrophic earthquakes, volcanic eruptions of fearful consequences,
withering drought and bitter cold ‹ all these strike indiscriminately,
bringing hurt to the just and the unjust alike. Are these part
of God's original plan?
Psalm 148:7-8 calls upon fire and
hail, snow and vapours, and stormy winds to fulfill God's word
and to praise His name. We are devastated by such phenomena at
times and hardly think of these things as fulfilling
His word or as evidencing His goodness. But many phenomena which
appear at times as evils are an essential part of the economy
of nature ‹ i.e., the kingdom of God, part and parcel of
His benevolent dictatorship ‹ as we learn once we see their
place in the wider sphere.
For example, volcanoes are pretty
frightening and at times terribly destructive, yet they may be
essential to our well-being. Howel Williams of the University
of California observed: (49)
During the past 400 years, some
500 volcanoes have erupted from the depths of our planet. They
have killed 190,000 people; the most destructive eruption, the
one of Tamboro in the East Indies in 1815, wiped out 56,000 people
in one gigantic explosion. Volcanoes understandably have always
terrified mankind. Yet it should not be forgotten that they also
play a constructive role for our benefit. It is not merely that
volcanic eruptions have provided some of the world's richest
soils ‹ and some of our most magnificent scenery. Throughout
geological time, volcanoes and their attendant springs and gas
vents have been supplying the oceans with water and the atmosphere
with carbon dioxide. But for these emanations there would be
no plant life on earth, and therefore no animal life. In very
truth, but for them we would not be here!
us rather forcibly of the words of Nahum, the prophet, (Nahum
1:3): "The Lord doeth His will in the whirlwind and in the
storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet."
49. Williams, Howel, "Volcanoes"
in Scientific American, November, 1951, p.45.
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what we call periods of consistently inclement weather are found
to have beneficial effects! W. M. Krogman of the Department of
Anthropology in the University of Chicago remarked: (50)
Climate in its entirety is a
very potent factor. Huntington speaks of the "coldward and
stormward" march of civilization. Specifically, he points
out that in the last several thousand years the centre of civilization
has shifted from warmer to cooler areas, and from quieter to
stormy areas where atmospheric ozone and electricity are at a
maximum. In the presence of a storm there are changes in air
pressure, air movement, water content, temperature, amount of
ultraviolet, ionization, and atmospheric ozone and electricity.
These changes record themselves upon human behaviour, and Huntington
cites as an example the period A.D. 1250-1450 when the amount
of storminess increased, and extremes in weather occurred. As
a result, he says, "this was a time of special alertness,
initiative, and originality in most of Europe."
So in man's
present condition, certain types of weather which at the time
might be considered as simply unpleasant are by and large better
for him. It is a familiar fact to students that it is easier
to study when the
room is too cool than when the room is too warm, and certainly
the body functions more energetically when heat generated by
physical exercise is quickly removed from the surface of the
skin. The "call of the warm sunny south" may well be
an illusion to the man who wants to make a contribution to his
own age and generation!
Just as there is some geological
evidence that deserts are "since man," so there is
some geological evidence that the inclemency of violent seasonal
changes is also a feature of our present economy and that prior
to the appearance of man climate was more uniform. The absence
of well-marked rings on wood found in coal measures is evidence
that these seasonal changes from summer to winter were at least
very slight in those pre-Adamic times. Ellsworth Huntington assembled
convincing evidence that the distribution of civilization over
the earth corresponds with that of climate, and that the climate
best suited for intellectual activities is one having frequent
changes of weather and well-marked seasons. He concluded that
there must be enough warmth and rainfall to permit extensive
agriculture and that frequent drops below 50 degrees are distinctly
50. Krogman, W. M., reviewing Mainsprings
of Civilization in Scientific Monthly, Nov., 1945,
51. Huntington, Ellsworth, Mainsprings of Civilization, Wiley
& Sons, New York, 1945.
this is not all. A paper presented before the Victoria Institute
in London on "Climate in Relation to Organic Nature"
has a chart showing that the commonly recurring diseases which
plague the human race follow a seasonal recurrence, distributed
over the whole year. (52) If any particular temperature and humidity and length
of day persisted indefinitely, one or two diseases associated
with that season would also persist and would ultimately greatly
weaken if not entirely wipe out the whole human race!
The changing seasons guarantee
man's continuance. But even the alternation of night and day
play their part in his continuance. Laurence Henderson of Harvard
remarked on the properties of carbon dioxide and said that "since
the unique stability of carbon dioxide depends upon alternating
light and darkness, the revolution of the earth is involved in
Kenneth Walker goes one step further:
As the behaviour of water when
freezing and melting is also among the characteristics which
make it a suitable medium for life, the larger phenomenon of
alternating seasons and of the earth's revolutions around the
sun must be also related to the appearance of living organisms
on this planet. Wood Jones argues that the advent of life would
inevitably seem to indicate the existence of some vast plan in
which not only the properties of the various elements had their
place, but also the greater phenomena of night and day and of
changing seasons. It is a plan therefore which extends beyond
the earth and involves in its compass at least the whole of the
solar system. The fact that some of the observations on which
these conclusions have been made are by scientists who are avowedly
materialistic and mechanistic in their outlook renders these
all the more interesting.
We have, then,
the presence of volcanoes to provide carbon dioxide and water
to make plant life possible, and we find even the alternation
of light and darkness (symbols of joy and pain, good and evil,
life and death) equally essential to guarantee the effective
use of these prerequisites for plant life and therefore all life
‹ since all flesh is grass.
Indeed, so closely are the threads
of God's handiwork interwoven that in his presidential address
to a chemical society in 1948, Sir C. H. Hinshelwood remarked,
"It may not be wholly unreasonable to fancy
52. Gordon, Surgeon-General C. A., Transactions
of the Victorian Institute, vol.17, 1884, p.51.
53. Walker, Kenneth, Meaning and Purpose, Pelican, Gretna,
Louisiana, 1950, pp.102-3.
that to almost every
element there falls some unique and perhaps indispensable role
in the economy of nature." Could we see deeply enough, we
might well discover that those features in nature which appear
most indifferent to man's well-being are in reality most essential
for his continuance.
apparent cruelty to man is nothing compared with what Shakespeare
terms "man's inhumanity to man". World War II is not
very far away. One is still reminded now and then of the unbelievable
atrocities of the Nazi regime. Little by little the truth of
Belsen and Dachau and all the other places of death have been
made a matter of public record. Often these records are so terrible
that they are scarcely believable. The suffering of millions
upon millions of human beings was a fearful reality, even more
frightful, it seems now, than the sufferings of the early Christians
under the Roman emperors.
In that day Paul laid it down clearly
as a principle of Christian conduct that we ought to be obedient
to the powers that be, because they are ordained of God (Romans
13:1-7) . Can this really apply in the case of Nazi Germany?
At first, everything within us
screams a negative. And so we search for some other way of evading
force of Paul's ‹ or better, of the Holy Spirit's ‹ injunction.
Maybe it did apply to the days of the Roman emperors ‹ Caligula,
Nero, and the rest of them ‹ but not to a Hitler regime.
Yet we are always rightly suspicious of any effort to give plain
words special meanings unless there is clear warrant for it elsewhere
In any society some order is necessary
for the continuance of the church's witness. There have been
times in human history when society was so chaotic that this
witness was almost eclipsed. It happened, for example, during
the Dark Ages when invading hordes of barbarians made organized
life impossible. In this instance it was not that the government
was corrupt, but rather that there was no government whatever.
Now, it follows that no matter
how corrupt a government may be, if it continues to operate at
all, it will preserve some measure of order. Within this framework
the church may be able to maintain its witness. If the society
is utterly corrupt, only a corrupt government can survive to
keep order within it. It takes an evil man to govern evil men
because only such a man can be equal to their tricks. A saintly
king, for example, could hardly hope to govern a society comprised
entirely of criminals, because he must often authorize others
for himself. If these
others are as corrupt as their society (which is likely) they
will hardly carry out his orders as he intends, and his effectiveness
is soon reduced and his authority ultimately undermined. When
no central authority remains, the result is revolution and anarchy.
But a man equal to his corrupt ministers, by reason of his own
wickedness, might hope to command their respect and thus maintain
his authority ‹ and in so doing, preserve some measure of
order. Perhaps, then, God sees to it that a very corrupt society
has an appropriate governor appointed over it who is capable
of dealing with the situation realistically and maintaining enough
order to permit the church to survive.
Disobedience to such an authority
may serve only to undermine the very agency by which a sufficient
measure of order is maintained to allow the church to continue.
In this light, disobedience is virtually suicide.
And this is true even when the government is bent upon destroying
the church ‹ for history reveals that the church has never
failed because of opposition from without. In a time of grave
persecution, it has often shone its brightest, as though the
contrary winds fanned the flame. But in a time of total anarchy,
its light is not so much eclipsed: it is rather that the light
has nowhere to shine. It is reduced to the witness of scattered
individuals to scattered individuals. The possibility of local
bodies of believers having any impact on their society is reduced
to nil, because there is no society upon which that impact can
be brought to bear. Believers tend by the force of circumstance
to become isolated, and the concerted strength of numbers is
lost. Two people have more than twice the strength of one if
they are truly united, and a group of believers has a strength
beyond the mere sum of its individuals. Thus any order at all,
whatever the cost to the individual insofar as suffering is concerned,
is still best for the church if it provides a structured society
upon which its light may shine, though it may be unpleasant for
those individuals who suffer for their testimony.
While I was reading Scott's Quentin
Durward recently, a passage of significance caught my attention.
It is worth quoting in this connection. Speaking of the terrible
condition of society in France at the period under consideration
in the story, Scott wrote: (54)
In the midst of the horrors
and miseries arising from so distracted a state of public affairs,
reckless and profuse expense distinguished the courts of the
lesser nobles, as well as of the superior princes: and their
54. Scott, Walter, Quentin Durward,
J. M. Dent, London, 1911, p.36.
imitation, expended in rude but magnificent
display the wealth which they extorted from the people. A tone
of romantic and chivalrous gallantry (which however, was often
disgraced by unbounded license) characterized the intercourse
between the sexes; and the language of knight-errantry was yet
used and its observances followed, though the pure spirit of
honourable love, and benevolent enterprise which it inculcates,
had ceased to qualify and atone for its extravagances. The jousts
and tournaments, the entertainments and revels which each petty
court displayed, invited to France every wandering adventurer.
And it was seldom that, when arrived there, he failed to employ
his rash courage and headlong spirit of enterprise in actions
for which his happier native country afforded no free stage.
At this period and as if to save
their fair realm from the various woes with which it was menaced,
the tottering throne was ascended by Louis XI, whose character,
evil as it was in itself, combatted and in a great degree neutralized
the mischiefs of the time as poisons of opposing qualities are
said, in ancient books of medicine, to have the power of counteracting
And so Scott,
contemplating the evils of that society and the character of
the king raised up to govern it, sees a certain divine propriety,
as though no other governor could either have survived or served
any useful purpose in correcting the evils of the day. W. H.
Hudson in his Green Mansions rightly said that "every
nation has the government it deserves." (55)
The League of Nations
failed because this principle was not observed. Kenneth Walker
The League of Nations was originally
planned by a small group of idealists in the hope that it would
be able to settle international disagreements in accordance with
ethical principles. Within a comparatively few years of its establishment
Geneva became an international market-place in which the shrewd
opportunists who controlled the foreign offices of Europe drove
hard and shady bargains. Hardy's account of the Congress of Vienna
is equally descriptive of the meetings of the League at Geneva.
The Congress of Vienna sits,
And war becomes a war of wits
Where every Power perpends with all
Its dues as large, its friends as small;
Till Priests of Peace prepare once more
To fight as they have fought before.
Our original representative
to the League, Viscount Cecil, was soon in difficulties. One
does not send a clergyman to deal with horse thieves, nor was
it wise to have dispatched a gentlemanly idealist to represent
us at Geneva. He was replaced in time by more suitable national
emissaries. Individual idealists had created a machine for settling
international disputes, but those who took control of it were
more representative of national morality.
55. Hudson, William Henry, Green Mansions,
Knopf, New York, 1916, p.7.
56. Walker, Kenneth, ref.53, p.158.
. . . one does not send a clergyman to deal with horse traders
making shady deals. Set a thief to catch a thief: that is an
axiom based on experience. It may not be Christian, but it is
realistic. Idealism is essential, but nothing is ideal if it
simply does not work.
So then, a society of thieves cannot
be governed successfully by a man to whom stealing is completely
unintelligible. As one great judge once said, "Choose you
out good men for your judges, but not so good
that they forget the frailty of human nature." It is clear
therefore that a bad government is better than no
government . . . indeed may be the only government that can succeed!
It has its appointed place; and it has its limitations too.
A bad government can hardly do
good, yet by restraining a greater evil it may serve as an agent
for good, as Paul says of the Roman government: "For he
is the minister of God to thee for good" (Romans 13:4).
The fact is that government is chiefly concerned not with doing
good in a positive sense, but with restraint of evil, as verse
3 makes clear, "for rulers are not a terror to good works
but to the evil". They may be a burden to doers of good
works, but if the righteous man is truly righteous, the government
will not be a terror to him.
In the Patten Foundation Lectures
for 1938-39, the visiting professor was Raymond Pearl and his
subject was "Man the Animal." In the published record
of these lectures, Pearl quotes with wholehearted approval the
words of Jeremy Bentham: (57)
It is with government as with
medicine; its only business is the choice of evils. Every law
is an evil, for every law is an infraction of liberty. Government,
I repeat it, has but the choice of evils. In making that choice,
what ought to be the object of the legislator? He ought to be
certain of two things. First, that in every case the acts which
he undertakes to prevent are really evils,
and second, that these evils are greater than those which he
employs to prevent them.
It is for this
reason that a majority is considered to have a superior right
over a minority, in that while the majority is likely to be just
as often wrong as a minority, they are never likely to be as
terribly wrong because numbers tend to limit extremists. And
since government is concerned with a choice of evils, the majority
will probably make the safest over-all choices.
This clearly suggests that what
we have in the restrictions of a government are lesser evils
made necessary by greater ones. It seems then that we should
always obey authorities over us.
57. Pearl, Raymond, ref.19, p.118.
the Book of Acts provides several instances of what appear at
first sight to be contradictions of the principles set forth
in Romans 13. The apostles quite clearly did not obey the authorities
in Acts 5:40-42, for example. Nor did Jesus, at times. How are
we to account for this?
A review of such occasions seems
to indicate that it was the religious authorities and not the
civil authorities who were thus disregarded. Jesus clearly stood
opposed to the high priest, but equally clearly stood in submission
before Pilate ‹ because the real issue here had to do with
the fate of His body and not His soul ‹ despite the fact
that the latter was consenting to an act of wickedness without
parallel in human history.
It would seem from these facts
that Paul's injunction applies to all divinely appointed authority,
including religious authority, but each in its respective sphere.
It appears therefore that the civil authority is responsible
by divine decree for the welfare of the bodies of men rather
than for their souls, the religious authority responsible for
the souls of men rather than for their bodies. So as soon as
a civil authority takes upon itself the responsibility for men's
spiritual lives, it is stepping beyond the sphere of action appointed
for it. By the same token, when religious authorities secure
their power by making use of the sanctions which are properly
the administrative tools of a civil authority, they cease at
once to be spiritual leaders and are rightly challenged.
To state it a little differently,
whenever a religious authority attempts to secure dominion over
the spiritual lives of men by the use of means which belong to
civil authorities, the religious authority ceases to be religious.
And because it was never appointed as a civil authority either,
it has no authority whatever. So as soon as the Jewish officials
took steps against the persons of the apostles, to restrain their
freedom, they ceased to be a divinely appointed religious authority
and were simply ignored. The use of prisons, tortures, restrictions
upon the liberty of movement or labour ‹ all these belong
to the civil authority, not to the religious.
Essentially the church is concerned
with men's souls, and the state with their bodies. It is never
possible to separate a man's soul from his body completely and
therefore there is interaction between church and state; but
the ultimate assertion of authority is limited to each in its
proper sphere. So the church has authority over men's souls (Matthew
16:19; John 20:23), and the government has authority over men's
bodies and goods (Matthew 22:21; Matthew 17:27 in which Jesus
includes Himself; Romans 13:7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:17,18).
has its proper place and, in that place, must be obeyed because
ordained of God. This divine ordination, even of an ungodly man,
was personally acknowledged by Paul when he withdrew his rebuke
against the high priest (Acts 23:2-5).
The division of responsibility
for men's souls and men's bodies results from the fact that society
comprises sinful men. Under perfect conditions the two authorities
would be merged ‹ and indeed will be, in Jesus Christ. In
the meantime, just as an ungodly man may act by divine appointment
in a civil capacity, so an ungodly man may be divinely appointed
to speak in a religious capacity. In the latter case he may not
know it, but his words may still be inspired. The proclamation
of the Word of God is not limited to God's own people, as is
clearly implied by Paul in Philippians 1:15-18. In II Chronicles
35:22, Necho, king of Egypt, declared the word of God to Josiah
who, perhaps not unlike ourselves, did not expect to hear any
word of God from an unbeliever.
When Caiaphas was high priest,
he spoke not of his own volition but simply because he held a
divine appointment. As John put it, "This spake he not of
his own self, but being high priest that year he prophesied that
Jesus should die for that nation" (John 11:51).
It is apparent that the high priests
had been to all intents and purposes without vision at all, during
the intervening period since the time when Jerusalem had fallen
into the hands of the Babylonians. It is apparent therefore that
a careful distinction must be made here where we find that while
God did not speak to such men (hence the lack of "vision"),
He could and did speak through them sometimes. A not altogether
dissimilar instance, of course, is that of Eli with Samuel. Here
is a case where God could not speak directly to Eli, because
he was out of fellowship; nor could He speak at once directly
to Samuel, because he was too unprepared. But He could and did
speak through Eli to Samuel to give him further instructions.
Naturally, from the mere fact that
such a man may be able to speak for God at times, it does not
at all follow that he is always speaking for God. And only the
Holy Spirit can safeguard us in this respect. Certainly it would
be a great mistake to suppose that only the child of God can
speak "the truth."
It is also to be remembered that
heresy has its part to play, not because God ever delights in
untruth, but because the presence of it may be used in His providence
as a challenge calling forth truth that might not otherwise appear.
Scripture assures us that this is so (I Corinthians 11:19). The
Rev. Francis Sharr wrote in
this connection: (58)
58. Sharr, Francis, The Inspiration of
the Holy Scriptures, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London,
between the truth and infidelity has resulted in immense gains
to the Church. The Bible has been read as it never was before
[this was written in 1891]. Champions have been raised up, created
by the warfare. Thousands of books have been written in defense
of the faith that would never have been thought of, if the faith
had not been assailed. No sooner were the famous "Essays
and Reviews" published than three hundred answers were at
once forthcoming. Strauss published his "Life of Jesus"
in 1836. Since that date there have been more lives of the Perfect
Man published than during all the centuries preceding. A little
healthy opposition is good. A storm now and then purifies the
In his Historical
Theology, William Cunningham speaks of the conflict that
arose between Calvinists and Arminians over personal election
and the sovereignty of grace: (59)
Calvinists and anti-Calvinists
have both appealed to the early church in support of their respective
opinions, although we believe it cannot be made out that the
fathers of the first three centuries give any very distinct deliverance
concerning them. These important topics did not become subjects
of controversial discussion during that period; until a doctrine
has been fully discussed in a controversial way by men of
talent and learning taking opposite sides, men's opinions
regarding it are generally obscure and indefinite, and their
language vague and confused, if not contradictory [my emphasis].
In his work,
Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, (60) John Calvin comments to
the same effect when speaking of Augustine's conflict with the
The Pelagians at one time vexed
this holy man with the reproach that he had against him all other
writers of the church. He replies that, before the rise of Pelagius'
heresy, the fathers did not teach so precisely and exactly about
predestination; and this is a fact. What need is there therefore,
Augustine says, to scrutinize the works of those writers who,
before the heresy arose thought it unnecessary to devote themselves
to this difficult question? But this I do not doubt, they would
have done, if enemies of predestination had compelled them to
do so. This reply is both wise and ingenious. For unless the
enemies of the grace of God had not worried him, he also would
never have so devoted himself to discussion of God's election,
as he himself says. For in the work which he titles Concerning
the Gift of Perseverance he says: "This predestination
of the saints is certain and manifest, but necessity later compelled
me to defend it more diligently and laboriously, when discussing
it against a new sect. For we have learned that each heresy introduces
into the Church its own particular question; and Holy Scripture
has to be defended more diligently against these, than if no
such need compelled it".
59. Cunningham, William, Historical Theology,
Banner of Truth Trust, London, reprint 1969, vol.1, p.179.
60. Calvin, John, James Clarke, London, reprint 1961, p.62.
In a sense, this controversy
generated Reformed theology.
It is to be feared that we as Christians
adopt a rather superior attitude when we suppose that men of
the world who do not share our faith are of no use to God and
little concern to Him. God sometimes needs bad
men to do a job that a good man could not do, and an unbeliever
to perform a necessary task which a believer could not undertake.
A bad government may, as we have
seen, be considered a lesser evil than no government at all.
As such it may readily be credited directly to God's providence
and submitted to in His Name, even at great personal sacrifice.
For to do anything else is to weaken the lesser evil which serves
to restrain the greater evil, thus paving the way for the latter
to have free course. As Andre Schlemmer remarks with characteristic
insight, "The State is not meant to produce on earth perfection,
nor happiness, nor even the Kingdom of God. Its real value is
to maintain enough order to allow the Church to preach the Gospel
and to transmit God's call to His children." (61) It thus serves to guarantee
the completion of the Body of Christ with which its Head will
bring in the new order in His own good time. The task of a government
is essentially negative: the restraint of evil that good may
When the ebb of public life is
very, very low, it is probable that no other kind of government
than an evil one could survive. Resistance on our part is therefore
probably non-productive. We do not mean that no expression of
disagreement should be voiced, but rather that no steps should
be taken to force a change in government by the use of violence.
Protest may surely be in order, but not active resistance.
This does not mean that we should
adopt the attitude that there is nothing we can do in a time
of evil and therefore we should not or need not try. The answer
to this is that we are so constituted that we cannot help trying.
In fact, the more hopeless the situation appears to be, the more
likely is it that men will rise up to attempt reform. As long
as one accepts life and is willing to continue with it, one must
strive; "trying" is merely the name we give to the
efforts exerted in the very process of living. All of which means
that an evil government is not necessarily outside the will of
God, and thus it must have some redeeming features, could we
see the situation in its entirety, if for no other reason than
the challenge it brings to our faith.
61. Schlemmer, Andre, Crisis in the World
of Thought, InterVarsity, London, 1940, p.58.
becomes reasonably clear, therefore, that God in His infinite
wisdom appoints only those governments which can survive in states
which happen to be completely corrupt. And in a similar way,
God may appoint an "unbelieving" ecclesiastical dignitary
in a time of spiritual decay. No one but an unbelieving high
priest would have agreed to the crucifixion of the nation's true
King! But it was necessary that this true King be unrecognized
and rejected. And Caiaphas spoke as for God on that one day.
This is in no sense an answer to
the age-old problem of the relationship between the church and
state. It does indicate, however, some of the principles which
Scripture clearly supports, and it may yet, by opening out fresh
views, contribute light to minds of greater precision who may
thus be enabled to hit upon the exact truth.
In this general
connection, we should perhaps give a moment's attention to one
further point which has been of concern to political philosophers.
It is often held that freedom is a basic good and that restraint
of freedom is an evil of the worst kind. It is reflected in the
Atlantic Charter and the expression there of a hope of achieving
certain basic freedoms on an international scale. But while we
readily admit that men ought to be free, there are necessary
qualifications. If the freedom of one man (a criminal, for instance)
endangers the freedom of many men, we feel rightly that the restraint
of his freedom by imprisonment is just.
The existence of prisons, of restraints
legally established, of many forms of punishment for the protection
of the innocent ‹ all these, though evils in one sense, are
goods in another. Granted that there are miscarriages of justice
now and then, by and large the sanctions of the law, its powers
to punish, are ultimate goods. In fact, punishment may itself
be a blessing, or at least the threat of it may be.
It is a curious thing that today
psychologists are beginning to admit the value of punishment,
not as a deterrent, but as an incentive to achievement. Leonard
Carmichael remarked: (62)
Many students find it helpful
to set mild punishments for themselves if their allotted tasks
are not performed. Most scholarly workers indeed find that they
must solve the problem of not allowing apparently unfavourable
environmental conditions to interfere with work that they must
do. It is helpful to remember that psychological experiments
62. Carmichael, Leonard, "Laziness and
the Scholarly Life," in Scientific Monthly, April
on distractions show that interpolated
noise or other unpleasant interruption instead of cutting down
work actually may, at times, have a so-called dynamogenic effect
and make the individual do more and better work when the distraction
is present than when absent. Thus the scholar who complains of
the radio in the next room, the glare of the library light, or
the whispering of his companions, is beginning to show dangerous
signs of blaming his surroundings for his own shortcoming.
complain bitterly of the threat of examinations. If only one
could be free to study as one wished without the burden of necessity
of learning things just for the sake of getting good marks later
on! But in courses which do not involve the writing of examinations,
it is found consistently that the learning rate and the measure
of attention and consequently of interest is apt to be very,
very low. But the approach of examinations does positively stimulate
us markedly, and in the end we are benefited and glad.
Erich Fromm makes a careful analysis
of the question of political freedom. (63) He points out that men have a powerful and almost
innate desire to be free and unrestrained, but in actual fact,
when they find themselves to be quite free, become restless and
afraid. There is a price to pay. The penalty is the necessity
of making decisions for oneself which are otherwise made by someone
else for us. While we may well complain about the things we are
then expected to do in obedience to the authority over us, we
are at least relieved of all burden of responsibility for the
success or failure which ensues upon strict obedience. Many people
cannot decide for themselves even in the simplest matters, yet
they are often the very people who make the loudest protests
against being told what to do! Freedom of choice has its drawbacks.
Part of the delightful, carefree spirit of childhood lies in
the fact that life is ordered for us by others, however much
we rebel at times. The same observations apply with equal validity
to the life of a man in the armed forces, which explains the
attraction it has for many.
are often blessings. Job complained of the hedge which God had
put around him, limiting (as he supposed) his freedom of action
(Job 1:10). But Satan also complained of the hedge which God
had thus put about His servant Job (Job 3:23)! It often depends
upon the point of view. African natives can jump much higher
than Europeans simply because they carry stones in each hand
when they jump. This might be thought to be a handicap which
would load them down and restrict their leap. Actually, as they approach the
63. Fromm, Erich, Escape From Freedom,
Rinehart, New York, 1941.
crossbar which they
hope to clear, they stoop down and then quickly swing up both
arms above their heads. At the same time they leap from the ground.
The momentum gathered by the stone in each hand, as it is swung
upwards, lifts them as they spring from the ground, so that they
clear the bar at far higher levels than Europeans can. For this
very "unfair" method, they are disqualified from jumping
in the Olympics in their own style! By the same token, a kite
will not fly unless its flight is restrained. The moment you
let go of the string the kite comes down. And a contrary wind
The principle in all these situations
is the same. Restraint is essential to forward movement. It is
fundamentally true that for man, perfect freedom lies ultimately
in perfect obedience to perfect law. But in the absence of these
perfections some restraint (however undesirable it may seem)
or some government (however evil it may appear to be) is absolutely
essential to our well-being.
The world grows
"smaller" and more compact each day. The extension
of communication has brought an end to the distances which once
made it possible for nations to act in isolation. The world itself
is becoming a single society, and within that society the behaviour
of a single member may endanger the peace of the whole world.
Concerted action may become necessary to restrain it.
No one wants the horrors of war.
But it would not be true to say that no one wants war. Nations,
like gangsters, sometimes thrive on it ‹ it is by tradition
in their blood. This is particularly true in those areas of the
world where natural resources are too limited to support the
population, but it is also true of other nations who have suffered
no such handicaps. It seems difficult to find any justification
for war, except that there are rights to be maintained between
nations as there are between families or even individuals. Yet
it is difficult in most cases to establish who is really maintaining
the right. The causes of most wars (barring those which spring
from the desire of some individual for personal aggrandizement)
are deeply rooted in the historical precedents.
We do know that in most cases,
if not in all, no matter how evil war may be, it could still
be a lesser evil
than the absence of war when this means the surrender of some
ideal of absolute value. A peace based upon unjustified compromise
with wrong may not be better than a conflict, even a lost conflict.
There are, however, other effects
resulting from war which may be beneficial in ways not usually
recognized. The Word of God clearly indicates that "war
must needs be". This statement is specific and is repeated
clearly on several occasions: Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9.
appoints boundaries for the nations (Acts 17:26). There is a
good reason for this. In the early days of human history, when
man undertook to thwart the purposes of God by building a rallying
point to make sure that the population would not be scattered
too widely over the plain (Genesis 11:1-5) or lose contact with
the "central government", seeking thereby to remain
a unified culture of one mind and one speech, God undertook to
bring their plans to naught. By a confusion of language supernaturally
imposed, men found themselves no longer able to cooperate and
soon scattered in every direction over the face of the earth,
thereafter developing independently.
This desire to re-establish unity
is strongly with us today. It is based on the "ideal"
of One World. There would be a serious penalty to pay for such
unity, however. It would inevitably result in mediocrity and
in a suspicion of all expression of individuality and therefore
of true greatness. Such men as Nicholas Berdyaev and Leslie Paul
(64) have warned
against the tendency of all such movements to enforce conformity
in every sphere of human endeavor. All that would remain would
be the herd instinct to survive. This would in fact, be the annihilation
of man as an individual.
Now, the confusion of language
brought about by divine intervention led to a widespread dispersion
in which isolated segments, preserved intact by language, thenceforth
tended to develop along their own lines a kind of "national
character" that is quite distinct, though often very hard
to define in so many words. The existence of such national characters
has been of great benefit to mankind, as we shall see. It is
admitted that diversity of language may limit communication at
times and lead to grave misunderstandings, and even upon occasion
to war. But by and large the diversity seems a providentially
wise arrangement, because man's nature is such that when he does
agree to concerted action, that action is too often sinful. Thus,
when the appointed boundaries tend to break down, it appears
that God once more restores them by permitting wars to arise.
Let us illustrate this a little more clearly by reference to
some observations made by others along these lines.
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury,
shortly after the end of World War II observed (65)
64. Berdyaev, Nicholas, The Fate of Man
in the Modern World, Morehouse, New York, 1935, and Paul,
Leslie, The Annihilation of Man, Harcourt Brace, New York,
65. Temple, William, The Church Looks Forward, Macmillan,
London, 1944, p.175.
new boon man first degrades into a curse; everything that should
make for wider and richer fellowship, he makes into a cause of
fresh and bitter division. The things which should have been
for our health became to us an occasion for falling. This is
the state of fallen man.
The supreme usurpation is spoken
of (in Genesis 11) as frustrated by the confusion of men's speech.
The ambition of Babel led to that name becoming a symbol of confusion.
For man could achieve even that semblance of success in his titanic
self-assertion only if he could prevent the outbreak of divisions
and rivalries. The multiplication of tongues, each representing
a special tradition and a peculiar hope, has effectually prevented
man from achieving a godless contentment. Thus from the selfish
ambition which essays the blasphemous task of establishing an
independence of God and usurpation of His throne springs also
the fresh rivalry which makes the effort ineffectual. Evil has
at least this much of good about it, that its own nature renders
speaking as a confirmed evolutionist, points out that there is
always a tendency for men to desire to band together and that
such co-ordination of goals and aspirations would have a disastrous
effect upon the individual. (66)
In the far off end, all mankind
will presumably be a rather uniform lot; all looking, thinking
and acting pretty much the same way, like sheep. Just in proportion
as biological differences between people diminish, so will the
frequency of wars diminish. But the diminution seems likely to
be at a very slow rate. And a low cynic might suggest that even
wars, stupid and horrid as they are, would perhaps be preferable
to that deadly uniformity among men towards which we are slowly
but surely breeding our way.
As a matter
of fact, competition between peoples has been beneficial at times.
Thus John Swanton observed, "The highest spots in intellectual
productivity until very recent times have been reached in countries
divided into small competing states."(67)
have developed what the psychologists term "basal"
or "modal" personalities. It is exceedingly difficult
to specify the characteristics of any national group, either
in personality structure or in bodily form. It is not too difficult
to spot nationals away from home, but to define them exactly
is much more difficult. One thinks it easy enough to distinguish
between a Chinaman and an Englishman, but to state that the former
has straight black hair, almond-shaped and brown eyes, a
double fold in the eye lid, olive complexion, comparative hairlessness
of the face and body, and slightly reduced stature is not sufficient.
It might be thought to be but actually many Englishmen have brown
eyes, with the oriental slant, straight black hair, olive skin,
and so forth. Yet the impression of a stereotype Chinaman remains
and is useful as a term of reference.
66. Pearl Raymond, ref.19, p.39.
67. Swanton, John, "Some Thoughts on the Problem of Progress
and Decline" in Science, vol.89, 24 March,
same is true of personality types. The Chinaman is normally as
lacking in outward expression of emotion as the Italian is forward
in it. The Frenchman speaking in his animated, hand waving, and
dramatic fashion is clearly a different kind of person from the
unemotional Englishman talking casually with his hands in his
pockets. Irish wit and German thoroughness, and Russian patience
and stolidness . . . these are readily recognized. The wedding
of these characteristics in individuals of mixed parentage often
leads to exceptional personalities. Examples of this blending
are numerous. It is sometimes argued that so-called half-breeds
bad lot, combining the worst of both sides in one individual.
This depends upon the status of half-breeds in the eyes of the
community; there is no evidence that such mixtures are in themselves
detrimental to intelligence or personality. In fact, the purest
races have been found consistently to produce the smallest number
of truly great men. Such races have few cultural peaks in their
history. Then the preservation of distinct nationalities leaves
the way open for the appearance of mixtures now and then which
result in gains for all concerned. That all men should be of
"one blood" (Acts 17:26) means that all men can freely
interbreed; but that God also sets boundaries to nations means
that distinctions will still be preserved. When these boundaries
show signs of breaking down, conflicts arise; and by a natural
process, providentially appointed, they tend to be re-established
once more. A lesser evil prevents a greater one.
Moreover, different languages give
us different world views. We may assume, in our ethnocentricity,
that our concepts about the nature of reality are valid and absolute
and the only ones of consequence. Recent studies made by linguists
have suggested that this may well be a fallacy. Thus Dr. Alexander
Gode, deriving his inspiration from the writings of Benjamin
Lee Whorf, wrote: (68)
I believe that those who envision
a future world speaking only one tongue, whether English, German,
Russian or any other, hold a misguided ideal and would do the
evolution of the human mind the greatest disservice.
Western culture has made, through
language, a provisional analysis of reality and, without correctives,
holds resolutely to that analysis as final. The correctives lie
in all those other tongues which by eons of independent evolution
have arrived at different, but equally logical provisional analysis.
68. Gode, Alexander, "The Case for Interlingua"
in Scientific Monthly, August, 1953, p.90.
Even in ecclesiastical history, some of the "wars"
which have led to the formation of denominations have undoubtedly
served a valuable purpose, despite the plea made by our Lord
that we might be "one". The oneness is to be a unity
of harmony, not a unity of identity.
Andrew Murray had this to say on
the subject of denominationalism: (69)
Our place on this earth is such
that we can only see one half of the starry heavens at a time.
And so in the great sphere of Divine Truth, no mind is large
enough to grasp the whole. Every truth in man's hands becomes
one-sided. God's way of remedying this defect and its danger
is to entrust one aspect of truth to one portion of His Church,
while another holds the abuse of it in check by testifying to
some different aspect. In this way, the dependence of all on
each other is to be maintained, and the triumph of love in the
midst of difference to be made manifest.
The Church of
England might be thought of as the guardian of order and reverence,
the Presbyterians of church order and divine sovereignty, the
Baptists of obedience, the Plymouth Brethren of separation from
the world, the Pentecostalists of the freedom of the Spirit,
the United Church of Christ of the need for Christian concern
with the affairs of men, the Salvation Army with the poor and
needy in a special way, and so forth. These divisions may be
artificial and may even anger some who read them. The point is
not that we insist upon coupling these characteristics together,
but rather that there is a real sense in which each denomination
exists for the emphasis of one or more aspects of Christian faith
and conduct, which, were it not for their emphasis, might be
lost to the church of God altogether. It is as though in all
these things ‹ in national life, in language, in denominationalism
‹ God has created a paint box in which the characteristics
are the palettes of colour. To mix them all together would be
to bring an end to the possibility of any kind of picture. Some
may be mixed to create new colors, but the originals must remain
intact, if the end-result is to be anything more than black and
white only. Some colours, moreover, will inevitably clash. But
this is the price paid for the greater possibilities. As the
Christian Union of Professional Men of Greece remarked, "There
is always a saving inconsistency, an inconsistency which checks
the wrong in our civilization and does not let it come to completion.
Without this inconsistency the results would be too terrible
to contemplate." (70)
69. Murray, Andrew, The Children of Christ,
Nisbet, London, 1905, p.438.
70. The Damascus Publications, Athens, 1950, p.33.
There remains yet the problem of disease. The subject
is exceedingly complex, since animals which existed long before
man (and therefore before the entrance of sin) are known to have
been afflicted with diseases of various kinds, such as dental
In some instances a sickness occasionally
proves to be a benefit both to the sufferer and to those influenced
by the patient, so that it no longer appears as an evil but rather
as a blessing in disguise. Much depends on the "bent"
of the soul. In other instances the form of the sickness, as
in the case of imbecility, probably does not cause the afflicted
individual to suffer personally, but it may have a salutary influence
upon at least some of those related to or associated with the
invalid. A well-known geneticist with an international reputation
observed, when lecturing, that she did not feel there was any
justification for taking steps by law to sterilize one or both
parents who may have borne more than one imbecile child, lest
they should raise other such children. Her argument was that
such individuals are usually harmless and happy and serve to
keep alive within us certain attitudes of sympathy and patience
which in the absence of all such sicknesses might tend to disappear,
allowing us to become hard and callous and impatient. This geneticist,
Dr. Norma Ford Walker of the Medical School in the University
of Toronto, asked:
Is there any reason to judge
a highly intelligent and "successful" businessman who
climbs over the backs of those less ambitious and energetic,
and achieves prominence by selfish and shady means, a more desirable
offspring than a harmless imbecile? If not, ought we not by the
same reasoning, to sterilize one or both of his parents so that
no more such undesirable characters would be introduced into
There may well
be reasons why God permits such forms of disease to exist for
our good. In many cases man himself must be held responsible.
But what of cancer, or that host of other sicknesses resulting
from a multitude of germs that seem to appear in ever-increasing
No sooner is a treatment discovered
for one disease than a new form of the germ appears and the old
treatment is no longer found to be effective. It is a significant
fact that anthropologists find little evidence, in the earliest
fossil remains, of disease such as would leave its marks upon
the bone structure. But there is increasing evidence as the centuries
roll by. The great American anthropologist Alex Hrdlicka, speaking
of the earliest fossil remains, remarked: (72)
is no trace, in the adults, of any destructive constitutional
disease. There are marks of fractures, some traces of arthritis
of the vertebrae, and in two cases (La Chapelle and the Rhodesian
Skull) of dental caries. The
71. Coonen, L. P., "The Prehistoric Roots
of Biology" in Scientific Monthly, September, 1951,
72. Hrdlicka, Alex, "Anthropology and Medicine" in
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol.10, 1926,
teeth in the remaining specimens are
often more or less worn, but as a rule free from disease, and
there is, aside from the above two specimens, little disease
of the alveolar processes. It appears, therefore, that on the
whole, early man was remarkably free from such diseases as would
leave any evidence on his bones or teeth.
Then he turned
to somewhat later human remains and he observed, "Such diseases
as syphilis, rachitis, tuberculosis, cancer (of the bone, at
least), hydrocephalus, etc., were unknown or rare. . . ."
Finally, he observed a gradual increase of other diseases of
bone and teeth, and when he examined the much later remains of
early man, he remarked, "As we proceed towards men of today,
particularly in the white race, pathological conditions of the
bone become more common."
Similarly George Dorsey, comparing
modern man with his more remote ancestors, pointed out, "There
are signs of degeneration in teeth, in jaws and throat, in the
large intestine. . . . Our ancestors had strong jaws, heavy muscles,
sound teeth properly aligned, big throats and a colon that could
digest the husks of grain and the skins of fruits and vegetables."
Since those very early days, it
seems that man has steadily degenerated. Not merely have men
compounded their sicknesses by the natural processes of interbreeding,
and by willful disregard of some of the divinely appointed rules
for human conduct, but the offending germs themselves have compounded
by mutation; so that new forms of old sicknesses multiply with
bewildering rapidity as the race grows older, and hospitals spring
up like mushrooms in a vain attempt to keep pace.
These mutant forms of micro-organisms
which cause new kinds of old diseases are known to be appearing
continually, often rendering previous medication and treatment
no longer effective. R. E. D. Clark observed:(74)
Bacteria and viruses are slightly
altered when they are grown in a new species of animal ‹
or even when they are treated with certain chemicals. After the
alterations, the symptoms of the disease they produce sometimes
change enormously ‹ dangerous micro-organisms may become
harmless (and even perhaps useful after a long time), or harmless
ones may become virulent. There is also evidence ‹ not convincing
as yet ‹ that individual genes sometimes become separated
from chromosomes and cause disease by reproducing themselves
where they are not wanted. Some biologists think that bacteriophages
and viruses are produced in this way. If this is so, we shall
have to look upon many dangerous micro-organisms not as special
creations designed to torment people, but as structures beautifully
made for some wholly different purpose which have become misplaced
by accident. In addition there are good reasons for thinking
that the genesis of many diseases of cells, such as tuberculosis
and cancer, must also be regarded in this light. Another important
point is that most, if not all, parasites are now believed to
be the descendants of free living animals which, in becoming
adapted to their new form of life, have lost many of their original
powers. Thus the evidence is directly against our supposing that
they were ever intended to be parasites.
73. Dorsey, George, ref.44, p.21.
74. Clark, R. E. D., The Universe and God, Hodder &
Stoughton, London, 1953, p.233.
William Tinkle observed in this same connection, (75)
As for diseases, they are caused
by bacteria which resemble the bacteria that cause decay, a beneficial
The worn out leaves of plants along with the wastes from animals
are transformed by decay into the best of soil
from which plants resurrect food for mankind. Perhaps the original
bacteria were of the type which enriched the
soil in this way, but some of them were changed by mutations
(a downhill process) so that they caused disease in
the human body.
are known to have taken place. P. G. Fothergill had this observation
to make: (76)
In 1930, Todd reported the effects
of selection on the Streptococcus haemolyticus, the microbe
which causes scarlet fever and puerperal fever. If this organism
is grown on agar it very soon loses its virulence and powers
of infecting animals. Todd discovered that the organism produces
hydrogen peroxide and, when grown in agar cultures, this substance
is toxic to it. Mutations, however, arise which do not produce
hydrogen peroxide, or at least much less of it than the normal
strain, and so the mutants are enabled to live on agar. These
mutants are also less virulent in animals.
Yet, for all
this, bacteria and other such forms are essential to the continuance
of life on the earth. As J. S. D. Bacon pointed out: (77)
a world free from bacteria, yeasts and fungi and the single-celled
plants and animals would be unthinkable, it does not harm to
try to speculate on the results of their disappearance. Although
there would be no measles, or whooping cough, or tuberculosis,
although dead plants and animals would not decay and produce
objectionable odors, there would be no yeast to make bread .
. . and milk would remain fresh and could no longer be converted
into cheese. The leguminous crops (like peas and beans) used
to restore nitrogen to depleted soils would be valueless, ruminant
animals like the cow would die of starvation in the midst of
plenty, and all over the world dead plants and animal material
would begin to pile up.
Probably the plant and animal life
of the seas and rivers would begin to decline, and there would
soon be fewer fish in the sea than ever came out of it. The world
would, in fact, lose a part of its living population which has
become essential to the existence of much of what would remain.
75. Tinkle, William, "Look Again Before
You Doubt," pamphlet published by American Scientific
Affiliation, 1953, pp.2-3.
76. Fotbergill, P. G., Historical Aspects of Organic Evolution,
Hollis and Carter, London, 1952, p.331.
77. Bacon, J. S. D., The Chemistry of Life, Watts &
Co., London, 1947, p.92.
As a matter of fact, it is highly probable that life
would not continue for long in any form without these micro-organisms.
That something has gone wrong with them and diseases have resulted
is readily admitted, but that they are in themselves evils, or
were so created, is not true.
This disorder within nature appears
in many forms. It is a challenge to us to set it right. Sufficient
might reverse the trends if they have not already progressed
too far. Certainly radioactive materials resulting from the use
of atomic power are likely to bring about an increase in mutational
forms and a corresponding increase in new diseases. But if we
could spend as much time and money in medical research as we
spend in the development of destructive armaments, many of these
suggestive lines of inquiry might long ago have been followed
up fruitfully and the most terrible forms of disease have surrendered
to treatment. Already wonderful uses have been made of such micro-organisms
as penicillin, for example; but it is doubtful if research can
do any more now than find means of delaying or alleviating the
results of centuries of dislocation in nature.
This dislocation is found everywhere.
The stings of wasps are believed to have once been an organ serving
as an ovipositor, and probably many other similar defense weapons
of living creatures were either harmless or served other more
constructive purposes in the original creation. Herbert Wendt
said of the sting of the wasp: (78)
Professor Hans Weinert of the
Medical Faculty of the University of Kiel . . . found that the
offensive sting of wasps and bees was merely a transformed laying
funnel such as the more primitive types of hymenopters, ichneumon
flies, wood wasps, and ground wasps possess.
If there will
be "no hurt" (Isaiah 11:9; 65:25) when Jesus returns,
we are perhaps justified in supposing that proper government
of the world would have prevented all forms of hurt. Indeed,
the very fact that a single liquid spray can be developed to
kill off so many different types of weeds without injuring the
grass implies that a single cause may well lie at the root of
the problem of the appearance of harmful weeds in the first place.
Is it altogether fanciful to ask whether in the final analysis
there may not be a single cause for all evils that now exist,
in whatever form they may appear ‹ and, if a single cause,
why not a single remedy?
For the present, man's dominion
over the world is an intellectual one. He is master because he
has superior intelligence. He can fly higher than the birds,
run faster than the cheetah, lift greater loads than the elephant,
and "swim" farther than the fishes of the sea. But
it is quite possible that the "dominion" which he was
appointed to have was not merely this kind of technical superiority,
but a moral one. Many animals seem to sense this. Not a few animals
yield to man's presence so long as he shows no fear of them.
Those who have had to deal with dangerous animals have often
remarked upon this fact. It could throw light on why it is that
many vicious creatures become docile in the hands of a child.
78. Wendt, Herbert, I Looked for Adam,
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1955, p.420.
the training of pets, it has often been observed that they learn
more quickly the difference between right and wrong than between
"good" and "evil". Let me illustrate what
is meant here. We once had a little spaniel that constantly got
burrs in his fur, a thing which caused him great annoyance but
which he never learned to avoid. We lived in the country, which
gave plenty of opportunity for this to happen. He also ate things
frequently that made him sick. What he ate we did not know ‹
it looked like straw! He usually vomited a little afterward .
. . yet he never learned to avoid eating it, whatever it was!
We had only to command the spaniel
not to do something he was about to do, and he learned almost
immediately. Whenever he was subsequently tempted to do it again,
the struggle against "temptation" was
almost visible, but he rarely had to be reprimanded twice. Experience
when he was not directly under the dominion of man did not teach
him after many, many trials what he would learn almost at once
when properly governed by his acknowledged master. It was no
longer necessary to have the means of physically restraining
him: the command was sufficient. This is analogous to the kind
of dominion which a farmer exercises in his own farm yard, where
herbivorous and carnivorous animals learn to live together in
harmony, needing only his presence to maintain order and peace.
In our fallen condition
many of the evils ‹ famine, poverty, sickness, and so on
‹ can at least be considered as not without some vital justification
and some compensating good, in that they keep alive within us,
as a race, certain attitudes of heart which are beneficial to
ourselves and to those around us. Christians are to be made completely
perfect through suffering, and the world is to be preserved from
complete corruption by the same agency. In one direction, suffering
serves to guarantee the ultimate perfection of the saints; in
the other direction, it serves to guarantee that the opposite
shall not come about for the race as a whole. This is true in
the intellectual realm also. Andre Schlemmer pointed out: (79)
The Christian is acquainted
with the disintegrating factor that affects the whole human race
and all its works, and gives it the name of SIN. All the happenings
of life suggest the deterioration not only of man's desires and
affections, but of his intelligence also. Here is the doctrine,
we could say the FACT, of the complete depravity of man. But
the common grace of God limits the destructive effects of sin
and maintains what is necessary to prevent his destruction and
keep man still human until the fulfillment of God's plan.
part of this "common grace" is the presence of evil.
There are evils such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that
cannot be directly related to man's sinfulness even though they
may be providentially timed to punish that sin. But there are
evils that are of God's direct making (Amos 3:6), of his creating
(Isaiah 45:7), placed in man's way as directly and deliberately
from the hand of God as the good things He
sends (Job 2:10), for may not evil proceed from Him just as blessing
does (Lamentations 3:37,38)? Is not the waster who destroys also
a creature of God (Isaiah 54:16)? Every such evil must have an
element of mercy and potential blessing in it if God is sovereign
and if Romans 8:28 is true. Indeed, as fallen creatures,
these evils may be absolutely essential to our survival and welfare,
if we could but see far enough, so that in spite of all appearances
to the contrary in the fortunes of individuals at particular
times, mankind may still be living in what J. B. Cabell called
"the best of all possible worlds". This vale
of tears is a blessed vale, for all its tears, because the common
grace of God is sovereign and He is wiser than men.
79. Schlemmer, Andre, ref.61, p.25.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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