The Permission of Evil, Part 2

The Permission of Evil, Part 2

The Permission of Evil

“The principles of right and wrong, as principles, have always existed, and must always exist; and all perfect, intelligent creatures in God’s likeness must be free to choose either, though the right principle only will forever continue to be active. The Scriptures inform us that when the activity of the evil principle has been permitted long enough to accomplish God’s purpose, it will forever cease to be active, and that all who continue to submit to its control shall forever cease to exist. (1 Cor. 15:25,26; Heb. 2:14) Right-doing and right-doers, only, shall continue forever.

But the question recurs in another form: Could not man have been made acquainted with evil in some other way by experience? There are four ways of knowing things, namely, by intuition, by observation, by experience, and by information received through sources accepted as positively truthful. An intuitive knowledge would be a direct apprehension, without the process of reasoning, or the necessity for proof. Such knowledge belongs only to the divine Jehovah, the eternal fountain of all wisdom and truth, who, of necessity and in the very nature of things, is superior to all his creatures. Therefore, man’s knowledge of good and evil could not be intuitive. Man’s knowledge might have come by observation, but in that event there must needs have been some exhibition of evil and its results for man to observe. This would imply the permission of evil somewhere, among some beings, and why not as well among men, and upon the earth, as among others elsewhere?

Why should not man be the illustration, and get his knowledge by practical experience? It is so: man is gaining a practical experience, and is furnishing an illustration to others as well, being “made a spectacle to angels.”

Adam already had a knowledge of evil by information, but that was insufficient to restrain him from trying the experiment. Adam and Eve knew God as their Creator, and hence as the one who had the right to control and direct them; and God had said of the forbidden tree, “In the day thou eats thereof, dying thou shalt die.” They had, therefore, a theoretical knowledge of evil, though they had never observed or experienced its effects. Consequently, they did not appreciate their Creator’s loving authority and his beneficent law, nor the dangers from which he thereby proposed to protect them. They therefore yielded to the temptation which God wisely permitted, the ultimate utility of which his wisdom had traced.

Few appreciate the severity of the temptation under which our first parents fell, nor yet the justice of God in attaching so severe a penalty to what seems to many so slight an offense; but a little reflection will make all plain. The Scriptures tell the simple story of how the woman, the weaker one, was deceived, and thus became a transgressor. Her experience and acquaintance with God were even more limited than Adam’s, for he was created first, and God had directly communicated to him before her creation the knowledge of the penalty of sin, while Eve probably received her information from Adam. When she had partaken of the fruit, she, having put confidence in Satan’s deceptive misrepresentation, evidently did not realize the extent of the transgression, though probably she had misgivings, and slight apprehensions that all was not well. But, although deceived, Paul says she was a transgressor– though not so culpable as if she had transgressed against greater light.

Adam, we are told, unlike Eve, was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14), hence he must have transgressed with a fuller realization of the sin, and with the penalty in view, knowing certainly that he must die. We can readily see what was the temptation which impelled him thus recklessly to incur the pronounced penalty. Bearing in mind that they were perfect beings, in the mental and moral likeness of their Maker, the godlike element of love was displayed with marked prominence by the perfect man toward his beloved companion, the perfect woman. Realizing the sin and fearing Eve’s death, and thus his loss (and that without hope of recovery, for no such hope had been given), Adam, in despair, recklessly concluded not to live without her. Deeming his own life unhappy and worthless without her companionship, he willfully shared her act of disobedience in order to share the death penalty which he probably supposed rested on her. Both were “in the transgression,” as the Apostle shows. (Rom. 5:14; 1 Tim. 2:14) But Adam and Eve were one and not “twain”; hence Eve shared the sentence which her conduct helped to bring upon Adam. Rom. 5:12,17-19

God not only foresaw that, having given man freedom of choice, he would, through lack of full appreciation of sin and its results, accept it, but he also saw that, becoming acquainted with it, he would still choose it, because that acquaintance would so impair his moral nature that evil would gradually become more agreeable and more desirable to him than good. Still, God designed to permit evil, because, having the remedy provided for man’s release from its consequences, he saw that the result would be to lead him, through experience, to a full appreciation of “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” and of the matchless brilliancy of virtue in contrast with it–thus teaching him the more to love and honor his Creator, who is the source and fountain of all goodness, and forever to shun that which brought so much woe and misery.

So the final result will be greater love for God, and greater hatred of all that is opposed to his will, and consequently the firm establishment in everlasting righteousness of all such as shall profit by the lessons God is now teaching through the permission of sin and correlative evils. However, a wide distinction should be observed between the indisputable fact that God has permitted sin, and the serious error of some which charges God with being the author and instigator of sin. The latter view is both blasphemous and contradictory to the facts presented in the Scriptures. Those who fall into this error generally do so in an attempt to find another plan of salvation than that which God has provided through the sacrifice of Christ as our ransom-price. If they succeed in convincing themselves and others that God is responsible for all sin and wickedness and crime,* and that man as an innocent tool in his hands was forced into sin, then they have cleared the way for the theory that not a sacrifice for our sins, nor mercy in any form, was needed, but simply and only JUSTICE. Thus, too, they lay a foundation for another part of their false theory, viz., universalism, claiming that as God caused all the sin and wickedness and crime in all, he will also cause the deliverance of all mankind from sin and death. And reasoning that God willed and caused the sin, and that none could resist him, so they claim that when he shall will righteousness all will likewise be powerless to resist him. But in all such reasoning, man’s noblest quality, liberty of will or choice, the most striking feature of his likeness to his Creator, is entirely set aside; and man is theoretically degraded to a mere machine which acts only as it is acted upon. If this were the case, man, instead of being the lord of earth, would be inferior even to insects; for they undoubtedly have a will or power of choice. Even the little ant has been given a power of will which man, though by his greater power he may oppose and thwart, cannot destroy.”

*Two texts of Scripture (Isa. 45:7 and Amos 3:6) are used to sustain this theory, but by a misinterpretation of the word evil in both texts. Sin is always an evil, but an evil is not always a sin. An earthquake, a conflagration, a flood or a pestilence would be a calamity, an evil; but none of these would be sins. The word evil in the texts cited signifies calamities. The same Hebrew word is translated affliction in Psa. 34:19; 107:39; Jer. 48:16; Zech. 1:15. It is translated trouble in Psa. 27:5; 41:1; 88:3; 107:26; Jer. 51:2; Lam. 1:21. It is translated calamities, adversity, and distress in 1 Sam. 10:19; Psa. 10:6; 94:13; 141:5; Eccl. 7:14; Neh. 2:17. And the same word is in very many places rendered harm, mischief, sore, hurt, misery, grief and sorrow.

In Isa. 45:7 and Amos 3:6 the Lord would remind Israel of his covenant made with them as a nation–that if they would obey his laws he would bless them and protect them from the calamities common to the world in general; but that if they would forsake him he would bring calamities (evils) upon them as chastisements. See Deut. 28:1-14,15-32; Lev. 26:14-16; Josh. 23:6-11,12-16.

When calamities came upon them, however, they were inclined to consider them as accidents and not as chastisements. Hence God sent them word through the prophets, reminding them of their covenant and telling them that their calamities were from him and by his will for their correction. It is absurd to use these texts to prove God the author of sin, for they do not at all refer to sin. (A121-126)

Continued with next post.