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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part III:  The Problem of Evil

Chapter 1

The Evils Resulting from the Curse:
A:  Death, Thorns & Thistles

     ONE IS always a little suspicious of an answer that is too complete. Things don't work out that way. In fact, the unanswered questions make life worth living. There is a stimulation in being faced with problems which appear almost, but not quite, insoluble.
     Frequently one hears the remark that the problem of suffering is beyond us. The world is so full of misfortune. Everywhere men and women and children, the innocent and the guilty alike, suffer unbelievable hardships, physical and emotional. The whole creation groans indeed. Disease, poverty, bereavement, disaster, war, accident, and the sheer wickedness of man to man -- all hourly add their awful total to history until one wonders whether God is still in His heaven, or at least, whether He cares. Then we are warned that we must
not question the goodness of God: we must simply trust that in spite of all appearances to the contrary, God is still loving and merciful. But we do question. It is part of the process of living to ask questions.
     And there are some answers. Sometimes they are amazingly satisfying, sometimes they scarcely help at all. A lot depends on our mood and our experience. One day a pupil asked a learned rabbi, "Why, if God abhors the idols men worship, does He not destroy them all?"
     The old man replied, "Because some of these idols are a necessary part of the economy of nature, like the
sun and the moon."
     "Then in that case," answered the pupil, "why does He not destroy at least those which are not a part of nature?"
     "Because," replied the rabbi, "if He destroyed some and not others, it would appear that He was agreeing to the worship of those which He did not destroy."

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     Such was the kind of answer given in an age when wisdom was greater and knowledge was less. Today we have more knowledge, but scarcely more wisdom. Our knowledge is always fragmentary -- so answers to this great problem must suffer accordingly. Yet we do have some light, and we should surely acquaint ourselves with all we can.
     Now, if God foresaw the evils which were to result from man's disobedience, He must surely have taken account of them in His plans. Even the sinfulness of man is sometimes turned to man's own good by the overruling providence of God. How great have been the sufferings of some folk as a result of disease - -yet God has sometimes wrought amazing things by those whose lives could only be made useful by such means. The Lord's redeemed are made perfect by suffering -- there does not seem to be any other way; it thus becomes a blessing in disguise for the child of God. But the children of God number only a small percentage of those who greatly suffer -- and what of all the rest? Can suffering really serve any good purpose for the majority of mankind? It may. As the children of God are to be made wholly perfect by suffering, it is possible that the
world is preserved from becoming wholly corrupt
by the same means. This much seems certain: a world in which there was no suffering to shake us out of our complacency and to stir our sympathies would be a hard, dispassionate world indeed. And a world in which no poverty existed would breed a uniform level of frightful human selfishness.
     A few years ago, a namesake of mine wrote a remarkable book entitled Wisdom, Madness and Folly in which he reflected upon some time spent in a mental asylum in England while suffering a nervous breakdown. The book is remarkable for its lucidity -- even in dealing with those times in which he was seriously ill. This is what he wrote regarding the suffering of pain:

     Or take the question of pain, which I as an individual fear and loathe. Yet I know that it is a biological necessity without which I could not possibly survive. Certainly I can legitimately strive to avoid or mitigate it in reason, but I cannot even wish it to be abolished.
     The old religious idea of the value of suffering is out of fashion today. We live in a sentimental age to which the infliction of pain seems inherently wicked and even the caning of a naughty child is looked at askance. Perhaps this

1. Custance, John, Wisdom, Madness and Folly, Pellegrini and Cudahy, New York, 1952.

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paradoxical result is designed expressly by Providence to teach us the lesson that apparent evils are necessary and that to accept them, adapt them, and turn them into good is the true way of salvation.
      Looking back on my own life, which has not been without periods of suffering, I can sincerely say that were I now given the chance of living my life over again without these periods, with all the happiness and none of the misery, all the ups and none of the downs, I would refuse. Theoretically at any rate, though I dare say not in practice, I would choose rather to live my life with all the suffering, the misery and the downs and none of the happiness and the ups. For, wonderful though the experience of the mountain-tops has been, I know that I have learnt far more in the valleys, and I believe that what I have learnt is of permanent value.
     May it not be that the typical modern attitude toward suffering, toward the apparent evils of pain, disease, and so on, is due to decay in belief in eternal life beyond the grave? If there is a Resurrection, as the Christian and most other religions teach us to believe, then the question so often asked of why God allows such and such evils, such and such pains, misery and suffering, especially of innocent people and children, is quite easy to answer. Suffering is a necessary part of the education of souls, more particularly since it is a pre-condition of sacrifice. . . . If there really is an eternity to look forward to, there is no reason to suppose that anything in this life is wasted or lost or without value in its true relationship, not even sin.

     Often the only way God can reach a fallen creature is by using the consequences of the Fall and magnifying them till they become unbearable. Then in his desperation, like the prodigal who came to the end of himself, a man turns again to his God. "Yet," we are assured, "God does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men. . . " (Lamentations 3:33).
     Not all evils are the consequences of someone's sinfulness, as Jesus pointed out to the disciples (John 9). Yet many of the evils which continue after those responsible for them are dead serve as a challenge by creating problems that stimulate effort to correct them: thus, to some extent evil has its own compensations, for by nature we usually need this stimulation to give our best. And the result of such giving brings its own reward -- and we are glad.
     It is amazing what has been inspired by such evils, and what has been achieved by some organizations of mercy. One has only to contemplate the work of institutes for the blind and deaf and dumb, for example. Consider Helen Keller or Laura Bridgeman. Why these two people should have been born blind and deaf, and dumb as a consequence, no one can say. It is well not to assume that all such misfortunes result from some specific sin. But it is certain that both were liberated from the unthinkable darkness of that silent tomb by the energies of men and women who were not motivated specifically by any Christian convictions. Some evils seem to arise apart from sin altogether.
 Prehistoric animals, living in far distant geological ages before man

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was created, suffered certain diseases including dental caries, as their bones clearly show. (2) And correspondingly, there are evils which have stimulated men and women to great things apart from any divine "inspiration" in the accepted Christian sense. Many evils, as we shall see, are not really evils at all, for in their absence, far far greater evils would result. They thus serve for the restraint of worse things and might be viewed as blessings in spite of appearances to the contrary.

     Let us examine for a moment the evils which can be considered a direct result of the fall of man, on the basis of the statements made in Genesis 3:1-19. The list is simple enough; the simplicity is deceiving; the implications are tremendous.
     In the order of Scripture we have: for the woman, greatly multiplied sorrow and multiple conception (twins, triplets, etc.), pain in childbirth, and a position of dependence upon the husband; and for Adam (and in Adam, for mankind), a cursed ground, with its fruits continually disappointing him, thorns and thistles, labour and sweat, and physical death.
     Take these in reverse order and consider physical death first. It is true that death is an "enemy" for man, as numerous passages assert; it is an enemy when considered as an intrusive element, for it did not originally apply to Adam and Eve: it resulted from their first act of disobedience. As Romans 5:12 points out, for man death "entered". But that such an evil is now really a blessing in our present sinful condition is a fact which the Scriptures themselves plainly show. Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life which would have

2. This is, of course, dependent upon whether one accepts any kind of aging world prior to the creation of man, a world containing animals that far
antedated man, or whether one believes the whole of the world's fauna (and flora) were formed or created for the first time only a few days prior to the creation of Adam. The geological view currently accepted -- whether or not the actual time span is exactly what orthodox geologists claim -- assumes that there were millions of prehistoric animals roaming the earth long before man was introduced. From the fossil remains of these animals, there is
considerable evidence of disease of various kinds.
     Chronic osteomyelitis and osteoarthritis of the spine left its traces on the skeleton of a Permian reptile, Dimetrodon, usually dated some 240 million years ago [H. Zinsser, Rats, Mice and History, Little and Brown, Boston, 1935; and more recently, Gy. Acsadi and J. Nemeskeri, History of Human Life Span and Mortality, Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1970, p.180]. In the same geological era, primitive fishes showed signs of dental caries! [G. G. MacCurdy, Human Origins, Appleton, New York, vol.2, 1924]. A Jurassic crocodile with a diseased pelvis was found, according to Zimsser. And according to R. Hare (Pomp and Pestilence: Infectious Disease, Its Origin and Consequent, Gollanz, London, 1954), micro-organisms causing certain less
dangerous communicable disease -- such as the staphylococci of the skin, streptococci of the throat, and certain coliform organisms in the intestines that produce inflammation of the tissues when becoming numerous -- are older than man.

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served for their healing (Revelation 22:2) and would evidently have restored their original state of deathlessness (Genesis 3:22). But after they had sinned and the poison of death had been introduced into their bodies through the eating of a forbidden fruit, it was God's merciful provision to drive them from the Garden of Eden, lest they should succeed in reaching the Tree of Life again. He set an angel to keep the way to the
Tree of Life, an angel whose sword could never be escaped, since it turned every way (Genesis 3:24). God
made sure that such deathlessness could never be recovered so long as man remained a sinner.
     The angel guarded specifically the way to the Tree of Life! The wording of Genesis 3:22 is striking: "And
the Lord said, Behold the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil; now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life and eat and live forever . . . ." Thus ends the sentence. It is unfinished. The consequences of reaching the Tree of Life would have been a life of sin prolonged unendingly into an eternity too terrible to contemplate. So God drove out the man and the woman and appointed thenceforth that every man must die. The penalty of death becomes a liberation which is a blessing.
     An editorial comment appeared in a popular magazine which suggested that death is not altogether a curse after all for man. It read as follows:

     Our eye was caught last month by two adjacent news items that seemed to dovetail neatly. One quoted an eminent scientist who said that the time might easily come when medical advances would make it possible for human beings to live forever. The other reported the formation recently of the Toronto Memorial Society, aimed at ending "morbid, barbaric" funeral rites and at reducing "the high cost of dying". With all respect to the eminent scientist, we hope his prophecy proves wrong. The advantages of living forever, we suspect, are almost wholly illusory. We personally are committed to nature's ancient and wise system of cycles in which the new continues to replace the old at regular intervals; we have no wish, really, to run on century after century like a stuck record or a play without a final act, repeating past follies and renewing stale triumphs to the boredom of ourselves and others. No, there are many worse fates than death.

     Clearly, there is something within us that makes it easier for us to do wrong than to do right. This is "the
law of sin" (Romans 7:23). This is what a fallen nature means. So life becomes increasingly a failure to achieve past ideals, a series of defeats which discourage us and render us critical of any idealism remaining in others.
Life is a downhill process, and the longer we live the further down we tend to go, until we are tired -- and ready to die. Long life holds promise in youth but seldom in old age, even for the child of God. It was not that  

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Paul was an unusually sinful man that made him long to go "home," but rather the persistence of sin as it expressed itself in a million daily saddening ways in little things -- in his own life, and in the world about him. The very best of men may grow most wearied because of their very desire to be something other than they are.
     It is only in the goodness of God that we hate this thing which defeats our aspiration for righteousness.
When a man is born again, he is a new creation in that the law of sin is broken and there is a new tendency, a tendency to goodness rather than to its opposite. It becomes more truly "natural" to do the right thing than to do the wrong. But few would be rash enough to argue that a man is ever free from the struggle against sin.
The conflict remains, the old nature against the new, and in the conflict the final victory comes only when we pass on. Even for the saints, death comes as a release.
     What if death never came! How terrible to be condemned to such a struggle for all eternity. How merciful a provision physical death becomes when viewed in this light. Dr. E. O. James mentions this concept of death being a blessing among some African people -- and considers it a remarkable insight.
(3) Yes, death was imposed as a judgment, but what a merciful one!
     But there were other far-reaching consequences which resulted from this one act of disobedience. Genesis 3:17 tells that the ground was to be cursed because of man's Fall, it would be hard to cultivate, it would render its fruits disappointingly, and it would bring forth thorns and thistles. In what way can these results possibly be traced back to man's Fall?
     In the Garden of Eden, lacking mechanical aids, Adam and Eve would have to do most of the work on their knees. They were told to dress it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). This implies that there was a certain danger of an "undressed" earth and an "unkept" domain. We still speak of "keeping" a garden. It seems that, having placed man here God intended that this should be his proper habitat. In multiplying and filling the earth, he was not merely to spill out over the boundaries of the Garden, but to expand the Garden as he himself expanded. The whole world was to become an Eden.
     Moreover, this task, though not being physically burdensome to unfallen Adam, presumably would be a sufficient challenge to require self-discipline and would therefore prove perhaps the prime agency in the
building of character, the conversion of innocence into virtue. By experience, by the things he learned, he

3. James, E. O., reviewing "The Origin of Death: Studies in African Mythology" in Man, September 1952, p.137. 

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was to mature, to discover the difference between good and evil, learning to abhor the evil and growing in stature and wisdom, as the Last Adam (Jesus) showed that man could do. He might have passed through this period of training and growth as the Last Adam did. That a person is not yet mature and has yet to learn many things is not an evidence of sinfulness. The Lord Jesus was holy as a child (Luke 1:35), but could still grow to be a sinless boy, and then a sinless man. His experience made Him mature, not more holy. In Hebrews 2:10 "perfect" means "mature." Once made "perfect" in this sense by the things he had experienced, Adam would have been ready, not for death, but for transformation into a higher plane of life, a new kind of existence. Even yet, we shall not all die, but we shall all be transformed (I Corinthians 15:51).
     On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus Christ had reached this divinely appointed state. He might easily
have gone on into glory, transformed, never seeing death. Had he not sinned, Adam likewise would have passed into glory, never seeing death. And as with Adam, so might it have been with Eve -- and each succeeding generation. Death intruded, because of sin.

     So now, outside the Garden, a weary Adam turned his hands to till the earth. Very soon, he found there
were short cuts. It was easier to burn off the trees and cultivate a small patch till it was exhausted -- then desert it. And in time he began to create deserts. Undressed and unguarded, the earth became naked and unfruitful. Deserts grew where none had been before. Their chief restraint came to be that God now "clothes" the nakedness of the earth (Matthew 6:30) sufficiently to prevent the complete breakdown of the economy of
nature: once such wounds have reached a certain size, it seems they grow by leaps and bounds, and nature unaided has not the power to halt their progress. Sooner or later, such areas would have covered the habitable parts of the earth.
     The extent to which man is responsible for such widespread desiccation is very great and seems to have arisen quite directly from his lack of energy. Adopting the easiest course to extract the maximum wealth from the soil with the least effort and in the shortest time, he has quite literally "plundered the earth".
     Can it really be that man created deserts? Andrew Ivy wrote:

4. Ivy, Andrew, "Medical Research: Operation Humanity" in Scientific American, February, 1949, p.120

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     Soil erosion and depletion caused the transformation of garden spots into deserts in Greece, Syria, northern Italy, Africa, Mesopotamia and the Uplands of China; we hear of dust storms in the Volga Valley, in South Africa, Australia and the United States, the bread-baskets of the world.

     Walter Taylor has observed: (5)

     Buttrick has shown that the lack of adequate regulation of grazing has resulted in "the treeless countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, the Moorlands of Scotland and England and the poverty and desolation
of Spain. . . . "
     Recently a series of dust clouds swept over half the United States. According to Forest Science these originated largely on over-grazed semi-arid lands and former cattle ranges plowed for wheat near the east side of the Rockies. . .      It is not a question, as some stockmen mistakenly think, of the country getting drier and the vegetation disappearing. Over-grazing does more than remove valuable forage;  indeed it tends to alter many important environmental conditions.

     There are deserts in some parts of the world which cannot be attributed to man in this sense, as far as we know. This seems to be true, for example, of the Australian desert and perhaps the deserts of Central America. Yet we do not really know to what extent the upset of one local environment sets up a chain reaction over extended areas, bringing climatic and other changes in places where man has not yet laid his heavy hand.
     It has been said sometimes that all deserts are "since man" and that geology supplies us with no desert
plants in fossil form, as though they did not exist in prehistoric times. But this apparently is not true.
     It may be that in the economy of nature God sees fit to leave some uncovered ground for reasons which
are not clear to us. The fact remains, however, that those areas where man penetrated in early times and which proved to be most fertile have largely been turned into desert as a consequence of his abuse of the soil. Some climatic changes have taken place as the polar ice has retreated, but it does not seem that this is sufficient to account for the major deserts. Thus E. W. Bovill, writing on the Sahara, while admitting the possibility of a climatic change being in part responsible, remarks nevertheless:

5. Taylor, W., "Man and Nature--A Contemporary Review," in Scientific Monthly, October, 1935.
6. Bovill, E. W., "The Sahara" in Antiquity, December, 1929, p.414 following

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     As the greater part of the Sahara has reached the extreme limit of aridity, it is rather to its outer fringes, where desert conditions give way to steppe, that we naturally look for signs of progressive desiccation. In Barbary the problem has been closely studied by Gsell, the greatest authority on the history of North Africa. Exhaustive research has convinced him that [climatic] conditions have changed little since the Roman period. Purely local changes caused by earth movements and other factors are admitted but do not alter the main argument. Throughout Barbary, stories of failing wells and shrunken springs are common enough. In nearly every case it is due to neglect by the natives. . . .
     The world has few more impressive monuments to offer than the vast amphitheater of El Djem, built to seat 60,000 spectators but today a ruin set amid utter desolation excepting a few Arab hovels clustering at its foot which serve to emphasize its degradation. Or Timgad, lying like a bleached skeleton stretched on an arid plain, its deserted streets bordered by channels which we know once flowed continually with water. These and countless other ruins lie scattered over an inhospitable land which once was called the Granary of Rome. . . .
     The desiccation of the Western Sudan is not itself wholly natural. The incalculable harm which is being wrought throughout tropical Africa by the shifting cultivator is now widely recognized. The African farmer has little knowledge of crop rotation or manuring. He cultivates his land to exhaustion and then with fire and steel makes a fresh clearing in the surrounding bush or forest. In 1924 the Governor of Nigeria declared that "the necessity for protecting the people from their own improvidence, which if left unchecked will inflict untold calamity upon posterity, is as urgent as ever . . . literally thousands of square miles of forest have disappeared since the War broke out." Agreement has never been reached regarding the extent to which forest affects climate. It is however the common experience of man that trees conserve moisture and that the destruction of forest impoverishes the soil and causes increased aridity. . . .
     Man, who is but a secondary cause of desiccation in the Sudan, must be held primarily responsible for the continued activity of the same process in the Sahara.

     We know now that the Sahara is still growing, reaching further and further south, advancing some years at a frightening pace. Whole tribes are displaced and crowded down toward the south into borderline areas already showing signs of being over-exploited. And the added burden of hungry mouths to feed by native farming techniques which ruin the land is literally causing millions to starve and only accelerating the growth of the already tremendous wound across the face of a once-fertile land.
     In the New World, the rate of desiccation has been just as serious. In 1940 it was reported from Washington by H. H. Bennett, chief of the Soil Conservation Service, that soil erosion was then costing U.S. farmers at least $400,000,000 a year. At the then average value of $50 an acre, that means that 8,000,000 acres were being washed and blown away each year. 

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     Dr. W. C. Lowdermilk wrote in an article: (7)

    The History of Civilizations is a record of struggles against the progressive desiccation of civilized lands. The more ancient the civilization, the drier and more wasted, usually, is the supporting country. In fact, so devastating seems the occupation of man that, with a few striking exceptions, a desert or near desert condition is often associated with his long habitation of a region.
     Two major factors are believed to account for the growth of man-made deserts. In the first place, semi-arid to semi-humid regions proved the most favourable sites for the early development of human culture. Such areas, however, stand in a condition of delicate ecological balance between humid and true desert climates. Comparatively slight disturbances of the cover of vegetation and soils, such as are brought about by human occupation for grazing and cultivation, are sufficient to extend the borders of the desert far beyond the natural true desert into more humid climates.
     Recently the archaeologists have turned back the pages of history, not merely centuries, but thousands of years, and their postmortems on buried civilizations suggest that it has been the hand of man, more than climatic change, which has reduced once rich and populous regions to desolation and poverty. After a long struggle, a civilization either died or its people migrated to more productive regions. Many ancient civilizations, once revelling in a golden age of prosperity, are crumbling in ruins or lie buried in sands and debris largely caused by the destructive treatment of the lands on which they were dependent for sustenance.
     According to archaeologists the Sahara, the Central Asian deserts, the arid parts of Palestine, Mesopotamia, and the Gobi and North China were once teeming with human life, and the traditions of peoples descended from ancient cultures tell of immigration to their present habitation from what are now the desert regions of Central Asia. The origin of the European peoples was in the East. The Hindus came from the North, and the Chinese from the West. Yet this land from which they came is today an immense desert where only very limited regions are still able to nourish the scanty population. Sir Aural Stein's discoveries of sand-buried Chinese Turkestan reveal numerous towns a square mile or more in size, in a region now depopulated. There were ruins of cities, castles, aqueducts, reservoirs, and all the other evidences of lost cultures of vanished populations. Gibbon declared that 500 cities once flourished in what are now the dry depopulated plains of Asia Minor. . . .
     The peninsula of Arabia contained an enormous population called Sea-Land, which at times annoyed Babylon from B.C. 2500 to 616. Now, a few fierce nomadic Bedouins, the remnants of former cultures, fight for existence over every drop of water and every sign of vegetation. The great Sahara Desert has recently revealed monuments, ruins of cities, temples, implements and unearthed cut trees. Champollion, the famous Egyptologist, said of it, ". . . and so the astonishing fact dawns upon us that this desert once was a region of groves and foundations and the

7. Lowdermilk, W. C., "Man-made Deserts" in Pacific Affairs, VIII, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1935. 

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abode of happy millions." The very gradual climatic changes due to the present age of retreating ice do not appear sufficient to account for the excessively rapid desiccation of the vast areas known to have sustained at one time enormous populations. Man has written the record of encroaching deserts.
     When Zenobia was overthrown by the Romans under Aurelian, its capital, Palmyra or Tadmor, was the metropolis of a mighty empire. Now the sands of the Syrian desert almost hide the ruins of that stupendous city of marble and gold. As late as the rise of Mohamed, Tripoli on the northern coast of Africa had a population of six million. It was then clothed with vineyards, orchards and forests. It is now bare of vegetation. The streams are dried up, and the population reduced to about forty-five thousand.
     And archaeologists claim now to have discovered, under shifting sands, the capital of the rich kingdom of the Queen of Sheba.
     To the United States, doubtless, goes the speed record in time and extent for man-made deserts. The dust storms of the old world, long occupied by man, have appeared in the new world and for the same reasons. . . .
     It seems clear that man and his animals may extend the desert conditions by processes of man-induced desiccation into regions formerly capable of supporting large populations. Climate does change, but not at the comparatively rapid rate of the decadence of vast areas of habitable regions.

     As Duncan Stuart has pointed out, farm crops divide themselves into soil-depleting on the one hand (e.g., wheat, oats and barley) and soil-preserving on the other hand (e.g., peas, beans, alfalfa, clover and vetches). (8) The former are more readily adopted for cultivation because the immediate returns are far greater relative to
the labour involved. The tendency is to strip the earth of its covering and create deserts. The latter involve
more labour but, completing the circle of thought, their cultivation tends to clothe the earth and dress it and thereby to extend the Garden that God originally planned.
     Now desert conditions produce a plant life that has a character of its own. Everyone is familiar enough with the various forms of cactus. These strange plants are in one way or another "thorny." Thorns are a symbol in Genesis 3:18 of an earth cursed because of man, cursed because improperly dressed and tended, cursed by open wounds and nakedness, cursed by erosion and desert. This is reflected in Isaiah 34:13, 14: "And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof. . . .  The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet there with hyenas. . . ."
     J. H. Balfour is quoted by Pember as having remarked:

8. Stuart, Duncan, The Canadian Desert, Ryerson, Toronto, 1938, pp.12-13.
9. Pember, G. H., Earth's Earliest Ages, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1901, p.153.

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     There is in all plants a tendency to a spiral arrangement of leaves and branches, etc., but we rarely see this carried out fully, in consequence of numerous interruptions to growth and abnormalities in development. When branches are arrested in growth they often appear in the form of thorns or spines, and thus thorns may be taken as an indication of an imperfection in the branch. . . . That thorns are abortive branches is well seen in cases where, by cultivation, they may disappear. In such cases they are transformed into branches. The wild apple is a thorny plant, but on cultivation it is not so.

     Thistles, too, appear in the judgment. So Balfour observes: (10)

     Thistles are troublesome and injurious in consequence of the pappus and hairs appended to their fruit, which waft it about in all directions and injure the work of man, so far as agricultural operations are concerned. Now it is interesting to remark that this pappus is shown to be an abortive state of the calyx, which is not developed as in ordinary instances, but becomes changed into hairs. Here, then, we see an alteration in the calyx which makes the thistle a source of labour and trouble to man.

     Hugh McMillan observes regarding nettles: (11)

     It is a remarkable circumstance that whenever man cultivates nature, and then abandons her to her own unaided energies, the result is far worse than if he had never attempted to improve her at all. There are no such thorns found in a state of nature as those produced by the ground which man once has tilled, but has now deserted. In the waste clearings amidst the fern brakes of New Zealand, and in the primeval forests of Canada, thorns may now be seen which were unknown before. The nettle and the thistle follow man wherever he goes, and remain as perpetual witnesses of his presence, even though he departs; around the cold hearthstone of the ruined Shieling on the Highland moor and on the threshold of the crumbling log-hut in the Australian bush, those social plants may be seen growing, forming a singular contrast to the vegetation around them.

     Yet there is the promise that the desert shall yet blossom as a rose (Isaiah 35:1). That a desert could become once more a garden seems hard to believe. But there have been occasions when the promise has been fulfilled momentarily as though to give us an earnest of the future reality. In November 1948, a Toronto newspaper reported:

     Thousands of cattle and sheep have grazed this year on a desert -- the great Kalahari Desert which covers thousands of square miles in Southwest Africa and Bechuanaland, Windhoek reports. Following unusually heavy rains, the boulder-strewn waste of sand suddenly sprouted many kinds of grass and plants. Geologists say this desert once was a vast inland sea and its miraculous fertility this year has revived an old plan to pump water from the Orange River into the salt pans of the desert, enabling farmers to plant lucerne, wheat, oats and millet.

10. Ibid., p.154.
11. McMillan, Hugh, The Ministry of Nature, Macmillan, London, 1871, p.25.

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    The consequences of these desert areas are serious, not merely to man in the light of his future survival, but even to animals. There are examples of some animals having become carnivorous and most cruel, which were previously herbivorous and comparatively gentle, and others becoming locally extinct, contributing to the disruption by forcing animals to prey upon each other "unnaturally". Eugene Marais has pointed out how some animals are becoming ferocious and cruel as a result of desert conditions. Thus until about 1860 the wild baboons in Africa fed upon insects and roots. But with the rapid drying up of the Continent, due to man's bad management, they were forced to look for liquid to drink and started attacking goats, killing them cruelly just to suck the milk from their udders. Then they started attacking all kinds of domestic animals and eating them for food -- and the unnatural habit has spread widely over the Continent. (12) As S. Zuckerman pointed out, however, apes and monkeys are by nature predominantly, if not entirely, vegetarian and do not normally attack other animals to eat their flesh. (13)
     Other similar primates are now proving to be occasionally carnivorous. The chimpanzee, which was once considered to be essentially vegetarian, though with some insects to round off its diet and perhaps supply its protein, is now found to be occasionally killing its own kind for food and is thus becoming cannibalistic.
     Whether this has always been the case or has been the case at least as long as man has observed their behaviour or is a recent change in dietary habit is not known. But in view of the fact that the primates as a
whole seem to be vegetarian by nature, it is quite possible that the disturbance of their natural habitat by man has been the decisive factor here also.

12. Marais, Eugene, My Friends the Baboons, Methuen, New York, 1939, p.1.
13. Zuckerman, S., "The Influence of Hormones on Man's Social Evolution" in Endeavor, April, 1944, p.80.
14. Tdeki, Gexa, "The Omnivorous Chimpanzee" in Scientific American, January, 1973, pp.33 following.

     pg.13 of  30 (Continues...)   

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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