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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 2

The 'Evils' of Daily Life

     Meanwhile, it 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:

     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!

     This reminds 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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     Even 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 stimulating.

50. Krogman, W. M., reviewing Mainsprings of Civilization in Scientific Monthly, Nov., 1945, p.385.
51. Huntington, Ellsworth, Mainsprings of Civilization, Wiley & Sons, New York, 1945.

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     But 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 the process."
     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. 

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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.

     But nature's 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 the
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 Scripture.
     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 to act

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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:

     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 dependents, in

54. Scott, Walter, Quentin Durward, J. M. Dent, London, 1911, p.36. 

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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 each other.

     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 wrote: (56)

     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. 

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     No . . . 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:

     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.

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    However, 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). 

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     Each 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. Sharr, Francis, The Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London, 1891, p.8. 

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     The conflict 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 atmosphere.

     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 Pelagians:

     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. 

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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 come.
     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.  

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     It 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:

     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 1954, p.212.

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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.

     Most students 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.
     Such limitations 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.

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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 is essential.
     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. 

     pg.14 of  23    

     God 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

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, 1945.
65. Temple, William, The Church Looks Forward, Macmillan, London, 1944, p.175.

     pg.15 of  23    

     Every 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 it self-destructive.

     Raymond Pearl, 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)
     Different nations 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, 1939, p.255.

     pg.16 of  23    

     The 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 are a
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:

     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.

     pg.17 of  23    

     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:

     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.

     pg.18 of  23    

     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 caries. (71)
     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 the society?

     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 numbers?
     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:

     There 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, p.163.
72. Hrdlicka, Alex, "Anthropology and Medicine" in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol.10, 1926, p.6.

     pg.19 of  23    

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:

     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.

      pg.20 of  23     

     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 process.
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.

     Such changes 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) 

     Although 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.

     pg.21 of  23     

    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 effort
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:

     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.

     pg.22 of  23    

    In 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.

     One essential 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.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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