Isaiah 45:7 - Homiletics
In what sense God creates evil.
It was to avoid the objections which the human conscience feels against regarding God as in any sense the author of evil, that dualism was invented. The Western Aryans thought it simpler and more natural to explain the phenomena of the physical and moral universe' by a perpetual struggle of two equal, or nearly equal, powers—one a principle of pure goodness, the creator of everything that was bright, sweet, delightful, holy, pure, good; the other, his antagonist, the creator of all that was the opposite—than to postulate a single original principle, all-powerful and all-perfect, which had yet brought into being a universe in which so much of moral and physical evil obtains as experience reveals to us. And it scarcely seems surprising that unassisted human reason should so argue. There is a difficulty in understanding the coexistence of evil with the absolute government of all things by an omnipotent and absolutely good Ruler. The difficulty is greater with regard to moral than physical evil, but it is considerable even with respect to the latter.
I. PHYSICAL EVIL . "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" ( Romans 8:22 ). The sum of animal suffering is so enormous that to dwell on it in thought would make almost any man miserable. Even the sum of human suffering is more than we can well bear to think of. Hunger, thirst, sickness, accidents, blows, wounds, sores, excessive toil, make the lives of millions a burthen to them, and cause them to welcome death. No doubt much of this physical evil is the result of moral evil; but, making any reasonable deduction on this score, we shall still find in what remains—the resultant of the physical conditions of human and animal life—a total that it is agonizing to contemplate. Yet God must, it would seem, be regarded as the direct Author of this. He has so arranged the world—that, with the first introduction into it of sentient life, pain came in. Appetites are pains; desires are pains; most of the animal functions are pains; growth is a pain; decay and decline are pains; death is mostly an intense pain. Man, as an animal, must have known pain, even had he never known sin—must, as he increased and multiplied, have found the means of subsistence grow scanty, and have had to struggle for existence. Can we at all account for this? Much of it, especially the animal suffering, must, we think, remain an inscrutable mystery until we are "within the veil." But for the physical evils to which men are liable we may see sufficient reason. Men are made "perfect through sufferings." In overcoming, or in bearing, physical pains, man finds the best training for his moral nature. He learns to be courageous by resisting fear, which is a pain; to be just by resisting covetousness, which is another pain; and so on. Great physical evils bring out the greatest moral excellences, as those developed in martyrs and confessors. Altogether, we may pretty clearly see that the moral good produced by the pain which humanity suffers may greatly outweigh the evil of the pain itself in the sight of a moral Being.
II. MORAL EVIL . Moral evil is certainly not "created" by God, in the same direct way as physical evil. He has not necessitated it by the arrangements of his universe. He has but allowed it to come into existence. And this he seems to have done in consequence of a necessity in the nature of things. Either he must have limited his creation to objects that moved mechanically and were incapable of moral action, or, by creating moral agents, have allowed the possibility of moral evil coming into being. A free agent must be free to do right or to do wrong; if he is not free to do wrong, he is really not free when he does right. And when millions of free agents were created, each with a power of doing wrong, that some of them would choose to do wrong was to be expected, and was of course foreseen by the Creator. From the fact that, though thus foreseeing the introduction of sin into his universe, God nevertheless determined to create moral beings, we may gather that it is better in God's sight, and therefore better absolutely, that the two classes of good and bad moral beings should coexist, than that there should be no moral beings at all. Further, moral evil is certainly, like physical evil, a great means of developing higher forms of moral goodness. The virtue that resists contact with vice, the influence of bad example, the seductions of those who make all possible efforts to corrupt it, is of a higher form than that untried virtue which has passed through no such ordeal. The religion that leads men to plunge, into the haunts of vice, and give themselves to the reclaiming of the lowest outcasts among the dregs of our populace, is the highest form of religion. If there were no moral evil, moral goodness would fall far short of being what it is—there would be no Howards, no Frys, no Havelocks, no Livingstones. By the moral furnace through which it passes, "the trial of men's faith, being much more precious than that of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire," is found, and will "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" ( 1 Peter 1:7 ).
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