The Origin of Evil
Real life, eternal life, is love—self-giving, others-serving, self-ignoring love: and that love alone is wisdom, light, power: and God alone is that love. God’s power is love-power. That is the unique eternal life of God, and that is something completely other than the self-seeking selfhood of the creature. In that sense, the creature is the nothing, and He the all: and the human self is forever a container, a co-operator, a manifestor, but never the One in Himself.
Go back to the beginning, and we find that the Scripture reveals the rejection of this relationship to be original sin. Twice the prophets had unveiled to them a backward glimpse at the original anti-Christ (Is. 14;12-14; Ezek. 28:11-19), even as they had so many forward glimpses of the coming Christ. And both times original sin is seen to be independent selfhood. “I will be like the most High,” said Lucifer. Egoism, self-centeredness, self-seeking, self-sufficiency, is original sin. All other sins are mere expressions, manifestations of this original sin. A creature who in all his exaltedness as a seraph could never, never be more than a container, would make himself the thing-in-itself (the Person-in-Himself). The nothing would be something. Man would be God. That is why pride is the first of all sins. It is sin.
There is only one difference between the sin of Lucifer and the sin of Adam and Eve, a difference indeed of quantity, not of quality, but still very important. Lucifer went all the way in the sin of egoism. He set his will to displace God with man, the Creator-self with the created-self, the selfless-self with the selfish-self; and thus he opened the kingdom of the self-in-reverse, the kingdom of God’s No, the kingdom of darkness, devil and hell. It is still God’s kingdom, and we shall see the significance of that later, but it is the kingdom of God’s wrath; he is still God’s devil, but an angel of God’s hell instead of God’s heaven. Everything is in reverse to him; evil is good to him, and good evil; he loves what should be hated and hates what should be loved. God, who is the eternal Yes to all goodness, love, mercy, and selflessness, is equally the eternal No to their opposites. If He loves the one, He equally hates the other; if He blesses the one, He equally curses the other; for it is the nature of things that to say yes to one point of view is equally to say no to its opposite. So Lucifer, the first egoist, with his hosts, who was the first to enter the forbidden realm of selfish selfhood, of self-filled rather than self-emptied selfhood, of independence rather than dependence, and thus became the spirit of sin, the essence of sin, found Himself in God’s darkness, hate, anger, consuming fire.
Eve, on the other hand, was deceived (1 Tim. 2:14) by the Tempter and listened to his lies about God, not because she consciously opposed God, but because she was tricked into thinking that to disobey God would be to her advantage. Adam sinned deliberately (1 Tim. 2:14), but again, not so much in direct antagonism against God as under fleshly bondage to his wife. Both were more concerned with satisfying their fleshly lusts than with rebellion against God. They wanted the best of both worlds. They had not sinned that unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost, the “willful” sin which “tramples under foot the Son of God.” Theirs was the sin of flesh rather than spirit, Satan of spirit more than flesh. As a consequence, though now children of the devil, infected with his spirit (Eph. 2:2), partaking of his rebellious nature, walking according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind, they were still conscious of right as right; they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the thunders of God’s law could still reverberate in their souls, of which God’s word of judgment and mercy to them immediately after their disobedience is evidence. Fallen, separated from God, dead in trespasses and sins, but not yet unredeemable, as are devils: on the devil’s road, under his control, but not finally fixed as devils. And that is why this is a groaning world. Bound by sin, sold under our lusts, slaves to egoism, yet ever conscious of what we ought to be; challenged by highest ideals in personal, social and political life, yet never attaining them; constantly pointing the finger at other people’s failures as a convenient cloak for our own. God is fixed in good, the devil in evil; but man is in between, on the road of evil but with an ear still open to the good.
But the devil did not create us; he stole us. Yet God knew what He was doing from the beginning. He foreknew what would happen, we are told, and had made His preparations. He knew that man was going to fall before He created him (1 Pet. 1:20). We may therefore be equally sure that He who foreknew all things knew that those heavenly beings who lost their first estate and first opened the kingdom of darkness, would do this very thing. And what God foresees, He foreplans (Acts 2:23 and Eph. 1:11).
There is a point here which is probably not reconcilable to the human mind—the fine line between “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” and any implication that God was responsible for the origin of evil. We need not stop to deny anything so obvious as the latter, but we can gain much benefit by grasping the certainty of the former. God foreknew the coming of evil into the universe both by the fall of angels and of man; it all had its place in the plan of Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,” and He had already made full provision for an outcome a million times more glorious than if there had never been a Satan and sin. Indeed, the Scripture plainly states that He deliberately subjected His creation to its bondage of corruption, to its groaning and travailing, to “nature red in tooth and claw,” in view of the overwhelming glory of the outcome (Rom. 8:20, 21). Strong words. And this much we can see: there would be no means of demonstrating the true character of love which lays down its life for its enemies, which overcomes evil with good, which blesses those who curse it, if there were no enemies, no evil, no curses. And in our own lives we know, by Scripture and by experience, that it is our temptations which drive us into the cleft of our Rock; it is our sufferings which divorce us from the world and stabilize us in Christ: it is our frustrations and oppositions which give Him the opportunity to manifest His patience and love through us. If we were not harassed by temptation, we should not learn the lessons of abiding: if we were not faced with difficult situations, we should not practice the faith that overcomes them. So of this we are certain—that Satan never has had power or opportunity to take God by surprise, and to interfere in the smooth running of His creative plan and compel Him to change it. One day we shall find that Satan has been but an agent in God’s unchanged, eternal purpose to crown His Son Lord of all and surround Him with the glorious inheritance of a redeemed humanity.
But if only One is to be glorified from eternity to eternity, only One must be the doer of all. If man has slipped into the quagmire of self-deceit, imagining himself to be somewhat by himself, deluding himself that he is a king, not a slave; the man must relearn that only One is King of kings and Lord of lords, and that at His name every knee must bow. He who, as Love, was Creator of all must now, as Love, be Re-Creator of lost mankind, and must bring him back by regeneration and re-education to the only relationship in which humanity can be true humanity.