The Existence of Evil
by Rev. Roderick MacEachen


God is infinitely good.  Yet the world is filled with misery.  From the moment of his birth until he breathes forth his last agonized breath, man is subject more or less to suffering and sorrow.  physical deformities, mental anguish and moral evils meet us at every turn.  It would seem that an omnipotent God Who loves us would free us from these evils.

The existence of evil has ever been a strong weapon of unbelief.  Epicurus of old reasoned that if God cannot destroy evil, then He is not omnipotent; and if He will not destroy evil He is no all-good.  The speciousness of this argument has been a stumbling-block to many.

God is all-powerful and He is all-good.  Nor does reason demand that He use His omnipotence to wipe out evil.  God did not create evil.  Evil is an imperfection.  Evil is the lack of something that is natural to a thing.  Blindness in a man is an evil.  Blindness in a stone is not an evil.  Sickness is the lack of health.  Deafness is the lack of hearing.  Dumbness is the lack of speech.  Sorrow is the lack of joy.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge.

All things that exist are good in themselves.  "God saw all things that He had made and they were very good."  Evil is not a defect in God's work of creation.  God made all things good and blessed them.  To man He gave freewill.  Man had the choice either to enjoy the good things which God had given him or to reject them.  He was made a responsible being.  He was made answerable to his Creator for his conduct.  God gave him a law and demanded obedience of him.

If man should obey he would receive even greater good things than his nature demanded.  He would receive eternal blessings.  If he refused to obey God, he would lose many of the good things God had given him.  Man refused to obey.

God did not destroy His rebellious creature forthwith.  He promised him forgiveness.  He promised to send him a Redeemer.  Yet he blighted the paradise of pleasure in which He had placed him.  "Cursed is the earth in thy work," He said to Adam; "with labor and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life.  Thorns and thistles shalt it bring forth to thee.  .  .  . In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth."

To the woman, He said: "I will multiply thy sorrows.  .  .  .  In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children."  Such is the origin of evil.  It was in the eternal decrees of God that man should be free to bring evil upon himself.

The decrees of God are inscrutable.  To him who believes in the future life, the existence of evil presents no difficulty.  He knows that God is infinitely just and infinitely good.  He know that retribution will be made in the next life.  It is folly to attempt to measure divine justice by human standards.  Not a sigh shall be breathed that God will not reckon.  The idea of injustice in God is a contradiction.  An unjust God cannot be conceived.  It is folly to condemn divine justice simply because we can not comprehend it.

Moral evil is he result of man's rebellion against God.  That which can hinder man from attaining his eternal destiny is the only real evil in the world.  All other evils to which man is subject are evil only in so far as they refer to this one evil.  Ignorance, folly, insanity, error, falsehood, infidelity, pangs of heart, weakness, bondage, wounds, maladies, hunger, thirst and poverty are all relative evils.  If they hinder man in working out his salvation, they are evils indeed.  If they aid him, they are blessings.

We are like children out for a holiday.  It begins to rain; their joy is turned to gloom.  Their father pities them and tries to console them.  Yet, he inwardly rejoices at the rain because it revives his drooping crops.  It gives him the hope of a rich harvest that will enable him to provide all the better for his children.  Thus the rain was a blessing though the children considered it an unmixed evil.

In the physical world there are deserts, barren mountains, poisonous plants.  There are plants that produce such harmful drugs as opium and alcohol.  There are volcanoes that destroy cities and provinces in the terrible eruptions.  There are deadly reptiles and savage beasts; there are pestiferous insects.  Superficial men call these things evil.

There are wonders of wisdom in creation that man can never fathom.  Science is continually finding new uses fro the properties of nature.  Every new discovery is a new proof that God created nothing in vain.  The more profoundly men study nature the more clearly they see revealed the marvelous wisdom and foresight of the Creator and the usefulness of every creature that exists.  There is not a leaf of the forest, nor a blade of grass, a beast of the field, nor the tiniest creeping insect that does not, in some way, manifest the power and wisdom of God.

God is the preserver of all things.  He permits particular evils indeed.  Yet He always provides for the universal good of man.  St. Augustine says: "The omnipotent God . . . would in no manner permit an evil to exist unless He were so omnipotent and so good that He could bring good from evil."

God hates sin.  Yet He uses it as a means of good.  There are certain virtues which presuppose malice.  Penitence can only follow sin.  Martyrdom is the result of homicidal crime.  Forgiveness must be preceded by injury.

The inequality that exists amongst men does not seem to agree with our idea of Divine Providence.  Some dwell in abundance, others in destitution.  Some must toil and struggle whilst others recline in ease and comfort.  Some are blessed with talents, friends, and honors whilst others are ignorant, despised and abandoned.  Yet there is no injustice here.  God has an eternity in which to equalize the conditions of men.

Equality of position and possession is utterly impossible in human society.  Man is a social being; man depends upon man.  The strong sustain the weak.  The weak lean on the strong.  Those in authority make laws.  Those who are subject obey them. Thus is fostered in society a spirit of industry, benevolence, magnanimity, gratitude, vigilance and veneration.  These are human virtues that constitute the bonds of society.  Without inequality there can be no emulation.  Without emulation there can be no progress.

If all men were equally rich, wealth would be of no value.  Wealth is valuable only in so far as it can be offered as a compensation for the labor of others.  Equality of wealth would make all men poor.

Dignity is a relative term.  There could be no dignities if there were no men without dignity.  There can be no superior without an inferior.  The social body, like he animal body, can not be all head. It must have eyes to see, feet to move, hands to work, and a back to bear the burden.

Happiness is not always found in the mansions of the rich.  The sumptuous banquet is of little value to the millionaire who writhes in the pangs of dyspepsia.  Peace and contentment are most often found in the humble cottage of the hard-working poor.  They are not weighed down with the cares of higher stations in life. If their fare is plain, they have the sweetest of all seasoning, a good appetite.  "The life of man on earth is a warfare."  The present life is merely a time of probation, a period of struggle.  The eyes of God are upon us.  To struggle bravely is to be victorious.  The soldier must bear hardships during the time of war.  He does not complain; he knows that his commander sees his trials.  He knows that he will be rewarded for faithful service.  He does not grieve if he is not rewarded on the field of battle.  He is willing to wait until he returns home where his honors will be shared by friends and dear ones.

"Under God's government there are many things which we cannot understand, and are to us like a dark enigma.  This happens either because the Lord wishes to rebuke our arrogance by restricting our knowledge within harrow bounds, or because He wishes to raise our minds to eternal things."