"We have met the enemy and he is us."
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were
necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line
dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is
destroy a piece of his own heart?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, "The greatest evil is not done in those sordid 'dens of
crime' that Dickens loved to paint...it is conceived and...moved, seconded, carried, and
minuted...in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white
collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their
Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 46.
When asked why God created man when He knew he would sin, Martin Luther replied,
"Let us keep clear of these abstract questions and consider the will of God such as
it has been revealed to us."
Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not
willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?
On February 15, 1947 Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador to begin
his ministry in missionary broadcasting. But he never arrived. In a horrible moment, the
plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiraled downward. Later it was
learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a
letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written
the single word "WHY?" Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After
Chambers' mother learned of her son's death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope,
took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question
No doubt this was the questions Jesus' disciples asked when He was arrested, tried, and
crucified. And it was probably the questions Joseph of Arimathea asked himself as he
approached Pilate and requested the Lord's body (v.58). It must have nagged at him as he
wrapped the body in a linen cloth, carried it to his own freshly hewn tomb, and rolled the
massive stone into its groove over the tomb's mouth. In the face of his grief, Joseph
carried on. He did what he knew he had to do. None of Jesus' relatives were in a position
to claim His body for burial, for they were all Galileans and none of them possessed a
tomb in Jerusalem. The disciples weren't around to help either.
But there was another reason for Joseph's act of love. In Isaiah 53:9, God directed the
prophet to record an important detail about the death of His Messiah. The One who had no
place to lay his head would be buried in a rich man's tomb. Joseph probably didn't realize
that his act fulfilled prophecy. The full answer to the why of Jesus' death was also
several days away for Joseph and the others. All he knew was that he was now a disciple of
Jesus -- and that was enough to motivate his gift of love.
Today in the Word, April 18,
The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for
"religious" things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his
fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship. October came and the
farmer had his finest crop ever--the best in the entire county. When the harvest was
complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for
their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, "Faith in God must not
mean much if someone like me can prosper." The response from the Christians in the
community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad
appeared. It read simply, "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October."
William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith.
Almost 50 years ago Elie Wiesel was a fifteen-year old prisoner in the Nazi death camp
at Buna. A cache of arms belonging to a Dutchman had been discovered at the camp. The man
was promptly shipped to Auschwitz. But he had a young servant boy, a pipel as they were
called, a child with a refined and beautiful face, unheard of in the camps. He had the
face of a sad angel. The little servant, like his Dutch master, was cruelly tortured, but
would not reveal any information. So the SS sentenced the child to death, along with two
other prisoners who had been discovered with arms. Wiesel tells the story:
One day when we came back from work, we saw three gallows rearing up in the assembly
place, three black crows. Roll call. SS all around us; machine guns trained: the
traditional ceremony. Three victims in chains--and one of them, the little servant, the
sad- eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual. To hang a
young boy in front of thousands of spectators was no light matter. The head of the camp
read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was lividly pale, almost calm, biting his
lips. The gallows threw its shadow over him. This time the Lagercapo refused to act as
executioner. Three SS replaced him. The three victims mounted together onto the chairs.
The three necks were placed at the same moment within the nooses. "Long live
liberty!" cried the two adults. But the child was silent. "Where is God? Where
is He?" someone behind me asked. Total silence throughout the camp. On the horizon,
the sun was setting. "Bare your heads!" yelled the head of the camp. His voice
was raucous. We were weeping. "Cover your heads!" Then the march past began. The
two adults were no longer alive. Their tongues hung swollen, blue-tinged. but the third
rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive...For more than half an
hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our
eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front
of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet glazed. Behind me, I heard the
same man asking: "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice within me answer him:
"Where is He? Here He is--He is hanging here on this gallows.." That night the
soup tasted corpses.
Elie Wiesel, Night, Bantam, 1982, p. 75-6, quoted
in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 39-41.
Statistics and Stuff
Let us suppose that God's resources are so much beyond what we can imagine that he can
produce a situation in which we can honestly say, "I see now that even the butchery
of six million Jews doesn't matter. This is why he didn't do what I would have done if I
had had the power to strike dead every Nazi in order to prevent it." This line of
thought does not solve the problem of evil. But it points in the direction of a solution.
The idea goes back to Jesus. "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her
time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a
child is born into the world" (John 16:21).
Christian Theology in Plain Language, p.
There is a fundamental sense in which evil is not something that can be made sense of.
The essence of evil is that it is something which is absurd, bizarre and irrational. It is
the nature of evil to be inexplicable, an enigma and a stupidity.
Nigel Wright, The Satan Syndrome, Zondervan, 1990, p. 66.