Even if God Saves us From Evil, Why Does He Allow it in the First Place?
Question: Hey Peter, what do you think of the attached quote from GK Chesterton?
The rock on which we hope to stand is the ground and principle of all being. Were he anything less than this, he would be threatened by the transience of created things, and could provide us no ultimate refuge. But then again—here is the paradox—if the God who saves us is the author of nature, then the evil from which he saves us is part and parcel of the nature he has made. The last enemy he vanquishes for us is death, yet death is his appointment; for what is more natural than to die? When we appeal to the God of nature, is it not against the God of nature that we make our appeal? Once this point has been seized, it is an easy matter to tighten the cords of argument, and torture the paradox. If Omnipotence (we may ask) will indeed save us, why does he first permit the ruin from which he later grants the rescue? What should we think of a man who, to gratify a capricious philanthropy, allowed the prevalence of evils he was able to prevent? Who multiplied victims, that he might pick beneficiaries? Perhaps he will confer benefits on everyone, and make us all happy in the end. But even so, how is he to justify our foregoing miseries?
Response: I love the quote. For me, the most hopeful answer to Chesterton’s question and, I think, the one that’s most fully biblical is that God is still creating. And what He is creating is faith in Grace, which is His essential nature—His Life blood, if you will.
This is why I see the first book in my Genesis series [The History of Time…] as so important. The big story is not that God created everything good, let it or caused it to be broken, and then restored it to its former state. The big story is that God IS creating everything good, and the pinnacle of His creation is a creature made in His image, who like He, loves in freedom. That is, chooses the Good in freedom (He is the Good).
Adam is golem (part man) until he gains knowledge of good and evil, which requires his death, and then receives the life of the Good, which is Grace—God Himself and Adam’s resurrection.
In the process every man “loses his life and finds it,” but the life he finds he also knows because he has been known; it’s what Christ calls us to enact every time we come to the communion table. We take His Life and find it, for He gives it. It is His Life, which is now our Life—eternal Life. God’s “commandment is eternal life” (John 12:50); it’s the story of the tree in the middle of the garden, the cross.
This is why I see the third book, which I still hope to write, as being so important. In it, I’ll point out the two trees become one tree somehow—one tree in the garden city of Jerusalem in the book of the Revelation, one tree that is the cross. At the cross, we come to know the evil and the Good. And at the cross, we receive eternal Life. In Greek and Hebrew, the cross is also called a tree. It’s the tree that atones for me and creates me in the image of God.
I don’t hear people talking about the atonement this way very often, if at all. There are all sorts of atonement theories and all have a measure of truth in my estimation, but the one that makes the most sense to me might be called the creation theory of the atonement. God is creating people who love in freedom, through the death and resurrection of the Word in flesh—the Word through whom He creates all things and the pinnacle of His creation—you and me, His Body and Bride.
All I’m saying is that for any person to be fully human, they must come to the tree in the middle of the garden, die with Christ and rise with Christ. The thing that is made through this process is Faith, and Grace makes it. It is trust in Love. It is true knowledge of the Good (God alone is Good). It is life. No one can truly live until they’ve died. You can’t freely choose the Good until you’ve come to know the evil. Evil is the void, desecration or un-creation. Evil is the manifest absence of the Good. Evil makes us long for the Good—who is our God.
“If Omnipotence will indeed save us, why does he first permit the ruin from which he later grants the rescue?”
Why? Because He’s not only saving us, He is creating Faith in the Savior—who is Himself. He is creating Faith in Grace. He is creating Trust in Love. He is creating Adam in His own image. He is creating people who love in freedom.
Our mistake is in thinking that we are already finished, but no one is finished until they come to the end. Jesus is the End. And we meet Him at the tree in the middle of the garden.
“The creation was subjected to futility (manifest lack of Logos) in hope… the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20).
“For God consigned all to disobedience that he may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).
That “Mercy on all” is how He creates Faith in all.
“For from him to him and through him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:35).
I know that’s a long response, but I hope that helps!