God suffers evil, in both senses of the word. He allows it in his sufferance and defeats it in his suffering. His eternal will is accomplished in the sufferance and suffering of the Cross, as he tells us in the words he himself utters from the Cross itself.
We live in a world in which all sorts of evil things happen and, which is worse, a world in which all sorts of evil things are encouraged. Take fornication, for instance. A world in which fornication is fawned upon will also be a world in which the killing of babies is condoned, the latter being an inevitable consequence of the former. If fornication is favoured, infanticide must be encouraged because babies are an unwanted “toxic” by-product of extra-marital sexual relations. If the practitioners of fornication had to carry the physical burden of its consequences, they might not be quite so keen to practice it. Ergo, if they remain keen on practicing it, they must be free to exterminate the “unplanned” fruits of their actions.
This is but one of a legion of examples that could be given of the proliferation and propagation of evil in the world.
This is the way things are but is it the way things should be? Surely not, we’d be tempted to say. If everyone behaved as they should, acting selflessly and not selfishly, the world would be a better place. This is true, no doubt about it, but it’s never happened in practice. In the real world, most people seem to act selfishly most of the time. It’s always been this way. Sin, which is what theologians call selfishness, is always with us. But, and to return to our original question, is this as it should be?
The answer, which will come as a surprise to many of us, is that it is as it should be. In the light of God’s omnipresence, which is another way of saying that everything is present to God, including the past and the future, things are as they should be. God has not lost control of things. He is omnipotent as well as omnipresent. He remains all-powerful. This means that he permits these things to happen. It is his eternal will that is ultimately being accomplished. God suffers evil, in both senses of the word. He allows it in his sufferance and defeats it in his suffering. His eternal will is accomplished in the sufferance and suffering of the Cross, as he tells us in the words he himself utters from the Cross itself. It is accomplished. He does not say that it will be accomplished eventually but that it is accomplished.
But does this mean that we should be comfortable with the evil that surrounds us? Should we be comfortable with fornication and the killing of its illegitimate children? Of course not. We should be as uncomfortable in the presence of evil as Christ was on the Cross. We should be willing to devote our lives, to lay down our lives, in the struggle against evil. But we should also know that it is right and just that the consequences of evil should be evil; that a world besotted with evil should be a world bewailing the misery it has made for itself. It is right and proper that selfishness is self-destructive. This is the way things should be.
Imagine a world in which evil actions did not have evil consequences; in which the culture of death flourished and did not flounder. Imagine a world in which lust did not destroy relationships; in which wrath did not destroy lives; in which envy did not poison the communion between people; in which gluttony did not destroy the health of ourselves and others. Imagine a world in which pride did not precede a fall. Such a world would be demonic. It would not be as things should be. Such a world does not exist. Thanks be to God!
Seeing that things are as they should be enables us to see the world as we should see it. It is right and just that the modern world, having turned its back on God, should be falling apart at the seams. What else should we expect?
Those who see the forces of evil as emerging triumphant in the modern world know little about evil, and little about history.
Those living during the Reign of Terror which followed the French Revolution might have been forgiven for thinking that Christianity was finished. The French Revolution floundered, killing itself in its own bloodlust, and Christianity rose from the dead.
Those witnessing the mass extermination of Christians in the Soviet Union or Red China might have been forgiven for thinking that secularism had won and that Christianity was doomed. In the event, communism was doomed and Christianity has emerged stronger than ever from the ashes of Marxist tyranny.
Those witnessing the rise of the Nazis and the worship of the Master Race must have wondered if this was the end of civilization as they knew it. In the event Hitler’s much-flaunted Thousand Year Reich faltered and fell after only twelve years.
The racial pride of the Nazis and the proletarian pride of Marxist revolution preceded their fall. So what do Christians have to fear from the new Pride movement and its hellbent hatred of the human family? We can fear for our lives, as those in revolutionary France, Russia and China feared for theirs. We might suffer persecution or even martyrdom. We might face our own crucifixion. This is as it should be. It is the evil consequence of evil actions. What we should not fear is the final victory of Pride itself. Such a victory is not as it should be and, thanks be to God, it is not as it will be.
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.
Editor’s note: The featured image is “The Destroying Angel and Daemons of Evil Interrupting the Orgies of the Vicious and Intemperate” (1832) by William Etty, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.