« Teddy Todd | Main | Community Singing »

Visions of Glory: Evil

"...means although man has a divine potential, he is also earthy and creaturely, having within him all the instincts and passions of the animals,'' writes William Sykes.

Evil—morally bad, wicked; harmful, tending to harm; evil thing, wickedness
My favourite phrase in this section comes from Etty Hillesum—'the rottenness of others is in us too.' This fits in with the now familiar Genesis story of the creation of man. In this story God fashions and shapes man (man and woman) in his own image and likeness and breathes something of his own nature into man. Man then becomes a living being, with an enormous source of divine life in the depths of his being. There is a second truth in this story, crucially important for our understanding of the nature of evil: That which is fashioned and shaped in the image and likeness of God is taken from the dust of the earth. This means although man has a divine potential, he is also earthy and creaturely, having within him all the instincts and passions of the animals.

I do not wish to denigrate the earthy and the creaturely. This is a valuable part of our nature. If we look at the Gospels we can see the perfect integration and combination of the divine and the earthy and creaturely in the life of our Lord. Hence he was described as 'very God and very Man'. The result was a whole full-blooded life, freed from the power of evil.

I found my life dominated by the earthy and creaturely. Thanks to Etty Hillesum, I could no longer project my evil on to others. Evil within myself had been accepted and transformed by God's grace. A rough integration has been worked out between the divine and the earthy and creaturely. I now find the power of evil not quite so strong, but myself more alive.

Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Psalm 37:1-2

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:16-17

Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

111 deeds is doubled with an evil word.
William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, III. ii. 20

Society is knee-deep with men who have no other function in life than to destroy their fellow-men.
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Charles Burnet & Co., 1887, page 188

God laid no foundation of Wickedness, in the principles of His creation; it is an unnatural Super-structure of our own, without a foundation.
Benjamin Whichcote, Moral and Religious Aphorisms, viii. 158, Elkin Mathews & Marrot, 1930, page 85

Evil is eternal in the sight of God unless checked and cured; sin, like a poisonous weed, resows itself and becomes eternal by reproduction.
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Charles Burnet & Co., 1887, page 188

However difficult the idea of a power of evil may be theologically or philosophically, it is one which experience understands only too well.
William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, The Saint Andrew Press, 1988, page 196

If I did not believe in a special Providence, in a perpetual education of men by evil as well as good, by small things as well as great, I would believe nothing.
Charles Kingsley, Daily Thoughts, Macmillan and Co., 1884, page 209

The little respect paid to chastity in the male world is, I am persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that degrade and destroy women.
Mary Wolstonecraft, in Miriam Brody Kramnick, editor, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Penguin Books, 1978,
page 282

But 'tis strange:
And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths; Win us with honest trifles, to betrays In deepest consequence.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, I. ill. 122

For nought so vile that on the earth doth live, But to the earth some special good doth give; Nor aught so good, but, strain'd from that fair use, Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, II. iii. 17

Whatever may be the meaning of the process of the world, however disheartening some steps in its evolution may be, they are necessary and without them, perhaps, some evil could not thoroughly have been worked out.
Mark Rutherford, More Pages From a Journal, Oxford University Press, 1910, page 219

For whenever we speak of the Adam, and disobedience, and of the old man, of self-seeking, self-will, and self-serving, of the I, the Me, and the Mine, nature, falsehood, the Devil, sin; it is all one and the same thing. These are all contrary to God, and remain without God.
Theologia Germanica, translated by Susanna Winkworth, Stuart & Watkins, 1966, page 112

Past civilisations have been destroyed by barbarians from without, but we are doing the job ourselves. We breed our own barbarians at the public expense, and our writers and newsmen faithfully chronicle their moral rottenness and hold it up for admiration.
Elizabeth Manners, The Vulnerable Generation, Cassell and Company, 1971, page 190

'The rottenness of others is in us too,' I continued to preach at him. 'I see no other solution, I really see no other solution than to turn inwards and to root out all rottenness there. I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we have first changed ourselves.'
Etty Hillesum, A Diary, 1941-43, translated by Arnold J. Pomerans, Jonathan Cape, 1983, page 71

When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.
Martin Luther King, The Words of Martin Luther King, selected by Coretta Scott King, William Collins Sons & Co.,
1986, page 51

The good... is that which furthers growth, integration, transcendence, and renewal. Evil, by contrast, is that which brings about disintegration and de-building, arrests growth, creates a permanent unbalance, dissipates energy, degrades life, baffles and frustrates the spirit, and prevents the emergence of the divine.
Lewis Mumford, The Conduct of Life, Seeker & Warburg, 1952, page 168

The result of this junction of finite and infinite in us is that a Christian life is bound to be a strenuous contest: 'you must expect to fight a great battle.' 'You are... bidden to fight with your own selves, with your own desires, with your own affections, with your own reason, with your own will; and therefore if you will find your enemies, never look without. If you will find out the Devil and what he is and what his nature is, look within you. There you may see him in his colours, in his nature, in his power, in his effects and in his working.' Rufus M. Jones, Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Macmillan and Co., 1914, page 249

God permits evil. His Son submitted to it on the cross, and by so doing he was victorious over its power to harm him. The origin of evil remains a mystery. But without the possibility of evil we would not choose the good. Christians believe that Christ has delivered them from falling under the power of evil. We mature and grow in character by refusing the evil and choosing the good. God leaves us free to choose, because he wants us to grow into his own perfect freedom. This freedom of choice, however, involves the possibility of people perpetrating great evil.
Hugh Montefiore, Confirmation Notebook, Fifth Edition, SPCK, 1985, page 7

... the Bible is never in any doubt that there is a power of evil in this world. The Bible is not a speculative book, and it does not discuss the origin of that power of evil, but it knows that it is there. Quite certainly this petition of the Lord's Prayer should be translated not, 'Deliver us from evil,' but, 'Deliver us from the Evil One.' The Bible does not think of evil as an abstract principle or force, but as an active, personal power in opposition to God...
So the Bible wastes no time in speculation about the origin of evil. It equips man to fight the battle against the evil, which is unquestionably there.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, The Saint Andrew Press, 1965, volume 1, page 226

Our Lord in the great Parable of the Judgement said nothing about the love of God at all: He simply talked of the love of people. What we have to learn is what love really is. If we love another person, we love that person's good, and could not possibly stand in the way of his true development. To live for another at your own expense is love....
Four things come out of the parable. (1) The orgin of evil is a mystery. 'While men slept, an enemy came and sowed tares.' He is an enemy of God whose will is a selfish will. In this world or any world if a human will, or a spirit will, lives and works for self at the expense of others, that will becomes God's enemy, and the result of the sowing is a crop of weeds. (2) This evil principle must cause perplexity and distress to the servants of the Lord. (3) The Lord permits the tares and the thorns to go on growing, but He Himself more than any other was wounded by the thorns. (4) Good and evil go on side by side for a time, but ultimately there must be a separation. The wheat must be drawn out, the evil must be exposed.
Father Andrew, S.D.C., The Romance of Redemption, AR. Mowbray & Co., 1954, page 20

I understand at last what Jesus meant when he said, Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, Resist not evil.' Jesus says, 'It has been instilled into you, you have become accustomed to account it a good and reasonable thing, that you should withstand evil by force, and pluck out an eye for an eye, that you should not establish courts of law, police officers, and soldiers, and that you should fight against your enemies; but I say unto you, Do no violence, take no part in violence, do evil to no one, not even to those whom you call your enemies.'
I understand now that in laying down the proposition of non-resistance to evil, Jesus not only points out its immediate result to every man, but that in opposition to the principles prevailing from the time of Moses to his own, accepted by the Roman Law, and still existing in the codes of the different nations, he also lays down this rule of non-resistance (which, according to his teaching, should be the binding principle of our social life), to free humanity from the evil wrought by itself. He says to mankind, 'You think that your laws correct evil; they only increase it. There is one only way of extirpating evil—to return good to all men without distinction. You have tried your principle for thousands of years; try now mine, which is its reverse.'
Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe ('My Religion'), C.W. Daniel, 1922, page 41


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.