The Only New Thing

Last week one of my readers made this request: “I’d like you to go one step further and explain why He ‘allows’ bad things (AKA, evil) to happen although He is indeed all powerful, all knowing, all loving.”    I thought I’d answer here:

One of my favorite poets, Wendell Berry, closed his poem “The Creation” with this line, “The only new thing could be pain.” * Everything God had made was perfect  -- a word we toss off too easily.  

The two human souls He made were good, and they only had one option for being bad – eating the fruit of the tree.  They felt no need to fight, to hurt, to steal.  Their motivation and behavior was perfect.

The two human bodies He built functioned exactly as He designed them – Adam and Eve didn’t suffer from indigestion or the common cold.  Their knees didn’t bother them; they never had to deal with a bad back or an arthritis flair-up.  And for all we know they could have been lounging about Eden for a thousand years.  Even that kind of age was no problem; they were strong and smart and beautiful.  Perfect.

In fact Eve was so perfectly beautiful that Adam chose death with her over life without her – Robert Frost wrote of this most tragic love story in his sonnet Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same.

The result of the choice they each made – Berry’s “new thing” – was pain --- pain in childbirth, pain in work, pain whose ultimate conclusion is death.  In fact, the whole earth was affected by the choice made by Adam and Eve because it had been their domain and when they abdicated, they turned it over to Satan to run (Heb. 2:5).  

So, you ask, why did God allow that?  He’s sovereign, after all, and omnipotent, and loving.  What was He thinking?

God chose in His sovereignty (His free will) to create a new set of creatures who would also have free will.   This divine decision is related to His previous determination to create the angels (Psalm 148, Job 38).  They too have free will.  We know that a third of them revolted (Rev. 12), that they pay attention to us (Luke 15), that we are in some way a resolution to their problem. 

So, the question of evil has its source in the angels – the fallen angels – who think that a creature can exist without its creator, that a creature can even overshadow its creator (Isaiah 14).  All evil comes from that idea.  Satan, once the best angel God ever created, and now the ruler of this world, is operating on that assumption – “Look ma, no hands!” In case you hadn’t noticed, he’s not doing very well. 

When Eve bought that lie, “…you will be like God,” (Genesis 3) when Adam, who knew that it was a lie, chose it anyway, evil took over. Whether this took place at the instant of their decision, supernaturally, or happened somehow physically with the ingestion of the fruit, we don’t know, but we do know that they became so tainted that their offspring would inherit their misery.  

Now the question is, “If God, being omniscient, knew A and E would screw it up, why create them in the first place?”  He did so to meet a commitment to the angels before us and to His own perfection.  And He, being just and good and loving, had prepared a solution to the evil that human free will selected.  The Trinity had already agreed that the Second Person, Jesus Christ, who is called “The Last Adam,” (1st Cor. 15) would solve the problem.  The first perfect man, Adam, made a bad choice; the second perfect man, Jesus, made the right choice – over and over and over again, eventually going to the cross to undo the mess Adam made.  We have the choice now of realigning ourselves with God through Christ.

What a wonderful world this would be if all of us availed ourselves of Christ and the Word – truly, not just on Sunday mornings. 

And this world has no idea how much of Satanic evil is being restrained by God.  We always ask why God allows evil, but that’s the wrong question. The right question is “What would things be like if God weren’t holding the ultimate reins?”  Humans will know exactly how bad evil really is when the Seven Seals are opened during the aptly named Tribulation. 

I won’t be here for that, and if you have any sense, you won’t be either.

John 14:6  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father except by me.”
*from Sabbaths 1979  by Wendell Berry

To sit and look at light-filled leaves
May let us see, or seem to see,
Far backward as through clearer eyes
To what unsighted hope believes:
The blessed conviviality
That sang Creation’s seventh sunrise,

Time when the Maker’s radiant sight
Made radiant every thing He saw,
And every thing He saw was filled
With perfect joy and life and light.
His perfect pleasure was sole law;
No pleasure had become self-willed.

For all His creatures were His pleasures
And their whole pleasure was to be
What He made them; they sought no gain
Or growth beyond their proper measures,
Nor longed for change or novelty.
The only new thing could be pain.