Understanding Evil In Our World
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
There’s a curse on the world today–denied by many, trivialized by others, and ignored by the vast majority of people. It is there, nonetheless. The curse of evil in our world is a horrible, hideous reality.
Philosopher and psychologist Dr. C.E.M. Joad was once described by the press as an “annoying, church-baiting agnostic” who like many denied the existence of evil in our world. He dismissed sin as “the incidental accompaniment of man’s imperfect development.” As a professor at the University of London, Joad was among the first to go into the concentration camps of Europe. That experience forever changed his views about man’s nature. “Evil is endemic in man,” he later wrote.
One of his fellow professors at the University of London, Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975) believed that talk of evil was only theological jargon that should be cast aside. This evolutionary biologist said, “We’ve tried Christianity for two thousand years. It has failed. Now let us try knowledge.” But Huxley was wrong. Dead wrong. Paraphrasing what G. K. Chesterton said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
So not liking the hideous face of evil, we want to deny it, much like turning off the light when you don’t like to see something. It’s there, nonetheless. And the more light is shed upon it, the greater is its darkness.
History is without meaning apart from recognizing the existence of evil which has driven the dark natures of people from the day that Cain killed his brother in the Garden of Eden.
Today, however, we simply choose to avoid evil, thinking that by denying its existence it takes away its reality. We read of children who are molested, raped, and murdered, crimes too devious and dark to describe, hideous deeds inflicted on the innocent. In disgust we cry out, “That’s sick!” We automatically assume that anyone capable of committing such a deed is mentally ill and, therefore, cannot be held accountable. We confuse “sick” with “sickening” and absolve the individual whose dark heart is filled with evil of personal responsibility.
We assume that deep within the brain of the criminal there is bad DNA, or something wasn’t properly formed in his mother’s womb which can be blamed, refusing to acknowledge that evil is a choice, a terrible one that selfish, thoughtless individuals make. Evil involves conduct–whether it is a mother who drowns her four children in a bathtub or Nazi who send Jews to a gas chamber, and that conduct is volitional, not biological.
In closing, here’s a bright note to a very dark topic. I told you about Joad, the agnostic who denied the existence of evil in our world. Seeing man’s inhumanity to his fellow man which resulted in the Holocaust caused him to revise his argument. “I have come lately to disbelieve all of this,” he wrote before his death, adding, “I see now that evil is endemic in man, and that the Christian doctrine of original sin expresses a deep and essential insight to human nature. The more I knew of it, Christianity seemed to offer…. consolation, strengthening, and assistance…. Once I had come as far as this, there was nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by going the whole way. What better hope was offered than by the Christian doctrine that God sent His Son into the world to save sinners?”
Yes, indeed, what better hope is there? It’s the only light that is greater than the darkness of evil. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Jesus Christ says today: “…in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Resource reading: Genesis 6:1-8.