THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
And yet! Into this universe, which was appointed to thehighest, which the Creator had called that it should become a vessel to reveal His glory, there has entered a breach.
The united harmony of the spheres is destroyed by a harsh discord. Sin has appeared, and criminally set itself against the holy, loving plans of God to reveal Himself. Through the sin of mankind this lower earth is devastated (Gen. 3: 17, 18; Rom. 8:20), and, in the heavenly world above, as the history of temptation in the Bible premises, a fall had taken place among the angels prior to the fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3: 1-7; 2:15).
Yet how this was possible, and why God permitted it, no one can say. The origin of evil remains for ever a mystery. Even the few hints that the Scripture gives are no more than suggestive.
1. Satan before the Fall. God's universal kingdom of creation is divided, as it appears, into a number of provinces, the material and spiritual organization of each of which is entrusted to a definite angel prince as, so to speak, viceroy of God. Thus there are angels for children (Matt. 18:10), for adults (Acts12:15'), for whole lands and nations, as Persia (Dan. 10:13), Greece (Dan. 10:20), Israel (Dan.10:21;12:1).1 This assumes that in the world of light as also in the world of darkness there are angel organizations, which wield power in certain regions and hold ranks differing according to the size of the respective areas. Thus the Scripture speaks, for example, of the archangel Michael and his angels, as well as of the Dragon and his angels (Rev. 12: 7). In fact Paul speaks of "thrones, governments, princedoms and authorities" not only in the visibile but also in the invisible world (Col. 1: 16; Eph. 1:21).
Satan must have been such a special Prince before his fall. From the position of authority which in the present time he still holds it is to be inferred that, at least before his fall, a mighty region was legally committed to his rule; and the fact that it is on the earth that he is operating suggests that this region was the earth and the surrounding atmosphere.
This finds its definite confirmation in the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Himself designates Satan as the "prince of
1 In this. lies the kernel of truth of national polytheism, the venerating of many gods.
the world; " see John 12: 31; 14:30; 16:11. Paul terms him the "prince over the powers of the air" (Eph. 2:2). When at the time of the temptation Satan offered to the Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, and said, "I will give to thee this whole power and its glory; for to me it is granted (or delivered-paradedotai), and I can give it to whom I will" (Luke 4: 6), the Lord so far acknowledged this authority that He did not contest the present power of the devil to dispose of the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt. 4: 8-10).
And when in the Revelation, regarding the end-time of the present economy, it is said that " The authority over the world is come to our Lord and his anointed, and he shall rule as king in all eternity" (Rev. 11:15; comp. 19: 6), there likewise lies in these words the testimony that down to that moment the kingdom of this world stands under the domination of another, even the "prince of the world." Now we understand also why the archangel Michael, when contending with the Devil concerning the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing judgment, but said only, "The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9).
Indeed, even after Golgotha and Pentecost the governmental position of Satan over his world-region continued, for in the period of the church the apostle John testifies that "the whole world lies in the evil one" (I John 5:9), and Paul speaks repeatedly of the "authority" of Satan (Acts 26: 18; Col. 1:13; Eph. 2: 2). He uses the same word whereby in the letter to the Romans he designates human ofEcials (Gk. exousia, Rom. 13:1,2), and thus intimates that the rulership of Satan is equivalent to a " kingdom " (comp. Matt. 12: 26).
ii. The Fall of Satan. There must therefore have arrived in the prehistoric eternity a moment when this world-prince of God renounced his allegiance to the Most High, and thereby changed from a "Lucifer," a "Lightbearer" of the Divine glory,1 into an "Adversary" of God' and a "slanderer" of His saints.3
From that time on a mighty breach runs through the cosmos, and an organized opposing kingdom of evil confronts the universal kingdom of God (Matt. 12: 26). Satan as a ruler has in turn princes and authorities under himself (Dan. 10: 13, 20; Eph. 6: 12), and the opposition between him and the kingdom of God is henceforth the theme and the essential subject of the universal super-history outlined in Holy Scripture.
1 Lucifer in Latin equals "light-bearer." The name Lucifer originates in Isa 14: 12 [R.V. " day star "] and is first a figurative term for the God-resisting king of Babylon; but who, however, in his turn, in the view of the prophet, as it would seem, is a type of his demonic overlord, Satan.
2 Heb. Satan, shatan, i.e. enemy, adversary, quite generally: I Kings 11: 14, 23, 25; before a court Psa. 109: 6; in Num. 22: 22 even of the "angel of Jehovah."
3 Gk. diabolos i.e. devil from dia-ballo, to cast through, to criticize, in an antagonistic sense to accuse either falsely (2 Macc. 4:1) or by saying tbe truth (Dan. 3:8): comp. Luke 16: 1 with Rev. 12: 10.
The description by Isaiah of the overthrown king of Babylon appears, as the Rabbis already supposed, to include in its view the fall of this powerful prince of light: "Oh, how art thou fallen from heaven, thou brilliant star, son of the dawn! . . . thou thoughtest in thy mind: 'I will ascend into the heaven, high above the stars will I erect my throne, will make myself like to the Highest.' But now art thou thrust down into the world of the dead, to the deepest corner of the underworld" (Isa. 14:12-15). Ezekiel also, as it appears, borrows from that prehistoric event his illustrations for the description of the fall of Tyre: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and full of beauty, thou west an anointed cherub that coveredst.. . thou wast blameless in all thy doings from the day of thy creation until guilt was found in thee. Thy mind was lifted up because of thy beauty. Thou hadst thoughtlessly forsaken thy wisdom on account of thy brightness" Ezek. 28: 12-15, 17).
Yet in general the Holy Scripture says scarcely anything concerning this fall of Satan, directly, indeed, nothing. As the records of salvation it purports to show to man by means of prophecy and history the way to redemption, but it will not give him a systematic view of the world or eternity in a philosophic form; for should it do so no man would understand it. For this reason it speaks of the origin of evil only as a background and indirectly, only in incidental figurative hints, but never in direct doctrine, and nowhere in continuous unveiled form: "The secret things are Jehovah's" (Deut. 29: 29).1
But in any case the belief in the existence of a personal devil is the belief of Jesus and His apostles (Matt. 4: 1-10; 12: 27; Luke 10: 18; Rom. 16: 20; II Cor. 1l: 14, 15; Rev. 12: 7 - 9; 20: 2, 10). It is impossible for one who does not share this primitive Christian belief to understand Christ and His apostles. Nevertheless almost always the modern man rejects from the outset the idea of a devil because he thinks nearly always of the popular, repulsive, foolish, grotesque tepresentation of the devil of the Middle Ages. But in truth Satan is gifted with the highest intelligence, fallen indeed, but none the less an exceedingly powerful spirit being, whose existence is in no way assailable philosophically.
iii. The First Sin and the Condition of thc World. But with the fall of Satan there must have been associated the ruin of the region over which he ruled, as is evidenced by the organic connexion between spirit and nature, and by the later and resembling fall of man, though this last to a smaller extent (Gen. 3: 18). World and earth catastrophes occurred as counter
1 Tim3,:7 and Luke 10:18 are almost the only fairly clear passages which speak of the fall of Satan, and even in these it is not quite certain. II Pet.2:4 and Jude 6 refer in our view to Gen. 6: 1-4.
workings of the righteousness of God against this cosmic revolt. The creation was subjected to vanity (Rom. 8: 20,21).
All details are hidden from our knowledge. Only this is certain, that death and destruction in the world of plants and animals raged on the earth for unthinkable periods long before the race of man. This is proved very clearly by the geological strata and the stages of the development of the prehistoric animal world. The strata of the earth beneath us are simply "a huge cemetery that is enclosed in its stony held." Indeed many rapacious beasts of the prehistoric time were terrible monsters with the most voracious and deadly power of destruction. 1
With this corresponds also the testimony of the Old Testament. For the commission of man, recorded therein, not only to dress but also to guard the garden of Paradise, as also the fact of his temptation by a hostile, deceitful power, opposed to God, show already in the Old Testament that evil did not originate primarily in man, but that it had existed before him in another creature, so that prior to the time of man, before his fall and the cursing of the ground connected therewith, there had already existed a breach and a disharmony in creation.
In both old and more recent times there have been God enlightened men who in this connexion have expressed the conjecture that the work of the six days of Gen.1 was properly a work of restoration, but not the original creation of the earth, and that originally man had the task, as a servant of the Lord and as ruler of the creation, in moral opposition to Satan, to recover for God the outwardly renewed earth, through the spreading abroad of his race and his lordship over the earth.
Thus Prof. Bettex says that man should originally, "as the vice-regent of God, gradually have reconquered the whole earth." Also Prof. v. Heune, who likewise upholds the restitution theory, says, "that the great operation of bringing bark the whole creation to God, starts with man. In man, matter and spirit, God's Spirit, meet. The man Christ Jesus, God's Son, has carried to victory the decisive conflict with Satan and the consequences of this must work themselves out. Therefore the cross stands at the centre of universal history."
The geological periods must therefore have been either before the work of the six days, and the " days " themselves be conceived as literal days of twenty-four hours, or the "days" of Gen. 1 must be taken to signify periods, and be considered as the geological ages of development in the history of the earth.
In this way it might be possible to find a reconciliation between the Biblical account of the world's origin and that of
1 In this manner also the Tuibingen paleontologist Freiherr von Heune connects the fact of death in the pre-Adamic creation with the fall of Satan as the God appointed "prince of this world."
modern natural philosophy. Traces of such an explanation of the record of creation are found in ancient Christian literature as early as the time of the church father Augustine (about A.D. 400). In the seventh century it was maintained by the Anglo-Saxon poet Caedmon. About A.D.1000 King Edgar of England espoused it. In the seventeenth century it was specially emphasized by the mystic Jacob Boehme. In the year 1814 it was developed by the Scottish scholar Dr. Chalmers, and in 1833 further by the English professor of mineralogy William Buckland.
There are also very many German upholders of this teaching, as for instance, the professor of geology Freiherr von Huene (Tubingen); and well-known are the English scholar G. H. Pember, and also the Scofield "Reference Bible", so widely circulated in all English-speaking lands. From the Catholic side there are Cardinal Wiseman and the philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel.
Naturally in numerous details these show substantial deviations from one another, especially on the question whether the following six "days" were of four-and-twenty hours or long periods.
Others again believe that the whole development is one uniform continued sequence, without a special intervening entire destruction and "restoration" of the earth; one single colossal process, distributed over immense creative periods. In this whatever the method may have been (into which science may search) under Divine guidance, and, as it appears, since the fall of Lucifer, also not without Satanic cross-workings-there came a gradual ascent in the forms of life. Finally man, without connexion by descent with the animal world, was placed on the stage of world events, in order to set out on his earthly course from the garden of Paradise expressly prepared for him.
However, in no case can there be here absolutely certain knowledge. For this primary event, evil entering the world and bringing into disorder the originally pure and good creation of God, is precisely that prehistoric occurrence which devastates all things, which confuses our own being, in which we are all involved, and which helps to condition our whole present existence in all its manifestations, including its thinking! Therefore neither as to time nor fact can we form an adequate conception of it, but have merely the duty to recognize the weighty facts of this mystery and, in view of them, to act according to conscience and responsibility.
For the rest, it behoves us to forego all further questions and to have the courage to confess openly our ignorance and also the humility to perceive that earthly thought never can comprehend universal super-history; and that our intellect often views eternal things as contradictory only because, fallen into sin and bondage as it is, it is itself in opposition to the laws of the other world. There is nothing really so irrational as rationalism. Whoever wishes to peer into God's secrets must be adorned with the threefold ornament of humility, reverence, and faith; and where these are found the soul can restfully commit to the Most High all matters not revealed (Rom. 11: 33-35; Job 38: 4-7). Only in eternity will all questions be cleared up. Only when the Lord comes will all veils disappear (I Cor. 13:9-12). Till then we are men that wait in hope.