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GOOD AND EVIL
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Based on Gen. 3:6
When Victor Hugo was at what seemed to be the height of his fame he came into disfavor with Napoleon III and was exiled for 19 years. It was only natural that Hugo would consider this as pure tragedy, but his immediate judgment was wrong. During those years he wrote far superior books, and he became twice the man he had been before. The day actually came when Hugo looked at that seemingly unhappy event and exclaimed, "Why was I not exiled before?" The evil that befell him actually resulted in a greater good.
It may seem ridiculous to suggest that man's fall and exile has also resulted in a greater good, but let me suggest it anyway. Biblical theology would seem to demand this conclusion, for we know that God is sovereign, and that in spite of his giving to man a free will, He will not end up when history is over with less than what He began with. God could allow the possibility of evil just because He is able to bring good out of it. Let us not get the impression that the fall was good. It was not, but it was a very definite and tragic evil. The point is, God is in control and permits only that evil to be possible out of which He can bring good.
It is often of small comfort in a tragic situation to say it could be worse, but it is of great comfort at the point of the fall of man. In one of Shakespeare's plays a character is made to say, "And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer, never to hope again." This is exactly what did not happen in the fall of Adam and Eve. They did not fall as Satan did. He fell by his own choice to defy God, but they were tempted by external persuasion. Therefore, their fall was not final, but rather was one where God has plans to restore them to a state of perfection. Without the fall we would not have a Savior, and however pleasant our life would be, it would be less than what we have ahead in eternity because of what Jesus accomplished for us.
All this amounts to is the logical conclusion we must come to as Christians because of our rejection of Dualism. We believe that God alone is sovereign, and He is the creator of all. We do not believe that there are two ultimate beings as the ancient Persians and Gnostics believed, with one being good and the other evil. We believe in a limited dualism in which light and darkness battle one another with Christ leading the forces of light and Satan the forces of darkness. We believe the evil forces had a beginning, and that they will have an end in defeat.
Evil we say is dependent upon the good for its very existence. Good can exist alone, but evil must have the presence of good to exist, for evil can have no meaning except by contrast to a standard of good. It would be impossible to ever do a thing in the wrong way if there was no right way to do it. But one could do it the right way even if it were impossible to do it wrong. Let me illustrate. Suppose you have a puzzle all together except for one piece of a very odd shape. There is only one right way for that piece to go in. It is just because there is a right way for it to fit that it is possible to try many wrong ways. You can hold it several different ways and turn it over before you finally hit the right way. All the wrong ways can only exist because of there being a right way. If there was no right way for it to fit, there would be no wrong ways, for anyway would do. Wrongness is dependant upon rightness for its very existence.
God and good are supreme and ultimate, but Satan and evil are temporary intruders. This is confirmed by the record we have here of the entrance of evil into the world. It got in by the misuse of that which was good, and thereby established the basic nature of evil as being the striving for a good by the wrong means. In other words, just as God can bring good out of evil, so Satan can bring evil out of good. C. S. Lewis said, "Badness is only spoiled goodness." If you examine any sin you will discover that some good is always the foundation of it. This is why sin if often so appealing. It appears to offer so much good. The greater the good involved, however, the greater the sin. If sex perversions are high on the list of sins, it is only because normal sex experience is so high on the list of God's blessings.
If bigotry is such a despised attitude, it is because conviction is such an honorable attitude. In other words, evil is basically a perverted good. Take orthodoxy for example, which means being sound and right in your beliefs. None can doubt that this is a good, and yet it has been the cause of so much evil because of its being converted and made an end in itself. Mark Guy Pearce writes, "Look back over the ages so far as we have any record of the world's religious history. We shall find that the cruelest thing that ever came into God's world is religion without love. It has kindled more fires for the burning of martyrs, it has invented more diabolical torches, it has wrought more dire and dreadful suffering, then wars and strong drink put together.
Jesus as the risen and reigning king said to the church of Ephesus that it was good that they tested men and found them to be false apostles. It was good that they were orthodox, but they had left their first love. He warned them that if they did not return to that love all their orthodoxy would be for naught, and he would remove their candlestick from its place. Christ stands squarely behind Paul's statement that though one has no knowledge and faith enough to remove mountains, but has not love, he is nothing. Jesus says by His rebuke to this church, and it is backed up by all of Scripture, and the pages of history reecho it that the end does not justify the means. No end however good, even that of being orthodox, can be attained or maintained by means inconsistent with love. If it is, the good is perverted and becomes an evil. The point that we need to grasp is that any good is the source of potential evil, for evil can only exist by perverting a good. This calls for constant examination and renewed commitment lest we be subtly led into sin in our very pursuit of the good.
This is what happened to Eve. God had made everything good, and there was nothing that was bad or evil on earth. The only possible way Satan could introduce evil into the world would be by some misuse of what was good. The paradox of the fall is that good surrounds it completely. C. Vaughn said, "The fall is a greater mystery than the redemption." We have been studying the cleverness of Satan in getting Eve to fall, and we have seen that Satan has used truth as one of his instruments of deception. Satan could not succeed without using good for his evil goal. We see Satan using wisdom and truth to deceive Eve into disobedience. Now as we look at the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which has by Satan's subtlety became the object of Eve's attention, we discover again that good is the only thing we can see, and that is all that Eve saw as well.
1. First she saw-The tree was good for food. God had made all things good, and this included the fruit of the forbidden tree. It did not just look good, it really was good for food. The only possible way evil could arise out of seeking this good food would be by gaining it in a way out of harmony with God's will. That is exactly what happened. We see, however, that the good itself was good. It was only the means to get it that made it evil. Satan's success was in getting her to gain a good by an evil means.
God was the author of taste, beauty, and desire for wisdom, and all of these are good. It is not an evil to desire good food, but it is natural and good. All of these good factors combined to produce an evil simply because they were directed toward a good but forbidden goal. Any good that has to be gained by disobeying God is a good out of which evil will come. To desire such a good when you know it cannot be gained in God's will is an evil lust. Desire is not wrong, but a lust for that which is forbidden is a desire that has gone out of God's will.
It was Eve's lust for the good fruit that led to the fall. Someone wrote, "Eve, with all the fruits of Eden blest, save only one, rather than leave that one unknown lost all the rest." Martin Luther wrote, "How rich a God is our God! He gives enough, but we do not heed this. He gave Adam the whole world, and that was nothing. He was only concerned about the one tree he had to ask why God had forbidden him to eat of it. So it is today. In his revealed word God has given us enough to learn. We leave that alone and search into His secret will, and yet we fail to learn it. It serves us right if we perish through such conduct." What greater folly can there be than to forsake the abundance of God's blessings and go in pursuit of what He has forbidden? The forbidden fruit was good for food, but then so was every other piece of fruit in the garden. Beware of being duped into pursuing anything just because it is good, for a good pursued out of God's will is an evil.
2. It was a delight to the eyes. Certainly no one would call aesthetics evil. That means the enjoyment of beauty. Beauty is God's doing, and so also is the love of beauty in the heart of man. Yet this good can also be used to draw us into the snare in gaining the good by a wrong means. Had the tree been ugly, and the fruit unappealing, and half rotten, the chances of the temptation succeeding would have been slim indeed. Evil we see again can only succeed when it has a good foundation on which to build. It cannot stand alone. It can only enter where a good standard is established. Adam and Eve could never have been tricked into doing an evil in itself. The only hope for evil to succeed was by using the good. It is still Satan's most effective means to get people to fall. If he can get us to focus our eyes on a good goal that must be gained by disobedience to God, he has a good chance of getting us to go ahead. We are prone to persuade ourselves that as long as the goal is good the means do not matter.
Many have fallen where they never expected they could simply because they continued to gaze at the forbidden. The poet has said, "The ill we deem we ne'er could do, in thought we dramatize; What we should loathe, we learn to scan with speculative eyes. Alas! For ignorance profound of our poor nature's bent! The weakened sympathy with wrong becomes the will's consent."
All that glitters is not gold, and all that is beautiful is not thereby approved of by God. Joseph Parker said, "A beautiful gate it is that opens upon ruin! It is well-shaped, well-painted, and the word welcome illuminates it in vivid letters." We need to be fully conscience that evil's best tools are the good, the true and the beautiful. Spurgeon said that the serpent probably got Eve fascinated with it so that she liked it the most of all the creatures. To her it was beautiful and something to be treasured. Satan often uses beauty to lead us astray. These are three values that all men desire. People who think sin is always ugly and awful are usually very fine respectable people who will never be saved, for they do not believe they are sinners. We must be ever aware that evil is basically perverted good, for only then can we spot the sins that trap us when we think we are being righteous.
3. To be desired to make one wise. God certainly expected man to use the brain He gave him, and to grow wise is good. Eve desired to be wise and her hunger for knowledge was not evil. We see that a good was the object and goal, which was made to bring about man's fall. She had three good reasons to justify her act of eating. If she put all arguments for and against down in writing, there would only be one against it and three for it. This shows us the quantity of arguments is not a valid basis. No number of arguments weigh anything in the scale of decision when God's command is against it.
Eve let 3 good goals tip the scale, and she chose to go against God's command. Our interest in this message is to stress the fact that evil could not succeeded without the help of the good. Good is the foundation of evil, and without it evil cannot exist. This shows us that good is the original and evil is an intruder. All evil is a perversion of some good in God's totally good universe. One day the perverted will be destroyed, and all his perversions, and all will be good again. Meanwhile we need to grow in our discerning of good and evil that we might not be led into evil by way of the good, but that we might overcome evil with good.
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