Several times of recent months I have read in American Christian literature a statement like the following – “The very word ‘good’ implies its opposite, and the awareness of one demands the awareness of the other. This is the blackboard effect that is seen all through creation. What is justice without injustice with which to compare it? . . . What is beauty without ugliness? What is light without darkness? What is peace without conflict?”
The author of these words, by no means a ‘lightweight’, being a Doctor of Divinity, and Doctor of Theology, argues persuasively that God had to create evil, so that good could be understood. God had to allow Adam and Eve to fall into sin, because otherwise they could never understand good. That was the purpose of the Tree of Knowledge, designed to bring it about.
When my wife and I first read these words, and similar ones from the pens of others, we had revulsion in our spirits that wanted to cry out and say, “No! No! No! That’s horrible!” That was an initial reaction, after which I set myself to consider the matter on the grounds of logic, and realised that the whole concept was not only lacking in common sense and universal human observation, but was an insult to the Creator.
Let us take just one of these pairs of opposites, that of beauty and ugliness. We are being told that in order for us to appreciate beauty, we need to be presented with ugliness; otherwise we could never appreciate beauty for its intrinsic worth. Andrew, my son-in-law is a highly acclaimed figurative and landscape artist, and I put the matter to him. His initial reaction was to utter the word “Rubbish!”
From my own scientific background, and his, as a man with an honours degree in fine art, we agree, though coming from different angles. I have written a booklet entitled “Symmetry” in which I showed that man is geared to symmetry,he simply will not buy things that are not symmetrical. He expects everything to be symmetrical. He also has a finely tuned eye for detecting when things are out of plumb, or not level. Furthermore, he finds that he has an inbuilt faculty of ‘right proportion’, known to artists and architects as the Golden Section. He cannot help himself. Even the animal creation has such inbuilt faculties, which we call instinct. Just look at birds’ nests as a single example. Andrew knows all about this subject of ‘right proportion’ and uses it in his work, more often than not by instinct than by design.
Whence the origin of these inbuilt faculties, if not the God of Creation? He has given us to know instinctively what is beautiful to the eye. We do not need to have ugly things thrust at us to help us know what is beautiful. Ugly things are thrust away from us without further thought or consideration, not because we are consciously comparing them with those that are beautiful, but purely by a built-in instinct. Paul, writing to the Romans, said that even God’s eternal power and godhead are clearly understood by the things that are made so that we have no excuse. In other words the contemplation of the beauties of nature naturally lead us into an awareness of the true nature and character of God the Author of beauty.
I do not need my ears to be assaulted by noise before I can understand and enjoy good music. I do not need to see junkyards and landfill sites before I can appreciate the beauty of the countryside. I do not need to live in the dark before I can properly understand what light is. I do not need to suffer violence in order to enjoy the meaning of justice. I do not need to be engulfed in conflict to recognise the meaning of peace. I do not need to smell rotting cabbages before I can appreciate the scent of roses. I do not need to taste sour milk before I can enjoy honey. Neither do I need to experience evil before I can understand good. And if that’s how I feel, I know that Adam and Eve must have felt it even more keenly, especially before the fall. It is an insult to human intelligence to argue otherwise. “Only God is good” said our Lord – did God then, need to have the awareness of evil within Himself to know that He was good? God forbid.
The error in all this teaching is to focus on good and evil. The event of Genesis 3 is all about obedience and disobedience. Disobedience brought death, which passed through to all mankind. “The knowledge of good and evil” which Adam had after the fall (evil, that is, as we know it today) was the product of his disobedience, not a God-designed tool to comprehend the meaning of “good”. Willing obedience is sought by God, and is the subject of numerous passages in both Testaments. Likewise, God frequently continued to tell His people that disobedience would end in death.
In Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 there is a very interesting observation made by Solomon. “I have seen the task which God has given to the sons of men to be humbled by it. He has made everything beautiful in its time; also He has set eternity in his heart, without which man cannot find out the work which God has made from the beginning to the end.”
But as some ancient Hebrew Rabbis noticed, it would be more correct grammatically to translate the middle portion as follows. “The Beautiful One has made everything in its own season.” The Beautiful One is Japhah in Hebrew. I am greatly indebted to John Gill’s “Expositor” for bringing this gem to my notice.
How true! He is THE BEAUTIFUL ONE. May His name be praised!
P.S. For a detailed study on the subject of “Good and Evil” please refer to Prophetic Telegraph No. 114.