Vol. 12, September-October, 1950 No. 5

God's Relation to Sin and Evil
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Seattle 22, Wash.
My Dear Brother:

I am sorry that it has taken me so long before being able to reply to yours of the 30th of June. Too many irons in the fire!

Some unsettled problems yet! Thank God for that! Would life not be rather hum-drum if we had nothing to wonder about, nothing to question, nothing to examine? I trust that we are making a little headway towards acknowledgment of divine truth anyway.

It is well to be inclined to search, question, investigate and seek for deeper understanding of things divine, yes, any and every subject that God has mentioned in His Book; but let us remember, brother, that after all, the illumination must come from Him Who only "giveth wisdom and understanding." And after all, even the most advanced have only a few fragments of, the infinite knowledge inherent in God, or, we might say, laid down in the Scriptures, and not two have exactly the same fragments. It is my life ambition to share with all the members of The Body the fragments that God has granted me, and I try to do this in my blundering way, under multifarious dis-advantages. It is my privilege thus to labor, but I know that in spite of all my efforts to present "my fragments" as they should be presented, I am yet a failure.

Now as to what has been said about the big subject of God's relation to sin and evil both by myself and others, I consider nothing more than feeble efforts to gradually gain the proper understanding. None of us has yet reached it fully. For this reason I dare not be dogmatic in my assertions that I have expressed "the truth, all the truth, and nothing but the truth." But one thing is deeply embedded in my conviction, whether anyone else shares this with me or not, that any doctrine that does not lead to Godliness but leads the saints into sin and a God-disgracing life, contrary to all the admonitions given in the Word of God, must give undebatable proof of its scripturalness, before I can subscribe to it. That the doctrine of "All out of God" AS PRESENTED BY CERTAIN TEACHERS wrecks and ruins the faith of believers and leads them headlong into gross sin and immorality, and this under the pretext of a superabounding grace of God, of this there can be no doubt. The proof of this is abounding on every hand, and it is seen in the life of many in abundant measure. Now I do not take doctrinal proof from the evident results of a doctrine, but when the results and clearly unavoidable consequences of a doctrine are diametrically opposed to Godliness then I say again: I want undebatable Scripture proof that that doctrine is in harmony with the word of God.

The proof that has been offered in support of certain one's interpretation of "All out of God" is not at all satisfactory to me. As Bro. Thomson has shown, that even Ro. 11:36 is not beyond all doubt as being appropriate for such support. If his exposition has not convinced you, you should at least begin to suspect that that text is not quite as strong a support as has been thought by some. You seem to be inclined to think that here is where faith should supersede intellect, and we should, in spite of the contextual setting, yet believe that this text has universal scope. Now it is your privilege to so believe, but I dare not. I cannot see it thus after weighing the evidence that has been laid before me. You seem to think that Thomson and myself have appealed to human bias by mentioning the seeming unreasonableness of God being the originator of all the vile eruptions of the flesh, but are you not appealing to human bias when you seem inclined to ignore the contextual setting of this text after it has been so clearly demonstrated by Thomson?

You think that our position leads us into "other immediate difficulties." All right, but what about yours? To me the difficulties that your position involves are far more numerous and seem to me insurmountable. I pointed out some of these in my discussion of this subject some years ago. Knoch emphasized that every detail in the universe has been pre-determined by God and is in His eonian purpose from the beginning. If this is so then every move, every inclination, thought, motive, etc., has been sternly determined to be just as it is being expressed by any and all of His creatures. He has predetermined how many microbes, flies, insects, etc., there should be in His eonian purpose and also every move of each one of these myriads of utterly insignificant beings (insignificant, compared to higher intelligences). But if this is so there is no escape from every such predetermined move being executed as predetermined. If not so, He fails in some details in His purpose, and if He fails in some He may fail in all. He ceases to be The Supreme One in His universe.

Has He predetermined every detail, or has He not?

If He has not, then there must be a dividing line between what He has, and has not predetermined.

Is there any scripture that tells us that God has pre-determined every detail? No, none at all. It is only a certain peculiar interpretation of certain scriptures which some demand that we shall believe, or be branded as deniers of God's deity. They courageously assert that their understanding of God's truth IS God's truth, but not all are ready to believe it—thank God. Not all are ready to worship man.

Does Scripture hint at any necessity for such rigid predetermination? No, not at all. Neither does common sense. But the Scriptures certainly make it clear that God has it in His power to control everything that needs His control. And this He does, sometimes by direct, personal intervention, and sometimes by and thru His laws that He has established.

It is ridiculous to think that God had to predetermine every detail of life in order to carry His purposes to a successful conclusion. If so, He is more limited than humans. We can carry out many things without having every detail pre-decided. Is He more limited in ability? There is nothing in the divine oracles that compels me to believe such a ridiculous thing. If it was so declared then I surely would believe it.

Now as to this "direct" and "indirect" relationship of God to sin and evil, as I have tried to express it before: You seem to think that making God indirectly responsible for sin and evil is a kind of artificial excuse or shield to mitigate unfavorable reflection on Him, if He is directly responsible for every sin and evil, a kind of an alibi, but, which, according to your thinking does not at all improve the situation as compared to making Him chargeable for each and every sin in believer and unbeliever. I think, however, that there is a wide difference in seeing Him only indirectly connected with human corruption as compared to Him having determined every expression of carnal rottenness. Let us see.

That God is responsible for all sin and all evil I doubt not. By this I mean that He has taken upon Himself to see to it that when He has finished His work of creation and redemption then there shall not remain any bad effects of sin and evil. All unfavorable consequences shall be removed. The whole eonian; experience will redound to His glory and the happiness of all of His creation.

Certain considerations may help to clarify this. I said when He has finished His work. His work of creation is not yet completed. It will not be before the New Creation stands completed.

But anything in a creative process is, necessarily, incomplete. This incompleteness may be considered as unavoidable evil. But it is only a negative condition, and not something that has been added or imposed arbitrarily. It is merely a lack of the qualities that the process is calling forth. The unripe fruit has the evil of unripeness in it, not because something has been added to it or imposed upon it, but because it has not reached its normal condition. It is a negative condition, un-avoidable during the process towards positive perfection.

And this is the case with man and God's creation. It is unfinished. The Old Creation was merely the rough-hewing. The evils that adhere to mankind, and, maybe, also to His heavenly messengers, are temporary imperfections that belong to the process. And this process God has designed. He it was that decided that this temporary condition should prevail for a while. Without it man would not have the experience that makes him an intelligent enjoyer of the Creator and His Love, Wisdom and Power. Had God created man "perfect" he would, in reality, be imperfect. He would be only an unintelligent machine, no matter how well he might perceive the exterior expressions of God and His work.

If God had made man without the ability to act in both good and evil his condition would be static. There would be no possibility for development and progress. As he started so would he remain. If God had predetermined every motive, act and desire of man's life and experience (as the fatalism of certain teachers would have it), then man would be nothing but an automaton. Furthermore, God would have no basis upon which to hold man accountable. But thru' the scriptures we know that man is accountable to God. He is accountable because he has been given ability to know and to act in both good and evil. He also has a certain amount of liberty within which he can choose. If he had no such liberty and ability there would be no ground or basis for correction, and discipline, and, consequently, not for learning and advancement.

In fact, under such a condition God would be accountable to man. If God preferred charges against man he (man) could come back with the argument, "Why hast Thou made me thus? I have done only what Thou decided that I should do." Hitler can demand the highest commendation and the grandest reward for his infernal rottenness.

You speak of the difficulties that our position takes us into, but here are some of the enigmas that your position dumps us into:
If God has predetermined every detail of life then He has determined every motive and if He has done this then He has imposed upon man the unavoidable necessity of doing what He (God) decides should be done, but then He has removed all ground for retribution and correction. In fact, it would be a travesty on justice if God should propose to deal out anything to man but commendation and rewards for his sin. No one can save me from the horns of this dilemma. There is no escape. It is stark fatalism that takes us into such difficulties, no matter how it may be adorned with beautiful words and phrases.

Human illustrations of things divine are always faltering and failing, but I can hardly resist the urge to give an illustration of what I mean by some of the foregoing, from my present work here.

We are just now in the midst of a forced remodelling program. During this process there are many painful experiences and troubles that I did not predetermine as part of the work, but they come, automatically, naturally. Here are debris, chips, dirt, dust, grime with which we have to bear. Nevertheless, they can be turned into benefit for us. If someone steps on a rusty nail that has been left in a board, and I can bring out a remedy that overcomes all the bad effects, then this remedy will be prized by the user all his life and made known to others who may need it. I did not decide that he should step on the nail, but now, since it has been done, I am able to control it and turn it into a decided advantage. I think this illustrates in a feeble way, God's method.

You say that you are impaled on the horns of the dilemma created by the idea that some sins are only indirectly chargeable to God. In the foregoing I have solved this dilemma, if such it is. But how can you solve this one which I am impaled on:? If it is as some others teach, that every sin and all the vileness and corruption flows directly out of God, how can the vile flow out of the Holy One, the unclean out of the clean, the bitter out of the sweet fountain, etc.? Does not the word declare this to be impossible?—Js. 3:10.

And this one: That God has admonished man to live in holiness and virtue, but at the same time He (God) has determined that man shall have no choice in the matter, as He has made him a machine that cannot do anything but what God has decided for him to do. To me it seems that it makes God's directives of holiness a farce and a sham.

And this: That, according to our sense of justice (which we believe to be a God-given ability), He commits the greatest injustice to man when He says that "whatsoever man soweth, that shall he also reap," when He has arranged it so that man cannot sow anything but what he does.

No one can save me from these "horns." But, fortunately, they are man-made just in order to hold on to the peculiar idea that God is the originator of every bit of destructive corruption and vileness.

There are certain propositions that allow of no "middle lane." It is this and nothing else. Such is our problem before us: Either every sin, every violation of the divine moral precepts, every "missing" is either directly out of God, or it is not.

If directly out of God, predetermined beforehand that so it must be, then it must be thus, or God has forfeited His right to be considered the Ruler of His universe.

No Bible believer would concede that.

But then there is only one other possibility: That certain things are not directly out of Him, but only relatively and indirectly out of Him.

To equip intelligent beings with a moral sense, spend a tremendous amount of effort in teaching them right and wrong and then make it impossible for them to carry out His teaching of right; then punish, discipline and correct them for having done the only thing that He had decided for them to do, would be the greatest contemplated injustice imaginable.

On the other hand, if He gave them ability to commit both good and bad (no matter how limited such abilities were), and then taught them good and evil and gave them a certain amount of liberty to practice His precept, or do otherwise, then I can see harmony, justice and wisdom in such arrangements.

Your position makes man a robot who cannot act in any way but what his maker has decided for him to do, and when he has done that his maker vents His wrath and displeasure because he has done what He wanted him to do!

Is this sense, or nonsense?

But if God has planned to control all the potentialities which He, Himself endued man with and transmute the evils that man commits into good, if He has made Himself responsible for the happy outcome of it all, then no one can cast any aspersions on the Maker for having subjected His creation to vanity and corruption, no matter how much evil has been committed.

The idea that we must take the expression "All out of God" to mean nothing but directly and positively is one of the strangest ideas concocted by man's cock-eyed brain, and I cannot see the least support for it neither philosophically, nor Scripturally. It does not express absoluteness, but relativity. Only by taking it in that sense can we harmonize it with common sense and the rest of the Scriptures.

God bless you, brother! May the Lord lead us on!
E. A. Larsen.

This letter has been slightly revised, compared with the original. Copy of it was sent to a friendly critic and competent student of The Word. He objected to certain expressions and thots which call for a few remarks which, I hope, will help to clarify the subject further.

He objected to the idea that God had endowed man with tendencies to evil, so I changed this to "potentialities" (next to last paragraph). I do not suppose anyone will deny that all the potentialities in Adam, which, of course, he transmitted to all the race, was put in him by his maker. If they were not, where did they come from? I hold that in these "potentialities" were also the tendencies to both evil and good.

He also objected to the idea that evil and sin in man is a negative condition. If we view it as such, he avers, then we may just as well agree with Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy that sin and evils do not exist.

I cannot see that we are, logically, compelled to go to that extreme. I really believe that the solution to the problem lies in this and similar expressions.

"Negative" and "positive" are words expressing relativity. When I say that sin and evil in man is a negative condition I mean that it is not something that has been put in man, but it is absence of the contrasting virtues. Let me try to illustrate.

The idiot is not such because more idiocy or imbecility has been put in him than in those who are normal. He is lacking intelligence, and that is a sore evil. The consequence of this evil is that he "misses," or sins.

The natural thief is not such because a greater amount on dishonesty has been deposited in him, but he is lacking in the virtue of honesty, and this is a negative condition—a sore evil.

Weakness is lack of strength. Sickness is lack of health. Darkness is lack of light. Cold is lack of heat. Negative conditions.

Whether or not a certain characteristic in a person or an experience, is negative or positive depends upon its relation to either phases of life. It is a matter of relativity.

When my foster mother took me over to the bushes and provided a birch twig to dance on my rear end because I failed to get up in the morning, or I had "lost" a cow or sheep from the herd, then to my back and to my feelings it was a grievous and sore evil, but it built into my make-up something that I am yet grateful to her for. The grievous evil, when related to remote results, was the greatest good.

A man died here the day before yesterday. The same day he said "I have to die, but I want so much to live!" He was a very sick man. Death was his greatest enemy, the greatest evil. But it brot the only relief that could come to him. It brot sweet rest. It was—when related to his future, and God's purposes for him—the greatest good that could come to him that night.

Related to the immediate feelings and comfort of the patient a surgical operation is a sore evil, but related to his future health and happiness it may be the greatest good.

Applying all this to our problem of evil we can agree that the trying experiences of mankind, having been, by the Creator, subjected to vanity and corruption, (Ro. 8), is a sore evil, but the results of it shall be glorious beyond contemplation.

My brother asks: "Why do you say that immature fruit is evil?" I did not say that it was. I said that the unripeness of it was an evil. Any imperfection is an evil. But it is only a temporary condition which the process of ripening is supposed to overcome. So also with man. He is immature. He is unripe—unfinished. He is yet in the process of creation. The Creator will see to it that His work is finished. This is what I mean by saying that God is responsible for all the results of sin and evil in the world. He is the primary first-cause. Had He decided on a different course and different experiences for mankind He would have brot His plans to completion in His own pre-determined way. If it was contrary to God's intentions that sin and evil should infest the human race, then we are forced to deny His Omnipotence. If we admit that it was in line with His intentions then He must be responsible for all its results, or He is deficient in Love.

The point that I tried to bring across was this:
The greatest amount of sins that man commits is a consequence of his immaturity, his "unripeness," if you please, and not, necessarily, pre-decided acts by God. There is no necessity, neither from the standpoint of Scripture, nor by the nature of the case, to impose upon God the charge of directly imposing on man to commit all the dirty, infernal acts of ungodliness that he is guilty of. May God illuminate!

E. A. L.

Last updated 4.10.2008