Holloway on… Looking at the problem of evil - Part 2
Holloway on… Looking at the problem of evil - Part 2
What of all the wars, horrors, cruelties beyond conceiving, the degradations and exploitations, and corruption of society, and the corruption of love and marriage and the ministry of sexual love … what about the earthquakes and the famines, and the
unmentionable things done by men to each other “in the name of God” from the dawn of history?
No power in human nature has been so deformed and distorted by the consequences of Original Sin as the sexual power and its pleasure within human nature. No one can measure the known and unknown tragedies that have grown out of its defilement in our stock, nor the repercussions upon the human community at large from all the trauma so caused. To this writer it is not an accident, nor a reflection of “mythology”, but sheer divine inspiration that the first chapters of Genesis portray the difference between man in original justice — the orientation of the Unity-Law to truth and good — and the first consequence of sin, by the contrast between “and they were naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” and “they perceived that they were naked, and made for themselves coverings of fig leaves”. There are many greeds and lusts of the flesh created by the power of the “free” soul upon the “unfree” flesh of mankind. The sexual one however is fundamental, the most basic, and in all its consequences over history, probably the worst. Certainly the contrast in Genesis is a simple and supreme symbol of that which works man’s part of “The Mystery of Iniquity” (2. Thess. 2:7) and of the so-called problem of evil.
An ecological impact from sin?
We make now another point which follows on from the real, the actual impact upon the creation, of the sin of man, and the rejection of God and his Christ. The effects of sin in man will directly and indirectly, consciously and unconsciously affect the order of the very laws of Nature, and what we now call the “ecological balance” of Nature. It stands to reason this way: before the Fall all material and deterministic creations were membered one to another in a great economy or “equation” of causality for truth and for good. Man inherited that “good” order; and in him, in one continuity, the Law was swept up in God and his Christ into the order of the divine life — to be co-sharers of the divine nature of God. Man is part of that very order of Nature and the material creation he now crowns. He is physically and organically a part, part of the Law and its mechanism, as it operates now, towards the summit of its meaning, in what St. Paul, speaking in much the same context, calls “these, the last days” (I. Cor. 10:11), days when the Lord of History consummates through his own activity, the Unity-Law He poised in the first flash of its genesis.
There is nothing we do, conceive, or plan, nothing we desire within our very being, which does not produce its own material “wave” or impact upon the environment around, even as the same influence linked to the soul, impacts and influences our brethren for good or for evil. In either order, if the “wave” of our being is anarchic, incompatible in its own self with the pulse and frequency, so to speak, of God’s Unity-Law, his providence for good, then that impact is part of the principle and problem of evil — an influence for disintegration. We know now on how fine a balance the world, and the universe that supports it, is poised. We have become aware of ecological damage, the disintegration caused in an obvious manner by human folly, human greed, and human heedlessness. We are that sort of people, most of us unconsciously heedless and greedy, quite apart from deliberate wickedness. We would have been wiser, humbler, “cleaner” in every sense of clean, if as a race, cleaving to God in grace, we had grown in holiness from the beginning. Holiness is the theological perspective of that which is whole, has the integrity of its nature and its working; ministering in beauty the Unity-Law of God.
Sin as a natural curse
It is to be anticipated that, without sin, disparate nationalisms, and contradictory religions, selfish grabbing of the resources of the earth would have given way to a world order in which the world was worked as one commonwealth for the life of mankind. As men multiplied and their artefacts interacted with the environment of the planet — just as their minds and bodies interact — that there would be changes, “greenhouse effects” maybe. With their bodies, souls, and artefacts ordered within a much more beautiful and wise economy of life, we can anticipate that such an effect would profitably and wholesomely have increased the resources of the world for the numbers of mankind.
It is science itself today which is taking the “mythological” out of the first three chapters of Genesis. For the Earth is a garden,
and man is set to tend and cultivate it fruitfully. Everything we do and are is part of that impact for good or for desolation. We have to take much more literally the “mythological” curse on the earth because of sin: “cursed be the earth in thy work; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee: in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou return to the dust, from which thou wast taken” (Gen. 3:18-19). The curse is not arbitrary, we suggest, just the result of “natural” law. Man is part of the causal order of nature on his planet. Everything we do affects the brother or sister in soul and body: everything we do as a “mixed” entity of matter and spirit affects also other material being around in its own order. God made the harmony of nature equational from the beginning, and we are the master-value of the equation.
Christ an “ecological” influence
If from the natural “radiation” of body, soul, and both as “personality”, sin in us is a principle of dissolution, even in the material environment, then grace likewise, especially the grace of Christ, the summit of God’s Unity-Law in creation, is also a principle of life, restoration and healing. We do not know how far the ramifications and interaction of this principle may go. We do know that the redemptive work of Christ was made an agony of stress and rejection, because God in Christ is the supreme Environment in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts. 17:28). The rejection, agony and crucifixion of God made man is the supreme manifestation of the resistance to God which is the very “problem of evil” itself. The prayer in the Garden — “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me: nevertheless, if it may not pass, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matt. 26:30) — does not seem to me to be merely “human” grief. I suspect it is the manifestation that God himself, the “Father”, cannot change the order established upon man’s free-will, and the consequences, including the manner of our redemption, which
must follow. Jesus, in all that He is, was then, and is now as living and acting, more than just the summit of God’s gift to us. He was and is the peak of God’s whole Law of creation and of governance for the universe itself. Through grace, and through nature, (for God has made them one economy, and one identity in the humanity of Christ) Christ, whether passible on earth, or impassible but living in His Church, His Sacraments, and His People, is an “ecological” influence if you like, which reaches, especially through us men, into every aspect of creation.
“My Peace I leave with you.” We do right therefore to thank God, and especially to thank Jesus, for all the good we have; all the blessings, all the security and family joy: for the friendships, for the good health . . . for all that goes well. It comes from Him, and is maintained in so many complex ways by Him and through Him. Yet the consequences of sin also remain, are very active, and in our affluent, arrogant, and sensual days much on the increase. The consequences of this disintegrating power can hit us at any time. Jesus did not promise “his friends” immunity, quite the opposite: “if they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you also; if they have listened to My word, they will accept yours also . . .” (John 15:20), but there is a vast array of texts to make the point! We have to take up our cross every day, and walk behind Him. He is the source and creator of our joy in every happiness we have. Those who love Him, holy parents, good and dear friends, faithful and loving wife or husband, children that are a joy — and over all the Eucharist and the Church, and priests who are spiritual and true — all of this spiritual “ecology” may give us years and years of almost unbroken happiness. It is not guaranteed, it cannot be guaranteed. The power of sin can, and may break in on us, as Judas broke in on the “happy band” of the Eleven. He who is the giver of the joy when all goes well, is also the giver of strength and consolation, when we drink of the chalice that He had to drink. We will all find it so, we do find it so. One speaks not from “faith” but from experience. In unclouded joy, and in sheer sorrow, there remains always, as an experience, the presence and support of Christ: communally in the Church, personally in the individual life. “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, do I give to you”. (John 14:27).
As priests we need to explain to the “little ones” of God that God has not “done this to me” nor “sent this to me” in any direct, personal sense at all. Nor is it true to say of some great loss or horror, say the rape of a child, “we have to accept the will of God” except in the same sense, and with the same solidarity, as Christ accepted the bitter chalice sin had brewed for him. The roots of the wheat and the darnel are inextricably interwoven until the harvest, but “an enemy has done this,” not the work or will of God.
An Angel on your shoulder?
If God were to try to “stop me sinning”, how many thoughts, impulses, initiatives, which seem to us good, innocent, harmless pleasures etc, would have to be bidden in their first movements by a “good angel” who would know the ultimate consequences. We would, the vast, vast majority of us, soon wish him “get off my shoulder!” God can only
influence us totally when completely, in all that we have and are, we are attuned in a manner which actually is deeply contemplative, to the wisdom and will of the Trinity who dwells within us. As I understand it, this is the highest degree of inner communion with God in the “unitive way” as St. John of the Cross describes it. We do not know how many natural disasters may be due to the sin of man, perhaps cumulatively over centuries. We cannot be sure that The Flood had no relationship to all flesh around that area having “corrupted its way”. We can be a lot less sure that there is no direct relationship between AIDS, natural law, and the homosexual devastation which is Los Angeles. Come to that, one has never read or heard that our other sexual diseases are a problem for animals, in their natural environment.
The very protection of mankind from natural disasters that were inevitable from the contingent, limited perfection of the planet Earth as a habitat, might well have been mediated to human communities by great prophetic souls, even as Christ prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem as a consequence of his rejection, and because “in the day of your visitation, you did not know the things that were to your peace”. Certainly many of the saints helped individuals, both by warnings of danger, and by
encouragement, in a prophetic manner, to respond more perfectly to God. The saints were great healers. Physical healing was not, and is not now, the primary work of Christ to the world. We all have to wane and die. Yet in the Gospels healing is a great sign of the power of God in Christ. Healing, not only physical, but “pardon and peace” brought to the brethren in the radiation and peace of beautiful personality, has always been the mark of the saint in the life of the Church. Truly holy mothers and fathers bring this radiation to the formation of the minds and hearts of their children.
For the priest or the nun, and here one admits to speak from knowledge, the first great joy of life, as we get older, is the humble joy of the love of God as an experience. The second is like to this: the sheer happiness of seeing in the lives and personalities of good men and women, especially the younger ones, a deepening beauty, closeness to God, willing and prayerful service, and not infrequently the giving of their own whole lives as a total vocation to God in the closer, apostolic service of religion. There is a parallel here of course between Christ’s own answer concerning the “two great commandments of the law” and their interdependence. It is God who gives the gift and the power, and the grace always. But He needs flesh and blood as the channel of His own flesh, now ascended. The beauty of human holiness, the radiance of nobility in men and women, needs to be ministered. It needs the “disciple”. This alone, once realised, should prompt many and generous vocations. The personal loves and joys that grow out of this life of “vocation” last till the end. It is the fulfilment of Christ’s own promise that those who, apparently, give up all to follow Him, receive back in love from persons “one hundred fold”, even in this present time (Mark 10:30).
One Communion for Blessing or Curse
What we often call the Unity-Law of Control and Direction is more than the unity of the ascent of material being, through an evolution ordered from God back to God. It is also a ministry of life and well-being of thing unto thing. It passes into the creation of man, when matter of its own law and formula, at its unique peak, requires the soul as coprinciple of being, and a new creation spiritual and material in synthesis, now lives in direct communion with God, as its law of life and being. The Law, still a continuity and one economy in a higher order of being, is still a mutual ministry, of man to the Earth he inherits, and men to each other, with God. The “Law”, the one communion of ministry and finality, consummates in Jesus Christ. His is the work to redeem the damage, the disintegration, the blighting of the beautiful work of God. For evil has its own ministry, individual and social, even to this day. This is the Mystery of Iniquity, which at the end of time will greatly abound, and of its very nature, call forth the Second Coming of Christ (Dan. 7:26; Apoc. 20:7-9).
Christ’s own work, guaranteed by his resurrection from sin-inflicted death, is to redeem and sweeten, to gather “a little flock”, but through few to leaven many and to redeem fully in the condition of purgation what cannot be made beautiful here. It is part of Christ’s work in the Eucharist and why that Sacrifice is efficacious for the living and for the dead. It is a work of ministry, of the making of people, not just the institution of the Church and her Sacraments. It is always a personal work, and in this, the Mystery of the Kingdom we are called to share. To think this way, and realise the intercommunion of creation at all levels, and in all three orders, helps us, one suggests, to understand better the problem of evil, its inevitability, and our personal identification with Christ.
There must be much more to develop, yet more to ponder. It is unlikely to be the stint in the garden of the world and the Church of this writer. He is very grateful for all the prayers and love that supported him in his recent grave illness. However, the prognosis for severe myocardial disease is not generous. The Lord has most sweetly and gratuitously given notice of termination of lease upon “this our earthly tent” (see St. Paul, 2 Cor. 5:1). Time — as so often when camping — to brush out, fold, roll and wait at the roadside for pick-up. The task is passed to the young.
This is the concluding part of Fr. Holloway’s Editorial for FAITH magazine, May/June 1989.