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Lecture 6. Evil: The Enigma of Theism.

Retrospect: the preceding Course.

MY first course of lectures was meant to quicken and deepen a perception of the absolute uniqueness of the final problem, in its threefold articulation, with which philosophy and theology are concerned; also to suggest the inadequacy and incoherence of all attempts to resolve its triplicity into an impersonal philosophical unity, as well as the impossibility of treating the universe as wholly uninterpretable in the nescience to which those attempts conduct. Towards the end of the course we seemed to approach the elements of a settlement accommodated to the needs of man in his true ideal.

The present Course.

In the present course I have hitherto been trying to penetrate the ground in reason for theistic or filial faith in the Power that is finally operative in the universe, and is thus at the heart of all our experience. The questions which I now meet are concerned, directly or indirectly, with the supreme difficulty which theistic faith has to overcome, when we find ourselves in a universe which, in this corner of it at least, presents a strange, and unexpected mixture of what is bad with what is good. This is an obstacle to moral faith, and the religious interpretation of the world, which must be honestly met. But first let us recollect the chief issues thus far.

The Ethical Foundation, or Moral Faith in the Supreme Power in the universe.

It was urged that human life, in its practical dependence on experience, always presupposes ethical trustworthiness in the Power that is continuously revealing itself in all the experience of which man is conscious We cannot proceed at all under the possibility that the universe in which we are living and having our being may be morally untrustworthy, or deceptive, and therefore even physically uninterpretable, so that reason or order, in the evolution of its events, is not to be finally depended on. Such a universe would be either intended by its supreme Power to put us to intellectual and moral confusion, or, if it be an unintended issue of what is finally chaotic change, its events would be equally liable to traverse reasonable expectations. Moral trust in a perfectly reasonable universe of reality is the needed condition of experience, and for understanding what any fact or change really means. This fundamental moral trust may be only tacit and unreflected on by many men: its latent presence is not apt to be recognised, for instance, in the trust we daily put in our perception of things around us, or in our memories of the past, or in the assumption that the intellectual necessities of which we are conscious may not after all be illusions, even although we are intellectually necessitated to think that they must be true. Yet in all this an ethical faith in our mental experience is virtually implied: there is a moral acknowledgment that the distinct recollections of memory, and the supposed physical order, and the perceived intellectual necessities, cannot be transitory illusions in a temporal procession of external changes and mental states that is all hollow and deceptive, so that the whole performance may be the manifestation not of a trustworthy but of a malignant or of an indifferent Power. For human activity is sustained by the optimist faith, that the universe with which we are in living intercourse must at last be treated as a morally trustworthy reality—a perfectly good and omnipotent moral Power or Person being therein manifested.

Conscience and Causality.

In this ethical root of life, and spiritual ground of the interpretability of experience, one finds the germ of Theism. It is the absolutely uniting and harmonising principle, in that threefold articulation of real existence from which we set out. The universe of reality is finally a moral unity incompletely comprehensible in human intelligence, but which moral reason obliges man to suppose somehow consistent with moral perfection in the Power or Person that is continually at work in the heart of it. Cosmic faith morally involves this amount of theistic faith; for even physical interpretation of a presumed cosmical order must be interpretation of that in which morally trustworthy Power or Personality at the centre is being physically revealed. Really originating power is recognised by man only in spiritual or morally responsible Will: there is therefore no reason to suppose that physical causation is more than the sensible expression or language of spiritual activity. It is an undue assumption that any natural cause can be other than a dependent or caused cause, at last an effect of personal or moral power. The causality attributed to external things may be philosophically conceived as the orderly expression of eternally active Reason, the only true agent in all natural changes. All so-called natural agency may not unreasonably be regarded as really divine agency;—the issue, not, indeed, of a capricious will, but of the infinitely perfect and constantly operative Reason, which may be trusted not to lead us into illusion, if we do justice to ourselves as interpreters of its revelations in nature and in man.

The physical universe is possibly a self-evolving organism, charged throughout with moral purpose.

The cosmical system, moreover, may not unreasonably be interpreted throughout as a universe of organic adaptations, in which everything is fitted into everything else, and in which there is a harmony of means and ends, making the Whole adaptable by man, and man's organism adapted to the Whole; but in which also there is correlative adaptation of every other sentient and intelligent being to the Whole, and of the Whole to every other sentient and intelligent being—the adaptations, not all intelligible to us, yet legitimately assumed by us to be latent in the universal constitution of things.

The insoluble physical mystery into which the outward world at last resolves itself not necessarily inconsistent with its finally theistic meaning.

That the finite and ever-changing universe, in which our conscious lives become morally involved during the interval between birth and death, is a temporal procession of natural causes, all in their turn natural effects, in a natural regress which may even be unbeginning, and that this may continue without end its successive metamorphoses—all this does not seem to militate against the intellectual possibility and the moral need of finally interpreting the universe in theistic faith and hope. The mystery of unbeginningness and unendingness in which the temporal procession of natural events seems at last lost, need not involve moral distrust of the manifestation which what is real makes of itself now; has made of itself since it emerged out of the mysterious Past; or which it has to make of itself on its way into the mysterious Future. The infinite—that is to say the necessarily mysterious—duration of the natural manifestation does not make the course of things and persons morally untrustworthy or scientifically unintelligible—as far as human nature and experience provide for faith and incomplete science. That the past and future of the natural procession disappear in physical mystery, is only another way of saying that human intelligence is necessarily intermediate between Sense and Omniscience. Our relation to the infinite, as the thought of the infinite arises out of quantity in extent or in duration, is in harmony with the intermediate position which man occupies. Duration is revealed to us in the form of a quantity that seems to become at last not a quantity; and this contradictory duality, which follows us everywhere when we try to reduce the infinite problem to the conditions of the understanding that measures by the experience of sense, faces us conspicuously when we try in vain to read the final riddles of physical causality and natural science. But the inevitable darkness in which we then become involved need not communicate itself to the moral reason, nor disturb absolute ethical trust in the Power that in the end determines the experienced reality. That I find myself living in an infinite sphere, the centre of which seems to be everywhere and the circumference nowhere, or in an infinite succession, cannot disturb the eternal necessities of moral obligation, and need not disturb the faith that man's highest relation in all this is to Power that is morally reliable. Although “clouds and darkness” are round about the revelation of this Power which the universe makes, yet “righteousness and judgment” must be “the establishment of its throne”; and thus the whole natural process must be making for the righteousness in which the divine ideal of human life is realised.

Duration, in its blended finitude and infinitude, analogous to the relative revelation, yet final incomprehensibility of God.

The finite in quantity and the infinite are mysteriously blended in our idea of duration, which is at once infinite and finite, subject to finite measures, yet finally unlimited; either way incomprehensible under the conditions of human conscious life and personality. The temporal process inevitably resolves at last into what transcends all temporal limits, so that its final issues are perceived only as what is beyond sensuous understanding. For interminable duration is absolutely unimaginable: a million, or a million times a million, of years, being finite, is a period that is in itself imaginable, although a human imagination cannot distinctly picture so prolonged a process: but endlessness is necessarily unpicturable as a completed unity, for a sensuous picture is inconsistent with the thought; while eternity, if supposed as a state that is inconsistent with duration, and in which change is therefore impossible, is not less incomprehensible. Duration expressed in change is at once cognisable and incognisable, at least through intelligence measured by sense—thus signally illustrating what the universe of our experience in all its aspects illustrates, when intelligence measured by sense tries fully to realise the Power or Personality that finally animates the whole. God, like duration, is at once intellectually apprehended and yet the final mystery—revealed in man, and through man in all natural causation when it is interpreted according to the analogy of what is highest in man;—yet at last as unrevealable scientifically as endlessness, for the timeless is, as such, unrevealable through the changing temporal procedure in nature.


The word “person” has been condemned as an unfit term for designating the Power or Principle that pervades and harmonises the cosmic organism, making its evolutions the object of at least tacit ethical trust. The conception of the final Power as personal is alleged to involve a contradiction in terms. Infinite Being, it is argued, as all-comprehensive, must be the negation of personality: for personality involves the antithesis of something that is not-self or impersonal, therefore excluded from the person, and so makes personality necessarily finite. Thus I am asked by a critic to explain how an omnipresent Being can by possibility be personal: ubiquity and personality seem to him as irreconcilable as light and darkness.

Personality as applied to the morally trusted Supreme power.

Those who allege this objection to the finally ethical or theistic interpretation of existence seem to include as necessary to their idea of personality what I should exclude as irrelevant, even when the term is applied to human beings, still more to the supreme moral Power. Does not the faith on which life reposes—the faith that the universe is finally trustworthy, and that I am morally free—put one who experiences this faith in a consciously ethical relation to the reality that is operative in all his experience? Now if the term “person,” as distinguished from “thing,” is taken as the one term which especially signalises moral relation among beings, and which implies moral order, as distinguished from merely mechanical or physical order; and if the universe of reality, in its final principle, must be treated as an object of moral trust, when we live in obedience to its conditions, does not this mean that it is virtually personal, or revelation of a person rather than a thing—an infinite Person, not an infinite Thing? If our deepest relation to it must be ethical trust in perfect wisdom and goodness or love at the heart of it—trust in its harmonious adaptation to all who are willing to be physically and morally adapted to it—this is just to say that our deepest or final relation to reality is ethical rather than physical: that personality instead of thingness is the highest form under which man at any rate can conceive of God. This is the moral personification, or finally theistic conception, of the universe of experience.

The Infinite or finally mysterious Person.

But this inevitable moral postulate does not oblige those who—for the reason now suggested—speak of God as “Person” to affirm of God all that is now found essential to a human person—any more than the use of the term duration, when we speak of a short duration and eternal duration, obliges us to suppose that eternity must be time. The “personality” of God need not mean that the Being adumbrated in Nature and Man is an embodied and separated self-conscious life like the human,—that God is organised and extended—coextensive with space, and in this gross sense ubiquitous; or that the divine intelligence is a conscious life that is subject like ours to succession, or to change of conscious state. Ubiquity and eternity are for us terms which express, commingled, comprehension and necessary incomprehensibility. The Augustinian idea of the “Eternal Now,” as expressive of what our universe of temporal change is in Divine intelligence, hardly helps to make intelligible to us the sort of consciousness thus attributed to the Power with whom we are in constant moral relation; for a fixed untemporal universe of reality seems not to consist with the reality of perceived change, or with the difference between what happens now and what has not yet happened. Its practical adoption by us seems to dissolve all supposed past and prospective realities into illusions of universal nescience. Personality in man, moreover, implies memory; but we are not bound to suppose that the ethical postulate of life and experience implies the same in the moral Person with whom all experience brings us into constant intercourse. Again, a human intelligence of the world involves reasoning on the part of human persons; but it does not follow that the Supreme Moral Being, signified to us in the universe of nature and man, is actually conscious of eliciting conclusions from premises, or of generalizing under conditions of inductive calculation. The “personality of God” is a formula which implies that, in relation to us—and at the human point of view, the Power manifested in nature and in man must be regarded at last morally, not physically only—as an imperfectly conceived Person, not as an imperfectly conceived Thing.

The physical and intellectual mystery of the universe, not the chief obstacle to a finally moral or theistic interpretation of it.

The conceptions of the three presupposed realities as finally a spiritual unity or moral order, incompletely comprehensible physically or scientifically, that is as manifested to man in the natural temporal process, is a conception that is outside all merely Natural science. Yet moral faith in the world, which we find so strange when we look round and reflect upon it, may be sustained by the relief which this ethical interpretation of its final meaning affords to demands of moral reason of which man is conscious, when he is moved to interpret morally what is at last physically incomprehensible. But the final mystery of unbeginning and unending natural causation, in which the temporal process is lost in both directions, and the contradictions which emerge when the finite measurement of the understanding alone is employed for the infinite comprehension of physical Nature,—these intellectual difficulties are not after all the pressing “burden and the mystery of this unintelligible world.” For a universe in which the finite and the infinite, the natural and the supernatural, are so blended as in the end to transcend the scientific imagination, is not necessarily inconsistent with absolute filial trust on the part of the human persons who are participating in this mysterious existence. Their theistic interpretation of the Whole seems, in spite of those purely intellectual difficulties, to be still ready to relieve the agnostic embarrassment that is inevitable when a physically scientific solution of the infinite problem is demanded;—urgent too, since when theism is lost man is left isolated in a wholly uninterpretable world,—a world that cannot be lived and acted in after total paralysis of the final moral trust. Let it be granted that man cannot explain how or why God exists, the constant sustaining and intending Power throughout the whole course of nature, or indeed why any thing or person should exist at all. This human ignorance is no insurmountable objection to the application of the moral or divine postulate to the changing world in which we actually find ourselves.

The mixture of Evil with Good in the universe is the supreme enigma.

The formidable obstacle to ultimate moral trust in the Power continuously working in the universe is found, not at the mysterious extremities, or because they evade scientific understanding—omnia exeunt in mysteria—but in the suspected contents of this corner of the universe, in which so much is found that ought not to exist at all. On this planet what is bad is mixed up with what is good. Capricious infliction of pain on beings susceptible of pain seems, at least in this region, to be as much the customary procedure of the Supreme Power as the secure happiness which the world, supposed to be a revelation of ethically trustworthy and therefore loving Power, might be expected to present universally. Ignorance and error, moreover, take the place of intellectual insight, more or less in all human minds; and reason, “the candle of the Lord,” in the light of which sentient beings might escape many evils in their experience, and might attain to more that is good,—this candle of the Lord burns so dimly in human minds that even those who have the largest share of it complain that it only shines enough to show the darkness. But even pain and error may be evil only relatively, and as incidents natural to gradually developing intelligence: at a higher point of view they may be seen to be absolutely good. At least they are less formidable obstacles to theistic trust than the occurrence of immoral acts, the entrance of which into existence contradicts the eternal ideal of moral obligation, and which must therefore be absolutely evil. If what is known to contradict the righteousness that is the basis of theistic faith and hope can nevertheless enter into existence in the volitional activity of men,—with a prevailing disposition also towards moral evil among mankind—what trust can be put in the absolute perfection of the Power that is at the root of all? The universe seems absolutely untrustworthy, its phenomena therefore uninterpretable, and human life hopeless.

How can moral perfection be predicated of the Universal Power, when that Power is revealed in the form of a universe which contains sorrow and sin

Somehow persons on this planet are not as they ought to be. Experience shows the world to be “in a very strange state,” Butler somewhere says, and it does not appear that it was ever in a perfect state, or that mankind will ever become perfectly good. How then call the supposed supreme Power be infinitely good, when the continuous evolution of things and persons, in which the character of that Power is revealed to us, contains so much that is evil? A person's character is judged of by his actions: the actions of the Person that is operative in the experienced universe seem not to consist with perfection.

Our experience is confined to the sentient beings on this planet, and even in this is limited in space and duration.

It is true that man's experience of the infinite universe is confined to a very narrow corner of it—chiefly to this remote planet, and to a small part of what it contains—as regards the sentient beings, and the self-conscious persons who inhabit it; and even of them each man's knowledge is fragmentary and superficial. Yet apart from the relations of outward things to the sentient and personal life of which the earth is the scene, what good or evil can be attributed to the “dead things” themselves? The mixed good and evil of the universe, as far as man's experience can carry him, resolves into the good or evil that is found in the sensitive, intellectual, and volitional state of the living beings on this planet. What are they, we may be asked, as examples of the Whole? Our planet, compared to the stellar system, is less than one grain of sand compared to all the grains in the solar system; and its living occupants may be more insignificant in relation to the Whole than the living occupants of a single grain of sand in relation to all the living beings supposed to inhabit the earth. Nor can man determine certainly whether the possession of living inhabitants is a peculiarity of this planet alone in the stellar universe, or whether each sun with its attendant planets is similarly occupied; whether some are empty and others crowded with living beings; whether personal life is always confined to organisms located on stars, or also extended to unembodied spirits able to range through space, or even existing consciously out of conscious relation to place and time. Then there may be sentient beings whose intelligence is brought by their senses into relation with a material world that presents none of the qualities which matter presents to us; inasmuch as they are endowed with none of our senses, but instead with five, or fifty, or live hundred senses wholly alien to those of man. That these and innumerable other possibilities are open may seem to minimise indefinitely the importance of the mingled good and evil of the great current of existence as it flows through the experience of men on this planet, so limited in its extent, and so brief in its duration in each individual life, and even in the past history of its whole human race.

But this does not relieve the difficulty of Evil being found anywhere, in a universe supposed to be ethically trustworthy.

But after all this limitation does not much affect the present question. Ethical trust in the absolute perfection of the Power at work in the universe is inconsistent with one evil in a remote corner, as well as with a universe of evil unmixed with good. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. Trust is lost in a man who has once deceived us, although no man is omnipotent and omniscient. Much more must a single act that can be pronounced absolutely evil seem to destroy ethical trust and hope in the supposed perfect Power or Person. To believe in the Divine perfection, as Cudworth remarks, is to believe that all is as it ought to be; and this faith is apt to be upset if anything is found existing which ought not to exist, however insignificant the corner in which it is found, and however rare the occurrence may be. One such issue must darken the infinite purity. And for man the issues on this planet are all in all. He interprets the universe by the specimen of it which enters into his own experience.

The existence of living beings in the strange state in which those on this planet are found is the apology for agnostic pessimism.

Now, the hardest difficulty which man has to meet in putting a theistic or ethical interpretation upon the world is not the existence of natural causes—unwarrantably assumed to supersede God, instead of to reveal God. It is the bad state in which man finds men, and other sentient beings too, on this small planet. It may be true that we cannot so distinguish the possible from the impossible as to assert with extreme pessimists that this is the worst world possible, nor even that it is found so bad that it were better to pass out of conscious life altogether (if that is a possibility) than to persist in life under the given conditions. Yet, at the least, the history of this planet forms a revelation of omnipotent goodness of a sort unlike what an intelligent being predisposed to absolute ethical trust in the universe of reality might expect.

This difficulty as put by David Hume.

Philo puts the case plainly in Hume's ‘Dialogues’: “It must, I think, be allowed that if a limited human intelligence, utterly unacquainted with the actual universe, were assured before trial that it was the production of a very good, wise, and powerful Being, he would in his conjectures form beforehand a very different notion of it from what we find it to be by experience; nor would he ever imagine, merely from those attributes of its cause of which he was previously informed, that the effect could be so full of vice and misery and disorder as it appears in this passing life. Supposing, indeed, that this person were brought into the world assured (on a priori grounds) that it was the workmanship of such a sublime and benevolent Being, he might perhaps be surprised at the disappointment, but would never retract his former belief, if founded on any solid argument;—since such a limited intelligence must be sensible of his own blindness and ignorance, and must therefore allow that there may be many solutions of these phenomena [evil mixed with good] which will for ever escape his comprehension. But supposing, which is the real case with regard to man, that this intelligent creature is not antecedently convinced of a Supreme Intelligence, benevolent and powerful, but is left to gather such a belief solely from the appearances of things, this entirely alters the ease, nor will he ever find any reason for such a conclusion. He may be fully convinced of the narrow limits of his own understanding; but this will not, in these circumstances, help him to infer the goodness of the omnipotent Power, since he must form his inference from the facts he knows, not from what he is ignorant of. The more you exaggerate his weakness and ignorance, the more diffident you render him, and give him the greater suspicion that such subjects are beyond his faculties. You are obliged, therefore, to reason with him from the known phenomena only, and to drop every arbitrary supposition and anticipation.”

It is an insoluble difficulty in a purely empirical philosophy; but then this philosophy is itself paralysed, even in its physical interpretations, when all ethical or theistic trust is withdrawn.

This is distinctly put. One cannot infer a good artist from a bad picture, especially if he has only this one picture to go upon for his conclusion. And if the true philosophy of the universe is, as with Hume, purely empirical, it is not only impossible to conclude that the world is the revelation in fact of omnipotent goodness; it is also impossible to interpret any of its phenomena for any purpose. Is there any alternative to universal doubt, if we are at liberty to suspect the moral integrity of the Power that is manifested to us in nature and in man? Not to speak of physical science, can the commonest movement in life be made if we may finally distrust the Power that we are therein continually in intercourse with? No doubt the narrow limit of human experience does not experimentally justify the faith that the universal Power must be perfectly good: intellectual finitude only admits that man does not know enough to warrant the conclusion that the suspicious phenomena are necessarily inconsistent with perfection in the Power that they reveal. And if moral perfection must be presupposed in the faith without which self and the world are wholly uninterpretable, and life unfit to be lived, this seems to be a reductio ad absurdum of the dogma that a purely empirical ultimate premiss is adequate philosophically. A primary premiss that is wholly empirical can never get under weigh, for it is really not a premiss. Moral trust in the final principle of the universe is needed to enable man to make way at all.

Pain, error, sin, and death are the chief Evils presented in the human experience of the universe.

Animal suffering, human pain; error or misinterpretation of experience; violation of moral order, against which conscience protests on the entrance into existence of acts inconsistent with eternal moral obligation; death, which cruelly separates persons united in social fellowship, and brings the curtain down before the act is well begun,—these, I suppose, are the chief evils which, on this small and remote planet, seem at variance with its divine order, with our ideal of love and justice, and with omnipotent moral integrity—on faith in all which human life tacitly reposes. It is to these suspicious facts that we apply the term “evil.” For what crimes do animals endure the torments which so many animals undergo in the order of nature? What good purpose is served by the miseries of which surrounding things are the natural causes, and which, if all natural causation is really divine causation, must be caused by God? On this planet Nature often looks cruel and unrelenting, or, at the least, wholly indifferent to the pains and pleasures of living beings. And the seeming cruelty or indifference is perhaps presented on a greater scale other parts of the stellar universe than on this planet. Do not stars suddenly disappear—in collision, it may be, with other stars—involving, we may fancy, the sudden death in agony of their living passengers, or, in other cases, continuous suffering beforehand, while the natural changes were gradually unfitting their world for living occupants?

The existence of moral evil in this part of the universe is the final difficulty in theistic faith.

But the greatest enigma presented in the experience of man is the existence in man himself of acts of consciousness which ought not to exist,—in other words, the existence of what philosophers call moral evil, and what theologians call sin. How can the presence in the world of that which moral reason pronounces absolutely inconsistent with the moral order on which faith in the universe finally reposes,—how can that be in harmony with, or not expressly contradictory of, such faith? Pain, error, and death may be only relatively evil, as seen at the human point of view. But sin is absolutely evil. Pain is the correlative of pity and sympathy, and thus a natural means for the education of spiritual life. Moreover the assumption that the physical pleasure of moral agents ought to be the supreme end of their existence, far less of the existence of the universe of Nature and Man, is one which reason would find it difficult to sustain. The ideal in what Cudworth calls the “intellectual system of the universe” is surely something higher than physical pleasure, as one may argue from facts of observation, and from reflection on the constitution of man: and there is nothing in the categories of intellect, or in the necessary postulates of moral reason, that seems to require this otherwise dogmatic assumption.

For Sin cannot, like Pain, be explained as only relatively Evil.

But the continued presence of what is unconditionally evil cannot be disposed of in this way. How to relieve the mystery of moral evil, including irregular distribution of pleasure and pain, has been the philosophical and theological perplexity from the beginning. It finds expression in Hebrew poets like Job, and in Greek dramatists like Æschylus. It has been the source of innumerable speculative fancies which have left their traces in popular opinion. Can it be reconciled with a final moral trust in the Power that is revealed in external and spiritual experience?

Either Manicheism, or else One imperfect, or One wholly indifferent Power, as solutions.

That the universe, taking it as man finds it in and around him, must be the issue of a constant struggle between two rival eternal Powers, the one benevolent, the other malevolent, is the ancient hypothesis of Manicheism, symbolised in the Zoroastrian antithesis of Ormuzd and Ahriman, and it is not without supporters in the modern world. Its implied subversion of the ethical postulate on which human life reposes, and without which experience becomes incoherent, must discredit this hypothesis with those who are not prepared to yield at last to universal nescience and pessimist despair. A like difficulty attends Monism, which, superficially regarded, presents plausible alternatives—either that the One Power, revealed in the inorganic and organic world, is a Power of mixed good and evil, corresponding to the mixed phenomena of which the revelation contained in nature and man is found to consist; or else that the One Power is blindly and absolutely indifferent to the happiness or misery, the moral good or moral evil, of the dependent living beings. Dualism, in the form of two eternal powers, good and evil, and Monism, or a single eternal Power, partly good and partly evil, or else indifferent, are both inconsistent with moral faith in the universe—that is to say, with religious recognition of God in the articulation of the realities—because inconsistent with moral trust and hope in experience.

“Temptation by the Devil” only a provisional explanation.

Again. The traditional teaching of ordinary Christian theology attributes the evils which afflict men and other animals on this planet to a “fall” of the human race from its divine ideal into a mainly animal and sinful state, caused by the temptation of a wicked being called the Devil, in whom Evil is personified. The first man sinned, and in consequence all men are inclined to sin, and so suffer for their inherited opposition to the will of God. This may satisfy those who do not care to press the question. But it only moves the cause a step back, while it even aggravates the original mystery. It throws no light upon the existing mixture of evil in the universe, even if the alleged facts on which it proceeds are admitted. The Devil being presented as the occasion of moral evil in man, and sin being then transmitted as the natural inheritance of the human race—the fact of its pre-existence in the Devil still remains; with the added difficulty of naturally transmitted sin, which seems to make sin physical evil, to transform moral persons into non-moral things, and to destroy individual responsibility. If the Devil is an eternal Power, co-ordinate with God, we are landed in Manicheism. If he is a “fallen” finite person, whence came moral evil into him? The difficulty is aggravated. What is unconditionally, and therefore irrelatively, evil somehow arose, and is now naturally transmitted in a universe which is still supposed to be the revelation of omnipotent and perfectly good Power.

Can moral evil be a necessity finite personality; or of the intractableness of Matter; or may it even be explained away as a mere negation?

The preceding hypotheses fail to sustain trust in the Power universally at work in a universe which contains what ought not to exist. There are other theories in which the moral Evil is sought to be explained away. For they imply that its appearance is unconditionally necessary in a world of finite or individual beings. Finitude must include evil or imperfection, it is argued. Contrast or antithesis, we are told, is unavoidably involved in all individual existence, which must be the product of opposed forces, and character is naturally formed by the struggle of evil with good. Good can exist only in opposition to Evil; analogously attraction involves repulsion, and positive involves negative electricity. In infinite unindividual Being alone can perfection be realised, without an otherwise necessary mixture and antithesis of evil. But an unconditional necessity for moral evil makes the evil no longer immoral. No one can be blamed for its unconditionally necessary existence, or feel remorse because it is thus found in existence. Some of the old philosophers insisted that Matter was the obstacle to a perfect universe of unmixed good; the universe could not be formed, it was assumed, without pre-existing Matter; and the intractable material was supposed to be incapable of reduction to perfect order even by Omnipotence. But if this be so, Evil is no longer what ought not to be: it cannot but be. Again, that Evil is only a negation, while no real existence can be only negative, is another speculative fancy of theologians, and in philosophical theodicies. Nothing that ought not to exist, it is argued, can ever come into actual existence; what actually exists only errs by defect of reality. A cruel or a dishonest purpose, however, is surely something that actually enters into the mental experience of the cruel or dishonest man; nothing seems to be gained by this verbal relief, except a change of name.

Moral obligation cannot be resolved into arbitrary will.

That “moral obligation” is only the creation of arbitrary divine will, so that arbitrary will becomes the criterion of divine moral obligation, is the hypothesis of some theologians. It also explains away moral order, while it resolves goodness into omnipotence, virtually transforms persons into things, and leads to final scepticism.

Either Pessimism or Optimism the ultimate alternatives.

These theories, strictly understood, all seem to lead towards the pessimist scepticism which is the antithesis of faith and hope. Does, then, theistic or philosophical faith and hope mean an optimist conception of the universe? and, if so, in what meaning of Optimism? This question will be considered in next lecture.