Static Goal but Shifting Form of Evil


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Once British statesman, Edmund Burke made this statement. Does this quotation sound not so good? Certainly, it is. However, we should not underestimate the truth that human goodness is not enough to triumph evil, nor should we fear of defeat from evil because of inadequate goodness in us. While the human race is doomed to inevitable death, and evil deceives and seems victorious in our pain and suffering, still he is deprived of autonomy and constantly defeated.

The implacable character of evil can never turn to good; yet, Evil can be resisted for time being. CS Lewis also affirms that “Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good”[1]. He has presented three different human perspectives of evil in his series respectively: the Screwtape Letters, the Problem of Pain, and the Great Divorce.

Lewis never portrays Evil as a horned, disfigured, and terrific creature, as the folklores and folk tales tell us about it. Neither the devil is a comic figure that has big paws, claws, and horn[2]. In the Screwtape Letters, the author reminds his readers in the preface that the devil is a liar. He is an unseen mysterious force that acts just opposite of goodness of God. We do not find him wandering and scaring people as a dreadful monster. Yet, he is real and could be frightful that we have thought of him.

Evil takes advantage of human weakness and maneuver the victim for the destruction of his soul and cause damage to others to the extent it could go. Lewis portrays Evil as the well-organized, smart and clever guy. He often acts friendly and devises his plan and strategy to mislead people to live two parallel lives and pursue them to buy the lie[3]. He is described as the active enemy who aims to involve and interferes all aspects of humanity to bring disgrace.

On the other hand, Lewis’s view of Evil in the Problem of Pain is subtly explained by hinting that Evil is the one who brings confusion and turmoil in our lives. Again, he emphasizes that Evil is real. Further, he adds that not every individual might experience the common corporate pain and sufferings. But he warns the readers that the devil can exploit even truths to our deception

In this book, Lewis asks the very practical questions why humanity should suffer, and how this stands out against the notion of God being all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful[4]. He does not borrow simple meaning “good” to attribute to God. When we attribute God as the omnipotent God, it simply refers to his divine nature that he can do everything as something intrinsic, as the very essence of his own nature. “Pain is unmistakably evil” writes Lewis[5]. This is where man gets confused of God’s goodness and evil gets space to inaugurate his foul play. Evil is an opportunist who uses every chance until his desired results come out.

Lewis proposed that there was Evil even before man was created. When free-will is abused, evil is its result. Lewis argues Evil infested in animals even before man appeared[6]. God has set the standards whereby evil is justified by retributive punishment. Hence, Evil cannot escape that punishment.

Similarly, Lewis writes in the Great Divorce that he views good and evil as two different subjects; however, they are related to each other. He stresses that good always overcomes evil. In this book, Lewis illustrates spirit to represent good and ghost to represent evil and asserts how good always triumph over evil. “Without the self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it”[7]. In other words, Evil chose to be evil by himself.

Again, Lewis states the extending grace of God to those ghosts too. They are very proud and arrogant, so they could not make the right choice to be in Heaven. He argues that “Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured”[8]. As an alternative, they chose to enjoy the burning sulfur in the Hell.

As we wrap up the basic statements that we read, we come to the conclusion that Evil never can do good. Good, by definition, is doing morally excellent, or virtuous, or pious, or holding moral righteousness. Cultivate this GOOD in evil is the violation of its own existence. Through these three books, Lewis emphatically wants us to know one truth that Evil may shift his form as friend like in the Screwtape Letter, or use other means like pain and suffering in the Problem of Pain, or magnetizes and tricks on us to make us proud, his goal is also static and confirmed to deceive us and take us far away from our Creator, God.

Endnotes:


[1] The Great Divorce,  viii.

[2] The Screwtape Letters, 32.

[3] The Screwtape Letters, 51.

[4] The Problem of Pain, 16.

[5] Ibid, 90.

[6] Ibid, 138.

[7] Ibid, 75.

[8] Ibid, 137.

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