The Envy of the Devil & the Glory of God
Samuel Johnson calls envy the most malignant of vices, because it diminishes another’s good without increasing one’s own. A thief at least gets some goods as the result of his theft, but the envious man in attacking another only wounds and does not profit. The spiritual being whom Christians call the Adversary knows that he cannot win against God in a direct contest, but he can attack God’s glory, that is, the perception of God’s goodness and wisdom by men and angels. In an unfallen world, God would be transparent in all creation. No one could doubt his existence or his goodness. But in a fallen world, the chief source of disquiet about the very existence of God, or whether he can be called good in any human sense, is the evil in human history and in creation.
The strength of this difficulty should not be underestimated. Even men of great and unshakable faith, like Cardinal Ratzinger, say that the evil in the world gives them pause. The past century has been a horror story come to life. Children have had their brains sucked out; Jews were buried alive so that the ground moved for days; concentration camp inmates were thrown alive into pits of burning bodies or drowned in pools of excrement; planes were crashed into towers that crumbled into shards and dust—why have not the heavens darkened? Nor is this past century unique. History was a slaughterhouse even before it was written down.
Nor is history the only spectacle that could cause us to doubt the goodness of the Creator. The animal world is full of horrors. Some insects digest their victims alive; human beings are attacked by flesh-eating bacteria or viruses that cause them to bleed from every orifice. Is this a design of darkness, to appall?
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Leon J. Podles holds a Ph.D. in Old English and Old Icelandic from the University of Virginia and is a senior editor of Touchstone. His latest book is Losing the Good Portion: Why Men Are Alienated from Christianity (St. Augustine's Press, 2020). He and his wife Mary (author of the Touchstone column "A Thousand Words") are the parents of six children. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland.
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor