Creator or Cruelty

“Call no man fortunate who is not dead—for the dead are free from pain.”

The last comment of the chorus on the fall of Oedipus reminds us that the one virtue that the pagan worldview cannot support is hope. It rises to nobility, to faithfulness, even to love, as in the relationship between Odysseus and Penelope. But hope is beyond it.

Why? If “in the beginning was Nature,” as all pagan cosmogonies affirm, then the cycles of birth and death are ultimate and there is nothing more to be said. Is Nature good or evil? Is she kind or cruel? Yes. And she is fickle. She may be kind for a while, but she is always cruel in the end. But if we can say, “In the beginning, God . . .” then there is something better and higher than fallen Nature, and the possibility is created of going beyond mere escape from pain to the positive possession of a Joy that will not pass away.

Donald T. Williams is Professor Emeritus of Toccoa Falls College. He stays permanently camped out on the borders between serious scholarship and pastoral ministry, between theology and literature, and between Narnia and Middle-Earth. He is the author of fourteen books, including Answers from Aslan: The Enduring Apologetics of C. S. Lewis (DeWard, 2023). He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

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more from the online archives

32.5—September/October 2019

Peter's Sword

by Patrick Henry Reardon

33.4—July/August 2020

The Joy of God

by S. M. Hutchens

30.3—May/June 2017

St. Luke the Evangelist

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

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