“The worst evil” by James Edwards

“In January 1982 I asked Helmut Thielicke if he could identify the worst evil he experienced in the Third Reich in Germany. His answer: ‘The unredeemed human heart!'”

–James Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2002), 174, fn. 72. Edwards is commenting on Mark 6:6.

“The world still seeks political saviors” by D.A. Carson

“While the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, Jesus comes that they may have life, and have it to the full.

This is a proverbial way of insisting that there is only one means of receiving eternal life (the Synoptics might have preferred to speak of entering the kingdom, although entering into life is also attested there), only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis for spiritual security—Jesus alone.

The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviours—its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots—and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only … to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only … to destroy’).

Jesus is right. It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.”

–D.A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 385. Carson is commenting on John 10:9-10.

“The greatest evil” by C.S. Lewis

“I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint.

It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result.

But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business con­cern.”

–C.S. Lewis, “Preface to the 1961 Edition,” in The Screwtape Letters: Annotated Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1942/1996), xxxvii.

“The first step toward heaven” by Thomas Brooks

“No man begins to be good till he sees himself to be bad. The young prodigal never began to mend, he never thought of returning to his father, till he came to himself, till he began to return into his own soul, and saw himself in an undone condition (Luke 15:12–22).

Ah! young men, young men: you must see yourselves to be children of wrath, to be enemies, to be strangers, to be afar off from God, from Christ, from the covenant, from heaven, to be sin’s servants, and Satan’s bond-slaves.

The ready way to be found is to see yourselves lost. The first step to mercy is to see your misery. The first step towards heaven is to see yourselves near to hell.

You won’t look after the Physician of souls, you won’t prize the Physician of souls, you won’t desire the Physician of souls, you won’t match with the Physician of souls, you won’t fall in love, in league with the Physician of souls, you won’t resign up yourselves to the Physician of souls, till you come to see your wounds, till you come to feel your diseases, till you see the tokens, the plague-sores of divine wrath and displeasure upon you.”

–Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 238.

“Not the way it’s supposed to be” by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it—both transgression and shortcoming.

Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony. Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God.”

–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 5.

“The diagnosis is very bad news” by C.S. Lewis

“When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger. The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment.

It was against this background that the Gospel appeared as good news. It brought good news of possible healing to men who knew that they were mortally ill. But all this has changed. Christianity now has to preach the diagnosis– in itself very bad news– before it can win a hearing for the cure.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1940/1996), 48.

“Depraved misrepresentation” by J.I. Packer

“The amount of misrepresentation to which Calvin’s theology has been subjected has been enough to prove his doctrine of total depravity several times over!”

–J.I. Packer, The Collected Shorter Writings of J. I. Packer, Vol. 4 (Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster, 1999), 4:19.

“The horror! The horror!” by Joseph Conrad

“I had a vision of him on the stretcher, opening his mouth voraciously, as if to devour all the earth with all its mankind. He lived then before me; he lived as much as he had ever lived—a shadow insatiable of splendid appearances, of frightful realities; a shadow darker than the shadow of the night, and draped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.

The vision seemed to enter the house with me—the stretcher, the phantom-bearers, the wild crowd of obedient worshippers, the gloom of the forests, the glitter of the reach between the murky bends, the beat of the drum, regular and muffled like the beating of a heart—the heart of a conquering darkness.

It was a moment of triumph for the wilderness, an invading and vengeful rush which, it seemed to me, I would have to keep back alone for the salvation of another soul. And the memory of what I had heard him say afar there, with the horned shapes stirring at my back, in the glow of fires, within the patient woods, those broken phrases came back to me, were heard again in their ominous and terrifying simplicity.

I remembered his abject pleading, his abject threats, the colossal scale of his vile desires, the meanness, the torment, the tempestuous anguish of his soul. And later on I seemed to see his collected languid manner, when he said one day, ‘This lot of ivory now is really mine. The Company did not pay for it. I collected it myself at a very great personal risk. I am afraid they will try to claim it as theirs though. H’m. It is a difficult case. What do you think I ought to do—resist? Eh? I want no more than justice.’…

He wanted no more than justice—no more than justice. I rang the bell before a mahogany door on the first floor, and while I waited he seemed to stare at me out of the glassy panel— stare with that wide and immense stare embracing, condemning, loathing all the universe. I seemed to hear the whispered cry, ‘The horror! The horror!’”

–Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (New York: Penguin Books, 1899/2007), 91-2.

“Sin is self-abuse” by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“Sin hurts other people and grieves God, but it also corrodes us. Sin is a form of self-abuse.”

–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 124.

“Sin is folly” by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

“Sin is folly. No matter what images they choose, the Bible writers say this again and again. Sin is missing the target; sin is choosing the wrong target. Sin is wandering from the path or rebelling against someone too strong for us or neglecting a good inheritance. Above all, at its core, sin is offense against God. Why is it not only wrong but also foolish to offend God? God is our final good, our maker and savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest.”

–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 123.