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Great Good and Evil Often Grow Together

Trevin Wax
Trevin Wax
2011 21 Mar


Tim Challies recently reviewed a biography of A.W. Tozer that describes the sad state of Tozer's family life. Challies writes:

These strange inconsistencies abound. Tozer saw his wife’s gifts for hospitality and encouraged her in them; yet he disliked having visitors in his own home. He preached about the necessity of Christian fellowship within the family of Christ; yet he refused to allow his family or his wife’s family to visit their home. For every laudable area of his life there seemed to exist an equal and opposite error. This study in opposites leaves for a fascinating picture of a man who was used so greatly by God, even while his life had such obvious sin.

Tozer's example reminded me of Cornelius Plantinga's description of sin as parasite:

"In general, good and evil grow together, intertwine around each other, and grow out of each other in remarkable and complicated ways.

  • Martin Luther: "one of the three or four most prominent Christians after Paul, a doughty champion of the gospel of race and a ghastly anti-Semite who wanted his readers to break down Jewish homes and house their occupants in stables."
  • Martin Luther King, Jr: "one of the noblest and most eminent Americans of the twentieth century adulterated his marriage and plagiarized some of the work that made his reputation."
  • Thomas Jefferson: "held slaves."
  • King David: "a great and godly and wicked man whose name has been blessed by centuries of Jews and Christians."

Observing character ironies of these kinds, we naturally conclude that human beings are inexpressibly complex creatures in whom great good and great evil often cohabit, sometimes in separate and well-insulated rooms and sometimes in an intimacy so deep and twisted and twined that we never get to see the one moral quality without the other."

- Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It's Supposed to Be : A Breviary of Sin (79-80).