“Good could never come of such evil,” said the forlorn prisoner in Tale of Two Cities. Lewis, fond of Dickens, would have enjoyed a squabble with this character’s conclusion. While Lewis resisted any notion that God was the ultimate instigator of evil (some of his punchier lines are leveled at such ideas), he steadily insisted that human redemption hinges in part on this fact: God exploits evil toward good ends.
For Lewis, the incarnation tells us that God is not stoically distant from our devastation but enters the chaos, refashioning wasted remnants into something beautiful again. “The world is a dance,” said Lewis, “in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God’s own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces.” God does not ignore the wreckage. God subsumes it into himself.
Lewis’ posture coalesces with two of the texts for the first week of Lent (Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11). These narratives provide us with a tale of two temptations: Adam and Eve’s temptation in a Garden and Jesus’ temptation in a wilderness. One is a tragedy; the other is a comedy (think: Shakespeare, not Modern Family). One tells of ruin; the other of redemption. One suggests evil wins; the other announces that evil has been forever wrecked.