What are Permissions?
Essentially, permission is the government of the Lord with regard to evil. This is called “permission” because the Lord does not will it, yet in leaving it to happen He is still exercising His government over it, for were it completely opposed to the Divine Providence He would not permit it. The word, permission, therefore implies control. It is not a leading, nor is it something which pleases the Lord; yet He does not stop it. “To leave man from his freedom to do evil also is called permission.” (AC 10,778. Cf. AC 10,777)
The Lord does not stop something evil from happening. This causes the argument with many that since He could stop it if He willed and does not, then obviously He wills it to happen. Yet, the Word says, He does not will it. “That evil is permitted has the appearance as if it were from him who permits, seeing that he has the power to take it away.” (AC 7877) This is man’s natural idea of permission. (AC 2768, 8827: 2, 8700e) Evil is permitted by the Lord, not because He wills it, or because He does not care what happens on the natural plane. It is permitted because He has a greater end in view which requires that evil must be permitted. (AC 7877, 8827) In that circumstance, for the Lord to prevent the evil would be for Him to do a greater evil. (Ibid.)
This brings us to the essential concept of permissions: the laws of permission are not separate from the laws of the Divine Providence. They are the same laws. (See DP 234-236) They are extensions of the perfect mode which the Lord established and impressed upon His creation.
In brief summary, the basic laws of the Divine Providence are:
1) Man must act from freedom according to reason.
2) He should cleanse the external man as if from himself, so that the Lord can cleanse his internal man.
3) He should not be compelled to good from without, but he should compel himself to good.
4) He should be led by the Lord through heaven, but also through the Word, thus apparently by himself.
5) He should not perceive and feel the operation of the Divine Providence, but should acknowledge that it exists.
If we apply these principles to the assumption that man abuses law number one, we will find the whole range of the Divine Providence. Basically, that is the purpose of this treatment – to attempt to demonstrate how the laws of permission are these same laws, accommodated to encompass evil.
In summary, when the Lord allows something to happen which is not good, it is for a good reason, not for a poor one; not because He improperly controls His creation; and not because He made a mistake in ordaining that man should be as he is. He does not stop the evil because to do so would be to stop also a good which is far more important, which He is providing. “Nothing can be permitted without a cause, and the cause is found only in some law of the Divine Providence, which law teaches why it is permitted.” (DP 234) “The causes of permission are the laws of the Divine Providence.” (DP 249: 2)
This is still, however, only half of the general picture. The Lord does not simply allow something to happen and so slip beyond His supervision. He still controls it, for a king cannot rule unless he controls the evil in his kingdom. The Lord does this by permitting only such evils as He can turn to some good. (AC 6663e, 1664: 8, 2447, 592; SD 418; DP 296: 7. is DP 296: 7) Thus the Lord is working through the evil which He permits to effect something better, and so still rules; and He does not permit anything to happen out of which no good at all could come. We will return to this point later in more detail. The general concept, however, is contained in the following quotation:
“Now as all things which an evil man wills and thinks are of permission, the question is, what, then, is the Divine Providence therein, which is said to be in the most minute particulars severally in every man, evil as well as good? But it consists in this, that it continually permits on account of the end, and permits such things as pertain to the end and no others; and that the evils which go forth by permission it continually surveys, separates and purifies, sending away what are not in agreement, and discharging them in unknown ways.” (DP 296: 7)