Todays blog may be a little different from many that I have posted…
This week as I was studying I began to ponder a question that many of us “church-goers” may get a lot from our friends or acquaintances that maybe do not yet believe.
“If God is so good then why does He allow so much evil?”
We have all heard it! It may not be worded exactly like that… but the sentiment is still the same. Let’s face it… the question is difficult. We may back away from it immediately… or we might stumble through an answer that has large gaping holes in it. But… how many of us have actually taken the time to think about it in depth? Probably not many of us.
Let’s face it, theology is a very practical and necessary discipline. Theology is absolutely necessary if we want to begin to know what we believe and why. There are many questions that we will wonder, or that will be raised, that are impossible to answer or understand without proper theology. Unfortunately, in the end we may not understand or know everything, but God’s sovereignty makes up for our lacking. One of these very difficult questions is: If God is all-good and omnipotent, then why is there evil in the world? As humans we perceive hurt, fallenness, and evil all around us and the first thing that comes to our mind is the normal questioning of why. We as believers have been taught about a perfect, “good” God and from that frame of reference we have faith even in the presence of “evil” and hurt, for non-believers it isn’t that easy. Let’s seek to find and understand the Biblical and theological viewpoints and implications to this question and work through, or think about some answers ourselves.
In his article “Why is There Evil and Suffering?” Michael Horner says,
It is always feasible that God could have a good reason for permitting evil; a reason of which we are not aware. And as long as this is logically possible, there is no contradiction between the existence of an all good, all powerful God and the existence of evil. Just because we may not be able to figure out what that reason is does not mean it does not exist.
- God is Perfect.
To approach our answer we first must understand that God is perfect. Deuteronomy 32:3-4 says,
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.
If we hold Scripture to be true then we can affirm that God and His ways are perfect and above ours as Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The lack of affirmation or belief in the truth and inherency of Scripture is part of the reason for misunderstanding and confusion on the ways of God and the existence of evil in this fallen world. No matter the circumstances God is still perfect and His ways are good, true, and above ours. Scripture says it!
God sets the standard for good.
Some Christian views would state that you cannot understand evil without first understanding good. You cannot have a gauge for evil unless you first have a standard for good. Therefore you need to understand that there is need for a standard for good, which is God. Former atheist C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity” that,
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies… consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.
So, we need to understand that angels and man were first created perfect, in the image of God- without evil. Genesis 1:27 provides evidence for this statement when it says,
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The Bible records for us that pride became the reason for Lucifer’s downfall. His only reason for rebelling was that he wanted to be like God. Isaiah 14:12-14 shows us this when it says,
How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
The Bible also says that he dragged a large portion of the angelic army with him, and is responsible for corrupting Man. Sin entered man in the Garden when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord at the enticing of Satan disguised as a serpent. We know this as the fall and it is described in Genesis 3.
Verses 22-24 of Genesis 3 describe the reaction of the Lord to man’s disobedience and sin. Those verses say,
Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Any disobedience to God is sin, therefore on that day Adam ate of the fruit, God put him out of the Garden, because he cannot dwell in sin. Or rather sin cannot dwell with God, because not only is God perfect… but He sets the standard for perfection!
So… where does evil originate? Where does it come from?
Scripture clearly portrays for is that evil exists because man is fallen. We are naturally and unavoidably born into sin with evil desires in our hearts from the disobedience of Adam and the deceit and treachery of Satan. I personally find C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermon #1387 entitled “God’s Thoughts and Ways Far Above Ours” very helpful when detailing man’s fallenness in light of God’s perfectness and grace, hear the words of the great pastor and theologian:
God’s ways are ways of love and tenderness. He is very loving and full of compassion. But our ways are not so—we are often very harsh to one another and we do not return a filial love to God. I mean not unless His Grace meets with us. And even then we fall far short of walking in the love of God as He walks in love toward us. God’s ways are ways of truth—He never lies, He has never been unfaithful to us or untrue to His promises. But we, on the other hand, have proved false to Him many times. “You have dealt very treacherously,” said the Prophet of old, and the charge lies against us to this day. We have been traitors to God, but He has been fidelity, itself, to us!
Our good resolves have dissolved in air. Our promises have been broken. Our vows have all been forgotten. God is all truth and faithfulness to us and we are all mistrust and doubt and treachery towards Him! Were it not for His Divine Grace we would have even fallen into apostasy—and been like the son of perdition who betrayed his Lord! God’s ways are ways of forgiveness and peace. He does not desire the death of the sinner. He is very patient, He suffers long, He bears continually with our provocations. He is desirous that men should acquaint themselves with Him and be at peace. His ways are ways of reconciliation, ways of forgiveness, ways of love and kindness! But you can see, can’t you, that the ways of the natural man are perverse? By nature we do not desire to be at amity with God.
- What are the purposes of Evil?
From the onset that subtitle may make many of you uncomfortable. You may be saying, “You mean to tell me that evil serves a purpose!” To that I would say… yes.
For me I believe, and think Scriptures provide evidence, that God uses evil, suffering, and pain for several purposes. God is all powerful and easily could have made a world with no evil in it. However, that would have made God out to be a puppet-master controlling a world full of puppets. If we believe that God is sovereign and that everything works to His will including salvation then evil and sin may exist in order to glorify Christ and to lead us into consciously accepting His will, purpose, and salvation. When the world fell in Genesis at the hands of Satan, Adam, and Eve we know that everything changed, for all creation yearns and groans for it’s Creator.
Without the existence of evil in this fallen world it would be impossible for people to love God or anyone else. Everything points to Christ and works to honor, glorify, and magnify His name and work. Norman Geisler says in his article “If God Exists, Why Is There Evil?” that,
Love is possible only for free moral creatures; forced love is a contradiction. So, in order for the world to be morally good, it must be morally free. And free creatures are capable of free choices that bring disease, disaster and death. This is the world in which we live.
Man was created “free.” We are all free moral agents governed by our wills. God can however us our wills for His purposes, but God did not create any evil. We must each bear responsibility for what we ourselves do. God is not responsible for our “evils,” however God has already paid the price by sending His son Jesus to die on the cross as payment in full. The final sacrifice. The Holy Lamb slain on our behalf. Ultimately God can use our evil for His glory, and isn’t that what this life is all about?
It may seem radical to say that evil can bring God glory, but that is exactly it… we don’t have to understand the ways or purposes of Christ. An even more Biblical but radical truth is that God is more interested in our holiness than in our happiness, and He is more interested in our character than in our earthly comfort. His ways are above ours and mysterious to man, but perfect nonetheless. In “The Problem of Pain,” C.S. Lewis writes,
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
We know that God is not the author of evil. Genesis speaks to this in 1:31 when it says that on the final day of creation, God declared, “It is very good” and it was very good. It was at the work of Satan, and the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God in disobedience that introduced evil and sin. At that moment Adam and Eve died spiritually and God had to act accordingly; Ephesians 2:1-10 says:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
From reading Scripture I would say that sin, pain, evil, suffering, and death exist because of man for God’s glory in the work of salvation for us. Romans 5:12 says,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
Solomon knew of the fallen condition of man when he said in Ecclesiastes 7:29,
See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
When we comprehend God’s sacrifice and love for us, it puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective. We see clearly that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil… our nature… our problem. Evil is not a problem with God… but rather it is a problem with man.
Filled with sin and guilt before God, the question we face is not how God can justify himself to us for the existence of evil, but how we can be justified before him in spite of our evil. And it is through Christ’s payment for our evil by his death on the cross that we can be justified before God. Through him we have forgiveness. It is quite possible that God uses the suffering to do good.
God is in control in spite of evil. He promises that he causes all things to work together for good to those who love God in Romans 8:28. We shouldn’t fret over evil or the things we don’t know or comprehend. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 proclaims,
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Controversial religious writer James Hervey wrote,
God is good when He gives supremely good, nor less when He denies. Even crosses from His gracious hands are blessings in disguise.
The Bible says in Romans 5:3-4 that,
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
We see laced throughout nature, history, and Scripture that both God and evil exist. God is everything we have described Him to be. Evil exists now… but not forever. Suffering is the result of human sin. The current world is not in the state that God created it; and because of that, all are vulnerable to the effects of sin in the world. Why does one person suffer and another does not? Why do catastrophes happen to some and not to others? It is because sin is in the world. But there will come a day when the Lord will return and cleanse this world of all sin and all suffering.
Ultimately, God promises victory over sin, suffering, death, and evil. Those who genuinely choose to accept and receive his forgiveness will rise from the dead with a transformed, immortal, imperishable body to be with him forever. Revelation 21:4 says,
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Evil exists because of man for God’s glory. Evil is momentary and restricted to this life and this world. God is all powerful and good and desires to rid his followers from evil and will when it is time according to His plan.
So… God is not anything less than what Scripture makes Him out to be because of the problem of evil, rather God himself is the solution to that evil. All things are meant to bring Him the ultimate glory!