Wrestling With Your Thoughts: Why Does God Allow Evil?
Wrestling with Your Thoughts
This psalm is attributed to David and it reflects a wrestling in his heart, in his mind. I want you to observe David’s words in verses 5 &amp;amp;amp; 6. In the midst of his wrestling with doubt, he says, “I have trusted; My heart will rejoice; I will sing.” We may not have all the answers to life’s questions but we can still trust, rejoice, and sing.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND SUFFERING:
One of the greatest hindrances to man’s belief in God and, sometimes the enemy of a Christian, is the existence of horrible and seemingly pointless evil in the world, suffering that no human being ought to experience.
As Christians, we must examine this question of evil and suffering. You may find my study this morning somewhat “deep” but that’s because the question of evil is a deep question. Let’s begin…
1 - God is omnipotent.
2. - God is omnibenevolent (perfect in goodness)
2a. - God is omniscient.
2b. - God is perfectly just.
3. - Evil exists.
3a. - Sin (the violation of the two greatest commandments - Matt. 22:37-39) is the only inherent “evil.”
3b. - It is not evil that there be “evil.”
3c. - Evil results in every case from the abuse of man’s will.
4. - A good thing does not always have to eliminate an evil as far as it can.
5. - There are limits to what an omnipotent being can do. He can only act within His own nature.
6. - A good, omnipotent being does not have to eliminate evil completely to be good.
God is omnipotent and He is omnibenevolent, omniscient and perfectly just. We also do not feel compelled to prove that evil exists. There are some religions that deny the existence of evil but we do not feel in this case that such a proposition needs to be proven.
But, let’s talk about the nature of sin…
Sin is the only “inherent” evil and we will define it as a violation of the two greatest commandments: to love God supremely and to serve our fellowman sacrificially (Matthew 22:37-38). The Bible also gives other definitions of “sin” and teaches that sin is universal among mankind: 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:19; 5:15.
So, evil is when men fail to do what God has commanded or they go beyond what God has commanded and do more than is lawful.
God also expects man to serve man. Matthew 7:12; Galatians 6:10; 1 John 3:17-18; Prov. 3:27-28. God expects man to live in a “filial” (“child”) relationship with Him and in a fraternal (“brotherly”) relationship with one another.
Men, of course, do what they ought not to do. That is, they sin. Look at Romans 1:28-32. Anything that God categorically condemns is therefore, inherently sinful. Now, some things are sinful based on their covenant. For example, multiple wives or divorce and remarriage for non-sexual reasons were allowed under the old law but not under the new. These matters are not inherently sinful but they are sinful based on the law under which mankind is living in relationship with God. Murder is not inherently sinful. Both under the old law and under the new law, your intentions, motivations, and proper authorities are taken into account before murder is considered sin against God.
WHY GOD ALLOWS EVIL TO EXIST:
This will actually be a discussion of both statements #4 and #6. We have three positions before us:
Atheism acknowledges the existence of evil but denies the existence of God.
Pantheism (believes that “all is God”) acknowledges the existence of God but denies the existence of evil.
Theism acknowledges both the existence of God and the existence of evil.
Here is the problem… Theism accepts the conviction that both an all-powerful and an all-loving God exists and yet He allows evil to exist. Why?
First, based on our study of the nature of God, God cannot / did not produce sin.
Second, God cannot promote sin.
Third, God can permit sin if He has a higher / holy purpose in allowing sin to exist. For example, God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sin against him in order to bring a greater good for the family of Jacob in the land of Egypt (Gen. 50:20).
A father will give the keys for the car to his teenage son. The greater good is to teach the son responsibility in learning to drive. But, in the process, the father accepts that some evil may also occur. He allows one for the greater good relative to the other.
God created man to reflect His nature so that man is a moral being (cf. Gen. 2:16; NASV, NRSV, KJV, NKJV, NIV all have “freely” or “free” eat; last words in the Hebrew text). That means man makes moral decisions. Moral decisions can either be consistent with the laws of God or inconsistent with the laws of God.
Adam’s choice (indeed, all our choices) are self-determined. No one forced Adam to make the choice he made. Adam was free to either obey God, out of love, and not eat the forbidden fruit or he could have chosen to disobey God, out of misdirected love, and eat of the forbidden fruit, which he did. It is clear, then, that Adam’s choice was not inevitable. In other words, Adam could have chosen not to sin. If we look at Gen. 2:17, God tells Adam he “shall not” eat of it, implying the exercise of Adam’s will. That choice by Adam brought moral choices into the world and sin with them (Romans 5:12).
As a counterpart to this, all the natural calamities and other events that happen in this life are a direct or indirect result of man living inconsistently with the expectations of God. Natural calamities are a result of the change in our climate due to the sin involved prior to Noah’s flood. The eating of animals also came about during that time. Animals suffer today at the hands of heartless men and women because of sin.
Every calamity results from God allowing man to make moral decisions. Therefore, the evil that exists in the world is man’s fault, not God’s fault. Of course, we could take it one step further back and argue that it is Satan’s fault since he is the one who motivates man to violate the laws of God.
Sometimes children will call inanimate objects “stupid.” Of course, since inanimate objects have no intellect, they have no will and cannot be “stupid.” By the same token, nothing but a sentient being with a will can do anything that can be called “evil.” To say that something is “evil,” is to say that it was part of some person’s will and that it violated the law of God.
To say something is painful and therefore evil demands that we ask, whose will was it that inflicted the pain and in the process, did the person violate the law of God? A surgeon is not evil if he has to inflict pain in amputating someone’s foot. A mother is not evil if she slaps a child’s hand for disobeying Mom. Pain is not inherently evil. In this case, motives matter in judging actions evil or not.
So, as with the doctor and the mother, we can see that it might be good for the omnipotent, omnibenevolent God to inflict pain on us if He, also being omniscient, sees a greater good. It might also be that God does not inflict the pain Himself but rather allows the pain to occur so that our greater good might be accomplished.
God promises that He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) and He promises not to allow Satan to overwhelm us so that we have no choice but to sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So, God can produce a greater good even as He allows tremendous evil to exist in this world: Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4.
THERE ARE LIMITS TO THE NATURE OF GOD:
As a morally good Being, God could not create man as a moral being and then not allow man to exercise that morality in a way that God does not desire. Forced love is a contradiction in terms.
So, as “love is as strong as death,” (Song of Solomon 8:6), it is possible for someone to express love in a way that violates the filial (“child-like”) relationship with God and fraternal (“brotherly”) relationship with man and cause death. To put it another way, someone could - since love is as strong as death - love himself more than the other person (a violation of Matthew 22:38) and rape that person and even kill that person. That is love for himself, his own passions and desires more than love for the other person. If a person can love someone enough to die for that person, it is equally possible for someone to love in a sinful manner so that he, instead, kills that person. Either way, it is a violation of God’s expectations.
God, thus, could not have created a moral being and then created an environment in which that moral being could not exercise that morality! Once God chose to create a moral being, He knew He would have to provide a plan for that moral being, once he or she sinned, to be forgiven of that sin.
WHAT GOD HAS INTENDED TO PROVIDE:
He wants all men to be saved - 1 Timothy 2:4.
Men can only be saved (made righteous) through Jesus Christ - 1 Corinthians 1:30.
As a process of being made righteous (sanctification), we must grow in Christ - Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 4:19; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.
That means that this world, intended to develop us into the image of Jesus Christ, is the best world for that purpose.
There are four conceivable alternatives to the creation of man’s world…
#1 - God could have chosen not to create man and his world. That would have avoided all evil completely.
#2 - God could have created a world in which man was not free. In such a world, there would really, truly be no morality at all. There would be no evil in such a world.
#3 - God could have, perhaps, created a world which allowed morality but then designed it where no one would ever choose evil. Perhaps God could have simply created a world in which only people lived who would choose not to sin.
#4 - God could have created a world of morality but one in which no one could sin. In this world, God would have designed it so that no one could ever chose a moral wrong.
#5 - God could have created a world of morality where evil choices do take place but eventually, those evil choices are remedied in some way and everyone is saved ultimately.
Let us remind ourselves of what we already know:
A. God is infinite and perfect in His wisdom, goodness, and power. Therefore, God chose the plan that would bring the greatest good.
B. God’s greatest plan is one that would allow evil to exist and yet that evil would, one day, be defeated but all in the process of preserving man’s moral nature.
C. This world, designed by the wisdom, love, and power of God, is the best possible world to achieve the goals God had in mind when He established this world.
So, let’s look at these alternatives and we’ll see that the choice God made is the best choice.
#1 - “No world” - Is it really true that no world is better morally than this one? You can’t make that comparison. Does it make sense to say, “A non-existent apple tastes better than a golden delicious apple”?
#2 - “A non-moral world” - Again, how can you compare a “non-moral” world with this “moral” world? How can you make a moral being and then not allow it to make moral choices?
#3 - “No evil [bad-choices] world” - It is logically possible God could have designed a world in which no one, although free, never made any sinful choices. But, is such a world actually possible? That’s a question that would seem to be answered by a “no.” If God wanted humans to become patient, for example as He is patient, could that be possible without allowing tribulation? Can humans learn to forgive without the possibility of someone sinning against them? Can humans learn mercy without the possibility of tragedy? So, while a world where there is morality but no one ever sins seems logical, it does not seem possible.
#4 - “A free-but-not-allowed world” - This seems to be a contradiction - “Forced love.”
#5 - “A free world where everyone is eventually saved” - That, again, seems like a logical possibility but again, is it achievable? In other words, might one person refuse to be saved? Might one person chose to sin? God could not save such a person; He would violate his morality and we would end up with “forced love.”
So, while this world is not the best (of all possible) world, it is the best way to the best of all possible worlds…
In other words:
God is all-loving and wants to defeat evil.
God is all-powerful and can defeat evil.
Evil, obviously, is not yet defeated.
Therefore, evil will yet be defeated in the future.
Here are a few other points we do not have time to discuss further:
7. - An all-good, omnipotent being exists.
8. - This world is as good as any possible world for the purpose God had in creating it…
9. - Every instance of human suffering results from some condition necessary for God to help man…
10a. - God is not to blame for a world in which righteous and wicked suffer.
10b. - God is not to blame for a world in which there seems to be pointless suffering.
11. - Every example of animal suffering results from some condition necessary for God to help man…
12. - Every instance of natural calamities results from some condition necessary for God to help man…
13. - Man’s earthly life is a probationary period and it is his only probationary period.
14. - Man will live beyond this world.
15. - The blessings of heaven and punishment of hell are of such magnitude that the suffering in this life are of no ultimate negative significance (2 Corinthians 4:16ff).
Take home message: God loves man. Jesus died for man. Because God wants man in heaven. You and I need to love God supremely and serve our fellow man sacrificially.