Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why is there Evil in this World?

The presence of evil in this world causes theological problems for some people. Some folks wonder why an all-good, all-powerful God would allow evil to exist. Some people conclude that God must either be limited in His power (which would make Him less than God) or limited in His goodness (which is terrifying to ponder).

Others go so far as to question God's motives and intentions. They say that it is not fair for God to allow evil. They act as if God has no right to do what He wants to with this world. In the end, they basically ask, "God, how dare you allow evil?"

This is a huge issue that minds wiser than mine have tackled. The answers are rarely simple and usually not easy. However, this does not mean that God is in any way limited in His complete goodness or absolute power.

When people ask, "God, how dare you?" they are assuming something very important. They assume that they can see the big picture of what is happening. They are assuming that they understand all the implications and outcomes of the evil they see. By doing this, they are taking over a position reserved only for God Himself. In essence, they are claiming to know as much as God knows. When they do this, they set themselves up as God.

When the "God, how dare you?" question is asked, something else important is assumed. The asker of the question is assuming that God thinks and acts like a fallen human would think and act. The question implies that God may have some sort of impure motives behind what He is doing. When they ask this, they are basically saying that God isn't, in fact, God.

Does God have to prove His power, knowledge, and purity to us? Not in the least. Think of His reaction to Job after Job's lengthy discussions with his friends. God said in Job 38:2, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" and in Job 38:4, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" God never feels the need to justify Himself to Job.

Since God is the all-powerful Creator of the world, He then has every right to do whatever He wants to with the world. This by itself does not make God all-good, but it does show that He is all-powerful and absolutely sovereign. In case anyone doubts this, he should re-read Genesis 1.

As for God's goodness, all the evidence we need is the sacrifice of Jesus for sin. God took His Son, who was completely innocent (in a way we can never be), and crushed Him for us. II Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

God made a sacrifice that wasn't deserved and gave the benefits to a group of rebels. This supreme sacrifice is profound evidence for the goodness of God. It is all we need to remind us that God is all-good.

So how do we reconcile the fact that evil exists with the fact that God is all-good and all-powerful? We ought to come to the same conclusions that Joseph and Job came to. Joseph, when talking with his brothers about their selling of him into slavery many years before, said in Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joseph realized that God sometimes causes evil to happen in order to bring about a greater good. Notice that 50:20 uses the word "meant." God did not simply allow this evil to befall Joseph, but he caused it.

In Job chapter 1, after Job's livestock, servants, and children have been killed, Job responds in an amazing way. Job 1:20-22 says, "Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong."

Later, after Job's health has been taken away, we read Job's response in 2:10, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"

Job recognizes that both good and evil come from God. Job does not charge God with being the author of evil, but understands that God is completely sovereign over it. He trusts that God has the right to use evil to bring about His good purposes. He trusts God to bring about good.

So when we wonder why evil exists, we can rest in the fact that God remains all-good and all-powerful. We can also rest in the fact that God will bring about some greater good from the evil that happens.


Minicks said...

WOW! God is good! We have been discussing this very topic today! Pulled verses, concordances, lexicons etc....and you hit the nail on the head! You really hammered it home brother! We Minicks love you Carpenters!

Eric said...

Dear Minicks,

That's pretty amazing that we were talking about the same topic. I'm glad to see that we agree. Honestly, I don't see how a biblical Christian can come to any other conclusion about evil.

I enjoyed the puns about hitting the nail on the head and hammering it home.

We love you all, too. I hope all is well out in Rincon.

Minicks said...

I would like for you to address the orthodoxy/orthopraxy issue. I think if correct doctrine (orthodoxy) is taught, then a visible, progressive sanctification (internal to external) should be witnessed in the regenerate congregation (orthopraxy). If we don't witness a congregation that is being progressively sanctified by the Word of Truth soundly exposited...what should be our assessment of that fellowship? I have heard the opinion that some would attend a church where orthopraxy appears correct even if orthodoxy isn't. I am not of that opinion. What say you?

Eric said...

Dear Minicks,

I agree with you that if correct doctrine is taught, then progressive sanctification should take place. This may require quite a bit for time for some people, but it should happen. Otherwise, it just amounts to a lot of words.

As to the orthodoxy/orthopraxy issue, I would not attend where orthodoxy was absent but orthopraxy appears correct. Of course, this could be taken to the extreme. I doubt any of us agree on every minute detail of doctrine. Therefore, we must choose which doctrines appear fundamental and cling to those.

It gets dangerous whenever people begin to sacrifice correct doctrine in favor of orthopraxy. Some cults, for example, may have orthopraxy that looks pretty good, but we would never worship with them.

Orthodox beliefs must come before orthodox practice. That said, they are both important.

Thanks for the question.