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Why is there Evil and Suffering?

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A. The Problem

Non-Christians almost always raise the question: If God is good and God is great (all-powerful) then how can there be evil in the world? Since there is evil, there must be no God. Or if there is a God, he must not be good or he must not be all-powerful.

I think we need to deal with a couple of issues:

Is this a good argument against the existence of God?

How do the other world views deal with the problem of evil?

What is the answer to the problem?

B. The Logical Answer

For many years, the problem of evil was seen as a way to show that Christianity was logically inconsistent. If Christianity could be seen to be logically contradictory, then it had to be false. The atheist is using the same approach that we’ve been using as we discuss the answers the various world views have to our world views questions.

There is no logical fallacy in that statement of the problem of evil…

  • · God is good.
  • · God is all-powerful.
  • · God created the world.
  • · The world contains evil.

Where is the contradiction? What they really mean is this:

  • · God is good.
  • · God is all-powerful.
  • · God created the world.
  • · The world shouldn’t contain evil.
  • · The world contains evil.

There is only an assumption on our part that there shouldn’t be any evil in the world. People assume that God must want to eliminate all evil. One would have to be omniscient (i.e. God) to know that there was actually evil that occurred that had no ultimate good purpose.

Christianity doesn’t teach that there shouldn’t be evil. So there really is no logical problem. All we can really conclude from the argument is that God must have had a good reason for allowing evil and suffering.

C. Pantheism says:

If everything is God and God is everything, then you can’t have opposites like good and evil. Therefore evil is an illusion.

So, when pantheists try to use the “problem of evil” argument against Christians, they are being inconsistent with their world view.

D. Naturalism says:

Since a naturalist doesn’t believe that there is anything that transcends the natural world. They really can’t believe in an objective “Good.” And therefore in a naturalist’s world view there really is no “good and evil.” Evil is relative and just a matter of subjective preference.

The naturalist/atheist is also being inconsistent when he uses the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God. But few, if any, recognize that they are disqualified from asking the question.

This is a very important point. We’ve talked about how one’s world view must be logical, practical, etc. At every turn in the discussion we need to be able to recognize and point out where they are bailing out of their system and appealing to the Christian system to make their arguments. This the same thing we talked about when we said that if a pantheist calls the police when their car is stolen, they are borrowing from the Christian world view.

E. A Legitimate Question

However, once we’ve pointed out that they don’t have the right to ask that question, it is a valid question for a someone to ask because everyone has a built in conscience and a concept of good and evil, even if they deny it. So, what are some possible answers/reasons for the existence of evil and natural disasters?

1. Necessary for free-will to work –

If it was impossible to disobey God, then we’d never have to choose to obey. We would be like robots and that wouldn’t bring glory to God.

And related to this …

2. Necessary for human growth and virtue –

If there are no dangers, difficulties or disappointments in life, how can we gain character traits such as patience? If everyone is nice to you, then you never have to display selfless love. If life is easy, you don’t have to learn patience, or endurance. Being honest wouldn’t be a virtue if it was impossible to steal.

  • · Matrix – Morpheus explained to Neo that when life was perfect, mankind rejected that make-believe world, so the computers had to create a world with crime, problems at work, etc.
  • · The Island – when they tried to grow human clones, they didn’t survive until they gave them a world with conflict and hope (the lottery).

3. Necessary to promote the greater good

Could God allow a tidal wave or earthquake to kill thousands of people because the disaster will give Christians an opportunity to minister to the victims and as a result many come to faith in Christ? If spending eternity in hell is the “ultimate evil,” then allowing a lesser evil to occur to reduce the ultimate evil is in fact a good thing. But it might appear to some as senseless evil.

4. It is too complicated for humans to understand.

Even if we can see some possible purpose in some evil/suffering, there are events which we can’t understand and we just have to recognize we are finite creatures who can’t know God’s purpose in allowing those things. As we said before, one would have to be omniscient to know for certain that an “evil” event was so evil that no good could come from it.

F. The Bible Says:

1. God created the world and it was “good.”

2. Satan Fell

Satan was created as a good being but with free will to follow God or not. He chose not to. Angels and people were not created as robots. They were created with free will because if they chose to worship and obey God, that would bring Him glory.

John 14:30; 1Thes 3:5 and the story of Job all teach that Satan is the ruler of this world. He causes pain and suffering and tempts man to sin. In Job’s case, Satan caused physical illness, natural disaster, financial ruin, etc.

But we can’t blame all natural disasters on Satan. Our biblical example is of Satan causing disasters on a godly man (Job). I don’t think Satan would cause natural disasters on ungodly people. Why would Satan destroy an group of people who are totally opposed to Jesus Christ?

3. Man Sinned

4. Man’s Nature was corrupted

Man’s corrupted nature is the cause of much evil.

James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 1:15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.

5. Creation was cursed

Gen 3:17-18 shows that there was a curse placed on creation because of the fall. God removed man from the protective garden of Eden and forced him to live in the world where animals now ate people.

Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now.”

6. God is in Control

How do we deal with passages like this: Isa 45:7?

45:7 I am the one who forms light
and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace
and creates calamity.

Amos 3:6

3:6 If an alarm sounds in a city, do people not fear?
If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible?

Does this mean God causes it? Or just uses it. The word “creates” and “responsible” in those two verses is a generic word for do, make, act, create, fashion or shape. I think it means that God uses the evil in this world to work out His purposes. God is in control, but He is not controlling. He is in control of events and shapes them to His purpose. We have to reconcile statements like these with the rest of scripture. For example, if God was the cause of evil, then He could not be the judge (Rom 3:5-6).

Examples:

Hardening of Pharaoh’s heart

God predicted that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3). Then during the first five plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7). Then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart (9:12), then Pharaoh and his officials harden their hearts (9:34-35), then God does the rest.

I think the principle here is that just like in Rom 1:18-32, which we’ve read several times in this series. God gives people over to what they want.

Gen 50:20 – God used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to preserve the family and nation of Israel. He used the Egyptians’ disgust towards shepherds to keep Egyptians from inter-marrying with Israelites to keep the Jewish nation pure.

Rom 8:28-29 – God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. It doesn’t say that causes all things to work together for good for everyone. So, those people killed in the earthquake that never got around to believing in Jesus don’t qualify. But it would include those that came to faith as a result of the disaster.

So, the Biblical explanation of evil is this:

God created everything good but man rebelled. Nature, Satan, Men were cursed. There was no death before the fall – even in the animal kingdom. God does not cause the evil, but He does control the outcome when evil happens. How He can do this is beyond our understanding, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

G. Summary

All other philosophies can’t explain the problem of evil in the world. If you don’t have a good creator, and a fall – then what’s running the universe is random chance or an evil being. People in rebellion against a good God explains the evil acts of men. And a fallen creation explains disasters.


Related Topics: Apologetics