EVIL IN THE WORLD by Mike Oppenheimer
The question often asked is – if there is a God why is there evil in the world?
Wouldn’t a God of love eradicate evil?
H. G. Wells said that faced with what we see around us in the world, we are forced to conclude either God has the power and does not care, or that God cares but does not have the power. So many take this discouraging position.
Evil is a foreign intrusion upon mankind; it is allowed but does not flow from God, as He is love. Evil is not the opposite of good, but devoid of anything good. The question of evil has puzzled philosophers for centuries. If there is a God, why does he permit it? If God does exist, why is He so remote and not involved in our situation, or doesn’t He care?
If God is all powerful (which He is) why can’t He get rid of the evil in the world? Just because someone doesn’t exercise all their power doesn’t mean they do not possess all power. If God were to take care of the problem of evil right now, many of the people who complain about Him not solving the problem of evil would find themselves going out with it. So the answer is found in His patience and longsuffering. He is “longsuffering not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.”
Mankind has free will, the entire universe is God’s and under His control, but not everything is according to His will. Nothing happens that God is not aware of or ultimately is not in control of (set boundaries.) He allows evil to continue even though it is not His will. If evil were God’s will, it would contradict His perfect and holy nature and everything He stands for and has told man not to do.
God did not invent evil, however, He knew it would come about. Yet He did not stop it but made a provision for it when it would rear its ugly head. There is coming a day when this will be taken care of. Right now we are in a position of grace where God is commanding all men everywhere to repent.
First, evil is a necessary part of free will.
Man has free will – we can choose what we want. We sin because we want to sin as it is our natural inclination. We follow our strongest nature at any given time, we are not morally inclined toward God. As J. B. Phillips has put it: Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will.
God could have made us machines but to do so would have robbed us of our precious freedom of choice, and we would have ceased to be human. We all exercise free choice in the direction of our nature which is traced to the “fall” of man. This is the basic reason for evil and suffering in the world. It is man’s responsibility, not God’s.
Why does God permit evil ? He could stop it, but in so doing would destroy us all. It is worth noting that the whole point of real Christianity lies not in interference with the human power to choose, but in God producing a willing consent for us to choose good over evil. He offers us choice and by doing so a chance to grow and understand the difference.
Evil is contrary to God’s perfect will, but not His permissible will. Good and evil are not opposites. Evil is a limitation of good. Evil is the absence of good. The lack of good is where evil will thrive. We are to be salt and light to the world, restraining the evil influence contrary to God. Evil is represented by darkness in the scriptures – and good that comes from God as light.
By saying there is evil in the world, one is admitting there is a standard to measure this by, otherwise how do we know what is evil? One cannot use the evil in the world to say there is no God. Everyone has their own opinion of what exactly it is and isn’t. So how does one decide if what they call evil, someone else is calling good? This is why there must be an ultimate standard for all people.
To be conscious of a standard means there must be a moral law giver. To know something is wrong we must know first that something is right. You must have someone who gives a standard in order to compare against it, and only an absolutely perfect being can draw the line of absolute good. If he has flaws, then his standard will reflect his flaws too. How can one actually say there is evil without some standard of good to measure it by? And where does that standard come from? God. The very presence of evil proves there is a God.
There is only one solution to all this and God holds it.
If there is no God why punish evil? Why not have let Hitler continue since he was only practicing his own truth – maybe by some he should have been rewarded? As repulsive as this sounds, this is the only alternative to not having parameters made by a greater being. Who are we to decide what is right or wrong? We have a moral conscience no matter what society we have grown up in and recognize good and evil. This is why we cannot sit by when evil intrudes on a people, for the nature of evil is destructive and contrary to everything that civilization holds that is good.
Disasters happen to individuals as well as entire cultures because of our general and individual separation from God. How can we expect to avoid certain natural consequences if we have distanced ourselves from that Source? If our life, health, happiness come from God and we reject God’s protection should we then blame Him for the evil we ourselves do?
Much of the suffering in the world can be directly linked to the evil choices we ourselves make as individuals and as nations. It demonstrates that the world in which we live is in need of change. God’s intention from the beginning was not for us to experience pain (Gen. 2:16-17), but because we disobeyed we now live in a world where pain is the natural outcome of disobedience to God’s ways. What happens when someone kills someone? We solace the victimizer having pity on him instead of punishing him. He becomes the victim of his bad upbringing or some other issue. This does not promote right conduct or deter crime. We can do just as much harm when bad decisions are made by governments or businesses that can affect people promoting suffering to many who live under their rules.
If God loves His creatures He made, then why have death, pain, and sorrow? If He did not love us, then He would let it continue, there would be no end to anyone’s suffering or pain. Many times God allows pain to have us identify what can be evil and make us turn from it to preserve our life. One cannot define evil by saying that it only causes harm to an individual, then what about operations like an amputation that save a life, would that be evil? To take away something in order for the body to survive is for the greater good. As would be killing those who want to take over countries to enslave others, the people need to fight back to protect themselves from the intruders. Whether its on a grand scale or a intrusion in a home, killing can be used to protect, so it cannot be considered evil all the time.
Yet there is some suffering allowed by God as judgment and punishment. This is a possibility which must come into the scheme because He does say He punishes the wicked, He is not mocked. God usually allows such suffering with a view to restoration and reformation of one’s character, what is temporary is to prevent the eternal. Those suffering as a result of their actions usually know why. Just the same as Adam and Eve knew immediately because they had guilt and hid.
The Bible’s explanation is that God is not the cause of death, pain or suffering. “Death came by sin,” and one day God will end it. And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes, death will be no more. The argument of shifting the blame to Him for all evil and suffering is nonsense when He is the one who will eradicate it. Just because He possesses the greater power does not mean He must use it immediately. We try to blame it on everyone else but ourselves. Worst of all, we blame it on God when He is the one with the only solution.
Then why hasn’t He dealt with the problem of evil in the world? God is dealing with the problem of evil not in an immediate way, but in a progressive fashion. The false assumption from the atheist is that the only choice God has, is to deal with evil all at once in one single act to remove it. God, however, is dealing with the problem of evil throughout all human history. One day in the future, Christ will return, destroy wickedness, and hold all men and women accountable for the things they did during their time on earth. Justice will ultimately prevail. Those who enter eternity without having trusted in Christ for salvation will understand just how effectively God has dealt with the problem of evil because they may not be there.
If God does not destroy all the evil on the earth today – is He weak? God does not have to display all His power to show who He is as the almighty. When we look at the example of how Jesus came in humility and meekness, He certainly could have done all and displayed His power but this is not how He operates. There is a balance by His long suffering and patience waiting for us to come to our senses. There is coming a day when this will be taken care of, but right now we are in a position of grace where God is commanding all men everywhere to repent.
God also has an enemy and so do we – Satan. He has already been defeated at the cross, sentenced, but is free to work his evilness until the day of final judgment. History and experience shows there is a power of evil in the world stronger than the evil presently in us. Evil of course does not only come from the Devil all the time, but man is very capable to do much harm since we are unable to recognize what is right.
Mankind is taken captive and suffers from its own denials and bad choices. But it is God Himself who also suffered and by doing so has solved the problem of evil. At an untold cost to Himself, He sent His Son to become one of us. The consequences of evil for eternity are forever removed from us as individuals as we embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. Our sin is forgiven and we receive new life and the power to choose what is right over what is wrong. We are able to know the difference as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ.
One cannot fight evil by emotions or feelings because evil and sin feel good. Nor can one test truth by our feelings. Truth is either objective, or it is not truth at all. If evil is only opinion, then it is subject to each person’s interpretation, and may not be considered evil by another.
People say – listen to your heart. Jesus echoing Jeremiah, the prophet, said that our heart is deceitfully wicked. What we need to do is listen to the Word. God is the ultimate good and His goodness can be understood by the moral creatures He has willed to be like Himself. We cannot always stop from doing wrong but we certainly know when we are doing it. The problem is wanting our own choice , blinding ourselves to our moral conduct and to our need for change so we can be healed.
God can certainly force everyone against their will to be obedient and good just as parents could force their children to behave precisely the way they want in some respect. But He allows man to retain the power of choice. And if man were robbed of that power, he would no longer be man but some lesser species, moral cripples, unable to discern and grow on our own. We would be like puppets on a string, when He says do this, we do so. Would any atheist want this for a solution? I don’t think so. They would complain about that as much as the way things currently are today. They should look at themselves before they indiscriminately blame God for all the evil in this world!
If blame is to be given to anyone, then the pain, sorrow and evil we experience in the world must be charged to man. Sin and suffering are not God’s doing, but man’s by rejecting what God has given for our own protection!
God is not indifferent or unconcerned “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses…” While we are in this spiritually bankrupt condition that affects us all, He offers grace out of this condition to us as individuals. Motivated by love, He had mercy on us reaching into our drowning conditions. But we reject His solution wanting to swim in our pools of human misery even if we drown there.
The fact is that faith in Christ alone delivers man from the guilt that he carries. Turning over a new leaf and vowing to live a morally upright life cannot deliver one from the guilt of past sins and there is no assurance when one repeats their wrongs.
True freedom from guilt comes through faith in Christ as the One who paid the full penalty for one’s sins. We can’t reform ourselves but God has given the free solution. When we realize the enormity of our offense then we can come to receive the solution, our salvation which comes through Christ alone.