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We live in a world that is broken, full of good, bad, and really bad things. Humanity has for years struggled with the idea of suffering, pain, and evil. Evil, some say, is the cause for all of our pain, but if God exists, why is he allowing all these bad things happen in our world? This kind of thinking has caused many to throw away the belief of the existence of God, or even a god, any god.
Bad things happen even to good people. These “evil” random events show up in everyone’s doorsteps at least once in a lifetime. Social status doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter, skin color is irrelevant, and age is not a factor; every one is exposed to the “evil” in this world.
How can God exist if evil is still causing so much pain in our world? Prayer may ease the pain, but the truth is that the pain is still there. If God is a good God, where is he when bad things are happening to good people? One can understand the evil coming on those who at some point cause pain to others or simply have a lifestyle that is not showing respect to others but random evil events happening to good people are hard to understand.
Even great theologians, and Christian heroes of the faith have tried to solve this question; if God is behind the scenes of everything around us, and he is good, loving, powerful, and able to do as he pleases why does he allow evil to have such an impact in his own creation?
No one escapes evil, we all have been through difficult seasons, or at least close to those suffering the effects of evil in our world. Often times when unbelievers use this argument to deny God’s existence, they do it with a resentful heart. C. S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian writers of last century who at some point denied God’s existence recalls when he was an atheist "I did not believe God existed. I was also very angry with him for not existing. I was also angry with him for having created the world."
Philosophically speaking there are several answers we can give when a person raises the question about the problem of evil. For example, when someone says there is evil, it must mean that there is good too. And if we admit that there is good there also must be a moral law by which we can differentiate good and evil which raises the questions as to who is the moral lawgiver? If there is good, there is evil; if there is no good, there is no evil.
There are two kinds of evil in this world. First, is the natural evil. The second kind of evil can be defined as moral evil. This is one that comes as a result of personal depravity. For example, a human inflicting pain in other or others driven by immorality or perversion. These two kinds of evil have been a stumbling block for many people. It is hard to reconcile a good, powerful, all knowing, omnipresent, and able to fix things God with the pain and suffering caused by evil forces in our world. In other words, if God can stop this, why doesn’t he?
There have been many responses to this problem of evil. Some have argued that evil is a privation of goodness and that God is only responsible for the being and goodness of creation and that he is not responsible for the lack of it. Natural causes deprive us from the wholeness of goodness. Everything is constantly fading, aging, which many times will cause suffering. Moral evil is the absence of goodness. The will fails to do what is right or good and gives room to evil, which in consequence causes pain. We can say that a disease is absence of health, and sin the absence of health in the will. So God is only responsible for being and goodness and not the absence of being and goodness.
But probably the strongest argument to defend God from this problem of evil debate is the “free will defense”. In order for human beings to be capable of moral goodness, they must also be capable of moral evil. They must have genuine free choice. This means moral evil is possible.
Let me quote Plantinga on this matter: “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil.”
Evil is not a thing. Sometimes we get the idea that since God created everything we see, he must have created evil also. So in this process of thought, the origin of evil is not God but creatures freely choosing sin and selfishness. In a sense, evil is the absence of goodness, but if we add the will, it is the absence of goodness because of choices made that opened the door for evil to enter our world. As far as natural evil, it must be connected with the choices made by the first humans who freely chose to go against God’s command to not eat from the forbidden tree. Augustine says about the free will: “No righteous act could be performed except by free choice of the will, and I asserted that God gave it for this reason.”
Humanity was created for good things. Now some may say, well ok, let’s say God created us good, then why is he allowing us to make bad choices. Can’t he simply force us into doing what is good? He can, but He won’t and even when we give him full access to our hearts we still can choose not to follow his guidance. We still choose to do right or wrong. John Hick says: “It would not be logically possible for God so to make men that they could be guaranteed freely to respond to Himself in genuine trust and love. The nature of these personal attitudes precludes their being caused in such a way. Just as the patient’s trust in, and devotion to, the hypnotist would lack for the latter the value of a freely given trust and devotion, so our human worship and obedience to God would lack for Him the value of a freely offered worship and obedience. We should, in relation to God, be mere puppets, precluded from entering into any truly personal relationship with Him.”
There is a fine line dividing evil and trials, and these can be easily confused. But even if we would call them all evil, God, the God of the Bible is the only one who gives us an answer to it, strength to endure, and hope of one day destroying all evil for good. Sometimes God allows his people to go through tough times, and according to scripture these trials will make believers stronger as they hold on to their faith.
If God would destroy all evil today, not too many of us would be left. God is patiently giving time to humanity to find him and go to him for the answers their broken hearts long for. In a sense, suffering shows us the consequences of sin; it is how we are shown how much we need redemption. Without suffering we would not realize the seriousness of sin and unrighteous living.
If God doesn’t exist we are hopeless, nothing is worth fighting for or living for. Evil is winning and goodness is an illusion. If God exist, there is hope, a hope that one day all evil will be removed and dealt with. Believing in God not only gives hope for a future, but peace in the middle of trials. Believing in God helps us to endure hardship knowing that if God allows it in our lives it must be for our good. I like to think about a fellow Pastor who passed away last month. He was dealing with an incurable disease for the last three years and in his last days in the hospital he would say: “If I am healed, miraculously healed by God, I win. And if I die, I also win!”
Only God gives us an answer as to why there is evil, how evil can be avoided or endured, and ultimately, only God promises to one day remove all evil from this world and from the lives of those who place their trust in Christ His Son.
Is evil real? Absolutely! Is God real? No doubt! The answer to evil is goodness. You can’t have one without the other. If there is evil there must be a good God, otherwise there is no evil at all.