How Can A Good God Permit Evil in the World?
Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries
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Why is there evil in the world?
The source of much of the evil in the world is you and I - all of mankind. We hurt others, we hurt ourselves and we hurt God. We sin. Each and every one of us has done this at least a few times in our lives. We have known what was right and what was wrong and we consciously, deliberately chose to do wrong. For some, the evil is nothing more than a lie or some hurtful words. For some, it is murder and savagery. Regardless of the severity, the nature of the sin is the same. At that moment, we rebelled against God and said to Him, "What I want right now is more important than you. I know this hurts you and I know it's wrong but I don't care, I'm doing it anyway.
Why did God allow us to get into this mess?
God made us this way because He loves us. He did not make us to be puppets or robots because true love can never be forced or demanded. It can never come from someone who is unable to make any other choice. Only when someone makes a decision from their own will and desire can it be said to be complete and true love. Thus, God will not control us, compel us or force us to do anything. We are completely free. Sometimes we do good, and sometime we do evil. God does not typically interfere.
Why does God have to allow the effects of evil? Why not permit the choice, but not allow the awful consequences?
Imagine this idea in your own home, if you have any young children. Every time your child does something wrong, let's pretend you will simply clean up the mess and say nothing. There will be no punishment and no cleaning of their own mess. If they destroy something, you must replace it without saying another word. You will still have to try to do your best to teach them right and wrong, but there will never be a consequence for bad behavior. In this scenario, it's easy to see that your child will learn to do what feels best for them, for they cannot possibly have a sense of other people's needs and feelings. Without consequence and punishment, they will become ultimately selfish because it is impossible for them to know what it feels like to hurt another person. It's only by suffering the consequences of our actions that we can learn and become better people. Removing the consequence removes the moral element and it removes any opportunity we have to grow.
Why permit all the effects of sin? Why not remove some of it?
He does! In fact, if one were to ask, "What has God done about the problem of sin?" the answer is, of course, "He sent His Son to die." However, this is what He has done in order to solve the problem ultimately and forever. In order to minimize the effect and consequence of sin daily, God has provided us with cultural, political and societal institutions such as government, economic order, family and education. All of these were put in place by God to minimize both the desire to sin and the effect of sin. These institutions protect and shield us, and without them we would descend into anarchy and chaos. (Witness the moral and ethical decline in the last 40 years as society has dismantled the traditional family unit which God provided.)
What about Disease and Natural Disasters?
Of course, this is not the entire picture. Free will and consequence cannot explain a three-year-old getting cancer or a nation wiped out in a earthquake. How can a loving God permit these things? No one sinned and no one made a choice. These things just happened!
First, we need to realize that as a result of our sin, the world is not what God intended it to be. When Man first began to rebel, everything changed and the earth which was once a blissful paradise became tough, unpredictable and wild. The fact that we, as a people, have lost our paradise is a consequence we all share for our combined sin. You can never point to a single event or sin which causes a child to fall ill, but you can say that we are all a sinful people and as a result, the world is a difficult place in which to live for each and every one of us, for none of us are without blame.
Yet still, there is another explanation. Is is true that sometimes God will permit evil or pain to happen for greater good. This is a very difficult thing, because we may never know in this life what the greater purpose was. It might be a great relief to know that by dying, your child will affect a hundred lives in a positive way, but sadly, we rarely have the opportunity to know. And so, it becomes an issue of trust and faith. If something bad happens to me, especially if I have prayed to God to take it away and He has not, I must have faith that God is in charge. I know that He is good and powerful and there is a reason that this is happening. I trust Him even when it makes no sense because He is good.
That is easy to say and very hard to do! It can be the hardest thing in the world to stand by and watch someone suffer while all the time knowing that God could take it all away if He wanted. We pray and pray, and we start to worry that maybe God is not so good after all because a "good" God would take this pain away. But if He took it away, what greater good would be lost?
If God is everything we know Him to be, then we have to have faith no matter how hard it may be, that He loves us and has our best interest in mind. He loves us too much to let us be the child whose parent cleans up after their every mess. He wants us to become something better.
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