So many questions asked of Christians by
skeptics and by other Christians themselves involves the problem of evil. God is good, God is all-powerful, God is all-loving,
but evil exists. Why? When a person begins to think of something like this, several questions can come to mind.
can look at the persecution of Christians in Sudan and China and wonder why. We can see children starving to death in those
commercials that we see on TV for charities. We see the spread of disease and the rise of crime. We see drive-by shootings
where innocent children die for being in the wrong place and the wrong time.
Often times though, it can be personal
questions. Why did a friend get raped? Why did God allow me to lose my job? Why am I so sick and hurting if God has the power
to heal me and doesn't? As I thought of this I thought of questions myself. Why do I get paid so little for my job? Why is
a good-looking and sweet and intelligent guy like me single? Why is.....errrr.....sorry. Got off on a tangent there.
why is there so much evil? As a friend of mine put it to me recently, why does God seem so hidden when we need him most? These
kinds of questions were being asked constantly after events like 9-11 and Columbine. Could it be though that Francis Schaeffer
is right though with his book title, "He Is There And He Is Not Silent."
The first thought is that God is under no
obligation to help any of us. God is not at our demand. Sure. God has offered in his grace to help us but if he chooses to
not help for some reason, that is his choice. One can do all the righteous acts they want but if it comes to God's wisdom
and he says no, then he says no.
I recently thought of this when I was sick one day and had to miss church that Sunday
morning. I remember praying that God would heal me and thinking of what J.P.Moreland said concerning Isaiah 1:18, that we
are to bring our case to God and reason with him.
So I decided to reason and then thought of all the reasons I could
give God to give me a healing. What reason could I give? Does he need me to proclaim the truth? Will the church be unable
to function if I am not there one Sunday? Will I bring stress on my family that will irrevocably harm his plan? Should it
have even been a fatal illness, (Which it certainly wasn't but I'm going to extremes here.) would the future of the cosmos
been shot by my absence?
No. So what reason could I give God to heal me. All I could say was that it was according
to his grace and wisdom. If in his wisdom, he chose to heal, then that would be his choice and it would be the right choice.
If he chose not to, he chose not to, and that would be the right choice.
Let us make that clear then. We do not make
demands of God. We cannot say because he does not act in the way that we would like him to act, that he is in the wrong. However,
I realize that this doesn't really answer the big question at hand. A good way to really look might be to define evil.
is all-good by nature. Thus, he is not the source of evil as good does not produce evil. Evil is contrary to the nature of
good and God does not produce that which is opposed to his nature. Thus, Augustine's answer here for the definition of evil
is most accurate. Evil is the absence of that which is good, much like cold is the absence of heat.
By this definition,
we have a key answer. Unless good exists, we cannot tell what is evil. We need a standard to know good from evil. I once debated
an atheist who was complaining about God murdering millions of innocent children in the flood of Noah. I asked him if he was
an atheist and then said "Doesn't atheism say that there is no objective morality?" to which he agreed. Thus, I asked "So
what are you complaining about?" Oddly enough, he suddenly switched to a different topic. Without God in the picture, you
cannot even say what evil is.
But that doesn't answer the question entirely either. We can say that we know God has
to be in the problem for it to make sense but that doesn't say why he allows it to happen and why he often seems silent. We
all know times when the heavens have been like brass. Why?
One problem obviously is that God created man with choice.
He could choose to love God or choose to reject him. To speak plainly, man blew it. Since then, we've had to live with the
consequences of a fallen world where innocents often get caught in the crossfire.
So what would happen if every time
man chose to do evil God intervened? First off, this would put God at the demand of man. It is difficult to believe that God
could have a plan for the universe and one act by an evil man could throw it all beyond redemption.
But some will
ask, "But my personal case is different!" Well here's the problem. This is not to be unsympathetic to personal cases but everyone
will say that. Everyone wants their problems to be solved but doesn't always realize what repercussions this might have.
times, good can come from evil. How many times have we seen someone struck by evil in such a way that they fought back against
evil and created good? How often have victims banded together? One can think of how an angry mother reacted when her child
was killed by a drunk driver. Today, we have the organization called MADD to combat against that. One act of evil has led
to much good.
As Christians, we can look to the ultimate example of this as well. The cross of Christ is the most
evil act mankind has ever done. His enemies taunted him that he couldn't save himself and if he really was who he claimed
to be, to come down from that cross.
But the irony of the situation is, he didn't come down from the cross not because
he wasn't who he said he was but because he WAS who he said he was. He knew that what he was doing was allowing a hideous
evil to take place in order that the greater good, the salvation of billions of souls throughout history, including ours,
to take place.
It could be that evil is allowed as well to remind us that this world isn't perfect. Those who realize
that will seek an answer and the answer is only in God. The Bible repeatedly makes statements of God being sought out. God
repeatedly tells us to seek him and find him.
This enters a fine line. If God makes his presence too obvious, mankind
could feel forced to worship him in having to acknowledge there is a supreme being without any desire to worship him. I think
the evidence is strong but there is always an argument (though I think fallacious) against it so that man still has a choice.
Yet at the same time, he does not remain totally hidden. He has revealed enough of himself to tell us he exists, but
not so much that we are forced to acknowledge his existence. The reason is that God wants those who seek him and desire to
be with him to come to him. No doubt, if God wanted to right now he could open the skies and proclaim his existence, but he
doesn't. He's waiting for seekers.
While I know I haven't covered this topic immensely, and there are volumes that
do that, I do see one answer that I haven't explicitly given yet. In my personal opinion, this answer is the greatest answer
of all to the problem of evil and without it, shows a cold and distant God who is nearly Deist.
The answer is that
God himself entered suffering. God created a world with natural rules of suffering and pain after the fall. However, he came
and lived among us and took part in the closest way possible to evil. He himself faced the evil of being insulted without
cause. He faced the evil of seeing dying children. He faced people with diseases. He faced those abused by the rulers above
them. He even faced the torture of the cross.
This is something that makes the incarnation so special. I can personally
say that my God is very familiar with the sufferings we go through because he's been there. He has been tempted in all ways
as we are but was without sin, as the Hebrews writer says.
And perchance, as a friend of mine told me last night in
discussing this, when evil strikes us, maybe we should look to what happened to our Lord on the cross and realize that he
knows. He's seen and lived in this world of evil and knows the struggles we go through.
And may I end with an old
saying that has been handed down and has a lot of truth to it. One thing that causes evil to prosper is for good men to do
nothing. Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. No. You probably can't save the world but you're
not being asked to either. Can you make a difference where you are to fight the evil among you?
All it needs to prosper,
is for you to do nothing.