IF THERE IS A GOD, WHY IS THERE EVIL IN THE WORLD?
Most scholars, historians and philosophers would agree that, at least in the Twentieth Century, Albert Einstein possessed one of the greatest intellects ever. He is renowned for his mental capabilities and easily qualifies as one of the greatest scientists and physicists of all time. His very name is now synonymous with “genius.”
As great a mind as Einstein possessed, there was one issue that he could not intellectually overcome. It was not in the area of Physics, nor even the greater question of God creating the world. As a physicist, Einstein understood the implications of cause and effect. He knew that the universe was an effect and, therefore, it had to have a source. He understood that the intricately designed universe must have therefore had an intricate Designer.
God as a creator was not the intellectual obstacle for Einstein, but something else was! Einstein believed there was something far more difficult and demanding to understand rationally than the reality of creation.
Do you know what question frustrated one of the greatest minds ever? Do you know what caused one of the greatest intellects of all time to throw up his hands in bewilderment? It was the problem of evil and the corollary problem of suffering!
Einstein knew there had to be a Creator; but what distressed him mentally was the character of that Creator. “Character” in the sense of what kind of Creator would allow for evil to exist in His Creation? And, therefore, if there was evil and suffering evident in his world, it should call into question the character of the One who created such a world!
So, Einstein struggled with the dilemma that countless others have, namely, how could God be good and yet allow such bad in His universe? The great Albert Einstein could not reconcile the problem of evil with a good God and so he decided in favor of a cosmic force or power controlling the universe, rather than a personal God. He effectively cast off a belief in the God of the Bible, thereby rejecting his Jewish heritage and upbringing.
Einstein’s dilemma should impress upon us that among all the moral challenges we face, probably none of them present the challenge that this one does – the problem of EVIL in a world created by a Good God. If God is just and holy and good, then how do evil and misery exist? There is a name for this debate; it is called THEODICY.
Theodicy is the term coined by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in 1710 in an attempt to justify God's existence in light of the apparent imperfections of the world. If God is just and holy and good, then how do evil and misery exist? That’s the question theodicy wrestles with.
Many agree that history’s most famous statement on the “problem of evil” comes from the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
We must see what’s at stake here.
If you don’t think this is important or relevant… modern theology is still being affected by this dilemma. Today there is a discipline called Process Theology… And it is becoming increasingly popular (even among Evangelicals).
What is it? It is, essentially, the view that God has limited power, and who He is and what He can do is not fully actualized yet. He is, therefore, in process. In many respects, this is the conclusion reached by popular Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his extremely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
Kushner is an articulate writer, with great empathy for those in pain and therefore was perplexed by human suffering and why God didn’t do anything about it. But for all that, the book has a fatal flaw! The conclusion he arrived at was that God couldn’t do anything about evil, pain and suffering. He “DIDN’T” because He “COULDN’T.”
The good Rabbi concluded that he could not worship a God who, if He was all-loving AND all-powerful, allowed bad things to happen to good people. But he could worship that God, if, while all-loving, He simply was not powerful enough to do anything about evil and suffering.
He believed that God wants to do something about evil, but He simply cannot, at least until at some point He becomes the God He is supposed to be! Until then, God is in the PROCESS of becoming All-Powerful.
BUT…the God of Process Theology is NOT the God of the Bible!
We are still in need of understanding the reality of evil in this world. And by “evil” I am referring to moral Evil. Some see bad things happening two ways – moral evil and natural evil. Natural evil is not really evil (at least not in the sense of moral evil). In that it is a reference to tornados and earthquakes and tsunamis, and such, it is rather, natural disasters. Uniquely, the media wants to lay these at the feet of God, so they are often referred to as “acts of God.”
So, as it relates to moral evil, the questions are “Why is there Evil?” and “Where did Evil come from?” These questions are joined at the hip. Answering one will help us understand and answer the other!
The order is, you can only understand the "WHY FOR" of evil when you know the "WHERE FORE" of evil. Knowing WHERE evil came from will help answer WHY it is!
The question as to why there is MORAL evil in the world can only be answered one way, in my opinion, and it hinges on one truth.
It is essential that we ask the right question. The question is not, “Did God create evil?” Rather, the question is this – “Did God create Beings with free will (the ability to choose)?”
The question of where did evil come from can only be understood when you understand the answer to that question and its implications.
As created Beings, are we robots, programmed to only and always do God’s will? Or did our Creator extend to us the ability to freely choose. To choose either His will or our own?
These are our only two options. We can label them – Option 1: No Freedom, or Option 2: Freedom of Will.
If you decide option one is correct, THEN God IS responsible for the evil that is in His created world, just as much as He would be responsible for anything and everything in the world. Why?
Because there is NO choice outside of His will.
There is no free will, there are no decisions being made by anyone except God.
There is no intellect to be nurtured; No emotion, just animalistic instincts; and no determination of our own will.
Therefore, we are not responsible for our actions because without free will, our actions are not our own. They are His, in so far as He controls who we are and what we do.
If, however, you decide option two is correct – that God created us in His image (which at least in part means Intellect, Emotion and Will), and that Will is a FREE WILL - now you have a game-changer!
Someone other than God is responsible for evil!
IF God allows certain of His creation to exert self-determination, because they have a freedom of will, a freedom of choice, NOW the responsibility shifts to those exercising that freedom of will and are accountable for those choices!
IF we choose the second option, then all we have to do is determine to whom the Creator gave this incredible risky free will.
In point of fact, He gave it to only two of His creation – Angels and Humans. That’s it.
At some point in eternity past, one angelic being exercised his free will and decided that he could rise above God. We believe he was one of the so-called Arch-Angels, the bearer of Light, called in Latin, Lucifer.
But his incipient rebellion against God was doomed, and both Isaiah and Ezekiel refer to his downfall and judgment. (Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:15-17)
He is cast out of heaven, as it were, along with a third of the angelic host that he somehow coerced into following him.
Pride is identified as this first-of-all sin, and could only have been demonstrated by a being willfully free enough to nurture it.
What happens next (regardless of the time frame in-between) occurs in the Garden of Eden. There, as you know, God’s most special creation of mankind, Adam and Eve, are living in an idyllic setting. They have free reign of everything in paradise, with one exception. There is set before them one prohibition – God tells Adam he is not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and EVIL. (Genesis 2:16-17)
Why that? Do you see that the very presence of such a tree… of such a prohibition, proves Free Will!? What would be the point of it, if you were not free to choose it or not? Without the reality of Free Will, the existence of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would be absolutely pointless.
This reveals to us why God gave us free will and the ability to choose?
When we choose right, we demonstrate His righteousness
When we choose good, we demonstrate His goodness
BUT, when we choose wrong; when we opt for the bad and not the good, the wrong and not the right, the untruth and the half-truth and not the truth. We demonstrate the absence of His love, goodness, truth and righteousness.
AND THERE IS A WORD FOR THAT… IT IS CALLED EVIL!
We think of evil as some monolithic entity… some larger-than-life reality… some personalized force. We think of it as having a life of its own… that it is irresistible, irrepressible, unavoidable. BUT IT IS NOT!
Evil is not the presence of something as much as it is the absence of something. It is NOT an entity unto itself. It does not exist all by itself. Evil only exists as an absence of good, just as much as darkness only exists as an absence of light!
You cannot create darkness, you can only create light. You cannot “turn on” darkness, you can only “turn off” the light. And, when you remove the light, what’s left in the void is evil! And that’s exactly what Jesus tells us in John 3:19-21:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Something must happen first for evil to exist. Something must occur for evil to become a reality. Do you see what that something is?
For moral evil to exist there must first be CHOICE. And for Choice to exist, there must first be Free Will.
So… God did not create evil and there are enough Scriptures that teach us that (Habakkuk 1:13a, Psalm 5:4, First Corinthians 14:33, First John 1:5, First John 2:16, James 1:13-17).
Some will counter and say that certain Scriptures prove that God causes evil (e.g. Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 1:12 and 3:32, Hosea 6:1, Amos 3:6, Deuteronomy 32:39, Psalm 119:75.) We must notice, however, that in each case the context of the passage shows that it is the judgment of God that is in view.
Do not confuse God’s righteous wrath with moral evil, do not confuse His judgment upon sinners as inflicting pain without a righteous purpose.
Consider that on the Cross, Jesus endured the wrath of God in that He was the sacrifice for the sin (evil) of man. The suffering of Christ was brought on by paying for man’s evil, which was being judged by a righteous and holy God.
DO YOU NOT SEE THE ABSURDITY TO THINK THAT GOD CAUSED EVIL AND THEN JUDGED HIS SON ON THE CROSS FOR THE EVIL HE CREATED?
God did not create evil, but He did create man with the ability to choose! And think of it - only a totally Sovereign God would do that!
When you understand this, you will come to understand that the reality of evil is NOT an argument against the existence of God, as some claim, but rather, on the contrary, it is a powerful argument FOR the existence of God.
We only know evil because it is the absence of good.
If there was no God, there could be no good.
IF there was no good, we would not be aware of evil.
So then, are we willing to understand that evil validates that good exists. Do you see that there would be no way to know that something or someone is evil if there was not good? And therefore, ultimately, we must admit as well, that the very presence of good validates the existence of God.
copyright © Joe LoMusio 2019, 2021