Journey 2 The Problem of Evil
Day 1: Why Does God Allow Evil?
Our world is in pain.
There’s no denying it. The proof is everywhere—in the news, in our own lives, in the lives of the people we care about. This is a world where suffering exists—and all too often runs rampant.
What if there was a way to fix it—and not just fix it, but end it? What if there was a way to end the suffering and evil that plagues our world and our lives?
Would you be interested?
In our “Knowing God” Journey, we spent seven days exploring the character traits of the God who created the universe—but at the end of it all, we had to face a difficult question:
If God is truly all-powerful, and if He truly loves us, why does evil exist in the first place? Surely such a being would have it in His power to end evil, to end suffering, to protect His creation from all the pain and hurt it experiences on a daily basis. Why doesn’t He?
It’s not a new question. Here’s a quote commonly attributed to a Greek philosopher from the third and fourth centuries B.C.:
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?
And there, in four simple lines, is one of the biggest hurdles to believing in God. Common sense dictates that if evil still exists in the world (and it does), then God is either unable or unwilling to end it. If He is unable, then He is not all powerful. If He is unwilling, then He is not loving. Neither possibility is appealing, and both give us reason to wonder whether there’s any point in seeking a relationship with such a God—or more importantly, whether He exists at all.
Sometimes common sense isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The question our philosopher failed to ask (and the question we must ask) is whether an all-powerful, loving God might have a reason for declining to end evil in this very moment. It’s a question most people fail to ask because it doesn’t make sense. If you or I had unlimited power and a kind heart, wouldn’t our immediate response to suffering be to end evil as quickly as possible? To do anything less would be cruel and heartless.
If we want to unravel this puzzle, we have to start by acknowledging a single scripture. It’s not an easy one to come to terms with, but if we want to wrap our heads around the problem of evil, then it’s where we need to begin: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
When it comes to the things God does (or doesn’t do), our instinct is often to judge according to what we would do (or wouldn’t do). But that’s a mistake. We’re not talking about the actions of another human being. We’re talking about the actions of the God who created the universe—a God unbound by time and space, positioned to see and understand things we can’t even begin to imagine.
Think about it—we’ve been puzzling over the mysteries of quantum physics for more than half a century, whereas God understands the subject perfectly because He invented it. He designed the rules for things like quarks and gluons and quantum entanglement—concepts that the best and brightest of our world are only just beginning to understand.
If we go into this Journey expecting God to adhere to our standards and to our concept of right and wrong, we’re only going to find a God who doesn’t make any sense to us. But if we go in willing to accept that His thoughts are higher than our own—if we allow Him to teach us and explain His ways to us—then we’re going to discover that the problem of evil isn’t actually much of a problem at all. We’re going to discover that it all makes perfect sense—and that God knows exactly what He’s doing.
This Journey begins with the question our philosopher didn’t ask: What reason would a loving, all-powerful God have for choosing to allow evil? As we set out to answer that question, we’re going to have to tackle a few other questions along the way—questions like:
- What causes suffering?
- How do we define evil?
- What would God have to do to actually end evil?
- Why do we make bad decisions?
- What do we stand to gain from suffering?
- What does God ultimately intend to do about evil?
These questions are important. If we can’t address the problem of evil, the entire Christian religion falls to pieces.
We’d better get started, then.