by the Rev. Canon Mark A. Pearson
The recent massacre of students at Virginia Tech and the devasating tornados and floods in Kansas are but the latest in a series of disasters that have befallen people who did nothing to deserve them. It causes people to ask God — sometimes with anguish, sometimes with anger — WHY?! If God is loving, powerful, and active, why does He allow bad things to happen?
Some false answers
1. God is loving, powerful and active but people deserve what they get. But don’t we know people who get far worse than they deserve and people who get off way too easy? Jesus refuted the notion that you deserve what you get in Luke 13 when He said the people upon whom the tower fell down in Siloam were no worse than anyone else.
2. God is loving and powerful but no longer active in the world today. Yet we know many instances of divine intervention, occasions when it would take more faith to believe in “coincidence” than to believe in God was at work.
3. God is powerful and active but not loving. Is this the God of the Bible? Is this the God we know and experience?
4. God is loving and active but not powerful. But God raised Jesus from the dead. God worked miracles in Bi ble days and throughout church history and He works them today. A “wimpy” God is not God at all.
What is the origin of Evil?
If God is both powerful and good, why is there evil in the world? Before the creation of the world, God created orders of angels, some if not all of whom were given free will. Lucifer, the chief angel, rebelliously tried to take God’s place of authority (Isaiah 14:12ff). He failed, but God allowed him to continue his rebellion which includes tempting humans to sin. He temped our proto-parents, Adam and Eve, and their sin led to the fall of the human race. In addition to our inherited fallenness (“original sin”) we add our own sin.
As a result, we are victims of living in this fallen world system, the victims of other people who act badly towards us, and the “victims” of our own sin. And no, “It’s not fair!”
What Could God Do in Response?
There are several possible responses:
1. God could take away human freedom or never give it in the first place. But then people would be merely plants or animals. Being human means to be able to make choices, however horrid the results of some choices may be.
2. God could make sin to have no consequence. Human sin would not hurt anyone, the sinner or other people. But something in us recoils at this — good must be rewarded and evil punished, if not now then eventually, or else God is not fair and justice has no meaning.
3. Nothing happening in one part of creation would affect any other part. But then we’d have to live in total isolation from everyone and everything.
4. There’s God’s solution! God’s solution must involve keeping us human, retaining free will; keeping things fair, with sin having ultimate consequence; and keeping us in society; all until Jesus returns. This requires something only God could think of and pull off.
What God Did and Does About the Problem of Evil
1. God offers salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. While we neither minimize pain nor tolerate injustice, salvation in Jesus Christ — eternity in God’s closest presence — far outweighs any evil we may experience now. (See what Paul said in Romans 8:18.)
2. God walks with us right now. Knowing Jesus is there with us, listening, loving, bearing our pain with us is a great blessing. (See familiar Psalm 23:4.)
3. God intervenes day to day, limiting the power of evil. While there’s a mystery here (Why doesn’t God stop evil every time?) God variously (a) supernaturally intervenes to stop a disaster from happening, (b) turns problems into blessings and (c) gives us grace to cope, even triumph in the midst of difficulty.
4. God works to convert people. How many were spared of horrors because the slave trader John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) was converted?
5. God raised up the Church to be a force for good. God’s people help mitigate the fruits of evil by individual actions such as feeding the hungry, by corporate actions creating relief organizations and by political action working for more just, humane laws and society.
6. There will be a final reckoning. People who get away with things in this life will be dealt justice in the hereafter. Whatever injustices are suffered on earth will be more than adequately compensated for in the hereafter, for those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Life often is less than fair, but the hereafter, for believers, is more than fair because we don’t deserve God’s grace! +