The Problem of Good and Evil
#We Never Know When Our World Is Going To Fall Out From Under Us
After the events of this past week with Virginia Tech, I felt this might be a good time to re-ask the age old question that theologians, philosophers, and even skeptics have dealt with for centuries:
#If God’s so good, why does evil exist?
Good question, and a question that Several possible answers have been proposed, but each one seems to spark more questions. And we’re not going to be able to exhaustively answer that question here this morning in just 30 minutes.
What we will do is give you a bit of a framework to help us understand how a good and loving God could allow evil and suffering to be so prevalent in our world.
The problem that we face really boils down to three statements which at first glance seem to contradict each other. You could take any two of them and have no problem, but when you take all three together, that’s when you need to think a little harder.
#Three Statements that Appear Contradictory:
A. God is all good.
B. God is all powerful.
C. Evil exists.
These three statements don’t seem to go together.
#Skeptics approach the problem something like this:
If God is so good and evil exists, why doesn’t he do something about it? He must not be able to, in which case he is powerless. But if God is able to eradicate evil, why doesn’t He? He must not be so good after all. And that’s the dilemma..
A. A “good” God would destroy evil.
B. An “all-powerful” God could destroy evil.
C. Evil has not been destroyed.
D. Therefore, there cannot possibly be such a good and powerful God.
The problem with such deductive reasoning, as is often the case with “God questions,” is that we often start with our faulty and finite human reasoning.
Perhaps this would be a good time to remind all of us:
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So let’s look at these statements again, one at a time. We’ll go through the first two fairly quickly and then spend a bit of time on the third.
A. Is God all good?
The Bible itself would say that God is good, without any hint of evil.
Psalm 34:8 (NLT)
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
1 John 1:5 (NLT)
This is the message he has given us to announce to you:
God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.
Is God all good? God’s word says YES
Men and women throughout history would answer this by saying yes, without a doubt.
God is entirely good.
He provides for our most basic needs, and chips in for a lot of our wants, too.
He blesses us with life itself.
He gives our lives meaning and purpose.
He embraces us with His love and tender mercy.
And many people, including me, would say from personal experience that God is good. No question. He loves me and has never given me any reason to doubt that.
B. Is God all powerful?
Let’s see what the Bible has to say…
Isaiah 40:25-31 (NLT)
"To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?" asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away. O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Is God all powerful? YES
C. So why does Evil exist?
Let me give you some statements to help you understand a little more how a good, loving all-powerful God could allow evil to exist:
1. God did not create evil, but He created the potential for evil.
God created us with the ability to choose. We often call this free will.
It means that we have the capability to make decisions in everyday life,
and we have the capability to decide whether
we will love and honour God
or if we will reject Him.
When we reject him, evil becomes a reality.
Now, God could have made us without the ability to choose.
But without the ability to choose, we would end up being his puppets.
He wanted us to be able to freely choose to love Him and express that love to Him.
He didn’t want to force us to love Him,
because any love that is forced is not genuine.
It needs to be offered willingly.
Of course, along with the ability to choose to love God
comes the ability to choose not to love Him.
And when we reject Him and reject Biblical morals and values,
we’re left with what we call evil.
Listen to what Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College had to say about this…
“…it is not logically possible to have free will and have no possibility of moral evil. In other words, once God chose to create human beings with free will, it was up to them, rather than God, as to whether there was sin or not.
That’s what free will means. Built into the situation of God deciding to create human beings is the chance of evil, and , consequently, the suffering that results.”
~ Peter Kreeft
In fact I’ve noticed something over the years.
The person who screams the loudest that
if God were a good God he wouldn’t allow evil,
is usually the same person who demands the loudest
for his rights to live his life his way!
And that brings me to the next statement:
2. Evil is a corruption of what is good.
Think about rust. My car is starting to show some rust.
Rust isn’t something that my car was built with, and it’s not a feature I had added later on. It’s simply something that is developing on the metal that is already there. It does not exits on its own, it’s part of the metal it contaminates. And now that it’s appearing on my car, it’s spreading to parts of the car that previously showed no sign of rusting.
That’s what evil is like. God created us with the ability to choose. But when the choices we make lead us away from God, that’s when evil comes into the picture. Free will is a good thing that God created us with, but evil is a corruption of that free will.
You can trace it all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Eve and then Adam first choose to disobey God, evil entered into our world.
And like rust, it spread through every generation.
3. God could eliminate some evil, but the problem would still remain.
Could God have stopped the terrorists of 9-11? Yes. Could He track down Osama and take care of him? Yes. Could He remove any threat from Saddam? Yes. God could take care of all of these situations.
And to be honest, I think God does more in these situations than we know. And I think there are plenty of things that we never find out about because God has already taken care of them.
He could have stopped this young man from killing 32 people.
But here’s the thing. God could take care of all of the biggies, but if there are still people who suffer from illnesses and diseases, if there are still people who are the victims of fraud or robberies, if there are still people who suffer the loss of a friend or loved one, then evil still exists and the question remains:
Why does a good God allow evil to exist?
The only solution would be for Him to destroy all the evil, not just some of it.
And that brings me to my forth statement:
4. God could destroy all evil, but that would include you and me.
We may not all be murderers or rapists or international terrorists, but we are all experienced in evil in our thoughts, our actions, and our attitudes.
In Matthew 5 it goes beyond murder to tell us that if we’re even angry with someone and treat them with contempt or call them names, we are acting in an evil manner. It goes beyond adultery to say that if we even look at a person lustfully it is evil. It says if you’ve every sought to get even with someone for something they’ve done to you, it is evil.
Mk 10:18, Jesus says, “No one is good—except God alone.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says that any worker doing ministry in his name
without the proper heart is an evildoer.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
As God sees it. None of us are good. We are all evil.
Our evil deeds are a matter of degree.
All sins are not the same in God’s eyes.
All sins have one thing in common:
they clarify that apart from Christ we are all evil sinners in God’s eyes.
Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
The consequences of our sins are not all the same.
The only people who are good become good
through the experience of having received the 'LIGHT" of Christ.
John 3:19-21 9 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light,and will not
come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done
has been done through God.”
So I tell you, if God is going to destroy evil he has to destroy you and me.
So instead of whining and complaining that God allows evil to exist, thank Him for not destroying you. Because when it comes to sin and evil, it’s only a matter of degrees, and God can’t stand any of it.
5. God has provided a future without evil for those who choose Him now.
This is the whole message of the Church: that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to face the death sentence that we deserved for our own evil so that we could experience a full and abundant life with Him now and forever in heaven.
John 14:1-4 (NIV)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
THE PROBLEM OF GOOD AND EVIL