My brother texted me yesterday to thank me for my service to the country as formerly a sailor and now a Chaplain. I replied that I couldn’t imagine what the soldiers and their families during the Civil War, from both north and south, went through, such horrendous years in our American history. Over 620,000 people died in that war, that’s about the same number of all the soldiers who died in all the other wars (e.g., WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, OIF, OEF, GWOT, etc.) combined! Memorial Day originally was established to remember those who died in the Civil War. Now it is meant for all who died in all the wars in which the Americans were involved.
No doubt the Civil War was one evil event in our history. It is a part of our history as a nation that was immersed with unimaginable pain and suffering. Why did God allow it? To rephrase the question, if God is all-powerful and all-good, then why did an evil such as the killing or death of 620,000 Americans take place? Could He have prevented it in all of His power and might? The way I’m going to answer this is to suggest to you a few principles with and from which to delineate your own answers. (These answers are drawn from the Sunday Night Worship Service of Trinity Baptist Church, Barstow, CA, with Pastor Floyd Dorsey as the speaker.)
1. We go back to the beginning of sorrow. Sorrow began in the Garden of Eden when Adam violated God’s one command. “And unto Adam [God] said, ‘Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and has eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”(Genesis 3:17-19). So, sorrow is a result of sin, which is a product of disobeying God’s one command. Because of this Adam plunged the entire human race unto death. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
“Wait, wait a minute!” you say. “Why are you all of the sudden quoting Scriptures? My purpose in asking the question is to debunk God exists. You see, if God is all-good and all-powerful, then why is there evil? Either God is not all-good and not all-powerful or He doesn’t exist. This objection brings us to the second principle.
2. God has to be in the framework, otherwise, the question disintegrates. Ravi Zacharias masters this concept. We have no choice but to assume God is in the framework. Evil exists. Almost everybody knows that. How do we know what is evil? By comparison of what is good. How do we know what is good? By a standard with which to differentiate that which is evil and that which is good. This standard is a moral law giver who is above that which is good or evil. This moral law giver is God, but this is Whom you’re trying to debunk. But you can’t ask a meaningful question without Him in the picture. There is no other way around it but to assume that God is in the framework. “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1). Moses offers no defense of the existence of God. He just assumes He does. Otherwise, there’s no point in writing a book. There’s no point in asking the “problem of evil” question if God is not in the framework.
If there’s such a thing as evil, then we’re assuming that there’s such a thing as good.
If there’s such a thing as evil and good, then we’re assuming that there’s a standard with which to differentiate that which is evil from that which good.
This standard is God, not man, not human convention, not a universal standard, not a culture consensus, not anything else; but God and God alone.
So that is why I’m quoting Scriptures–because God has spoken and He cannot not be in the framework of the problem of evil.
3. We don’t understand the wisdom of God. If there was one man in history who suffered a lot, Job was that man. Sons and daughters killed. Servants slain. Sheep and cattle burned up. Camels and donkeys stolen. All in one day! News came one right after the other within seconds! Then Job gets covered with a horrible painful boils “from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” And if that wasn’t enough, his wife turns to him and said, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (Job 2:7-9). She leaves him and Job is all alone [for a while until his three legalistic friends showed up] with this question: “Why God?”
Later on, God finally shows up to the interview. God says to him, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” and proceeds to hammer Job with a series of questions with which Job has no answers (Job 38-41)! And you and I don’t have answers either because we don’t understand the wisdom of God. Job says [and you and I ought to say, too] “I know that thou canst do every thing…” (Job 42:2). Here Job acknowledges the omnipotence of God. God can do everything! God can do anything! And what is uncomfortable for you and me is that He can do anything He wants to do when He wants to do it without giving you or me any explanation whatsoever! What ruffles up our feathers is that we don’t like a God like that.
4. God is different from us. God is the Creator. We may be God’s crowning jewel of creation but we remain just creatures. The Creator-creature distinction is a key ingredient in understanding and resolving the problem of evil. We have to remember that we are not like God. God thinks differently. We think at a very low wavelength. God thinks at a much higher level. The best thing our minds could do is to seek Him and partake of His salvation through Christ because God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
This is a crucial principle in answering the question of evil because we are prone to “change[d] the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). We would worship a celebrity who denounces Christ. We would worship a scientist who debunks the Creator and credits the beginning of a universe to an eternal matter! We would worship self who wants to become the captain of our own.
5. Understand who has free will. I’ve heard it quite a lot that suffering and pain and evil exist because we have free will. But one of us in the study last night asked the question, “Whose free will?” I think this person asked a very important question. My answer is: “God’s free will! Not ours. Ours is limited. Very limited.” While it is true that we have free will, ours is not entirely free. The Apostle Paul talks of men for whom we need to pray, be gentle with, “apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing [them] if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Men’s free will is limited because of the grip of Satan upon their lives. Adam’s was the only true free will man ever had. But he freely chose to squander it. To be fair, the truth of the matter is, if you or I were in his place, we would’ve done exactly the same thing he did!
The second Adam, however, freely chose to give His life to reconcile us back to God. The second Adam, in the person of Jesus Christ, corrected what the first messed up! “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).
6. You and I live in the in-between. We live between Genesis and Revelation. This in-between is marked by sin. And sin has to run its course. In Genesis 3 we see the curse given. In Revelation 21 we see the curse lifted. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1). Meanwhile we live in the in-between. In this in-between era, however, God has given us a solution for sin. “For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
7. There is a higher purpose. What we deem evil, God means it for good. We’ve seen this is the life of Joseph. Left in the pit for dead by his eleven brothers. Sold into slavery unto Egypt. Accused of rape by his master’s wife. His master knowing the lies of his dear wife, thrusts into prison Joseph “whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron” (Psalm 105:18). A long time past and a lot of patience and still trusting in the Lord, he becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt. His conniving brothers come to seek for food draw to him for help. Upon realizing this was the Joseph whom they had practically slaughtered and unto whom they had done much evil, they tremble upon what Joseph might do to them in response.
But what a magnanimous statement that Joseph makes and it is revealing of what higher purposes God has for His creatures! “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
I leave you with a concluding thought in the example of King Hezekiah. God informs him he soon will kick the bucket because of his disease. Hezekiah’s prays that God would heal him. God grants his desire by giving him fifteen more years. During this fifteen years he bears a son by the name of Manasseh. Hezekiah dies. Manasseh, twelve years old, reigns in his stead. Reigns for fifty-five long and wicked years. Fifty-five evil years for Judah. Was not Hezekiah’s purpose for praying for life good? Had Hezekiah accepted God’s revelation to him in the first place, the Jews would not have experience fifty-five long evil years!
I hope and pray these principles help you in your quest for truth and in resolving the issue of evil in our world. Don’t hesitate to write me any comments or follow up questions. Thanks for reading my blog!