God and Evil: An Unlikely Pair?

The second section "THE BEGINNING AND END OF EVIL" was published in the April 2011 issue of Faithlink, the magazine of Faith Methodist Church


THE ILLOGICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL

The problem (existence) of evil is often used to argue against existence of God. “Evil” refers to the many ills of our world: diseases, congenital disabilities, natural disasters, accidents, man’s cruelty to others, regimes which use food as a weapon of suppression, starvation, abuse, senseless killing, murder, death etc. The argument goes something like this:

  1. If God is all-powerful, He could prevent/remove evil.
  2. If God is all-good, He would prevent/remove evil.
  3. What God is able to do and wants to do, God does; but evil exists.
  4. Therefore, an all-powerful and all-good God does not exist.
But does “the problem of evil” prove that God does not exist? Note that (4) is not the only possible conclusion. Another possibility is the existence of an all-powerful but not all-good god who takes delight in our pain and suffering (i.e., sadistic). This is a frightening scenario. A third possibility is the existence of an all-good but not all-powerful (i.e., impotent) god. This is a hopeless situation where there is no possibility of our pain and suffering will ever be eliminated.

problem of evil
The problem of evil presents us with only two options: evil exists therefore God does not OR if God exists then evil should not. There is a third option: evil exists AND God exists.

Is the existence of evil contrary to an all-good God? Is it possible that our pain and suffering is for our good? Parents know that they cannot forever protect their children and must sometimes let their children learn the hard way through pain and suffering. At other times, parents inflict painful discipline on their children to prevent greater pain. Could it be that the all-good God allow evil in order to bring about a greater good? If so, then it is possible that evil exists and God exists.

Is the existence of evil incompatible with an all-powerful God? That evil exists does not mean it will continue to exist i.e., the all-powerful God would not remove it one day. That God has not destroyed evil does not mean He cannot! Again, it is possible that evil exists and God exists.

Do you know that an atheist is disqualified from using the problem of evil? An atheist does not believe there is anything beyond the natural world. The natural world is all there is. Life and the world are the result of random, natural processes. In the struggle for life, it is the survival of the fittest. If all true, then what is so “evil” about a regime that lives in luxury while the people starve and die? Death of the weak and inferior would be “good”.

What is the atheist's definition of “evil”? Without the existence of God, there would be no objective definition of “good” and “evil”. Evil would be (socio-cultural) relative … simply personal preferences. Then can the atheist categorically insist that evil exists in (3) above? To say that evil exists, he must assume good exists which would demand a moral law which in turn assumes a moral lawgiver. Therefore, an atheist cannot raise the problem of evil to argue against the existence of God without first presupposing the existence of God!


THE BEGINNING AND END OF EVIL

This section was published in the April 2011 issue of Faithlink, the magazine of Faith Methodist Church

pain and suffering But the problem of evil is real for the Christian. How does he reconcile the reality of evil with his belief in an all-powerful and all-good God? The issues are: (1) If God is all-good, why did He create such a painful world? (2) If God is all-powerful, why does He not do something about the pain and suffering?

Causation of evil

Though evil is real, it is not a (created) thing. It does not exist by itself. For example, a donut hole is real but it does not exist by itself. You cannot separate the donut hole from the donut; it exists in the donut. A donut hole is merely the absence of dough in a donut. Likewise, darkness does not exist by itself; it is the absence of light. Similarly, evil does not exist apart from good; evil is the absence or corruption of something good.

God created everything good (Genesis 1:31). When He created man, God also created man with the freedom of choice, the ability to obey or disobey Him. God told man what to do and what not to do but man corrupted himself by choosing to disobey God (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7). From the moment of man’s rebellion against God, evil entered the world and its effects (pain and suffering) have touched all mankind (Romans 5:12). Man’s corrupted nature is the cause of much evil.

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
Man’s sin also brought about a curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17-19) and all creation is subjected to corruption and decay (Romans 8:20-22). The world as it is - filled with natural disasters - is not what the world was in its original state at Creation.

God did not create a painful world; pain, suffering and death are the consequences of man’s sin (James 1:13-17). Man’s rebellion against God explains man’s corrupted nature and the evil acts of men. A fallen creation explains disasters.

Cessation of evil

However, God did not abandon man and creation to eternally suffer the consequences of sin. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to become a man so that He could pay the penalty for our sins. He is our substitute.

Surely he took up OUR pain 
   and bore OUR suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, 
   stricken by him, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for OUR transgressions, 
   he was crushed for OUR iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, 
   and by his wounds we are healed. 
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
   each of us has turned to our own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him 
   the iniquity OF US ALL.			Isaiah 53:4-6
Jesus’ crucifixion (i.e., His pain, suffering and death on the cross) is the solution for the pain, suffering and death in the world. Through His resurrection, Jesus conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). He can break the power of sin and transform our lives by changing our desires – instead of wanting to do evil, we will want to do good (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 5:17). Each person is now faced with the choice of accepting or rejecting Jesus.

God’s promise is that evil will eventually be destroyed. He will right every wrong, put away evil once and for all and create a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 20:11-15; 21:3-4; 22:3). Meanwhile, God allows temporal sufferings to continue so that more people will turn to Jesus and thus escape eternal punishment and sufferings (Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:14-15; 2 Peter 3:9).

Is there pain in your heart? Evil (i.e., pain and suffering) is the absence of good. Do you want to fill that void with good? Do you want to fill it with God? God is extending His hands to you. Are you willing to put your trust in the all-powerful and all-good God? Will you accept Jesus as your substitute … that He died for you?




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Alan's Gleanings | Copyright © March 2011 by Alan S.L. Wong