How Can a Good God Exist and Allow Evil?


How Can a Good God Exist and Allow Evil - The Problem of Evil

A fact of life and of living in this world is that there is evil. Another fact, to a majority of individuals, is that there is also a God. Herein most people come to a wall and are not sure how to get to the other side. This is The Problem of Evil. How can God exist and allow evil?

The problem of evil has more to do with the existence of evil while in the existence of God. Questions like, “If God loves people why did he allow…” or “if God is a good God why does He allow bad things to happen” illustrate precisely what the problem of evil is.

Within the problem of evil are two distinct categories: the problem of moral evil and of natural evil. Moral evil is evil that is produced by someone who has the capacity to understand right from wrong (ex: it is right to pay for something, it is wrong to steal something). Natural evil is that which occurs through the “natural order”[1] (ex: a tornado that tears through a community killing anyone in its path).

Moral evil, sin among mankind, is a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the

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garden. God created both of them as sinless, but created them with free-will: the ability to make decisions. He gave them a command to obey (Genesis 2:16-17), and Satan tempted them to disobey this command (3:1-5). They had a choice, free will, in the matter, and chose to disobey God (3:6). This act of disobedience not only effected Adam and Eve and their entire race (mankind), but also the created world. Because of this disobedience, mankind is forever “incapable of not sinning”[2], and the world is in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).

There are a number of theodicies that attempt to solve the problem of evil. Gottfried Leibniz explains that since God is all-good he cannot have willed a world that is less than best, that does not contain the “greatest number and variety of beings”[3], and that does not contain physical evil and good. While his theodicy may be internally consistent, it requires a “best possible world”[4], which does not exist any longer (not since the fall).

Another theodicy uses the free-will defense, which says that God could not have created mankind with free-will while always making them do good. While this is the case, it is difficult to see how God can use the evil acts that free-will produces for good.

A third theodicy is soul-building theodicy, which states that the God did not intend to create perfect creatures, but creatures that needed to be developed into Kingdom worthy material. This theodicy is also internally consistent but is weak when evil in the world actually turns people away from God instead of to God.

In paragraph six, this author shared his theodicy (based on free-will), how he explains and solves the problem of evil. This theodicy is internally consistent (which is important because “the intent in writing a theodicy is to avoid self-contradiction”[5]) in that it allows an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God to create a perfect world that contains evil. It recognizes that God created mankind with the ability to choose to obey or disobey his commandments. This theodicy demonstrates that God can and does take the evil that man produces and turns it into good and ultimately His victory (Gen. 3:15).

While God is able to use evil for good, there are ramifications for mankind. Any human that experiences sin personally will experience what Adam and Eve experienced after eating the fruit in the garden: separation from God (Gen. 3:8). Prior to eating the fruit they were in perfect harmony with God, but after disobeying Him they were separated from him. This same truth applies to all mankind today.

In writing a theodicy one may notice that they are bringing into question certain characteristics about God and his nature. To dispute (argue, debate) with the proper motives will reap knowledge and aid the individual in learning more about who God is. What one cannot do is begin to “attack” (take aggressive action against) God. It is a fine line, but one may dispute certain beliefs about God (with the goal of learning) without actually attacking God.

The problem of evil is a problem that has been around for centuries. It is a problem that will always lead people to question God, his love, and even his existence. But, as long as these questions are leading people to God is all that matters. From that point on they are in the best hands, God’s hands.

Points to Remember

  • The problem of evil is made up of two parts: moral evil and natural evil.
  • A theodicy is a way to explain God’s ways to man, and it will particularly resolve the problem of evil.
  • Any human that experiences sin (which is everyone, Rom. 3:23) will experience what Adam and Eve experienced: separation from God.

Questions to Promote Discussion and Personal Bible Study

  1. What is The Problem of Evil?
  2. What is the difference between moral evil and natural evil?
  3. What was effected by the disobedience of Adam and Eve? What Scripture supports your belief?
  4. Of the three theodicies presented in this paper (Gottfried Leibniz’s, free-will, or soul-building), which do you believe resolves the Problem of Evil? Why?
  5. In the process if writing a theodicy you will in time begin questioning certain characteristics of God and his nature. What are your thoughts on this? Is it right or wrong to question characteristics of God? To what extent is this acceptable?

Footnotes

  • [1] Feinberg F.S. “Problem of Evil.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 414.
  • [2] Demarest B. “Fall of the Human Race.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 436.
  • [3] Feinberg F.S. “Theodicy.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 1185.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Ibid., 1187.

Bibliography

  • Demarest B. “Fall of the Human Race.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 434. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.
  • Feinberg F.S. “Problem of Evil.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 413. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.
  • Feinberg F.S. “Theodicy.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 1184. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.

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8 thoughts on “How Can a Good God Exist and Allow Evil?

  1. The Problem of Evil

    The problem of evil is that it isn’t going away. Evil exists in this world becauseof sin. The rebellion of Adam and Eve against God broke everything. Nothing in this world is the same because their sin damaged everything, which made evil exist. The problem of evil is that it’s a problem because sin put it there. We battle daily with our sinful nature and there is no question that life at times is inevitably hard. Our world is good and beautiful, but it is laos evil and ugly. (Just open your daily newspaper and watch the news).

    The argument is essentially this: Is God willing to present evil but is not able? Is He impotent, is He able, but not willing? Is He malevolent, able AND willing? Where lies evil? That’s the problem, there is no clear answer here.

    Our human suffering, moral, and physical is a direct result from the sin of the first human; Adam/Eve. The distinction between God’s absolute Will and His conditional will is that we have Free Will and our future rests in the fact that God doesn’t want us making evil choices. The problem of evil is that we abuse our free will. God wants us to love Him freely. The evil that is done in this world happens out of our own responsibility, rather than His.

    God isn’t surprised by anything that happens in this world. He knew/knows what the possibilities are/were and not only is He perfectly loving, but He is also perfectly just. God’s warnings to Adam and Eve were not empty threats, we as Christians can’t ignore Him without suffering the consequences. In a world without sin, there would have been no sufering because Adam and Eve would have chosen to love Him from the beginning. Had they chosen to SERVE Him rather than themselves. the GOOD offered in the world would have been distributed in a different way than it is now.

    Natural vs. Moral Evil

    The world’s natural disasters are a precise defintiion of natural evil. Our environment suffers from natural evil daily. We live on a broken planet. We are not living in “Eden” any more. Paradise was essentially “lost.” God doesn’t want these things to happen (earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, etc), but sin created them.

    Moral Evil can clearly be interpreted (in the proper context of course) by the following verse:

    James 1:13

    When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone

    If the Holy Spirit dwells in us and we are strong in our faith then God can’t tempt us to break the law, murder, steal, etc. (read: Break His commandments and go against His Truth). Wrong doing done by any one flows from a person’s character. They are motivated in a particular way, and moral evil is done because it is wrong and they take or have some sort of pleasure in doing it. Moral Evil’s primary motivation is to do wrong for the sake of doing wrong, taking malevolent pleasure in that motivation, and fails to feel remorse for doing it. –> Evil purely defined.

    Soul Building/Free-Will

    Out of those, I’m leaning more towards soul-building. God did not intend to create perfect creatures, we are made perfect in Him. He gave us all free-will to test our faith and to build our character. In the midst of our pain, suffering, we need to seek Him, so we can be made perfect in Him.

    God loves His children, He loves all of us. He wants us to live and become the best possible person we have the capability to be through His Truth, His Word, and building our character around His Law. This inevitably rests on the foundation on our faith.

    Instead of looking ot the past for the reason or mystery of evil we need to focus our attention on the future and if we are strong in faith hen our future is already bright. The meaning of evil, the problem of evil is placed there to help us grow in our knowledge of God and to our eventual working towards our purpose.

    The good that outshines and outlasts ALL of the evil and the suffering in the world is not in the paradise that was once lost, but in the kingdom of Heaven which is ours if we continue to trust and obey His commands.

    That’s the SOLUTION to Evil.

    • Julie,

      Good thoughts on the topic. I’m glad that you took the time to think all of that through.

      Something that may be of interest to you to do: read from the arrest of Jesus through his crucifixion and note all of the injustice and evil that takes place (this may require some extra research on your part into the judicial law, etc). Keep this problem of evil in mind and notice how God uses the injustice to accomplish his will and and do that which is prophesied in Gen. 3:15 (see also Hebrews 2:14).

      Thanks again and keep it up!

      • I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the past two days & I’m confused. I am going to have a discussion about this topic with a friend and hopefully I am able to understand those two verses more clearly.

        Genesis 3:15

        I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring[a] and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

        Hebrews 2:14

        Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil

        Hebrews 2:14 is saying (and maybe you can clarify) that Jesus died so He could destroy evil (Satan). But obviously that isn’t the case, because even though Jesus died, evil was never destroyed because this world is broken. Jesus paid the punishment for our sins, but sin is still prevalent, things still happen in this life that are against God’s Will. But is it?

        On some level, do you think that things in this world happen are a test? The battle is against our flesh (old nature, sinful nature) and the Holy Spirit.

        I’m still researching the arrest of Jesus and will probably come with my thoughts on that later in the week. I’m going to invite others to participate in this topic because my interest has definitely been piqued.

        God bless you!

        • Julie, I’m glad you are confused. It will cause you to ask questions, which you already have, and grow in knowledge.

          On your question about Heb. 2:14 – Satan is still allowed some “reign” on this earth – “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV).

          And absolutely our faith is tested:

          “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

          And while this is the case, the death of Christ on Calvary has brought victory over death (see Heb. 2:9 below) and salvation to those who believe in his name (see John 20:31 below).

          But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9 ESV)

          but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 ESV) (one among many that speak to this)

          For the actual battle that is going to be fought an won by our Lord read the book of Revelation (easy read in one sitting).

          • I appreciate the clarification, here’s food for thought:

            A murder on death row is about to be executed, he didn’t believe in God prior or during his sentence. He decides within moments of his execution to be saved. Even though this Man had no relationship with God during his entire life, he makes the last minute decision to believe in God. Is he ultimately saved and will go to Heaven? or Is he denied Heaven and goes to hell because of his poor decisions?

            I think I know the answer, but this brings on my next point.

            An elderly woman has believed in God her entire life. She has a strong relationship with Him. She is kind spirited and every one that crosses her path is influenced by this woman’s grace, faith, and heart. Even though she is strong spiritually, she suffers mentally. This woman decides one day to end her life, she commits sucide. Does she go to Heaven? or Does she go to Hell because she went against God’s Will?

            On a personal note, the woman above was my grandmother. I don’t normally mention my personal life, but someone interviewed me and it got mentioned, so I don’t mind it now.

            I would like to believe she is in Heaven. But I know what God says about suicide. Her soul was spiritually sound, but her thoughts took their toll emotionally and mentally. Evil was present, obviously. Something influenced her decision to end her life. She died when I was 6, I’m 28 now and I still don’t know her fate.

            This goes hand in hand with free will versus God’s will. We abuse our free-will, but if my grandmother felt that ending her life would bring her closer to God, then I’d like to think that’s where she is.

            Again, I just don’t know.

            Anyway, that was my tangent. I will begin the book of Revelations after I complete Romans.

            Godspeed! 🙂

            • Julie,

              I believe hearts can be changed and God will do whatever it takes to have someone he has chosen turn to him. For some that process happens sooner and is easier than it will be for others. I believe that Christians can waver in their faith and sometimes make very drastic decisions. I also believe that only God can know the heart of man and whether or not that individual will spend eternity in his presence or separated from him eternally.

              Also, and I appreciate you sharing what your grandmother did, I am not an advocate for using suicide to bring oneself closer to God. Our life is not our own and is not ours to end.

              This can become a very delicate topic for some, as such it is wise for us to remember that only God knows certain things. While we can feel confident about ourselves and other people’s faith or lack of faith, only God knows the true heart of man.

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