If There Is A Good God Why Is There Evil? A Christian Perspective
This is a serious matter that must be answered with care and compassion to those that hurt or who have been hurt. It is a stumbling block for many that keeps them from belief in an all powerfull and loving God.
We often hear this question, "If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world?" God didn't create robots for one, God gave us all a free will to choose between right and wrong. Freedom is a good thing, but like anything else it can be abused and used for selfish purposes. What other alternatives are there? Would we rather that God had created mindless robots?
There cannot be love if it is forced, true love comes from a choice to love, or not to love. God has given us a free will which He will honor, we can choose to love and serve God with our free will or to not to love and serve Him. Could you imagine God forcing all people into heaven against their free will? That would be worse than hell itself.
Well, some say, "Since God is omniscient [all knowing], and He knew people would choose to do evil, He created evil since He allowed it to happen." No, God did not create evil, He created the "possibility" for evil, but not evil itself. There is a big difference, we are not machines, we have a free will, therefore as free creatures we have the possibility to do evil, this does not make God responsible in the least. Again, what alternative would we prefer? Would we prefer to be mindless creatures that couldn't think for themselves?
The thing to keep in mind is that God has made a way for us, He came to earth and took our place on the cross, suffering for our sins, God knows pain and sorrow, He has walked among his creation and suffered at the wicked hands of humanity.
Children all go to heaven [age of accountability], so when they die from hunger, war, and sickness, this being tragic as it is, they will spend an eternity in heaven, this little time of pain on earth cannot compare to an eternity of bliss in heaven!
Another thing to keep in mind is that these evil men will eventually be judged by God [Revelation 20:11-15], as well as all unbelievers [non-christians], so they are not getting away with their crimes against humanity. There will be a reckoning, justice will prevail, mankind will not get away with it's evil done to each other and God, accounts will be settled.
Some may ask, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" The thing is, the question should be, "Why do good things happen to bad people?" There are no good people according to God's standard of Holiness [of which we will be judged] my friend, we are all wicked sinners [Romans 3:23], all we deserve is God's judgement and wrath for our many abominations [Romans 6:23]. God cannot even look upon sin [Habakkuk 1:13], we are so blessed by God and yet we have the temerity to ask Him, "Why hast thou made me thus?" [Romans 9:20]
Another question asked is, "if there is a Good God, why are there natural disasters?" God created this world perfect yet Adam's rebellion brought sin and death into the world. We are to blame for the state that our world is in today not God. How much are we to blame for living in disaster prone areas? How many times have you seen people on the news after a tornado or earthquake say that nothing will ever make them move?
A few years of pain and sorrow cannot compare to an eternity of bliss and joy that will be ours in heaven! Don't delay, accept the free gift of salvation.
Is God The Author Of Evil?
1.) God is the Author of everything.
2.) Evil is something.
3.) Therefore, God is the Author of evil.
Rejecting the first premise leads to dualism. Likewise, the second leads to the illusionism which denies the reality of evil. Neither is acceptable to a theist. What, then, is the solution? To agree that God did not create all things is to deny His sovereignty. To say that evil is nothing denies reality. However, to admit that God caused all things and evil is something is to acknowledge that God caused evil-a conculsion rejected by Aquinas. But the conclusions seems to follow logically from these premises. Unless one rejects the truth of one of the premises, he must accept the truth of the conclusion.
The theist responds that evil is not a thing or substance. Rather it is a lack of privation of a good thing that God made. Evil is a deprivation of some particular good. The essence of this position is summarized:
1.) God created every substance.
2.) Evil is not a substance (but a privation in a substance).
3.) Therefore, God did not create evil.
Evil is not a substance but a corruption of the good substance that God made. Evil is like rust to a car or rot to a tree. It is a lack in good things, but it is not a thing in itself. Evil is like a wound in an arm or moth-holes in a garment. It exists only in another but not in itself.
Answers To This Question
To raise the question, "Why is there Evil?" presupposes that there really is a difference between good and evil, the fact that they use the standard of good to judge evil presupposes a moral law, a moral law presupposes a moral law giver, this is exactly what they are trying to disprove!
Maybe God cannot destroy evil without destroying freedom. If men were reduced to machines, there would no longer be a moral world. Without a moral world there would be no moral problem of evil. All evil and imperfections in the world are a necessary part of a total picture of infinite good. It is an error to believe that one tile of a mosaic is ugly when the whole picture is beautiful.
1) Since God is all-good, he has the will to defeat evil
2) Since God is all-powerful, he has the power to defeat evil
3) Evil is not yet defeated
4) Therefore, evil will one day be defeated
That is the very nature of the theistic God demands that he will do whatever good is possible to be done about the situation. It does not now seem to men as finite beings that this is so. It is because we cannot see the "Whole Picture" or the "Final End."
Evil and imperfection in the world does not prove God finite. God may have some good purpose for Evil, either:
a) Known to us, or
b) Not known to us but known only to himself.
The only way one can refute this possibility is either:
a) Know the mind of God, or
b) Prove there is no God.
Since the anti-theist has no access to the former and no success in the latter, one need not give up the belief in an infinite God. It is possible that permitting evil may be the precondition for achieving the greatest good possible.
The Problem Of Evil
Perhaps more controversy has been generated over the problem of evil than any other issue surrounding the question of God's existence. Some claim evil disproves God's existence; others insist it proves His absolute perfection. We will proceed in our discussion with a survey of the various answers to the question of evil.
God and Evil.
There are three basic ways of relating God and evil. First, one may affirm the reality of evil and deny God (atheism). Second, one may affirm God and deny the reality of evil (pantheism). Finally, one may attempt to show the compatibility of God and evil. Since this last view breaks down into a number of variations of theism and dualism, we will discuss each separately.
Illusionism: Denying the Reality of Evil
Monistic views affirm God and deny the reality of evil. This is true of both Western and Eastern forms of pantheism. The Hindu pantheist, Sankara, argued that only Brahman is reality. The external world (mäyä) is illusion. The only basis for the world is psychological, not ontological. It appears to be something, the way a rope appears to be a snake until one gets closer to it. Brahman (God) causes the world and evil in the same way that the rope causes the "serpent" to appear.
In the West, Spinoza argued that all evil and imperfections in the world are a necessary part of a total picture of infinite good. It is an error to believe that one tile in a mosaic is ugly when the whole picture is beautiful. As Christian Science boldly proclaims, "Evil is but an illusion, and has no real basis." It is simply "an error of mortal man."
The Christian theist rejects illusionism for several reasons. First, illusionism is a complete denial of the reality of sense perception. Why should one assume that his senses are totally untrustworthy? If this were true, even the pantheist would have no means of acquiring truth about reality. Second, if evil is an illusion, why does it seem so real? The illusion of pain hurts as much as real pain. Finally, why is this "illusion" so universal and persistent? Where did it come from? Could it be that the statement, "Evil is an illusion" is itself an illusion? Perhaps (as Freud would say) this is precisely what we would wish, but for that very reason the idea is suspect.
Atheism: Denying the Reality of God
The atheistic position is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the pantheistic one. Pantheists affirm God and deny evil; atheists affirm evil and deny God.
If God exists. He is not essentially good. One atheistic argument is presented in the form of a dilemma.
(1) Either (a) morality is right because God willed it or else (b) He willed it because it is right.
(2) But if (a), then God is arbitrary about what is right, and He is not essentially good.
(3) And if (b), then God is not ultimate, since He is subject to some standard beyond Himself.
(4) But in either case if God is not essentially good or not ultimate, God is not what theists claim Him to be.
(5) Therefore, no theistic God exists.
The theist may answer this dilemma by taking either "horn." Voluntarists claim that good is based on God's will but insist that God is sovereign but not arbitrary. Essentialists contend that God's nature is the ultimate norm in accordance with which His will cooperates. If the latter is so, then God wills what is essentially good without there being some ultimate standard beyond Himself. The ultimate norm for all good flows from the will of God but only in accordance with the nature of God. Thus God is neither arbitrary nor less than ultimate.
God should destroy all evil.
The classic way of stating this objection based on evil is as follows:
(1) If God is all-good. He will destroy evil.
(2) If God is all-powerful. He can destroy evil.
(3) But evil is not destroyed.
(4) Therefore, there is no all-good, all-powerful God.
But, as was stated in chapter 19 (p. 292), there is an implied time limit on God in premise 3. And second, it is possible that there is no way to destroy evil without also destroying the good of permitting free creatures. Indeed, the argument may be restated to prove just the opposite of what the atheists intend. For if there is an all-powerful God, then we have the assurance that evil will be defeated without destroying freedom.
It may be argued this way:
(1) If God is all-good. He will defeat evil.
(2) If He is all-powerful. He can defeat evil.
(3) Evil is not yet defeated.
(4) Therefore evil will one day be defeated.
In short, grant that the theistic God exists and there is automatically a solution to the problem of evil. Thus if the grounds for believing God exists are good, then evil is explained.
God and evil are logically incompatible.
Other atheists have insisted that God and evil are mutually exclusive.
(1) God and evil are opposites.
(2) Opposites cannot exist simultaneously.
(3) But evil exists.
(4) Hence, God cannot exist.
The problem with this argument is that the atheist fails to prove that God and evil are actually contradictory. They may be only contrary but not contradictory. The problem may be focused by restating the argument with the missing premise supplied.
(1) God exists.
(2) Evil exists.
(3) There is no good purpose for evil.
(4) Therefore, both (1) and (2) cannot be true.
(5) But we know (2) is true.
(6) Therefore, God cannot exist.
The difficulty here, of course, is in proving premise 3 to be true. The only way one can be sure God could not possibly have any good purpose for evil is either (1) to already know God is not all good, which begs the question, or (2) to know the mind of God, which is presumptuous for any finite being. Again, if there is an all-good God, it follows automatically that He does have some good purpose for allowing evil, even if no human being knows what that good purpose is.
The only way left open to the atheist is to show God does not exist on some grounds other than the existence of evil. An important point sometimes overlooked by the non-theist is that since the point disputed here is logical or conceptual, all the theist needs to do is show some possible explanation for evil to defeat the non-theist's claim. Theists are not obligated to show in fact that this is the case.
God and evil are practically incompatible. Some atheists grant that evil and God are not necessarily logically incompatible but insist, nevertheless, that there is a practical incompatibility. In other words, it is logically possible that God has a good reason for allowing evil, but there is actually no reason to believe He does. They argue that no one would exonerate Eichmann of his blame in the Nazi holocaust on the mere grounds that it is logically possible he had some very good reason to kill all those Jews. Likewise, why should God be excused simply because it is possible He has some good reason for allowing evil?
The reply from a theistic standpoint points out that Eichmann (a finite sinful human being) and God (an infinitely good Being) are obviously in different categories. Even though it is conceivable that Eichmann had a good reason, there is no evidence that he did, and there is much evidence that he did not. There is good evidence, on the other hand, for believing that God has a good reason for allowing evil His own infinitely good nature is all the reason one could ever need.
Theists use a double standard. Atheists object to the above and similar arguments on the grounds that God is being excused from evil on the basis of a kind of double standard.
John Stuart Mill objected that God regularly does what people are sent to jail or severely punished for doing. For example. God through nature inflicts sickness, pain, and even torment on humans. And eventually, God takes everyone's life crime called "murder" in any other case. Why should God be excused and men condemned for these heinous crimes?
What this objection fails to recognize is that God is a set of one. God is sovereign over life He created it and hence He has the right to take it (Deut. 32:39; Job 1:21). There is a rule that governs the activity of life-taking and it does apply to all in that class. It just so happens that there is only one Being in the class. The rule is this: only the Being who creates life has the right to take it.
In a lesser sense there is an analogy of this in our experience. There are shrubs in your neighbor's yard as well as in yours. You are sovereign over the shrubs in your yard and can cut them down if you wish. You are not sovereign over your neighbor's shrubs, however, because the neighbor owns them. Therefore, it is right for you to destroy your own shrubs for kindling wood, but wrong for you to destroy your neighbor's.
In like manner, since God is sovereign over all life, it is not wrong for Him to take life for some good purpose known to Himself, especially if death is (as the Christian claims) the way God brings us to a better place.
Why did God create a world that would sin? Perhaps the most plaguing contemporary criticism of theism from evil is the insistence that God could have avoided creating a world that would sin. According to theism.
God could have made:
(1) No world at all.
(2) A world with no free creatures.
(3) A world where free creatures would not sin.
(4) A world where free creatures would sin.1
But of the four choices open to God, choices 1 through 3 would seem to be morally better than number 4, which we have. But for God to do less than His best is an evil. Therefore, it was evil for God to create (4) a world where sin would occur.
In response to this objection the theist argues that worlds 1 through 3 are not morally better than number 4 and, also, that number 4 world is the morally best world. First, no world (1) and no free world (2) cannot be said to be morally better than this one (4). Worlds 1 and 2 are not even moral worlds, since neither of them has free moral creatures.
Since they are not even moral worlds, then surely they cannot be morally better. A moral judgment can be made only where a moral standard applies. But a moral standard cannot be applied to no world (1) or to no moral (free) world (2). Number 2 world may in some sense be physically better, since, presumably, it could be free of all sickness, pain, and death. But it is a confusion of categories to say that what is physically better is thereby morally better. It is akin to arguing that a physically healthy Hitler is morally better than a sick apostle Paul.
Second, number 3 world where sin never occurs does appear to be more desirable than the one we have, where sin does occur. The fact that it seems logically possible or conceivable and even morally desirable, however, in no way means it is actually achievable. It is logically possible that you could have robbed a bank instead of reading this book. But is is actually unachievable because you chose not to rob the bank, even though you would have gotten much more money!
In short, in a free world not everything logically possible is actually achievable. It all depends on what persons do with their freedom. In other words, the question is not a logical question; it is a factual question, depending on whether men choose to sin. And, so it may be argued, it is impossible for God to actually create a world that in fact would guarantee sin would never happen. And since the very nature of God as absolutely perfect insures that He will do the best that is possible, then we can be certain that either (a) a world in which sin never occurs would not be better than one in which it does, or (b) no sinless world would ever have occurred.
The second point the theist can make is to ask. Would a world where sin was never permitted be the best world or only a good one? Or would it not be better to permit evil in order to defeat it? Is it not better to permit some evil for achieving the greater good? Certain levels of virtue and pleasure cannot be attained without permitting some pain and evil. It may be that God permitted this evil world as a means of producing the greatest good.
This is not the best of all possible worlds. The answer to the previous question seems to assume that this is the best possible world. But it seems obvious, as Voltaire showed in Candide, that this present world is not the best possible world. Just one less murder or one less rape, to say nothing of war and cruelty, would improve the world. But if this is not the best possible world, then God has done an evil in creating and/or permitting it.
The argument may be formulated this way:
(1) If there is a morally perfect God, then He must always do His best, morally speaking.
(2) But this world is not the morally best world possible.
(3) Therefore, there is no morally perfect God.
The problem with this argument from a theistic standpoint is premise 2. First, it may be that this world is not the best world but only the best way to get to the best world. This world may only be a precondition of perfection, the way tribulation is a precondition to patience, and the like. Second, the argument contains an ambiguity in the word possible. Does it mean "best world logically conceivable" or "best world actually achievable"? It may very well be that in the progress of the world toward its final point of perfection, this world is the best world presently achievable. Perhaps God is maximizing good in the world today and at every moment, given the limits of (a) human behavior and (b) the stage of progress toward the final goal.
Today's world is certainly not the best world conceivable and (humanly speaking) hopefully is not the best world ultimately achievable, but it could be the best world achievable today.
Why not save all men? Some atheists object to the above conclusion because it assumes that evil is permitted as a precondition of a future greater good. But Christianity promises that only some, not all, will be saved in the future. Atheists point out that it might be worth it if in the end all were saved, but since the Bible seems to say only "few" will be saved (Matt. 7:1314), certainly this is not the best world possible.
Theists respond that: (1) "The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). God desires all men to be saved but they must come freely; He will not force them against their will. No one can be forced to love God. Forced love is not love; it is rape. (2) No human knows for sure what percentage of people will eventually be saved, but the biblical theist knows for sure as sure as he knows the nature of God that whatever the percentage, the final result will be the best world achievable within the limits of freedom and dignity. That is, an all-loving God will not save persons "at all cost"not, at least, at the cost of their freedom and dignity.
The Christian God is not a Cosmic Manipulator who behavior-ally determines everyone and "programs" them into the Kingdom. Jesus said, "O, Jerusalem! O, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not" (Matt. 23:37). In a free world. God has limited Himself to work within (not contrary to) human freedom. And whatever is the highest number of persons who will freely respond, it may be assumed that God will save that number. Thus, the final world will be "the best world achievable."
In summation, the atheist has not shown that God and evil are incompatible. It may very well be that God has some good purposes for evil not fully known to us. Indeed, if an all-perfect, all-powerful God does exist, then this fact is in itself the guarantee that there is a good purpose for evil and that the greatest good will ultimately be achieved.