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Sunday, May 10, 2016 an 

WHY IS THERE EVIL IN THE WORLD?

 We are no longer living in a society where we can assume that discussing the Bible will be with the understanding that it is the word of God.  For many, we have to begin by establishing the existence of God and in the process we need to be ready answer questions about who God is.  One of the compelling arguments against the existence of the God of the Bible is the existence of evil (and suffering) in this world.  Even Christians, at times, struggle with this. 

The argument goes something like this: If God exists, and He is all powerful and He is good, why is there so much evil in the world?

 It is said the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, argued against God about this saying:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

 

The problem with this syllogism is that it makes some assumptions based upon facts that are not given.   It is based upon the premise that the goodness of God is related to His ability to prevent the existence of evil, which is where the problem with this theory is.  But regardless, this is an argument used against God. 

In this lesson we are going to talk about God and evil.  We want to address, from a Christian perspective, why it exists, and God’s part where it is concerned. NOTE: While we are addressing the subject of evil in this lesson, much of what is said applies to suffering (which is often, but not always, the result of evil) as well. 

 I.                     Evil is Real

a.       What is Evil?

                                                   i.      Dictionaries define the word as – that which is morally wrong or bad, wicked. 

                                                 ii.      Biblical definitions include:
 McClintock and Strong defines it as, “discord or disturbance in the order of the universe.”  It is found in two forms – 1) “Natural evil is whatever destroys or any way disturbs the perfection of natural beings, such as blindness, diseases, death, etc.” and 2) “Moral evil is the disagreement between the actions of a moral agent and the rule of those actions, whatever it be.” (McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia, Reprinted by: Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, 1981)
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, defines the word as, “A force that opposes God and His work of righteousness in the world.” (Thomas Nelson Publishers, ©1986)
As we address evil, our discussion is focusing on moral evil. 

                                                iii.      Evil is best described as the absence of good by many. In the same way that darkness is the absence of light. 
When God created this world it was good.  6 times in Genesis 1 we read the phrase, “God saw that it was good” and in vs. 31 it says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was VERY good.  So the evening and the morning were the sixth day”. 

                                                iv.      Understand the origin of evil – it is first introduced with Satan.  He introduced that which is NOT good (i.e. evil) to this world (Gen. 3:1-7 – when he tempted Eve and Adam), but it was man who CHOSE to accept it.  They sinned and as a result this world is cursed (Rom. 5:12-19).  Friends, this is what we inherit from Adam – the CONSEQUENCES of sin, not HIS sins.

                                                  v.      Did God create evil?  I cannot definitively answer this question, because I don’t fully understand the origin of evil.  (But this is not a problem for Christians as we shall see).
But I do not see it as absolutely necessary based upon evil being the absence of God.  Where the influence of God is not found is where you will find evil. 
Some turn to Isaiah 45:5-7 where the LORD says, “I make peace and create calamity” (NKJV).  Some versions say, “I make peace, and crate evil.” (KJV, ASV) From different translations we can see the word means different things.  There are times it refers to evil in its applied definition to the absence of moral good, but other times it refers to disasters or calamity, and the context of Isiah 44-45 is that of God punishing the nations.  He is establishing His sovereignty over the nations, including the future appointment of Cyrus (Isa. 44:28, 45:1) to deliver His people from their calamity (captivity).  The context seems to lean toward that. 

b.       That evil is real cannot be denied.  We see it all around us.  To describe evil as imaginary is blindness.

c.        However, the reality of evil is not as great a challenge to thoughtful Christians, as it is to those who deny the existence of God.  Christians have the Bible that helps us define what is evil. 

a.       Consider that the atheist is faced with the dilemma of defining what is and is not evil. 

b.       Why do we have a sense of morality?  And where did it originate?

c.        If there is NOT a greater or divine source that we answer to, then whatever standard he imposes or accepts is arbitrary.  What if that is not the standard of others? 

d.       They may argue, “Do no harm” to others, which is noble (and Biblical), but why do they get to impose THEIR standard?  In case you wonder, there is NOT agreement about this.  Consider the current debate over gender confusion.  Why does one get to impose his standard on others, while those who disagree are to be silenced, maligned or even punished?

e.       The standard of the atheist, is subjective, because there is no higher moral authority than himself.   And he has no lasting consequence because all things end when you die.

f.         Christians have a standard that goes BEYOND the natural realm and is attributed to an eternal creator.  There is accountability for this standard!

g.       The point is that you cannot adequately explain evil without God.  Think about that!

 II.                   Why does God allow evil?

a.       Let it be clear that God does not commit evil nor does He tempt us to (James 1:13). 
In fact, He hates evil in its every form.   Evil cannot approach Him, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  So as evil exists in this world, why does God allow it? 

b.       First, we are not questioning the power of God (I am assuming you believe this).  He has the ability to stop evil and IS in control of all things.  God could have prevented all evil in one of three ways:

                                                   i.      God could intervene every time evil occurs.  But in so doing, He would be enabling those who do evil, because there is no consequence.

                                                 ii.      God could remove those who commit the evil.  But then who would be left?  Are we not all guilty of sin?

                                                iii.      God could have made us so that we could not sin – But this would make us as “children of Abraham” out of stones (Matt. 3:9).  Such would remove free will and make our service to Him mere patronization. 

                                                iv.      These are NOT what God wanted. Instead, God created a REAL world with REAL choices and REAL consequences.   As with all things from God this is THE BEST option as we shall see.

c.        So why does evil exist?

                                                   i.      Because God ALLOWS it to exist!  But with reason.

1.       Be careful in questioning God on this?  We should always be careful in challenging God.   Isaiah 55:8-9, His ways are higher than ours.
Consider Romans 11:33-36 – who knows the mind of the Lord?
Consider also Job 38:2-3, where the LORD questions Job with a barrage of questions he doesn’t have the answer to.  Then notice Job 40:1-5, when the LORD concludes His questions and Job responds to Him.

2.       We may not know or fully understand why, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good reason. Consider Romans 8:28, all things work together for good according to His purpose!  Let us keep this in mind as we consider our subject.

                                                 ii.      Because man CHOOSES to sin! Evil continues to exist because man continues to accept it (i.e. sin). John 3:19 says that men loved darkness rather than light.

                                                iii.      Because man is a free moral agent.  It is important that we understand this.
If there were no evil (either moral or physical) in this world, we would not have choice.   But there is, and every time man faces it, he must choose between right and wrong. 
We have already noted that He could have created us without the ability or need to make choices, but, when God created man He wanted someone who would serve Him because he WANTED to, not because he had to. 
He wanted one who would truly LOVE him and not by force, cf. 1 John 4:19, 1 Peter 1:6-8.
That is why in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve a CHOICE WITH consequences based upon the choice he made (Gen. 2:16-17).  This choice has continued to this day with every person of accountable age.   
Since the garden, the Bible has continually offered man the CHOICE of obeying God or disobeying Him – Joshua 24:15, 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you falter between two opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him”, Rom. 6:16, Matthew 7:13-14, etc.
Being free moral agents we will determine our own destiny based upon the choices we make.  God doesn’t force us to do anything.  But know that there are consequences to our decisions!

d.       God DOES prevent some evil!

                                                   i.      In many ways God has done things to prevent evil.

                                                 ii.      He has given us a conscience – which convicts us to do the right thing, unless we damage it.  Romans 13:5 calls for us to be subject to governments for the sake of our conscience.
1 Timothy 1:5 tells us we need a good conscience (Also vs. 19).
Hebrews 10:22, Let us draw neat with a true heart in full assurance…

                                                iii.      He has given us the gospel - A guide designed to improve this world in every way.  Romans 1:16-17, etc.

                                                iv.      He sent Jesus to this earth – think about that in view of evil. 

1.       We may not understand why God does things the way He does, but know that completely understands and loves us – Romans 5:8, Hebrew 4:15.  Also Hebrews 2:17 – He was like us in all things…

2.       Consider that He could have simply left us without any hope and let the consequences of evil take their course. 

3.       BUT, instead He sent His only begotten Son into this evil world (John 3:16) to live, suffer and die so that we can overcome evil.  Jesus faced the hardships, temptations, humiliation, poverty, inconveniences of life, and many other things FOR US! We CANNOT say that He does not understand: Jesus lived it for us!
Also consider 1 Peter 2:21-24, Christ suffered for us.  When we question God allowing evil, consider why did God allow such evil to be rendered against His Son? 

                                                  v.      For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself...” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 1949, p. 4) [1]

                                                vi.      He has promised us help – Matthew 11:28-30, 1 Cor. 10:13, etc.  Again, we may not fully understand this, but it is true.

                                              vii.       Who knows when He does intervene? Throughout history, He has intervened – in the Bible you have the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon destroyed, the fall of Israel, the Fall of Rome (foretold), etc.  I shudder to think what this world would be like IF GOD did not have the power to control all things!

e.       Let us understand that the existence of evil does NOT limit the power of God nor does it make Him uncaring!  When we understand evil and how to overcome it, it causes us to better appreciate God.

 Conclusion: We know that evil and suffering do exist.  It is my hope that in this lesson we have a proper respect for God, even as we face evil and suffering.  We ought to be careful before we blame and accuse God.  While we may not fully understand how or why, we know that evil actually makes Christianity possible. 

One final thought: Because evil DOES exist Christians ought to fight it.  While this earth is filled with evil, we should NOT be partakers of that evil.  In fact, we should still do all we can to defeat evil.  That is the ONLY way to overcome it.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Think about it.


[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.