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Three Explanations For Evil

He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand.
–Daniel 4:35

Why do bad things happen? What is God’s role in human suffering? One explanation is that there is no God. Whenever you read about horrific events in the news, you might wonder, “If there really is a God, how would He allow such a thing to take place?” But I want to suggest that the fact that such evil exists actually proves there is a God. Let me explain what I mean by that. What is it that makes something “evil,” and why do we care? Some people might say, “The fact that we care about evil is just part of our evolutionary development.” Theologian Paul Copan called this argument a “massive intellectual leap of faith.” He said atheists who believe in right and wrong believe that somehow “from impersonal and valueless slime, human persons possessing rights, dignity, worth, and duties were eventually produced.” Even the atheist Richard Dawkins wrote that the universe exhibits “no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” If Dawkins is right and the universe is indifferent to good and evil, why is it that you and I care about both? The reason is that every human being has been stamped with an absolute moral code. And the fact that we all have a moral code means there is a moral lawgiver named God.

A second explanation for God’s role in suffering is that God is evil. If evil exists, and an all-powerful God allows it, could it be that He is evil Himself? Some people come to this conclusion after going through a time of suffering or watching a loved one suffer. But according to the Bible, not only is God not evil, but “no one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

A third explanation, and one that is held commonly by Christians, is that God would like to help, but He cannot intervene. That is, He is a good God, but He is limited in intervening in our everyday affairs. What is it that keeps God from intervening? Some people claim He is not powerful enough to intervene. Others say He will not violate the natural laws He has put into place. But that does not make sense when you think about how many laws of geology, biology, and physics were violated by events like the parting of the Red Sea or the feeding of the five thousand. God is not handcuffed by natural laws. A lot of Christians say, no, what really keeps God from intervening is man’s free will. God grieves when bad things happen, but He cannot intervene in the choices that His creatures make. Is that what the Bible teaches–that God is simply adapting His plans around our bad decisions? No. Daniel 4:35 says, “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand.” God is good, and He is sovereign over His creation.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Is God Ultimately Responsible For Suffering?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Paul Copan, “Is God A Moral Monster?” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 210; Richard Dawkins, as quoted in Copan, 210.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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