The Problem of Evil

People free a man from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015.  EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

People free a man from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

On April 25 a major earthquake struck the mountainous country of Nepal. The death toll stands at 3,300 confirmed dead and is expected to rise. Thousands were injured. Thousands more are homeless. How could a good God allow such suffering?

It’s a serious question and one of the biggest objections to belief in God. It’s called the Problem of Evil and it’s as old as the Book of Job: Why do bad things happen to good people? Or to put it another way: If God is good, why does he allow evil to exist?  There are no easy answers, but a few truths can help us understand.

First, evil is not a thing that God created. God made the sun, moon, stars. He even created worms and        mosquitoes. But he never made anything called “evil.” Evil is simply the absence of good. Evil is a wrong choice or the result of a wrong choice. It’s not something God made.

Second, free will allows for the possibility of evil. God could have created a world without free will. However, in his goodness God decided to allow spiritual beings (angels and humans) the ability to choose. When we choose to do wrong, it’s evil. God could stop us from choosing evil, but then we wouldn’t have free will and that would be even worse. Even natural evils like floods and earthquakes are ultimately the result of moral evils. God created the world and pronounced it good. Adam and Eve chose to sin (moral evil) for which God punished man with physical evil (suffering and death). All of creation was also affected by the fall of our first parents. The world was no longer a safe place.

Third, God provided a solution to the Problem of Evil in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us in order to defeat the power of evil. His ultimate plan of salvation is not only to save people who turn to him in faith but also to restore all of creation and reconcile it “through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). God’s answer to undeserved suffering is the cross of Christ, the most undeserved suffering.

Many people have rejected faith in God because of the reality of suffering. But what are they left with? They still have their pain and sense of injustice. But they have no comfort, no faith, and no hope that wrongs will eventually be made right. Without belief in God, the world is simply a bad place and there’s no way to make sense of out it. In fact, without belief in God concepts like “good” and “evil” make no sense. How is unbelief better than believing in a God who allows evil to exist but promises to bring good out of evil for those who love him (Rom. 8:28)? How is unbelief better than believing in a God who becomes man and joins us in our suffering in order to save us? It isn’t.

It may be difficult at times to believe in God when we are confronted by evil and suffering, but it’s better than the alternative.

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2 Comments

Filed under devotionals, news, theology

2 responses to “The Problem of Evil

  1. Kim House

    Preach it! I like how you say God does not create evil-
    Why people blame God for not preventing evil is a curiosity. I guess it is easier to blame God rather than run to Him. May they tire in doing so and look to God’s solutions! KMH

  2. It’s hard to write a brief and concise answer to the problem of evil like you did! I think I would only add one thing, if it’s not too brash of me to say so. 🙂 When you mention that “Evil is simply the absence of good,” I would add “which ought to be there,” since not every absence of good is an evil. (The traditional definition I’ve heard also uses the term “privation,” instead of “absence,” which I think implicitly connects to the qualifying phrase, “which ought to be there.”)

    One thing I’ve wondered about is the “how” of the connection between the original sin of Adam and natural/physical evil in the world, like earthquakes and tornados. I’ve tried doing some research on this, but I’ve never come up with much. Have you read anything? I’ve often wondered how moral evil could have an effect in the physical realm (and I don’t mean man-made global warming/cooling or deforestation, or things like that, but how original sin resulted in the chaos we find in the natural world). I cannot fathom it at the moment, though I accept it because it is Scriptural. One thought that occurs to me is that the natural evils of ecosystems–like lions eating deer, or earthquakes, etc.–would have occurred even if Adam had not sinned, except that God would have preserved Adam by a special grace from any harm. I could totally be wrong, of course–I’m just wondering. Which then makes me wonder if we can truly apply the qualification, “which ought not to be there,” to natural evils like earthquakes, since I wonder if earthquakes aren’t simply the result of natural forces, the movement of the earth’s crust, etc.? Which then makes me wonder, if all mankind were in a state of grace, and a state of innocence (if Adam had passed the test and not sinned), then maybe those things simply wouldn’t have been considered evils? I’m just speculating, as I haven’t really been able to find much written on this. But if you have any references on this, I would be interested!

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