I am writing this in response to an article written by my mother on her blog site. She expressed deep sorrow and fear. Her heart being broken by the tragedies of a fallen world. I’m writing this because I was touched by her writings and believe that I am obligated to try and answer what plagues so many of us in today’s society. This may be the single most popular obstacle to the belief in God in today’s world and to be honest, right now, while I write these words I too have the same question. How can God allow so much evil, pain and suffering in the world?
The fact of the matter is that when individuals in our postmodern and increasingly secular world, America in particular, are faced with tragedy whether by way of sickness, war, accidents, natural disasters, etc. the question of “WHY” enters our minds. This is especially true if the event involves the death of people who we feel should, in one way or another, be “immune” to such suffering and/or loss of life. It’s during times of loss and the lamenting over this question we see so many people turn from God. They turn to themselves, they turn to other religions, they turn to their own interpretation of Christ and God, to a New Age faith. There is little doubt that everyone reading this can relate to what I am saying.
However, turning from God or trying to find answers outside of God is not the solution to this “WHY” either. Instead we should try and figure out the true existence of God and from there we can then search for the answers to the question so many of us share. Maybe there is a purpose for God allowing evil to entire our lives! Maybe pain and loss somehow have a place in the puzzle of life!
Me, my thoughts on the question of evil are as follows. I believe that Christianity is the only solution to the problem. As a Christian I believe that evil in the world doesn’t present evidence against the existence of God but actually speaks to the power of my faith.
Let’s go a little deeper. Evil. Evil effects our thoughts on God two ways. The first is the intellectual problem of evil and deals with the co-existence of God and evil. The second is the emotional problem which speaks to dealing with the emotional dislike of God in the presence and permission of suffering and pain and how to work past these feelings.
The intellectual problem of evil!! Many will say that if there is evil then logically there can not be God. Since just by turning on the evening news we plainly see that there is evil then there can not, in turn, be God. Right? Well, actually wrong and here’s why.
God and evil in no way contradict each other as some would assume or argue. To argue against the existence of God on the premise of the existence of evil one must show that the two contradict each other. No philosopher has ever argued this point of view with any success. Take a look online, Google it!!
Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. There is a secondary response by nonbelievers basically saying that because there is so much evil and suffering in the world it is highly unlikely that a moral God would permit it. This leads to the notion that there is no God at all. Enter the probabilistic problem of evil.
I will briefly address this problem, though it deserves much more. First and foremost we in no way could ever know what God is thinking and are in no position to understand if He has morally just reasons to allow suffering and evil. God is not limited by space, time or intelligence. He is all powerful and all knowing and as a result He has seen the history of the world and knows the outcomes to every event before they happen. In other words, He has a plan! Maybe in order to reach His ultimate goal He has to allow for pain and suffering. You see, what may seem a pointless, pain-filled and tragic event to you and I may and probably does look much differant to God. God looks at a much bigger picture!! Example: Let’s look at science! I love science, especially theoretical science. One of the most interesting theories I have ever read about is the Chaos Theory. Have you heard of it? Simply put it states that there are tiny macroscopic systems like insect populations or weather patterns that are super sensitive to the tiniest change. So sensitive that the flutter of a butterfly can set in motion forces that result in a hurricane some 3000 miles away. Also known as the Butterfly Effect. Now apply this same thought to our problem at hand. The terrible and brutal murder of a loved one could, in some way, set in motion a flutter in history that when the end result is seen might justify God’s allowance of that horrible event. When looking at the whole of history and God’s providence it is impossible for us to speculate as to the probability that God has morally just reasons to allow pain, suffering and evil in the world.
If that does nothing for you try this one on. Maybe God’s chief purpose isn’t to make us happy! For some reason we all seem to think that if God exists then he must be there to make us happy. Unfortunately from a Christian view this is false, we are not God’s little pet’s and he is not there to create the best possible environment for us to live in. Our end in this world is not happiness but the knowledge of God. It’s the knowledge of God that brings endless fulfillment. God may allow horrible things to happen that have nothing to do with the happiness of His people but they may be justified in producing the knowledge of God. I had the hardest time grasping this one but in the end it makes sense. Through the event paired with our freewill responses God leads people to Him. Our response to these events is the important part to God.
I also believe that it is the alienation of God that has resulted in much of the evils in the world. It seems the further away from God our society moves the darker it gets. For some reason we seem to be rebelling against God. Instead we should be seeking Him. The Bible clearly says that God has given mankind to the sin it has chosen. He does not interfere with man’s freewill and sin, letting it run it’s course. This is for two purposes. It heightens our moral responsibility before God while at the same time heightening our wickedness and need of forgiveness!
There are a few other doctrines of the Christian faith that seem to explain why there is evil in the world. Fully seeking Jesus Christ, staying faithful in times of pain and suffering promises me eternal life. Through my trials and tribulations here on Earth I am coming closer to God and will be rewarded with endless eternal happiness I can’t even begin to describe!! We can take a look at the apostle Paul, who lived and stayed faithful to God through more pain and suffering than most of us can imagine. He wrote “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Cor. 4: 16-18 NLT)
(For now I’m not going to delve into the subject of objective moral values and the existence of God, that is a whole new entry but very relevant to the existence of evil. Stay tuned!)
Finally, to know God fills us with so much good, hope, pleasure, and joy that no amount of evil or wrong doing can touch it! No matter how much pain or suffering someone goes through, if they know God they will say He is good, incomparably good!
We’re almost done so please hang in there. Let’s now take a look at the emotional problem with evil. Many people have a problem with God and evil in the world because they… well… they just don’t like the idea of a God that permits bad things therefore pushing God out of their lives. This is an emotional problem, while not as debated as the intellectual problem it is still worth mentioning for sure.
The Bible and my Christian faith tell me that God is loving and burdens our suffering along with us. Jesus Christ is proof of this. Jesus endured more pain and suffering than any of us can imagine. Keep in mind he was guilty of no crime, therefore innocent! Because of His love for us He endured hours of torture, public humiliation and death on a Roman cross with hands and feet nailed.
I think of it this way. We are here on this Earth for what amounts to a blink of a cosmic eye. Our pain and times of trouble isn’t even permanent throughout our entire lives and even if it is once in heaven we are free. God came to us here on Earth in the form of man, incarnate. He was tortured and killed to forgive us our sins, not his. God’s pain is eternal, he must burden that for ever. That is love. When I try and comprehend His sacrifice and love for you and I the problem of worldly evil seems to vanish. The problem isn’t God allowing evil but of ourselves allowing evil. The question that we are now faced with isn’t how can God justify Himself to us but how will we justify our immorality to Him!!!
It’s almost funny, evil is a huge objection to belief in God but God is the only solution to the evil in this world. With out God, Jesus Christ, we are lost and hopeless. Left to look forward to a death only after enduring years of unredeemed suffering. God is the only answer, the only redeemer of sin, the only way to everlasting joy and happiness so great that not a pain in the world can compare!!
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Becasue of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of underserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our heart with his love.” (Romans 5: 1-5 NLT)