January 2012 – “Theodicy”-The Theology of Evil
By Dr. David M. Berman
When dealing with the question of evil, it must be understood that evil is not only shown in actions, but also, it is a state of being. We are all tainted by it. We tend to look at evil actions as the work of a particular person rather than the work of evil’s leader; Satan, and the power of sin as a force that contaminates us. Jesus rebuked the self-righteous religious leaders in the following passage:
John 8:42-44 “Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (Underscore mine).
Here Jesus is making it clear where evil comes from and that it is based in murder, and it is the opposite of all that is true. Do not misunderstand me, each person who commits evil actions is personally responsible however the theological point I want to make clear is that evil has a source, and that source is Satan. That being said, there is a reoccurring question I have been asked for decades; “Why does God allow evil is he is so powerful?” This question is both understandable, and reasonable. Why would a loving God, who is all powerful, and all-knowing allow suffering which clearly comes from evil’s source; Satan himself? I will get to that but for now let us continue to see what the Scripture teaches about evil.
The bible declares to us that in the Garden of Eden Satan tempted Eve:
Genesis 3:4-7 “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
Here we see that the temptation was primarily for mankind to question the truth (God himself) and become “as gods knowing good and evil.” Herein lays the real conflict. The idea of being a god is very appealing to the human condition. We may not walk around saying “I am a god” but we are challenged everyday with the question “Who is your God, you or Jesus?” Every single day we get to make that choice from the stand point of what we are submitted to, and who we ultimately listen to. If honest, we may realize that at times we act as though we are “as gods.”
This is the problem that most people simply do not understand because they look at things from a human perspective. One may look at a person they know who is not a Christian and see great things. In fact there are many wonderful people (by human standards) that are not Christians. People who care for others, give money and time to help those in need, and are generally great people to be around. Some would say: “Where is the evil in them?” This is a reasonable question however the question bears witness to a person’s lack of spiritual understanding. Let me explain it in the following example:
Imagine you have a glass of water that seems to be of the highest purity. If you look at that water and only see its clarity, and you drink it not knowing that 99% of it is truly pure but 1% of it has been tainted by a deadly poison, it will kill you. The 1% has tainted the 99% and it will have the same ultimate effect as if you had drunk 100% poison. We must understand that God is 100% pure. There is no unrighteousness in Him at all. The mistake is made when people think that they are mostly good, so God will accept them. Mostly good is still tainted, and tainted separates us from God who is pure. He will not have impurity infect His kingdom for eternity. Being infected with any amount of evil has the same eternal effect on the soul as the glass of water slightly tainted has on the body.
If this is true, and it is, what can we do to live in perfection? Can we be perfect and purge all possible sins and evil from ourselves? We can’t, and so it is Christ who did it for those who have accepted his atoning work on the cross, which paid for our sinful state. It is by grace through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior that is applied to us for righteousness.
Evil is constantly lurking and seeking a weakness. Evil is not simply a chosen action but rather it is also a spiritual force, and a state of being that all of us are born with. Theologically, evil is the spiritual power that opposes the power of God. The skeptic might ask; “If God is so powerful, how can any evil oppose Him?” Again this is a great question and I will get to answering it soon.
The apostle Paul said:
Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”
Paul clearly states sin “easily besets us.” Sin is part of the spiritual force of evil, and its power is constantly competing for our affections. It gnaws at us. It seeks to ruin us, and it asks us to be “as gods.” The study of evil is difficult for most to understand because wickedness seems to be increasing by the day, and we all cry out for it to stop.
Romans 8:22-23 “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
The truth is that all of creation has been affected by the spiritual force of iniquity. Sin abounds and increases, and at the same time there is another force at work in the spiritual realm. It is the opposition to malevolence. Evil’s opposing force is truth and Christ is the source of all that is true.
Now let me answer a few of these pressing questions:
1) Why did God allow Satan to rebel, and why did God not simply destroy Satan before he tempted Eve?
The answer to this question is that God is a relational being. He is not simply a manufacturer of mechanical or organic products. He did not create Man as a robot with absolute programming of total obedience. If man was created without any choice or free will, then it would be impossible for there to be true relationship. In order for there to be relationship, Man had to be able to choose God, or the opposite of God. Satan is the opposite of God. Since God has given Mankind free will, the choices that each individual makes are not in a vacuum. The choices we make many times have an effect on those around us. If for example, a man chooses to drink too much and becomes addicted to alcohol, that choice does not only affect him, but also his family. What did his family do wrong? Maybe nothing, however they are still affected by the sin that the man commits. If a person chooses to rob a bank, the money he steals is lost by someone else who may have done nothing wrong concerning how they earned their money that was stolen from them. They are simply affected by the choice of the robber. No one is an island unto themselves. Sin perpetuates throughout the human race. That is not God’s fault but rather it is the consequence of Man’s actions, reactions, and rebellion against what is right.
People love to blame God for everything when the truth is that is us who perpetuate sin. It is us who have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 2:23). I am not saying that every bad thing we deal with is a direct result of our particular behavior, but rather it is a result of the force of sin’s perpetuation in the human condition. Sin brings dis-order and dis-order results in sickness, disease, pain, and on and on. There simply can’t be relationship without choice, and due to Mankind’s ever increasing propensity toward sinful choices, thinking, and behavior, evil grows. Stop blaming God for what humans have done. Every sin I commit is my fault. Every wrong thought, action, and reaction comes out of my sinful nature I was born with (Rom 7:15). Since Eve, then Adam chose to receive the lie about being “as gods,” they chose to follow evil and this set all Mankind under the curse.
2) Why would a loving God, who is all powerful, and all-knowing allow suffering which clearly comes from evil’s source; Satan himself?
“Why does God allow suffering?” is a question with an answer that will shock many. The answer I give you is sure to repel you at first. I trust you will contemplate what I am saying. Why does God allow evil? He allows it because of His Grace and Mercy. You say “How can God be showing mercy by allowing evil to continue?”…It is His grace and Mercy that allows evil and here is why; If God destroyed all evil He would have to destroy every person who is tainted by it, and so He would have to destroy all human beings. He would have to destroy me, and he would have to destroy you! You see, you and I were born in the state of sin. We were born sinners:
Ephesians 2:3 “Among whom also we all had our behavior in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
You see all of us were born tainted by evil. This next verse confirms what I am saying:
Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;)”
God’s mercy allows us even though we are tainted by evil at birth.
Romans 5:7-8 “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Here we see that Christ died for our sins before we repented, and before we received him as Savior and Lord. Are you not glad that God did not kill you when you were an unbeliever? Do you want him to destroy evil now if that means your loved ones who are not yet Christians? You see, the reason God allows evil is because he gives men and women a choice, and time to decide. If we did not have a choice we would not have a relationship with God, but rather we would be organic pre-programed robots. If God was not exceeding in mercy and grace, we would have all been destroyed already. If you are reading this and you have not accepted Jesus personally as your Savior, you will in the end have the same fate as your Satan your leader, unless you turn from him and turn to Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us”
God is rich in mercy, and that mercy allows the continuation of evil and its consequences here on earth until the appointed time when God will end evil forever. There is coming a time when the wrath of God will be poured out on this world and Satan and his followers shall be cast into Hell fire forever.
2 Peter 3:9-10 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (Underscore mine)
I do not like evil. I hate evil, and yet at the same time I understand that I am also tainted by it in my born human condition. The Apostle Paul said, when speaking in the present tense, the following passage:
Romans 7:23-24 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Evil exists, pain exists, evil people exist, I do not like it any more than you do, but God allows it to a certain extent due to the reason I gave. This is hard for us to understand in this life however there will eventually be an end to it:
Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
May God grace us all with the hope of his promise deep in our hearts as we endure this present world, and may we look with faith toward the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen