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A Familiar Question Regarding Evil

If you are a Christian, or even if you are not, you have probably heard some version of this question 1,000,000 times over, “How can God be good if He allows so much evil in the world?”  There are other questions that are surely its sibling, “How can bad things happen to good people?” for example.

I must say – and I feel rather fortunate in this regard I suppose – that this question has never bothered me.  I truly say that without any hautiness or air of superiority.  The this-is-not-heaven answer and all that it implies has really always sufficed for me.  I understand that sin has consequences, and many of those consequences can be seen in Genesis immediately after Adam and Eve are confronted by God about their sin.  It is obvious that a level of strife and struggle for humans entered the world “through one man” that was, up until that time, not present as far as we can discern.  I believe that we are BORN into this world as sinners and I believe that sinners are capable of evil.

Nevertheless, I do recognize that this is a critical question for those who are not believers, and indeed even some of those that are.  It can be a serious roadblock to belief in God (not “a” god, but the God of the Judeo-Christian worldview).

My dad has an amazing ability to see past a question or challenge and highlight its a priori assumptions, weaker logical points, philosophical fallacies, etc.  One of the things I LOVE that he says on this very topic is this, “So many are willing to blame God for the evil in the world, but no one wants to give Him credit for the good that is done in the world.”  That is a marvelous point, and it highlights a different way for us to debate our non-Christian friends on this very topic.  Instead of simply debating them about why evil is allowed, we can ask them to explain their own beliefs on the matter or challenge them with this question of why God gets no credit for the good that is done, but only for the evil.  Too often we Christians get lured into defending our own positions without ever asking the skeptic to defend his.

I wanted to point out another view on this very topic that I ran across just the other night.  I was reading brother Lawrence’s, The Practice of the Presence of God.  This very issue is addressed in the “First Conversation” of the book.  Here is an excerpt directly from my version:

Brother Lawrence wasn’t surprised by the amount of sin and unhappines in the world.  Rather, he wondered why there wasn’t more, considering the extremes to which the enemy is capable of going.  He said he prayed about it, but because he knew God could rectify the situation in a moment if He willed it, he didn’t allow himself to become greatly concerned.

I almost published this post last night, but it could turn out that my frustration with my wireless connection and WordPress paid off!  I am curreently attending the weeklong program in apologetics put on by The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (www,theocca.org) in association with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (www.rzim.org).  We were fortunate to have an hour-long Q&A session with Os Guinness this evening, and someone asked him this very question.  He had a great answer…eloquently delivered.  Essentially he said this (if I can take such liberties) – yes, there is evil in the world, but the world is NOT as it should be, and not only is it not as it should be, but it is not as it WAS and it is not as it WILL BE.  That is, the world was  not created this way, and when Christ returns and sets all wrongs right  it will no longer be as it is now.

So, we must be compassionate to our seeker friends who truly and earnestly yearn to understand this issue (and not, as often happens, who instead want to use a supposed trap to try and beat up God in some way).  Hopefully some of what I have listed above may help you engage in these conversations  at some point with confidence and a new perspective.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “A Familiar Question Regarding Evil

  1. Jonathan,
    God could only be given credit for good things if and only if He wasn’t already all-good and all-powerful. Otherwise, it’s not that He has much of a choice. Like the great Hitchens says, how can you give credit for the good things to a god whom good things come naturally? Of course we blame Him for the bad things, if we can’t blame any other human, if those bad things are not the product of human-free will. I don’t cause I’m a non-believer. But a believer should. Doesn’t have God eternity to punish and reward? And shouldn’t He leave us alone down here for us to express our nature and decisions openly and without obstacles? And what is the use of the suffering good people experience when He could have sent us all directly to Heaven, where we still enjoy our free-will but sin doesn’t exist? If there’s really a place where sin doesn’t exist and free-will is to obstructed, why not go there to start with? It’s not that He has to test us for it’s not like He doesn’t every single past, present and future detail about His own creations. What is the use of this intermediary step down here on Earth, where, because of our limitations and needs, sometimes, we have no other choice than to sin, and thus, condemning our whole eternity? What is the use of unnecessary suffering that doesn’t teach a thing? Mostly that when, there could be a lesson to be learned we’re never specified what lesson is that? So we end up learning nothing other than the fact that God can get away with making good people suffer and corrupted people flourish. And what is a apologetics if not the most intellectually dishonest practice known to man? when while someone claims to be intellectually honestly after the truth, actually thinks has already found the truth, and the only thing is doing is learning some arguments by heart in order to rationalize that so-called-truth to which he arrived through emotional and not intellectual reasons in the first place? Apologetics sounds to me something like: we already have a position, we’ve found the truth and now we have to build a rationalization around it. If you were really after the truth, you could have a provisional position, but not one you hole on to with teeth and nails. Stay away from those who claim to have found the truth, and stick by those who are still looking. Don’t you think? Apologists sound more like the kind of people who claim to have found the truth and now need to rationalize it.
    Ciro.

    Posted by Ciro Galli (@CiroGalli) | September 18, 2013, 4:59 pm
    • Ciro –

      First of all, thank you for taking the time to compose such a lengthy response. I must say, as you might imaging, that I disagree with practically all of your premises and assumptions. As you readily admit being an unbeliever you must understand that, as a Christian I draw from a completely different worldview to answer many of the questions you posed. We all very much share fundamental issues and questions as humans that we must face. Evil is certainly one. Since you borrow from a hero of yours – Hitchens – let me borrow from a hero of mine – Ravi Zacharias. We all must answer questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. While I understand the point you are making about standing with those still looking for the truth, I could not possibly disagree with you anymore. One that continues to search after finding the treasure for which they are looking is, at best I suppose, wasting time. I know 2+2 equals 4. I know gravity is real. I spend no time continuing to search for those answers. Now, I will hopefully spend the rest of my life in disciplined study, prayer, meditation, etc. to understand my God more and grow in that relationship with Him, including comparing and contrasting the gross or subtle differences in other denominations, world religions, philosophical questions of life, etc. But no, having found the truth, I will not exchange it for a lie. And, for the record, I am being no more intolerant or exclusivistic than you are since you believe (an assumption I make based on what I read in your post) that followers of Christ have it wrong. I am not trying to duck your questions which, by my count, seem to make up the majority of your comments, but I will say a couple of things. First of all, I do not believe mediums such as WordPress, Twitter, etc. provide the appropriate environment for this sort of conversation when the conversation is an authentic endeavor. Secondly, I have learned that true seekers who want to understand, discuss, debate, etc. are very much different than those who think they have found a stick to beat God with. So I would just ask you one question, which camp are you in?

      Thank you again for taking the time. I hope I have treated you and your post with the respect and civility each deserve. – Jonathan

      Posted by Jonathan Ruth | September 29, 2013, 5:05 pm

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