Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Presence of Evil

One of the oldest philosophical questions on record is the problem of evil.The reason it persists is it has not just an intellectual but an emotional impact. We experience or observe suffering, and our reaction is, How can a good God allow this? The basic Christian answer to this is that we live in a world in rebellion against God and this results in evil consequences.

Now the Christian position is that we are we are responsible for our actions, though it is difficult to understand how this fits in with God's being in control (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13; Romans 8:28). Now trying to avoid this responsibility through psychological determinism leaves us not able to know anything, because whatever we think we know is the result of our conditioning. Also, if we are not responsible to do what is right, how can we condemn God for not doing what is right? And without God, where do we get the moral basis to complain of the evil in the world? We could also claim we are not really bad enough to deserve this suffering. But the Bible's claim is that by God's standard we are indeed that bad (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9).

Now the Bible affirms that suffering in this world is not always fair (John 9:1-3; Psalms 73; Job). But there is no such thing as a fair evil, and once evil is let into the world, it will not always affect people fairly. Also, God uses suffering or its absence to work in people's lives to bring them to Himself or to help them grow in Him (James 1:2-4; Romans 2:4; 8:28; John 11:4). Though this ultimately depends on the response of the individuals involved. Now taken by itself, this would lead to an ends-justifies-the-means morality. But given there is evil in the world, it is important to understand that God uses it to accomplish His ends. Also, every viewpoint has to deal somehow with the presence of evil in the world. We can say evil is normal, but then why are we so opposed to it? And if we see evil as normal, we are excluding the one Person in the universe who would be able to eliminate it

There is another fact which helps to put the problem of evil in perspective. It is the Christian contention that God became a Man (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-15) and paid the price for our evil behavior (1 Peter 2:24,25; Romans 8:6-8; Colossians 2:13-15). Further, He has promised to come back again (Titus 2:13; Philippians 3:20,21; 1 John 3:2) and do away with the evil and suffering of this present life (Revelation 21:4; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17,18). We may not be able to fully explain, let alone understand, why God allowed evil in the world. But it makes a huge different whether He is an ivory-tower observer or the Man of Sorrows who identified with our pain and took the worst blow on himself that we might be delivered.     

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