If God is Good, Why Does Evil Exist?
In a recent conversation with a neighbor (we’ll call him Sam), I had the opportunity to talk with him about the perplexing question about the existence of evil in light of God’s holy nature.
Sam came over and asked if he could talk with be about some things that were troubling him. He stated that he knew I believed in God, said that he was troubled by the recent reports of natural catastrophes, wars, disease, etc., and wanted to know if God really existed. I thanked Sam for coming to me and giving me the opportunity to share my views with him. I let him know that while I don’t have all the answers, I let him know that my views are based on my personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, through ongoing Bible study, and ongoing studies about God called theology.
Original Creation Vs. Fallen Creation
The first thing that I explained to Sam was that according to the Bible, God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being that is only capable of doing perfect good. I then explained that according to the book of Genesis, in the beginning God created everything in our material Universe, including spirit beings that serve Him which are called angels, and ending with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, the ancestors of the whole human race. Because God is good, everything He created was originally good. Today we can observe vestiges of that original goodness throughout creation; including in natural beauty and harmony that occurs in nature, as well as man’s capacity for love and compassion in spite of the existence of evil, all of which confirm God’s good and loving nature.
According to the Bible, when God created Angels, He created them as spirit beings to reflect God’s holiness and to serve Him. Evil came into existence when one of God’s most beautiful Angels (Lucifer) chose to rebel against God, reject his position, and seek to overthrow God. In doing so, he became the corrupt being known as Satan (or the Devil), and condemned himself and one third of the angels (now demons) that followed him to a future eternal punishment in a lake of fire we call Hell.
Moral Evil & Natural Evil
When God created Adam, the head of the human race, He gave Adam the ability to reason, love, procreate, and have a special father/son like relationship with God himself. In order for their relationship to be mutual and based on love, He also gave Adam a will, and the ability to choose obedience over disobedience. That choice came with a promise and a consequence. Because of God’s perfect and holy nature, disobedience would result in a broken relationship and separation from God in the form of spiritual death, and bring condemnation on Adam resulting in his physical death, which would be passed on to all of his offspring genetically. That is why every human being since then has been born with a nature that leans toward selfishness and rebellion, resulting in evil thoughts and actions know as ‘moral evil.’ Some examples of moral evil that come from humankind’s naturally selfish nature include anger, hatred, murder, unjust war, sexual immorality, adultery, rape, theft, disobedience, rebellion, lying, and more. All of which result in destroyed relationships and even premature death.
When God created Adam, He gave Adam authority over the entire earth and it’s inhabitants, and gave him (and mankind) the responsibility to care for it. When Adam disobeyed God, he subjected himself to Satan’s evil. This resulted in Adam and all of his future offspring (mankind) not only becoming slaves to evil, but it also brought all of the material creation that Adam was responsible for under Satan’s authority, resulting in disorder and decay in nature, known as Natural Evil. Some examples of natural evil include the things that were troubling Sam, including natural catastrophes like earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions, as well as natural diseases like colds, flu, high blood pressure, heart disease, small pox, AIDS, and cancer.
What is Meant For Evil, God Uses For Ultimate Good
When I finished explaining these things to Sam, I then explained that in a world where we experience both moral and natural evil, it can be difficult to reconcile the ideas that God is all-powerful and all loving, and that He himself is perfectly good, despite the fact that evil exists in His creation. We learn from the Bible that like any loving father, while he may have the power to make his child obey him, his love requires that he allow his child to choose whether or not to obey so that the child is able to express and reciprocate love for his father. When a child disobeys, a father’s loving response is to discipline the child in order to teach the child obedience, and to prevent the child from becoming self and others destructive in his rebellion.
Because God is all-powerful, He is able to use even moral and natural evil that occurs as a tool for discipline in order to bring correction to individuals, communities, nations, and even mankind as a whole. Because God is all-loving, He not only “disciplines those whom He loves” according to the Bible, He also demonstrated emphatically His perfect saving love while satisfying His perfect need for justice towards man’s unholy rebellion that required death, in that He sent His only begotten sinless Son Jesus Christ from heaven to earth to become a man, and as a man, subjected Jesus to the undeserving death on the cross in order to redeem all mankind from moral evil, subjection to Satan, and eternal separation from God. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, every person that acknowledges their selfish and rebellious nature (sin), and puts their faith in Jesus Christ is given God’s Holy Spirit, released from the penalty of sin (eternal death), restored into a right relationship with God, and given the power to resist and overcome temptation in order to grow and remain eternally in a loving and obedient relationship with God.
Unfortunately, when people don’t have a proper Biblical understanding of God and evil, their faith in God can come into question when they experience moral or natural evil personally. I believe that even though a person may have erroneous beliefs about God, whether from ignorance, or resulting from drawing wrong conclusions based on experiencing moral or natural evil in their lives, if a person is honest about their concerns and keeps and open line of communication with God and continuously studies the Bible in order to reconcile those concerns, God will help that person grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually in their knowledge of God, resulting in gradual corrections in their erroneous beliefs, just as it is written in Philippians 3:15: “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Second Edition ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1984, 2001. Print.
The New King James Bible. N.p.: Thomas Nelson, 1979. Print.
Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning, 2008, 2002. Print.