|Volume 18 Number 5 May 2016||
Why Doesn’t God Stop Evil
and Suffering in the World?
What are the causes of evil and suffering? Sinful people cause some suffering directly through such things as lying, anger, divorce, drugs, crime, etc. Sin causes suffering indirectly, because of sin this earth is corrupted, deteriorating, painful and evil (Genesis 3:14-19; 4:1-15; Romans 8:20-22). We conclude, then, that God is not the cause of suffering; He is the Author of good (James 1:13-17). Some people incorrectly conclude that since God made everything, He made evil too. Note St. Augustine’s reasoning, which seems to be correct. 1. God is the Author of everything in the created universe. 2. Evil is not a thing or a substance; it is a privation or lack in things (e.g., blindness is lack of sight, pain is lack of health, hate or murder is lack of love). 3. Therefore God did not create evil.
Why doesn’t God end all evil immediately? To end evil God would have to destroy the cause of evil – people. In His good plan for people, it, therefore, is not good to end all evil immediately.
Why doesn’t God make people unable to cause suffering? To do that, God would have to take away our ability to choose. Yet, choice – free will – is a good thing. In order to love, one must be able to choose to love. Forced love is not love. So to have a universe that included love, God had to make us with choice, which includes the choice not to love, and that makes sin, evil, pain and suffering possible.
Why does God allow natural disaster and disease? It is a part of a sinful world. God lowered the perfection of creation from the perfect Garden of Eden to match the spiritual state of those who live here (Romans 8:20-22). God graciously has sustained people on this earth, allowing them to reproduce, to develop governments and systems to deal with the effects of sin. He has graciously sustained the fallen creation, providing sun and rain for food to sustain life (Colossians 1:17). However, the natural effect of a fallen creation is that even good things can have evil byproducts (e.g., water can drown someone; gravity can kill someone; lightening can burn and kill).
Why doesn’t God stop evil acts that cause innocent people to suffer? Why doesn’t God miraculously intervene to stop evil acts if He is all-loving and all-powerful? Why doesn’t He catch the drunk driver’s car that is going to crash into a bus? Why doesn’t He deflect the murderer’s bullets? The person asking doesn’t actually want God to stop all evil acts. He doesn’t want to be invisibly gagged every time he is about to say something hurtful; he doesn’t want to stub his toe when he tries to kick the dog. One just thinks it would be good if God stopped certain evil acts or just the evil acts of others, but that would make life impossible. There would be no freedoms, no regularity and no personal responsibility.
Why doesn’t God let us choose to get out of this suffering? The answer is that He does. That is the gracious, loving response of God to the evil condition of this sinful world. God has provided for personal salvation – the promise of eternal life in heaven where there is no suffering (Revelation 21:4). One must simply put his trust in the payment for sin that God provided through Christ’s death on the cross (John 3:16-18; Acts 10:38-43; etc.). God has provided for the earth’s redemption (Romans 8:18-23; 2 Peter 3:10, 13; Revelation 21:1).
Why can’t we get out of this evil world of suffering immediately? We don’t know why God’s timetable is what it is. We can see why He couldn’t deliver Adam and Eve immediately; God first had to provide redemption through Christ. The world continues today in part because there are more people yet that will come to have eternal salvation. We do know that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).
What are some good reasons for suffering? It enables us to cope in a sinful world. Pain can keep us from a greater physical evil; a burnt finger warns us to avoid worse danger. Pain can keep us from greater moral evil; a spanking does that. It teaches us to turn to God for solutions: for eternal deliverance from evil – heaven; for temporal deliverance from evil – safety or holiness; for spiritual strength to endure suffering (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Pain and suffering also produces character improvements (e.g., holiness, maturity, James 1:24), which in turn produces eternal rewards (a crown of life, James 1:12). They give God the opportunity to show His grace, love and care for our sinful condition: through Christ’s life and death for our sake (Romans 5:6-8); through providing a place where there is no more suffering, sin or death (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Revelation 21:4).
*Credit for many of the ideas in this study belongs to Dr. Norm Geisler.
Why No Response?
Ernest S. Underwood
A listener to my radio program wrote, “You have been coming down pretty hard on the denominational preachers in town, and with good reason.” He then asked the question, “Why haven’t they answered you?” To say the least, this is an interesting question. Oh, I know that some hide behind the “I don’t believe in controversy” argument. Even in this position they are unscriptural; Jesus and His apostles were constantly in controversy with the religious leaders and false teachers of their day (Matthew 23). Every Christian is to put on the armor specified by God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and then he is to engage in fighting “the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
So, my answer to my listener’s question is simply this. If they could answer, they would. They can’t, so they don’t try. The pity of the situation is that they know they can’t defend the false doctrines that they teach by using the Scriptures. I suppose that they hope that their members won’t notice their inability. How sad! “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV).