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Different Christian philosophers have attempted to answer this question from different viewpoints, with some, such an Alvin Plantinga, providing the best of the philosophical arguments in his God, Freedom, and Evil book, which at best merely preempted the skeptics, atheists, and non-believers attacks, rather than providing a biblical answer to the question. Hence, here we will look at a biblical explanation for the presence of evil, and show that just because it is present in the world, that in no way is contradictory to the existence of a God who is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and all-loving.
First of all, as seen elsewhere, we know that not only that nature declares that God exists, given its extraordinary structure and design, but we know from special revelation that God exists. He has not left intelligent human beings without a witness of himself, whether externally to mankind or internally. It is just a matter of whether or not any particular individual is going to acknowledge either the general or special revelation provided.
Second, almost from the outset of human history, humanity has been in a state of rebellion against God. It was not so “in the beginning,” since God created all things spotless, sin-free, and “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Nevertheless, even though God created all things, and everything was without the taint of sin, he left open the potential for creation to be corrupted by giving those with living, intelligent constitutions the free will to rebel, if those individuals so choosed. The first of the creatures to rebel against God was Lucifer, who became Satan. Satan then, in the form of a serpent, beguiled Eve, and then Adam, to follow in his rebellion, even though just prior to their fall, God had warned them that they would surely die for doing so. Yet, God did not force them to obey, but left the choice up to them to decide. Their decision to disobey God, and eat of the forbidden fruit, is what set the wheels of misery, pain, and death in motion, which have been churning ever since. God, though, did not disappear from the scene, nor did he become non-existent, even though evil spread rapidly throughout all of creation (Rom. 8:22).
What we currently see in the forms of war, murder, rape, incest, molestation, greed, immorality, theft, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease, and every other form of destruction that causes not only human misery and death, but destruction of the earth and cosmos as well, are directly attributable to Adam and Eve’s first decision to rebel and sin against God. In other words, all of creation is under sin’s curse, and sin only results in destruction and death. And God is under no obligation, whatsoever, to intercede to stop any of it, given that it is human rebellion against his holiness and righteousness as its Creator that led to its punishment in the first place. It is only by the grace of God that some are spared certain forms of suffering and evil, while others succumb to the ravages of sin in one form or another. Ultimately, though, and amid all the mayhem, God has a plan to use sin and evil for his honor and glory, despite the fact that he has not revealed in full detail what that plan might be in what appears to be the worst of scenarios.
Some might ask, “Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but must God be so brutal in allowing the innocent to suffer and die in the manner that they do? I mean, what about the children? Do they deserve to suffer and die in the manner that many of them do?” Let it be known that there is no one that is innocent. The Bible says that “All have sinned,” whether they be men, women, or children. Why? Because all are descendants of Adam, and his sin nature has been passed down to all people (Rom. 5:12). And since no one is innocent, despite how genteel one might be, everyone is subject to sin’s judgment, however that might come, and unexpectedly it arrives.
Hence the question concerning whether or not God and evil’s existence are compatible or not really has nothing to do with logic, free will, and possibilities. What it has to do with is understanding not only the nature of God, but the impact of sin, two subjects that too many have increasingly ignored over the past 50 years. God exists, yet, so does sin, and there is nothing outrageously illogical about them co-existing at the same time. Yet, the late Greg Bahnsen probably sums up the topic best when he wrote on the problem of evil and where the real contradictions exist.
The problem of evil comes down to the question of whether a person should have faith in God and His word or rather place faith in his own human thinking and values. It finally becomes a question of ultimate authority within a person’s life. And in that sense, the way in which unbelievers struggle with the problem of evil is but a continuing testimony to the way in which evil entered human history in the first place. The Bible indicates that sin and all of its accompanying miseries entered this world through the first transgression of Adam and Eve. And the question with which Adam and Eve were confronted way back then was precisely the question which unbelievers face today: should we have faith in God’s word simply on His say-so, or should we evaluate God and His word on the basis of our own ultimate intellectual and moral authority?1
Therefore, what we are seeing today in respect to the doubting of God’s existence because of evil’s presence, and using tragedy to assist in that doubt is merely a replay of what took place in the Garden of Eden when the serpent rhetorically asked, “Hath God said?” And the answer remains, Yes: God did say. Let the Christian and skeptic alike take note of that testimony lest he be guilty of rebelling all over again, simply because he chooses to rationalize, intellectualize, or philosophize away God’s plain statement.
1 Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready (Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 1996), 173-74.