Yes, if God is so good, why is there evil in the world? For thirty years in my work as pastor, I hear this question come up all the time. Interestingly, there is a movie recently “God is not Dead” that focuses on answering this question.
Honestly, there seems to be more “why” questions than answers. I have to admit that there was a time when I was not prepared to respond to these questions, either. However, after 30 years of dealing with them, I have discovered some things that I feel may help others. This is my attempt to give simple, reasonable and Biblical answers. I hope you can benefit from these.
Let me begin with what an atheist asked: “If there is a good God, then why does He allow all the evil and injustice in this world?” One of my favorite writers, C. S. Lewis, wrote, “If you are claiming there is injustice in the world, where do you get your moral standard of justice? If there is an absolute moral law, then there must be an absolute moral Law-Giver.” This quote from C.S. Lewis is worth meditating. If we don’t believe in God, then how do we get the notion of just and unjust? C.S. Lewis himself said that a person couldn’t call a line crooked unless he has an idea of what a straight line is. Can you see the lack of logic in the question? The atheist’s line of reasoning presupposes God as the moral Law-Giver, therefore the argument that God is unjust collapses.
Let me explain further. Instead of crying out against God, here is an observation about evil. First, we have no way of knowing something is really evil unless there is a God who established the moral law by which we can judge it to be evil. Second, as every faithful believer knows, the only real help when someone is in misery is from God. Where else will we go? — God has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). When we realize that life is coming close to the finish line, the only real relief is the assurance of eternal life and eternal promises of joy. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Another passage says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:16-17). The often quoted John 3:16-17 tells us of God’s love and grace for humanity.
Third, the only realistic anticipation that there will be an end of evil someday is that Christ has already defeated it. The writer of Hebrews declares of Christ “he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Even the apostle John saw the conclusion of this process when he wrote, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Here is another question: if God is All-Good and All-Powerful, why is evil not defeated? This raises another dilemma, one that has not passed the awareness of unbelievers. When Lucifer sinned, why didn’t God stop it at the very beginning? Why didn’t He nip it at the bud? In short, if the God of the Bible is all-loving and powerful, could He not defeat it? If He is all-good, He would defeat it, right? But let us look around us. Read the news. Look at our neighborhood. It is clear to all that wickedness is very evident and seems to be not defeated.
Evil is far and wide. This is a painful dilemma for a Christian. In the same logic we use at the start of this article, how would we know God was not perfect unless we had some ultimate standard beyond God by which we could measure Him and know that He falls short? And if there were, then by its very character and nature this Ultimate Good would be God, and the one falling short would be some sinful creature. In addition, the Bible declares forcefully that God is “the Almighty One” (Job 11:7) and the “Lord God Omnipotent” (Rev. 19:6). He is all loving. Indeed, “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
Rather than evil defeating an all-good, all-powerful God, such a God guarantees the final victory over evil. For if He is all-good, then we know He wants to defeat evil. And if He is all-powerful, we know He can defeat evil. And if evil is not yet defeated, then we know for sure that it will one day be defeated. Its defeat is assured by the nature of an all-good and all-powerful God.
Even with the belief that evil will eventually be defeated, we still cry out, “How long, O Lord?” History has shown there was the holocaust in Europe, the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the senseless ethic cleansing all over the world. One that has truly stirred hearts was the Jewish holocaust. Yet as horrible as it was, it does not cry out against God’s goodness or existence. One of the holocaust survivors, in his testimony declared, “It never occurred to me to question God’s doing or lack [of doing] while I was an inmate of Auschwitz. … I believe my faith was not undermined in the least. It never occurred to me to associate the calamity we were experiencing with God, to blame Him at all because He didn’t come to our aid. Why? Because we owe our lives to Him. If someone believes God is responsible for the death of six million … he’s got his thinking reversed. We owe God our lives for the few or the many years we live, and we have the duty to worship Him and do as He commands us.”
A few years ago when I was a pastor in the Philippines close to where the volcano, Mt. Pinatubo exploded, I remember how villages were buried and thousands fled. While we were evacuating one family whose house was buried by the lahar, I asked the father how he felt. I don’t fully remember what he said. But in a sense he declared, “I have my life, I have my family, and we have our God. What more could I ask for?”
As for why God has permitted so much evil for so long, we can only ask: Who would know better than an all-knowing Being? As for us limited creatures, we must be content to know: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29). But we do know that the all-loving and all-powerful God is also all-knowing and that He sees “the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). In our waiting, God is “longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Although God does not cause the evil, nonetheless He is working in the evil to bring about a greater good.
Hebrews informs us: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11). James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James. 1:2-3). Even if our suffering is lifelong, Paul reminds us that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). (For comments and question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)