The Old Testament authors do not hesitate to name God as the origin of calamity or trouble, often described by the same term for “evil.” For examples, God sent a similar “evil spirit” (like the one He sent on Saul – 1 Sam. 16:14) between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem (Jud. 9:23). The Bible does not attempt to answer the questions, Why does evil exist, and Where does evil come from? Instead, biblical authors attempt only to expose the nature of human sin, which they see as the ultimate origin of pain and suffering in the world.
God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to permit no evil to exist.
For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil.
God would never permit evil, if He could not bring good out of evil.
He wants to know about the problem of evil. My answer to the problem of evil is this: There is no problem of evil in an atheist’s universe because there is no evil in an atheist’s universe. Since there is no God, there is no absolute moral standard, and nothing is wrong. The torture of little children is not wrong in an atheist’s universe. It may be painful, but it is not wrong. It is morally wrong in a theistic universe, and therefore, there is a problem of evil of perhaps the psychological or emotional sort, but philosophically the answer to the problem of evil is you don’t have an absolute standard of good by which to measure evil in an atheist’s universe. You can only have that in a theistic universe, and therefore, the very posing of the problem presupposes my world view, rather than his own. God has a good reason for the evil that He plans or allows.
If God is in fact our Enemy with only destructive intentions toward us, why do we experience any good at all? It isn’t surprising that life is painful. What’s surprising is that life is joyful. What do our simple, daily joys mean? Is God pretending to be our Friend, is He setting us up for the ultimate nasty surprise? Or is God sending us signals every day that His heart is loving and kind, so kind that we can go back to Him in repentance and find His arms open to us?
God doth not will [sin] directly, and by an efficacious will. He doth not directly will it, because He hath prohibited it by His law, which is a discovery of His will; so that if He should directly will sin, and directly prohibit it, He would will good and evil in the same manner, and there would be contradictions in God’s will: to will sin absolutely, is to work it (Psalm 115:3): “God hath done whatsoever He pleased.” God cannot absolutely will it, because He cannot work it. God wills good by a positive decree, because He hath decreed to effect it. He wills evil by a private decree, because He hath decreed not to give that grace which would certainly prevent it. God doth not will sin simply, for that were to approve it, but He wills it, in order to that good His wisdom will bring forth from it. He wills not sin for itself, but for the event.
That we should say, that God has decreed every action of men, yea, every action that is sinful…and yet that God does not decree the actions that are sinful, as sin, but decrees them as good, is really consistent… By decreeing an action as sinful, I mean decreeing it for the sake of the sinfulness of the action. God decrees that they shall be sinful, for the sake of the good that He causes to arise from the sinfulness thereof; whereas man decrees them for the sake of the evil that is in them.
It is true that God is good and that in the world under His control bad things happen – at least bad things happen from the human perspective. When I discipline my child, it might seem like a bad thing from his vantage point, but it is a good thing from mine. When a nation wins a just war, it might seem bad from the enemy’s side, but it is good for the world. So at least part of the problem is perspective. Are we saying something is bad from God’s perspective or man’s?
Here are some good reasons for what man thinks is bad:
1. Pain and death help man comprehend the power and awfulness of sin. The entrance of sin brought destruction and decay into the world. It is a good thing to be wary of the effects of evil… By seeing how bad results come from sin, we might learn to avoid it to whatever degree possible.
2. Pain and death are sometimes used by God to judge sin. The Bible is full of stories of God’s use of physical pain and death to accomplish judgment.
3. Pain and death help us know the importance of Christ’s death… Christ took sin on Himself at the cross in order to deliver people from the consequences of their sin. We should be thankful that God has made a way to escape the consequences of sin through Christ. The more I know about evil, the more I should want to be freed from its power, and the more I should be appreciative of the only way of ultimate escape through Christ’s death.
4. Pain sometimes brings people to Christ. When a person realizes that he is weak and needs Christ, he is most willing and ready to come to Him. Sometimes God is good in removing our self-sufficiency through suffering.
5. Pain and conflict with evil does the authentic Christian good. The Bible actually says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28; see 2 Cor. 12:7-10). After Joseph had endured a lot of evil from his own brothers, he told them, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
6. Finally, bad things happen because God wants to teach Christians something about His special favor toward them (see Rom. 9:22-23).
We can be thankful that God does not remove all evil right now. If he did, would he not remove you? Suppose he said, “Ok, I will do just as you request. I will take away all evil right this minute!” Do you think that you would be spared?
There is unquestionably a great mystery here as to how a holy God who cannot even look upon evil (Hab. 1:13) can work His will through evil, but that He does is the clear teaching of Scripture. If something could get outside the will of God, it would become a god unto itself and a rival to God. Such can never be the case. God alone is God; there is no other.
But why doesn’t God immediately take away evil from the face of this earth? Evil is too integral a part of humanity and nature for Him to do that. [God] cannot destroy evil without at the same time destroying humanity.
What irony that sinners consider the greatest problem they face in this world to be the problem of pain. The ultimate insult against God is that man thinks he has a problem of pain. Man, who deserves to be plunged into hell at this moment, and is indescribably fortunate that he is breathing normally, complains about unhappiness. Instead of falling on his knees in the profoundest possible gratitude that God holds back His wrath and infinite fury, the sinner shakes his fist in heaven’s face and complains against what he calls “pain.” When he receives his due, he will look back on his present condition as paradisiacal. What he now calls misery, he will then consider exquisite pleasure. The most severe torment anyone has ever known in this life will seem like heaven in comparison with one moment of the full fury of the divine Being.
So when we call pain a problem, we claim we do not deserve it. We are even prepared to scuttle God to maintain our own innocence. We will say that God is not able to do what He would like, or He would never permit persons such as ourselves to suffer. That puffs up our egos and soothes our griefs at the same time. “How could God do this to me?” is at once an admission of pain and a soporific for it. It reduces our personal grief by eradicating the deity. Drastic medicine, indeed, that only a human ego, run wild, could possibly imagine.
In this light, we see the problem of pleasure. Manifestly, as sinners against an infinitely glorious God, we deserve an immediate and infinite, condign, irremediable punishment from His holy, powerful hands. Nothing that we have ever received, that anyone has ever received, in all this world, has even approximated an adequate punishment for the crimes we commit in any one moment. How, therefore, do we continue to live? Why are we not plunged into eternal torment now, immediately?
Troubled by the non-problem of pain, most people do not feel the real problem. The real difficulty is the problem of pleasure. While in a sinful world, pain is to be expected, and pleasure is not to be expected. We should be constantly amazed at the presence of pleasure in a world such as ours.
[Based on a false premise] pain and suffering raise a dilemma. Philosophers commonly argue: “If God is good, then He is not all-powerful; and if He is all-powerful, then He is not good.” Suffering, they insist, is not compatible with an omnipotent, benevolent deity. If God were both good and omnipotent, He would never allow suffering. Since misery and suffering do occur, He is either not good or He is not all-powerful.
A dilemma would exist only if there were no suffering in a sinful world. Then we would have to say there cannot be a true God. Were there no adversity in a sinful world, God either would not be good or would not be omnipotent. Either He would be unconcerned about sin’s being unpunished, and therefore not good, or He would be unable to punish sin, and therefore not omnipotent. That would be a real problem in our world, where sin obviously abounds.
Human beings do cause evil and are responsible for it. Though God ordained that it would come about…yet God is removed from actually doing evil, and His bringing it about through "secondary causes" does not impugn His holiness or render Him blameworthy.
We should notice that the alternatives to saying that God uses evil for His purposes, but that He never does evil and is not to be blamed for it, are not desirable ones. If we were to say that God Himself does evil, we would have to conclude that He is not a good and righteous God, and therefore that He is not really God at all. On the other hand, if we maintain that God does not use evil to fulfill His purposes, then we would have to admit that there is evil in the universe that God did not intend, is not under His control, and might not fulfill His purposes… Surely this (too) is an undesirable alternative position.
In view of the witness of Scripture, therefore, we do not come closer to solving the problem of evil by diminishing God’s active and purposeful involvement in any sphere of life. To remove God’s sovereignty from the realm of evil before it occurs forces us to conceive of God either as playing “catch-up,” by redeeming evil only after we have carried it out (after all, in this view, to intervene sooner would jeopardize our free will), or as standing on the sidelines, sympathetic in our struggles but unable to help. Apart from God’s sovereignty, God’s love in the midst of suffering is downsized to an emotional response of “caring.”
The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
God’s concurrence in all events does not implicate Him in sin. Men sin according to God’s predetermination in His decree but by secondary causes, so God does not directly and effectively cause the acts of sin.
It must be admitted that sin is a part of God’s eternal plan, for He works all things according the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11)… While God ordains the evil choices of free moral agents, He does not thereby incur blame or wickedness, because He does not directly or efficiently cause any evil. He brings about the evil actions of man through secondary causation according to their own wicked desires. God is absolutely sovereign, and man is entirely responsible for his actions.
People are free to act within the confines of their nature. Since all men are fallen in Adam, their nature is corrupted by sin, and they are therefore not free to choose righteousness. Nevertheless, they still freely make their moral choices according to their thinking and desires. Those choices arise from a fallen human nature, which is fundamentally opposed to obeying God.
Theodicy involves a vindication of God’s justice against the charge that the presence of evil in creation shows Him to be unjust, impotent, both, or nonexistent. Theodicy declares that God is all-powerful and all-good even though this might not seem to be the case since evil exists in the creation.
Scripture shows us that God has always used and is now presently using evil to fulfill His purposes for good. The solution of the problem of evil must be theocentric, not anthropocentric. It must not have as its aim to make man happier or freer but to glorify God. The greater-good defense is valid only if the greater good is seen as that which glorifies God more fully than a lesser good.
Scripture shows some ways in which God uses evil to further His purposes: to display divine grace and justice (Rom. 3:26; 5:8, 20-21; 9:17); to judge evil in the present and future (Matt. 23:35; John 5:14); to redeem through Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 3:18); to expand gospel witness through the suffering of Christ’s people (Col. 1:24); to shock unbelievers, get their attention, and call for a change of heart (Zech. 13:7-9; Luke 13:1-5; John 9); to discipline believers (Heb. 12:3-17); and to vindicate God (Rom. 3:26).
Scripture responds to the problem of evil not with philosophical reasonings but with divine reassurance of final divine vindication.
The problem of evil is one of the most crucial protests raised by unbelievers against the face of God.
The problem of evil assumes the existence of a world-purpose. What, we are really asking, is the purpose of suffering? It seems purposeless. Our question of the why of evil assumes the view that the world has a purpose, and what we want to know is how suffering fits into and advances this purpose. The modern view is that suffering has no purpose because nothing that happens has any purpose: the world is run by causes, not by purposes (Walter Stace).
In approaching this question, it is best first to read the passages of Scripture that most directly address it. We can begin by looking at several passages that affirm that God did, indeed, cause evil events to come about and evil deeds to be done. But we must remember that in all these passages it is very clear that Scripture nowhere shows God as directly doing anything evil but rather as bringing about evil deeds through the willing actions of moral creatures (Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell).
Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once and He volunteered. [That’s] clever but also explains why good things happen to bad people.
The Bible makes no apology about assigning the existence of calamity to God, yet God’s holiness is never compromised.
God does not commit evil, but He ordains that it exists. The prophet Isaiah recorded, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). Evil exists by God’s permission and through the foreordained choice of those whom He created. Otherwise, we’d end up with a separate power that causes evil, in which case God would no longer be sovereign. However, evil is not a glitch in God’s plan but rather an integral piece of God’s plan!
God would never permit any evil if he could not bring good out of evil.
If God rules only in those places or events where no sin is involved, God does not rule on this earth. If sin can thwart God, His sovereignty is a name and not a fact.
Adam the sinner furthered the purposes of God to the same degree as Adam the righteous… What Adam aimed to do and what Adam actually managed to do are not the same. In a different way, but in the same degree, Adam carried forward the purpose of God. Adam’s act was sinful because he did not aim to please God. His motive was wrong, and God judged him for it. But God meant to use even that evil to advance His own glory.
It is in fact cold comfort to say to a heart-broken person whose only child has been killed or whose husband has been fearfully injured, “This is not God’s doing or God’s will; we live in a disordered world in which evil has been let loose; we must expect these things where sin reigns; but keep trusting God.” How infinitely more comforting, more biblical and more glorifying to God it is to say with Amos in defiant faith: “If disaster falls has not the Lord been at work” (Amos 3:6).
God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.