Tag Archives: Theodices

Are You Sure You Want God to Completely Eradicate Evil?

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006), 31.

One of the reasons I’m a Christian is because it is the best, most coherent explanation of life on this world. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best. When I look at modern atheistic beliefs I notice some contradictions that make it, as a worldview, illogical and in this post I’d like to look at one: the problem of evil. On one hand, atheists will point to evil in the world around us as proof that God does not exist (or if He does, then He is clearly ‘malevolent’ for allowing such evil). On the other hand, they’ll point to instances in the Old Testament, such as the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah, where God actively opposed evil and say that God is not a loving god, but clearly a bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser. This means that atheists believe that God is bad for not stopping evil yet God is bad when He does stop evil. Or, to break it down a little differently:

  • Evil exists unstopped, therefore God is bad.
  • God stops evil, therefore God is bad.

Or, to phrase it yet another way:

  • “God is evil for allowing sin.”
  • “God is evil for stopping sin.”

This is clearly a contradiction. You cannot bemoan both the fact that God has not rid the world of evil and the fact that God killed evil people at any time in human history. This is a logical inconsistency.

So which is it? Would you rather God restrains His power to stop evil, or God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil?

Now, before you answer that anyone would obviously want God to stop evil, give it some thought. The way I phrased that—God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil—means that ridding the world of evil would not be pretty.

Evil is much like a cancer; it contaminates and perverts everything it touches. Our entire world is fallen, corrupted, and tarnished: every person, family, community, city, state, country, culture, and continent. No one and nothing has escaped the cosmic consequences of The Fall. Like sand in the desert, evil is everywhere and, try as we might and no matter how much we want to hide it, we cannot cleanse evil from this world. Only God could rid the desert of sand. Only God has the power to rid the planet of evil.

So, the obvious question becomes: what would it take for God to stop evil? Well, to continue the cancer analogy, how do we get rid of cancer? We cut it out and destroy it. How could God get rid of evil? Could He flick a switch and rid the world of evil? Not likely. You see, evil is so rampant in our world that the only way for God to forever rid the world of evil is by cleansing it with the utter destruction of every man, woman, and child on the surface of the planet. Consider how God stopped evil during the Flood (Gen. 7:21-23) or in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25). Are you sure you want God to stop evil? Then perhaps you are evil.

Perhaps some will still ask “then whence cometh evil?” The problem is, in light of the reality that God does oppose evil and that He will stop evil, this is an ironically self-condemning question. Anyone who asks “then whence cometh evil” needs to look in the mirror and realize that evil isn’t ‘out there.’ Instead, evil comes from within (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:21-23). We are the source of evil, not God. God tolerates our rebellion for now out of love and patience for us because He has a plan.

Instead of instantly purging the world of evil, God is in the process of reconciling all things to Himself through Christ (Colossians 1:19-20). God is on a rescue mission to save those who are His enemies by calling them to repentance and salvation. It is a gradual cleansing process that takes time and requires that evil be allowed to exist for now. So, could God stop evil? Yes, but there wouldn’t be anyone around to see what was left.

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:3-5, emphasis added

 

The Hardest Question I’ve Ever Asked

Why would Satan rebel?

Two years ago, while taking my Christian Theology class through Wayland Baptist University, I stumbled upon a question that has caused me more struggle and doubt with my faith than any other question. This question threw me into a fog for several weeks and, afterwards, I just decided to avoid it. If I would start to think about it I would try to mentally “change the subject” or I would try to distract myself. I was afraid of what the answer could mean and what that conclusion could mean about my entire faith. So, although I knew deep inside I was being intellectually dishonest with myself, I avoided the question; that is, until very recently.

First, I’ll pose the question that troubled me, then I’ll elaborate on a few things to help you understand why the it was so troublesome, and finally I’ll share with you my answer.
The question: How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
In order to better appreciate how disturbing this question is, consider two people…
God is the sovereign Creator of the universe. God is more than a big deal; he is the big deal. God is infinite in nature, omnipotent in power, and omniscient in knowledge. He created the universe without breaking a sweat, He has a plan that spans millennia, yet He knows the hairs on your head down to the number. Despite the vastness of our universe He knows us all intimately. He defies description and understanding. He cannot be fully understood and could never be controlled (Is 55:8-9). He is just in all His ways yet still merciful to us all (i.e. common grace). In short, God is perfect and deserves all worship and praise. At one point in the book that bears his name, Job is describing God’s unsearchable majesty and he uses powerful language to describe God’s power. For example, he says “the pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke” (Job 26:10). Job is describing the awesome power of God but then he says something even more amazing:  “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” (Job 26:14). According to A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word in this verse that we read as “outskirts” means “end, edge, border, extremity.” In other words, after all we’ve just read about God’s majesty, Job tells us that this is just the border. It’s like God is an entire continent and all we’ve seen is the shore! Job says, after all we’ve heard of God, it’s just a small whisper compared to the true reality of who God is and what God can do.
So how could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, rebel against God and choose to pursue his own glory?
Satan is a finite, created being made by God to serve God and to worship God. He must appear before God and ask permission before he acts (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-7) so Satan should know who is in charge. Satan, we presume, has seen God in His fully glory and, we can also presume, has even worshiped God. Thus Satan should know that God’s glory is unfathomable and that he is no comparison. Satan should know better! How could Satan, after seeing God in all His glory, decide that instead of worshiping God, he would pursue his own glory?
To me, it just didn’t make sense. Perhaps there was something that went on behind the scenes that we didn’t know about. I know I’d heard about a strange theology where Satan was actually on God’s side; his job was just to test us. I didn’t like that idea! While it was possible that God had lost some degree of His creation, that idea honestly defies logic. How could the sovereign Creator of the universe lose control of anything? He made it and, if He wanted to, He could simply destroy it all with just a word (the same way He made it).
Reconsider some of the things we know about Satan. In John 8:44, NIV, Jesus says that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” He does not hold to the truth. In fact, truth is antithetical to his nature (the ESV says that when Satan lies he speaks out of his own character). When he lies, he speaks in his native language. I’m not sure what that even means but it sounds like no one could trust him; not even himself! Consider for a moment that even Satan is deceived by his own duplicity. Is it possible that Satan believes that, somehow at the end, he will beat God? Isn’t that foolish? I firmly believe that Satan is such a persuasive liar that He’s convinced himself that he will conquer God. Is it possible that Satan’s greatest victim is himself?
Which brings us to our answer. It shouldn’t make sense to rebel against God! After chewing on this problem for years, it dawned on me:  I was asking the theological equivalent to “Why does 3+4=6?” The truth is there is no logical answer! There is no good reason to rebel against God. That’s the answer. Rebellion against God shouldn’t make sense. It should baffle us that Satan would rebel against God.
Truthfully, and to make it more personal, it should baffle us that we choose to rebel against God. The Bible is not an exhaustive explanation of everything that ever happened. The Bible gives us everything we need to know, not necessarily everything we want to know. In fact, Deuteronomy 29:29 says that God will reveal enough to us for us to live obediently. There will still be “secret things” but we will know enough to live righteous, obedient lives that glorify Him.
(P.S. I realize that this doesn’t wrap everything up with a nice, tidy little bow on it. The truth is, there are still many things in the world that don’t make sense; those likely qualify as God’s “secret things.” What this realization does for me is it gives me assurance that Satan really is bad, God really is good, and it is foolish suicide to rebel against our Creator.)