Section 1: God
Week 4: God Is Sovereign Over and Active in the World
Day 4: God’s Control Extends Even to Evil
The original creation may have been perfectly good, but there’s no denying the world today is full of evil. That fact troubles many. Can the existence of evil be squared with the existence of a loving God? On the surface, the two appear to be inconsistent. Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
Most of us would assume a loving God would want to prevent any and all evil. However, many scholars have noted the existence of evil and the existence of a loving God aren’t necessarily contradictions. If there were a greater good that could only be achieved by permitting evil, a loving God could consistently permit that evil in order to ensure the greater good.[i]
The trouble is, it’s difficult to determine the good God intends to bring out of any particular evil. Because events are interconnected, the good God intends to accomplish through any given event may not be realized until much later.
But that doesn’t mean God has left us completely in the dark. Although God could have ensured that sin and evil never entered the world, it’s important to understand our relationship with him would have been substantially different because we would not have seen his goodness as clearly.
The Revelatory Effect of Pain
Jim, a friend of mine, works in a gravel pit. One day he was working on a conveyor belt when it grabbed hold of his glove and pulled his arm in. As the belt tightened around his forearm, the bones shattered. There was only one other person working in the pit that day, and he had no idea how to get Jim out. So for the next fifteen minutes Jim had to patiently wait and give him step-by-step instructions.
That impressed me. To have the presence of mind to give instructions while his crushed arm was still wedged in the conveyor said something about his physical and mental toughness. I respected Jim before the accident, but that respect jumped a couple notches when I realized what he went through. He was just as physically and mentally tough before the accident. But I hadn’t seen that toughness before—at least not to the same extent. The accident, however, highlighted Jim’s character, displaying those traits more clearly.
Our Sin Revealed the Extent of God’s Love
Sin had a similar revelatory effect on God’s character because it gave us an opportunity to see the full extent of his love. As believers, we know Jesus paid the penalty we owed for sin. Yet, we don’t always fully appreciate what he went through. We talk about the physical pain Jesus endured, but the price he paid was much greater. If it’s true we deserve hell for our sin, then that means Jesus had to endure the equivalent of hell on the cross in order to pay the price we owed. We get a sense of what that entailed when Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” From eternity past he had known perfect communion with the Father. On the cross, that communion was severed for the first time—for us.
But in a sinless world, that sacrifice wouldn’t have been necessary. And our relationship with God would have suffered for it. God’s love is what draws us to him. However, without sin, we never would have witnessed the very thing that highlights God’s love the most—Jesus’ death on the cross. Just as my appreciation for Jim was greater because I was able to see what he endured, our appreciation for God is greater because we were able to see what he sacrificed for us. It seems counterintuitive, but we draw closer to God because we live in a world where sin exists. As God considered all the possible worlds he could create, he chose to create a world with sin because he knew it would draw us into a deeper relationship with him.
That doesn’t explain why God allows each and every evil. But it gives us a reason to trust him. We’re not always able to see how God is working each specific instance of evil for good. But we know we can trust a God who loves us enough to go through hell to save us.
Do you think God has a good reason for allowing all the evil we see in the world? Does it make you uncomfortable that God doesn’t always tell us why these things happen? From our limited perspective, do you think we could understand even if he did tell us?
Think of one bad thing that has happened to you recently. Thank God that he is in control and knows exactly why he allowed that to happen.
Want to Dig Deeper?
The fact that so much evil goes on in the world is a big stumbling block for many people. They refuse to believe in a God who would allow so much suffering. Because this is such an important subject for so many, we delve into what philosophers and theologians refer to as the “problem of evil” in the final Digging Deeper section.
[i]William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 539-541.