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Why Did God Permit Evil?

on October 2nd, 2013

Many people do not believe in God for the simple reason that there is evil in the world. How could a good God permit evil?

Two common reasons given for this are that either God must not be powerful enough to prevent evil, or He sadistically enjoys inflicting pain and suffering upon this world and is thus not worth worshipping or believing in.

For us Christians who particularly emphasize God’s sovereignty, this is a weighty question to answer: why does He permit evil?

I must say from the outset that nowhere in the Bible does God give a complete, exhaustive explanation of why He permits evil. I do believe though that there are good inferences we can make from Scripture that at least may clarify the matter better for us.

The Bible clearly emphasizes and assumes God’s pureness, holiness, and majesty. God is without sin. He cannot lie. He is sovereign over all things, and all things go according to His wishes. Even evil people are used to fulfill God’s ends. Therefore, if God is indeed whom His Word says He is, then He has a good reason for allowing pain and suffering. This is nothing less than the answer He gave in the concluding chapters of the book of Job after Job had demanded God to tell him why so many terrible things were happening to his life. God responded by reminding Job of how powerful and sovereign He was, in how majestically He displayed Himself through His creation. He never actually addressed Job’s question of why Job’s suffering happened; instead, He reminded Job of Who He was. He was Lord and Creator, and that was sufficient for Job to know.

Many people may think this is just a cop-out, and I can understand why they might say so. However, it is true that if God is Who He is, there is no need for Him to justify Himself to men, as if man, His creature, was judge over Him (i.e., Romans 9:20-21). All that God gives us in His Word is for our understanding of Him in the way that He wants us to know Him.

And I submit that the answer here lies in how God has revealed Himself to us.

God has revealed Himself to us as a Savior and as a Deliverer from evil.

God is amazingly powerful and sovereign, but He displays these awesome qualities in no greater way than by redeeming sinners. He is holy and just, and what better way to display these attributes except by inaugurating a story of Fall and Redemption?

I do not mean to say that God is the “author” of sin. He made creatures who had wills of their own, who could freely choose to actively sin against Him - but that is not the same thing as God actively creating evil. Satan, the fallen angels, and Adam made that choice of their own volition, as creatures of God endowed with wills, innocent at the beginning but afterwards enslaved to their fallen state. God allowed, permitted, and planned for sin to happen, but this is not the same thing as performing an act of sin - that belongs to the creatures who of their own volition chose evil over good, themselves over their Creator.

Rather, God permitted evil so that His justice, love, grace, and mercy could be displayed for His own magnificent glory. Without a Fall, there is no story of Redemption. Without evil, there is no innumerable multitude of redeemed sinners praising Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity. The greatest act of Love - Christ giving Himself for sinners - would have never happened had evil never existed. God, sovereign and perfect in all things, saw it fit to plan history this way. It only remains for man to fall down on his face and glorify his Creator and Redeemer for performing such an awesome drama.

I understand that this is an awfully concise way to answer such a momentous question, but I think that this is the best method to start approaching the problem of evil. We need to start from who God is, and understand the big picture that He gives through His special revelation, the Bible. Then as we submit to Him and put our trust solely in His grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, only then will we begin to start understanding this difficult issue.