Series based on 1 Peter 3:15 ³Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.²
Week 2: ³If there is a God, how can he let so many bad things happen?²
The last time we met, we started this series on personal apologetics, based on the previous ³Just Walk Across the Room² series, and discussed the reality of God. Today we are going to briefly look at the nature of God, and the nature of evil. To do so, we need to use a philosophical tool called logic, which is the study of ways to find the differences between valid and flawed arguments.
An example of the use of logic is, if Bonnie loves her husband, and Bonnie¹s husband is John, then it is logical to assume that Bonnie loves John.
To answer today¹s question, ³If there is a God, how can he let so many bad things happen?², we have to break down and look logically at each part of that question:
1. Does God exist? (we answered this the last time)
2. Is God good?
3. Did God make everything?
4. If God is good, and made everything, why did He make evil?
There are three basic ways of looking at the nature of God, atheism, meaning there is no God at all; pantheism, everything, including you, is God and therefore everything, including you, is good, meaning that nothing can be considered evil; and theism, which holds there is a God, He is good, and anything in opposition to God is evil.
Last time, we talked about the existence of God, and one of the persuasive arguments for the very existence of Him is the axiological there are a set of universal moral laws that exist in all mankind. Everyone ³knows² that it is wrong to kill someone else for no good reason, just as it is wrong to withhold food from a child, to break into your neighbors house and assault them, to take things that belong to someone else, and so on.
If there is such a set of laws, then there must be a lawgiver, God. And if this set of laws is moral, then the lawgiver, God, must be a just and moral lawgiver. Therefore, we safely assume that God is real, and moral as well. Further, if God is real and God is good and moral, then everything He creates must be good as well. Consider Genesis 1:31, ³²God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Now, let¹s turn to the next question:
This is quite a large topic to tackle, especially as part of another question! Simply put, there are two basic ways to view the universe, always has been or created at some point. There are strong scientific and philosophical arguments against the infinite existence of the universe, so for the sake of brevity, let us assume that it was created. A created universe requires a creator that is greater than the creation, in other words, something larger than the universe. This is the definition of God.
So, did God create everything? Well, that depends on if you are monotheistic or polytheistic! Seriously, it depends on your definitions. It is obvious that there is such a physical thing as ³light,² but is there such a physical thing as ³darkness,² or is that just something we call the absence of light? We know there is something called ³love,² but is there also something called ³hate,² or just the absence of love? To answer this, think about one example. Let¹s assume you own a car, and you drove to church today in this car. After class, you will walk out of the church and go to your car to drive home, or to the buffet (unless the Methodists get there first!). Now, if for some reason your car is not in the parking space where you left it, does that mean something else called ³not your car² is there, or does the empty space simply mean your car is missing?
As God exists and is the ultimate creator, then we can safely assume that he created everything that exists on earth.
This leads us to the last and most important part of the question we are looking at today:
C.S. Lewis, the English college professor who wrote Mere Christianity and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was an atheist for most of his life. He wrote later about his struggle with good and evil, trying to fit it into his atheist worldview:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe to when I called it unjust?
If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet
Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would have no meaning.
In other words, the fact that you know there is a difference between good and evil, even if you can¹t quite define that difference yourself, means there is a God and that He is good. If God made everything and He is moral and good, did he then make evil?
This is not logically possible. God cannot create something to is opposite to what He is. Therefore, evil must have been created by something else. That ³something else² is found in what God placed in His greatest creation, man¹s free will. Why would God place this in man, knowing that it would result in evil? Because God wanted man to love him, and He had the choice between creating robots programmed to love him or creating man with all his folly and faults and capacity to hate and do evil, but also the capacity for true love.
True love cannot be forced or coerced, as legions of country and western songs can attest to! To choose to turn to and truly love God, man had to have the free will to do so, which included the capacity to choose not to love God. God knew this beforehand, of course, and why He choose to go ahead with His creations in this manner is something that must remain a mystery to us.
In other words, God put in us the capacity to love Him or not to love him. The opposite of love is evil. To turn away from the love of car is to turn towards the opposite of God, evil. God did not create evil, because evil is not a creation in and of itself, it is the absence of that good thing which God did create, love. This is clearly referred to in Matthew 5:44-45:
Matt. 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matt. 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Evil does not exist on its own, it is parasitical in nature, like rust on a car. You can easily imagine a car without any rust on it, but can you imagine rust without a car? Could God have created a world without evil, or rust in it? Certainly. Why did He not do this? Again, this presupposes that we can understand the mind and reasons of God himself.
The simplest answer to this is that God allows evil, and rust, to exist because He sees it as useful for His purposes. As God is moral and good, and incapable of creating or tolerating evil, that means we label certain people, things or events as evil or bad because we do not have the same lofty view as God.
For example, Corrie ten Boom, a Christian in Holland who hid many Jews during WWII, was betrayed and arrested by the Nazis in 1944. She was placed in one of the most brutal concentration camps, Ravensbrück, where she ended up a crowded, filthy, flea-infested barracks building. The building was so bad that the Nazi guards did not enter it to monitor the prisoners. At first Corrie wept to God in her prayers, asking why had He forsaken her in such a place? Eventually, she realized that He had placed her in the perfect place to uplift the name of Christ and evangelize without fear or interruption or punishment from the camp authorities. There is no doubt that many women in that awful place gained an eternal place in the presence of God because of the temporary situation they were in at that time and place.
Consider what happened to Paul, wrongly accused, imprisoned, shipwrecked, unjustly punished and ultimately executed, yet all he went through was used by God for His purposes. While in jail awaiting his sentence of death, Paul produced four books of the Bible (Ephesians Philippians, Colossians and Philemon), with some of his greatest praise and love for God. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, ³I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.²
Consider the life of Joseph, plotted against by his own brothers, abandoned to die alone in a pit, later sold into slavery, ultimately ending up in a high position of honor and responsibility in Egypt. Despite this, Joseph saw clearly the hand of God in his life,
Gen. 45:5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
Gen. 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
So, to sum up the answer to this question that you may be asked by non-believers, God did not make evil, but does allow things to happen in certain ways for his good and moral purposes. The fact the we see people, situations or things as ³bad² or ³evil² means that we do not see a higher purpose that they are a part of.
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