Recently, we looked at some of the reasons why people renounce their faith. Unfortunately, it’s often because they have legitimate questions for which they can’t find answers and instead of seeking those answers in the right places, they pull back and they pull away from any thread of faith they may have had.
Today, we’re going to examine one of those questions under the microscope of God’s Word. It’s one of the questions Jon Steingard said he struggled with before he renounced the faith.
In Jon’s case, like most, he either…
- Asked questions but no one knew the biblical answers so no one was able to help him…
- Asked questions, got biblical answers, but wasn’t willing to receive them…
- Never sought out answers from Scripture or never asked questions…
We don’t know in which category Jon fits. Perhaps, more than one. But we do know that Jon renounced his very public “faith” in a very public way and, as always, there has been a tremendous ripple effect on those who knew him personally and those who were fans of his music.
Faith is contagious. But renouncing the faith can be, not only contagious, it can also be toxic.
So, let’s answer one of Jon’s questions from the Word of God. It may just be a question swirling around in your own mind… or perhaps it’s a question someone you know has been asking.
If God is all powerful, why is there evil in the world?
It’s a valid question and Jon’s not the only one who’s ever asked it. Great men of God asked that same question before they came to know Christ too.
C. S. Lewis stated, “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.”
Many, like C. S. Lewis and Jon Steingard, have wrestled with this question and when it went unanswered, it carved doubt so deeply into their hearts that they rejected God and the Gospel of Christ.
We know the question is rooted in a process of thoughts.
The question is really a process of thoughts churning in the hearts of those asking:
- If God is good, why would He allow evil and suffering to exist in this world?
- If God is all-powerful, then He could eliminate evil…SO…why doesn’t He?
- Evil and suffering exist. A good and all-powerful God would not allow that… therefore, a good and all-powerful God must not exist.
Let’s face it, this is not one of those questions that can be answered with a verse or two. Instead, it is a deep question that requires a thorough examination of the Word of God. More thorough than I will have room for in this post, but I will make sure to cover enough to shed some biblical light on the answer.
Since we know that the question is rooted in a process of thoughts, let’s look at what we know from Scripture…
We know God is the Creator.
Scripture assures us that God is the Creator.
- Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
- Colossians 1:6, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
- Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
- John 1:1-3, “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
We know that everything God created was good.
As you read through Genesis 1 and 2, you find that God calls everything that He created good. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, after God had created the earth and all that exists on the earth, He indicated that it was not only good, but it was very good.
- Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
- Ecclesiastes 7:29 (Amplified), “God made man upright and uncorrupted, but they [both men and women] have sought out many devices [for evil].”
We know where evil came from.
When God created mankind, He created us with the ability and freedom to think, reason, and choose. If God would have made people puppets, we would think and choose His perfect will every time.
But He didn’t make people puppets. He gave us the choice to choose. And He gave mankind only one limitation…one rule. Don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or you shall surely die.
- Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”
But mankind was not the only created being who was given the ability and freedom to think, reason, and choose. God had also created angels with the same abilities and freedoms.
- Genesis 3:1 (Amplified), “Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?”
- Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Obviously, Adam and Even weren’t alone in the Garden. The enemy of their souls already existed in the form of a serpent who was slithering his slimy way into their reasoning by sowing seeds of doubt. “Can it really be that God has said…”
The enemy was created either before mankind was created or may have been created during the week God created the heavens and the earth and all that are within them.
So, evil exists, not because God created evil but because satan and man, through the freedom they were given by God, chose to rebel…chose to sin… chose their way over God’s. More importantly, they chose evil over God.
- James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”
- 1 John 1:5, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”
John Calvin wrote, ” . . the Lord had declared that “everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good” (Genesis 1:31). Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction.”
Evil exists because mankind rebelled. We are a fallen creation, living in a fallen world.
God told Adam that in the day he would eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would surely die.
- Spiritually, Adam died immediately and was separated from God.
- Physically, the death sentence was put in motion and mankind would now face physical death.
- Globally and Cosmically, The Fall had global and cosmic repercussions. Flowers die. Earth erodes. Destruction happens. Suffering is real. Famine, disease, pestilence, natural disasters… all launched into existence the moment Adam choose his own will over God’s.
Death exists because of The Fall and man’s sinful and rebellious choice. (Romans 5:12)
Why does evil exist? Because mankind choose for evil to exist.
And if you think that it was Adam’s choice but not yours, it’s important to remember that we are all sinners – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
We know that God will one day eradicate all evil and suffering.
- The Fall put into motion an imperfect earth, a fallen world, death, destruction and evil that will exist until the final judgement (Revelation 20) when God will make all things new. (Revelation 21)
- Revelation 21:3-5, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
We know that God’s Word is inerrant even if we don’t understand it.
Scripture isn’t something we should be content to read on a surface level. It was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, so we need to dig below the surface to find the original meanings of various words throughout God’s Word.
Many people struggle with passages they don’t understand simply because they never went to the original language and dig for the answers.
Sometimes, people turn to Isaiah 45:7 in the King James Version, which says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
But a careful examination of the original language gives a clear understanding for us English speakers that renders a clear translation as,
“I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 NKJV)
God’s creation is good. Mankind fell and brought death and destruction in the wake of a choice of the will. God did not create evil, but He will ultimately use the difficulties and heartaches of this world to accomplish His purpose.
God uses evil people to accomplish His purpose.
God uses evil and suffering to accomplish His purpose. Think…
- Joseph – after being betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers. Then put in prison, falsely accused, and ultimately ended up second in command.(Genesis 50:20)
- Esther – the orphan girl who became a queen and ultimately risked her life to save her people from certain death. (Esther 4)
- Paul – beaten and put in prison multiple times for the sake of the Gospel. (2 Corinthians 11:22-33)
God even allows or sometimes causes suffering and heartache to accomplish His purpose, which is ultimately that people will know Him so they can be saved and live a holy and abundant life here on earth and eternal life with Him forever.
- Paul – had a propensity for pride. Because of that, God sent him a “messenger of satan” to buffet him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
- Persecution of the early church – instilled courage, authenticated true faith, and caused the spread of the Gospel throughout the world. (Acts 8:1-8, Acts 11:19-24)
- Psalm writer of Psalm 119 – repented and returned to the Lord because he went through a season of affliction. (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75)
- The blind man – was blind so that God could reveal Himself through the works He would do in him. (Acts 9:1-3)
We know God’s plans are good even when our circumstances seem bad.
- God’s plans are good – and we can trust Him even when our circumstances are hard. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- God knows what we need and what we lack – and is often allowing trials to develop character and courage in us. (Romans 5:3-5)
We know that he will work all things together for our good because He is good.
- God told us that life would be hard – but there is always a purpose in the pain, even if we don’t understand it. (John 16:33)
- God promised good is the ultimate purpose of all that we go through – that He’d work it out in such a way that it would be for good for those who are His. (Romans 8:28)
We know that God cares about us and about what we go through every day.
- He is near the broken hearted – He not only sees you… He is near you in your suffering. (Psalm 34:18)
- He heals our wounded hearts – when we turn to Him and trust Him. (Psalm 147:3)
- He comforts the afflicted – because He is the God of all comfort and only He can touch the deepest hurt and bring healing and hope during times of pain. (Matthew 5:4, Matthew 11:28)
We know that there’s a lot we don’t, and can’t, know because He’s God and we’re not.
Finally, we need to come to the place where we embrace the greatness of God in light of the smallness of us.
He’s God. We aren’t going to fully understand all there is to know about the One who owes us nothing but gave us everything.
- We can’t know His thoughts – We can’t know His ways. He is beyond us. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
- We can’t counsel God on what we think should be – We can’t tell Him how to run things. (Romans 11:33-34)
We know that He loves us and it is His will that we know Him.
- He loves us so much He sent His Son – Jesus came to this earth to die a cruel death on the cross so that we could have abundant and eternal life. (John 3:16-17, John 10:10)
- He wants us to know Him – so that we can become all He created us to be and enjoy a personal and eternal relationship with God. (John 17:3)
- It’s not His will for anyone to perish – that includes every question-asker and every doubter. That includes you. That includes me. (2 Peter 3:9)
As we ask questions and seek answers from God’s Word, we need to be sure to know what we know. To place our doubts under the light of God’s Word and examine what we know to be true realizing there are some things we may not fully understand… and that’s not only okay… that’s expected.
We are flawed and fine. God is flawless and infinite. We have limited knowledge. God has no limits at all.
So, while we know what we know, and we seek to know more, let’s be sure that we ask the right questions.
You see, while Jon’s question is valid, I think that maybe Jon was asking the wrong question.
So, let’s conclude by answering this very important question with a question. The same question that helped Lewis come to saving faith.
The Right Question: On what basis is something deemed evil?
C. S. Lewis’ question about God’s existence in light of evil he saw in the world led him to become an atheist.
However, when he realized that the mere existence of evil actually validated the existence of God – that in order to relegate something as evil, there has to be a standard of what is good and what is evil – and in order to have a standard of what is good and what is evil, there must be a God.
C. S. Lewis started seeking more answers and eventually became a very strong and influential Christian and apologist.
In reality, as C. S. Lewis deducted, in order for something to be evil, there must be a standard that makes evil, evil. There must be something (or Someone) that determines what is good and what is not.
Perhaps Jon and others have been asking the wrong question all along.
The fact that there is evil ensures us that there is good. And if there is something that establishes a standard of good and evil, there is God.
P. S. Was this helpful? What would you add? How can I pray for you?