“Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9
At some point, many ponder why there is so much suffering and evil in the world. We see it on the news, in our neighborhoods, and sometimes in our homes. How can God, who is eternally holy and good, allow it? Why didn’t He create a world without it? This seeming contradiction is what many call a theodicy, which is the defense of God’s goodness in the existence of evil. Some even call it the “problem of evil.”
Evil exists not only in the moral world but also in the natural world. In the moral world, some people commit theft, murder, rape, and the like. Evil in the natural world occurs in earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc.
Dictionary.com defines evil this way: “The force in nature that governs and gives rise to wickedness and sin; the wicked or immoral part of someone or something.” Some would argue that if evil is a force in nature or an immoral part of someone, it is not tangible and, technically, does not exist.
Further, they also argue that since God makes everything, and God (being omniscient and omnipotent among other attributes) is everything, there is no such thing as good and evil. They simply do not exist because of their equality. As one Bible commentator said, “Evil is relative and just a matter of subjective preference.”
The Existence of Evil
This argument does not solve the problem of evil. In fact, it contradicts the world view that a good God created the world, and evil still exists, though it should not. Atheists commonly use this argument to assert that they know God is good and all-powerful, but He is somehow either not fully in control or unwilling to stop evil.
But this borrows from the Christian worldview that God is always good. For example, even an atheist would call the police if someone stole their car or broke into their house. They expect good to overcome evil. So evil clearly exists.
Simply put, we would not recognize evil—whether moral or natural—if we had no standard to compare it to. In other words, we cannot recognize evil without recognizing good. And the Bible tells us there is only One who is good.
“There is only One who is good.” (Matthew 19:17)
“No one is good—except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
God cannot be the author of evil. He is the author of only all that is good (Genesis 1). Yet we know evil exists in the moral and natural worlds. But since we know it is not God who made it, then there can be only one who did.
Freedom of Choice
Satan was the first one to rebel against God. He was the first to commit an evil act, which makes him the true author of everything evil. The Bible says one-third of heaven’s angels followed him (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-18), which caused God to create a special place for them called hell.
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17)
“Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming.” (Isaiah 14:9)
A short time later, humans also joined Satan (Genesis 4). And just a few more generations on, people were flocking toward evil, and it grieved God deeply.
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continuously. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
This is the only time in Scripture where God says He is sorry for creating humans. He is a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. But He relents and allows it because of our freedom of choice. The cumulative weight of man’s sin throughout history is upon us all, which is why Paul reminds us that the entire world groans with pain like a woman giving birth.
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22)
We live in a fallen world, so we groan collectively as the pressure of the pain of sin weighs on us.
Natural Evil and a Fallen World
In the form of a serpent, Satan convinced Adam and Eve to eat the fruit in Genesis 3, resulting in the introduction of sin into the world. Satan created the evil idea, and Adam and Eve acted upon it, which means evil is a force that exists not only in Satan but also in the hearts of men.
Before he ate the fruit, Adam had a neutral heart. There was neither good nor evil. But after Satan came along, Adam and all his descendants were contaminated with a sinful nature.
We all are predisposed to sin, and Satan, a very powerful spiritual being, knows it. He manipulates us emotionally and mentally. He prods and wrenches our thoughts until we give in and behave sinfully. Sometimes our actions lead to war, crime, pain, and heartbreak. But, in all cases, it always leads to destruction. He knows he cannot destroy God, so he will stop at nothing to destroy the one thing He loves most—us.
Moral evil seemingly does not explain natural evil, but it does. Sadly, we hear of natural disasters almost daily. These events directly result from man’s sinful nature and the fallen world he created. And, as Satan continues his pursuit of annihilating God’s children, things will get worse as we get closer to the Day of the Lord.
Romans 8:28 tells us, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Notice that this Scripture says God works things together “to those who love God,” and not for everyone. Unfortunately, this means natural disasters happen, and people die. But God can and often does draw people to salvation as a result.
Satan creates calamity, but we can be assured that God is still on the throne. He controls every outcome and will never stop calling people to salvation.
Our Moral Responsibility
Though some might hold God responsible for creating a world where evil could exist, their assertion does not implicate God in any way. Everything God created in Genesis 1 He declared “good,” including humans. Despite His good creation, He gave us all the freedom to choose to obey or disobey Him. Had He not given us this choice, He would have created a world devoid of morality and full of robots or puppets who obeyed His every command.
Robots and puppets are incapable of interpersonal relationships. But God has given each of us a moral responsibility where we can choose good or evil, to obey or disobey, to love Him or reject Him. He has given us moral freedom so we can fully experience His love. After all, forced love is not truly love.
God desires a personal, loving relationship with us, one where we willingly go to Him and trust His power and holiness. These are personal choices not based on divine judgment (though our choices determine our divine judgment).
We make our own choices. God does not make them for us. He has given us that freedom.
God’s Plan to Eliminate Evil
Since evil exists, we can assume that God, eternally good and holy, will one day end it. In fact, He’s had a plan to do so from the beginning.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
God already planned to send His only Son to be the perfect sacrifice and restore man’s relationship with Him. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again three days later, He defeated evil forever. And though we still see evil occurring all around us, it does not mean God’s plan is finished.
The day will come when Jesus returns to throw Satan into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). Though the world will experience the worst evil imaginable while the Antichrist is in power, God will finish His plan to rid the earth of evil forever and establish His holy kingdom.
Until then, we need to repent and continue seeking the Lord daily. We may be susceptible to sin and evil, but we can turn away from it and to God instead. Indeed, we must resist evil as best we can. And we can be sure He will help us every step of the way.
Though evil persists in the world, we can be sure that Jesus will eliminate it one day. And we are more than conquerors in the meantime through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rejoice as we remember the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18,21)