Why Does God Permit Evil?
When we see a senseless tragedy or hear of one in the daily news, our hearts go out to the bereaved and we call in our desperation:
First you would form your plan. You would decide what you want to accomplish. You want to fill the earth with human population. You want these people to have perfect health and enjoy the bounties of a perfect earth. You want them to be intelligent, with the power to make choices of their own. You want them to live peaceably with one another. You want them to follow the principles of righteous living and to keep your commandments. But, more than than that, you want them to to these things because they want to do these things. Now thats a difficult order.
It is so much easier to control the inanimate than to guide a free, thinking, will. Ask any parent! It is said that an astronomer knows where every star is at any given minute, but does not know where his own daughter is. Even a star is easier to control and predict than a living, moving creature with a will of its own. But that is exactly what God, the creator of the universe, set about to do.
And so if that were your goal, how would you go about it?
You could make them automatically to what is right. But that would defeat your purpose. For then you would have a race of mindless robots.
You could pre-program them with the disposition to make the right and proper choices. Yet, then they would lack the essential ability to truly choose their course in life.
You could shield them that they would not be tempted to do wrong. However if you chose that course, could you really trust them to do that which was right regardless of outward circumstances.
Or you could do what God did do. You could make them with the unbiased power to think and reason . . . and with a completely free moral agency. You could let them make the wrong choices if they desired. You could let them take the consequences for those choices. But if, as in the method God used, those consequences were death, you would end up with a dead race.
Unless! Unless you pre-planned for the eventuality of your creation making the wrong choice. Unless you provided a remedy for the consequences of that choice, one which would even remove the penalty of death. One that would permit man a sufficient opportunity to fully experience evil and its consequences but would then give man an equal opportunity to experience good and its consequences.
How long would you have to allow for such a plan to work. Long enough to accomplish three goalstime to fill the home you made for them with the right number of inhabitants; time for them to experience every form of evil and its effects; and time for the preparation of those elements which you would need to bring them back to your original design.
This is the method God chose. Let us go to the Bible and trace what God has done with man, what he is doing with his human creation, and what he still plans to do with him in the future. To look at the human race today and judge God by mans present conditions is like judging an architect for the appearance of his unfinished building.
In the Beginning, God . . .
"In the beginning, God . . . " With those four simple words the Bible opens its chronicle of human events. God begins, in successive stages, preparing the earth as a fit home for his human creation. He climaxes the work by forming man of the dust of the ground. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
The Bible account continues: "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed."
Adam, the first man, thrived in this perfect environment. His time was profitably occupied with tending the garden and with observing and naming the animal creation around him. Yet he was lonely, so God made a companion for him, a wife, "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh."
To this first pair was given but one rule for the maintenance of life and happiness: "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
For a time all went well. Peace and harmony prevailed. Then, seemingly suddenly, disaster struck. A mighty heavenly being, Lucifer, whom we know better as the Adversary or Satan, used the device of a serpent to deceive Eve into eating of the forbidden fruit. She tasted and gave some to Adam . . . and, the record is, "he did eat."
The punishment was severe. "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Expelled from their garden home, Adam and Eve began the long fall from perfection into the pit of death. Sadness and sorrows attended their path. They had to raise their food from ground that abounded in thorns and thistles. They saw their firstborn son become a murderer, killing his brother in a jealous rage.
The children they brought into the world tasted of the same fruitage. Sin and its attendant ills, alienation from God, unrighteousness, sickness, and evil quickly ensued. Angels materialized and married human women. They produced a hybrid race. Evil became so predominant that, within ten generations, God saw fit to cleanse the planet with a catastrophic flood.
The crime seemed so small: eating a piece of forbidden fruit. The penalty seemed so great: not just death for the perpetrators, but for their posterity as well. Was God just? Did the punishment fit the crime? Not if the crime were only that of eating a piece of fruit. But the crime was more than that. The crime was disobedience.
Man had to learn that his happiness depended on freely given obedience. He had to come to realize that the creator has the right to dictate to the created. Yet the punishment seemed so harsh . . . so final. What good would such a lesson be for a dead student? No good at all! If that answer is obvious to us, was it not just as obvious to God? Of course! Then, why did he do it? The Bible says, "God is love!." Why would a loving God make the sentence so sever, so seeming irreversible? Thats the age-old question asked by generation after generation of tear-filled sorrowing hearts: Why? Why? Why? Why does God permit evil?
There is only one plausible answer. For the lesson of sin and death to be meaningful to man, man must not remain dead. Death must not be as permanent as it seems to be. And that is the core of the Bibles answer to our question, "Why does God permit evil?"
Glimmers of Hope
A faint glimmer of such a hope was given way back in Eden. When God passed sentence on the first couple, he also placed a curse on the tempter, saying, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
But it was not until the days of Abraham, over two thousand years later, that that hope began to take on definite form. To this faithful patriarch God made an unconditional promise that not only guaranteed the blessing of all peoples but also began narrowing down the channel from which it would come. To Abraham, God said: "in thy seed, shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Years passed. Centuries passed. Still no blessings came to either all families of the earth, or even to the descendants of Abraham, now sold into slavery into Egypt. Then a deliverer arose. Moses led the children of Abraham, the children of Israel, out of Egypt to their promised land. With great jubilation they finally crossed the Jordan and began the conquest of the land. Their kingdom rose to its zenith under the reigns of David and Solomon. But it did not bless all the families of the earth!
Then decay set in. The people forsook God. Mighty empires arose in the East to make them tributary and carry them into captivitythe kingdom of Israel to Assyria and the kingdom of Judah to Babylon. Still time went on . . . and no deliverance.
Finally, after over four thousand years of sin and evil, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. For just over three short years he preached about a kingdom that would end all evil and bring in an era of righteousness. He demonstrated the power of that kingdom with countless healings and miracles. But it all was over so quickly and he was arrested . . . tried . . . sentenced . . . nailed to a cross . . . and he died.
But his vision did not die. His followers, convinced by "many infallible proofs" that he had risen from the dead, picked up the theme of his kingdom with renewed zeal. Their enthusiasm convinced thousands and soon the Christian religion began to spread . . . first in Jerusalem . . . and then in Judea . . . and soon throughout the world.
It was that kingdom which promised the answer to the age-old question: "Why does God permit evil?"
All to be Raised from the Grave
Gods plan does not end with all men in the grave . . . but with all men raised from the grave. Raised by resurrection power. This was what the angels sang about the night of Jesus birth, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings which shall be to all people."
All people. That was the key. Jesus had said it himself, "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the son of man and come forth."
All people. Paul perceived it as the will and plan of God, "God will have all men to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth." "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive."
All people: Jew and Arab; Christian and heathen; Protestant and Catholic; priest and master of voodoo; black and white . . . and all colors in between. All people.
But the followers of Jesus saw more than this in the kingdom which they preached. They envisioned that kingdom as an instructional period . . . a time when men would learn righteousness. The instruction of that time would be so complete that the Bible says: "Then none shall say, Know ye the Lord, for all shall know me from the least to the greatest; for the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
More than that, they saw it as a time when man would return to such a condition of human perfection that he would have the ability to obey the laws of righteousness which he would learn.
More than that, they saw it as a time when Satan and every evil influence would be restrained so that men would not be tempted to do evil as Adam and Eve had been.
This kingdom, as Peter once explained, was to be a "times of restitution," restoring men, first to life by a resurrection from the dead; and then to the same perfect conditions the human family enjoyed in the Garden of Edenperfect environment, perfect bodies, perfect minds, perfect communion with God, perfect harmony with each other.
Can t you just imagine it! One Christian writer has beautifully phrased it thus:
"Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of a perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. There sickness shall be no more; not an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of decaynot even the fear of such things. Think of all the pictures of comparative health and beauty that you have ever seen, and know that perfect humanity will be of still surpassing loveliness. Then inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. Such will earths society be; and weeping bereaved ones will have their tears all wiped away, when thus they realize the resurrection work complete."
Isnt that beautiful? Almost too good to be true? Too good not to be true . . . for it is the pre-arranged plan of God for the human race. This is what the Bible hold in store. This is the picture of the divine architects finished structure . . . not the disarray, confusion, and evil we see around us today in the building phase of that plan.
When will that Kingdom Come?
But when? Thousands of years have passed since Jesus died, and thousands more before that to the time when evil entered upon the scene. When? When will evil end? When will God "stop it" and introduce that kingdom of righteousness and joy?
Soon! Very soon! Do you remember, a little while ago we talked about how long such a plan would take. We noticed that three things must be accomplished before it could all be finished. First there must be time to populate the home God arranged for manplanet earth. Second, man must first experience every form of evil and realize its consequences. Third, God must develop the tools he will need for his vast "sin reclamation project."
Demographic experts today say that we are very near the time of overpopulation . . . and they are not even counting the billions who have died. However, they are also not taking into account the Bibles prediciton of "the desert blossoming like a rose" and the earth yielding her full increase. Yet, they are certainly correct in stating that we are near the time when the earth will fulfill the requirements God laid out to the first couple: "replenish and fill the earth."
The degradation we see on the planet todaynot only mans inhumanity to man but the horrors of the drug scene, the casual disregard for the lives of others illustrated in the senseless drive-by shootings and the rush to abortion as a means of denying responsibility for ones own children, the disregard for sexual mores and the consequent epidemic of AIDS and other venereal diseases all this indicates that man has about reached the end of the list of potential evils to experience. The human race has had its fill with these problems. If only they knew a way out. They are ready for a new order. They are ready for the introduction of Gods kingdom.
The work of this kingdom is immense. God is capable to accomplish the task but he chooses to delegate the work to anotherto his Son, who died to reverse the penalty of sin. And Jesus chooses to share this work. He tells his followers: "if ye suffer with me, ye shall reign with me." The Revelator writes of the followers of Jesus and says that they will "be kings and priests, and reign with him a thousand years."
There are many indications that the selection of these helpers is almost complete. The very lack of spirituality in the world today is just such an indication, and is predicted in Revelation as a mark of the closing, or Laodicean, feature of his church.. Jesus himself posed the question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith in the earth?" Calling his followers "the salt of the earth," he added, "the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted." The lack of moral restraints is a sign that the preserving power of this "salt" is almost gone, and therefore we are very near the introduction of that kingdom?
The earth is nearly at its population limits. Evils of every conceivable type have been tried and their consequences felt. The church of Christ is nearly complete. What is lacking then for the introduction of the kingdom? Nothing! We are on the very threshhold of its establishment. What thrilling news that should be for all of us!
Why does God permit evil? The wise man puts it succinctly in the book of Ecclesiastes: "This sore travail hath God given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith!" It is for mans exercise. Today he sees what he can accomplish by doing things his way. He sees the resultssin, sickness, mans inhumanity to man, sorrow, tears . . . and finally, death.
In Gods kingdom, raised from the dead and instructed in righteousness, he will see the other side of the story. There he will experience life and the rewards of obedience to the laws of Godhealth, love of man for man, joy, rejoicing . . . and finally, life for evermore.
If you had these choices before you after such a demonstration, what would you choose? What do you think mankind will choose? Obedience that they might live! Life that they might enjoy a perfect earth! Righteousness that they might have perfect harmony! What a prospect! What a joy!
But the present is so hard. It is so tragic. It is indeed a vale of tears. Does it have to be so bad? Today is for a few short years80 to 100 at the most. Compare that with the thought of eternityyears beyond counting, time without measure. Will not all men say, as Paul said of the Christians walk, "I count the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall follow"? Will they not then agree with the Psalmist, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes"?
Why doesnt God do something? He is doing something. He will do a whole lot more. And when he is finished, what a wonderful place earth will be.
This is Gods plan! It is a good plan! It is a simple plan! Let man choose his own way now. Let him learn fully the consequence of wrong and sinful decisionssorrow, pain, and death. Then resurrect him to a completed and perfect earth. Educate him thoroughly in the laws of that kingdom. Let him experience the wonderful results of obediencehealth, happiness, and life. Is there any question what man will choose? They would be fools not to choose good and live.
Yes, God has a plan . . . a wonderful plan . . . a workable plan!
Now . . . if you were God . . . isnt that just how you would do it?