The Problem of Evil: Part 1

Updated: Jan 5


Why does an all-good God allow evil? Is He not strong enough to prevent it? Or is He really not a good God and therefore does not care to prevent it? These questions are very important to ask. If these questions lead to a truth that God is not all-powerful or all-good,[1] then Christianity is false. However, I believe these questions will lead to a truth that strengthens our belief in God’s sovereignty and benevolence.


The Beginning

When talking about the problem of evil, the argument assumes a certain God. This God is usually the God of Christianity. So, it is this God that I will attempt to defend. To do this, it is best to start at the beginning when, according to the Bible, sin first entered the world.


Sin entered the world through mankind. So, what is mankind? Consider Genesis 1:26-27 (HCSB):

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Mankind is an image-bearer of God—a reflection of Him. So, who is God? In the essay “God’s Very Nature: A Foundation for Reality,” it is explained that God is love and what that means. If mankind was created to image God, then they must be capable of love. This is critical in understanding what happens next:

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Why did God give man the opportunity to sin? If He truly is a good God, why allow a way for evil to enter the world? This is where an understanding of love is necessary. God is love. It makes up His nature and every act. To go against His nature of love is to sin. It is to say that one’s nature trumps that of God’s--because you are putting your standards above that of God’s. So, when man sinned, he chose a nature contrary to that of love. Man chose to “love” himself over God.


Man, because he was made in God’s image, is capable of love. Therefore, man can choose to love God—let thy will be done, or love self—let my will be done. So, man could not be truly made in God’s image unless he was given a choice to love God or to love self. Before moving on, it must be understood that love is an outward expression and therefore when man chose to love himself, he distorted what love is—meaning man did not embody love. This new “love” is called selfishness.


The Image of Man

In Christian theology, it is understood that God is the standard of goodness and therefore anything that is contrary to His nature is evil. This means that man had a choice, to be like God—to embody goodness and to express that goodness—making it love. However, man decided to express his own goodness. Since this “goodness” is contrary to God’s “goodness” then it can be defined as evil. To better explain this concept, consider the following:


Everything that is positive to God’s nature, meaning in alignment with His nature, is good. Everything that is negative to God’s nature, meaning not in alignment with His nature, is evil. So, could an all-evil God exist? No. For evil opposes His nature. This so-called all-evil God is really an all-good God. For good, in the moral grounding paradigm, is simply what is in positive alignment with God’s nature.


So, since man chose a nature of selfishness over a nature of love, he created a whole new set of standards. Anything that is positive or in alignment with this nature is good and vice versa. Meaning, man—in defying God’s nature—claimed godhood, in the sense that man chose his own standards over that of God’s. Man became an enemy of who God is and therefore chose evil instead of God’s goodness.


In that act, man redefined his image to one of evil. Man died when he chose himself over God and became a new creation—one that embodied evil instead of goodness. The man God created, remade himself and therefore died and became something else. Romans 5:12-21 explains that death came into the world through one man. This means that Adam, who had committed the first act of sin, became mankind’s image-bearer. So that all who came from him—imaged him. Mankind inherently became enemies of God’s nature. As Romans 3:23 says: “…all have sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God.”


Is Love Worth It?

Man had to be given a choice to love, but is that choice worth it? Should God, being good, instead have created mankind to not image Him. God, being all-knowing, knew that man would distort love into something new—selfishness, in an act of defiance. Yet, He still decided to make man in His image. How is a world full of evil and suffering worth it? In other words, why did God—knowing what man would choose—decide to not make man in His image?


Since love is the greatest good—the embodiment of who God is, then to be like God is the greatest gift possible. So, if man were to choose God’s goodness, then man would be able to live a life like that of God’s—one full of love where evil and suffering are non-existent. Man would be an image-bearer of God in the fullest sense—a son or daughter of God. What greater gift is there? Of course, this means nothing—if all mankind is condemned to a life of death. However, God had a plan to free humanity from death.


Part 1 of God’s Merciful Plan

Romans 5 explains that just like death came into the world through one man—Adam, so did life come into the world through another—Jesus. This idea is called, “Federal Headship”—the idea that Adam is the head of the human race and therefore those that come from Adam— image Adam, and those that come from Jesus—image Jesus.


After Adam sinned, suffering entered the world. God cursed the world to be one of suffering instead of one of tranquility. This was not only an act of love but one of genius. Mankind now has a taste for what life is like without God. God is the bringer of love, beauty, rest, etc. Without God, those gifts are non-existent. So, mankind gets to see the difference between death (selfishness, ugliness, restlessness, etc.) and life (love, beauty, rest, etc.).


Mankind could continue in death and therefore, after having a taste of both (when physical death occurs), be sent to a place devoid of God—hell, or choose life and be sent to a place of God—heaven. God gave mankind a chance to see where both paths lead, and because of that, man now has a greater likelihood of choosing life. This is one of the main differences between man and angels. The angels are, essentially, their own federal head. They are spiritual creatures who "inhabit" heaven. They are made to serve God, but some decided to reject their purpose and follow Satan.[2]


Humans, being physical creatures, were put in a completely different situation. Humans do not have access to the spiritual realm but are confined to the physical realm. Because of that, man could never fully understand or experience God's full glory. So, when man chose to disobey Him, He showed them what death would look like and what life would look like. Humans could have never understood what life or death truly is because of the limitations of the physical realm, which is why God, being one of fairness and grace, not only gave mankind a choice to follow Him but also gave them a taste or trial of what existence would be for them if they continued to choose to disobey Him - after they had sinned.


Part 2 of God’s Merciful Plan

Mankind is given a second chance through a new federal head—Jesus. John 3:16 says: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Galatians 3:27 says that those who are saved, are clothed in Christ. Jesus became the new Adam, so that those who believe in Him are image-bearers of Him.


God did not leave mankind to suffer, He offered redemption for those who wanted it. Because mankind got to experience what death offers and what life offers, it is more likely that more people would choose to turn from the path of death in order to enter the path of life—than if they lived in a world free of suffering. Whereas, if mankind was not given this option, how much more would be consumed with death—never have been given a taste of both.


The Path of Life

If you decide to reject the path you are on—death, and turn to the path of life; then you will be saved. How is this done? Romans 10:9 explains: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”


Conclusion

God is love. To be like God is to express, and therefore have, love. That is the greatest gift God could ever give. So, God gave it to man. Yet man misused it and chose to morph love from an outward expression to an inward expression. However, God, knowing this would happen, designed the world where the most amount of people, when given a chance, would choose life instead of death. Evil was introduced by man, but natural (not human afflicted) suffering was introduced by God. Suffering gives mankind a taste of what life—devoid of God—would be like. Because of that, suffering is not proof of an evil God, but a loving God. Just like a parent punishes his child for their future well-being, so did God punish us for our future well-being. He is truly a merciful and loving God.[3]

[1] Note: There are two ways to show that God is not all-good and that is by judging His actions by His standards or to show that there is a different objective source for morality that God does not live up to. [2] Note: At this point in time, my belief is that, at least, most types of angels, if not all, are not capable of love. One of the reasons for why I hold this belief is because they were never given a direct choice to disobey God and because the Bible does not mention that angels were made in God’s image. By saying this, I am disagreeing with the idea that humans were given a choice solely because God gave them free-will. The angels, or at least some types, were given free-will but were not given a direct choice like humans were. It is my belief that love required that direct choice. This would also mean that angels cannot express love. It is out of duty that angles, or some types of angels choose to serve. [3] End Note: Part one lays the foundation for part two. Part two will zero in on tough questions that commonly go along with this topic such as, “How could God allow my child to die?” or “How could God allow Hitler to be born?” Without part two, part one only becomes valuable to the Christian; however, with part two, both essays become valuable to both the Christian and the non-Christian. So, part two will deal with specific objections using part one as a guide to navigate through them.

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