The Problem of Evil–Pt. 4–Whence then Is Evil?

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

The position that will be advocated from this point on is staunchly Calvinistic.  No doubt, it will not sit well upon first reading with most.  However, I believe this position does the most justice to what Scripture teaches about the subject at hand.

Whence then is Evil?

If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, yet evil does in fact exist, then why does God allow it to be part of the created universe and why does He not simply eradicate it now?  Many would simply come to this point (surveying the various approaches as we have done) and conclude that it is simply a mystery that we cannot answer.  Yet we may be too quick to run to the mysterious.  Can we do better?  I believe we can.

When we look at the evils of the world today, the fact that sin has entered our universe through the rebellion of those created in the image of God is a satisfactory explanation.  From sin comes both moral and natural evil.

The natural evil around the world is a result of Genesis 3.  “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).  The ground has been cursed and will, in the eschaton, be renewed.  We long for that day.  But until then we will have forest fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts, and a host of other natural evils.

Moral evil also stems from the consequences that followed the fall of our first parents.  In Psalm 51:5 David makes sure to help the reader understand that from conception he was sinful.  We are given a picture of the depths of depravity in Romans 3 as we are told that “none do good.”  Because of our depraved state, apart from the common grace of God, mankind does evil continually.  When Adam and Eve rebel, evil is the result.  Now we experience lying, cheating, stealing, murder, genocide, rape, torture, and other devilish atrocities.

Why does God not eradicate evil now?  Why not bring history to a close?  Evidently it is not His desire.  If He willed for history to close today then nothing could thwart that plan (Job 42:2).    We could also say that God delays the end because He is merciful.  If we received exactly what we deserve at this moment, then hell would come quickly.  Instead we should realize that “the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  We cannot finally know the answer that question, but we do know that God will, in His own time, return and make all things new.  At that point, those who thought God should have come sooner and eradicated evil more quickly may find themselves wishing He had waited a little longer.

So far we have not really given an answer to the problem of evil.  We can confess that evil exist today as a result of the fall of mankind into sin.  We can argue that God has sufficient cause and reason to allow the universe to continue as it is.  But that confession and affirmation does not answer the fundamental question.  Where does evil originate?

The Meticulous Sovereignty of God

Mark Talbot has said that “nothing that exists or occurs falls outside God’s ordaining will.”  He makes sure in the next sentence to clarify.  “Nothing, including no evil person or thing or event or deed.”[i]  Everything that comes to pass does so because God has ordained it, willed it, and determined it.  Nothing happens that God does not plan or want to happen.  If this sounds like strong language, admittedly, it is.  In step with Talbot, I would claim that God is ultimately responsible for evil.

No matter your theological persuasion, you would be hard pressed to disagree with that last statement.  If God is the uncaused cause, and the universe is caused completely by God, then everything that we see comes from God.  Since God is all knowing, He knew that when He created the Holocaust would happen.  Yet, God created.  So, ultimately the Holocaust happened because God caused the universe to exist.  But I go further than this.

The Holocaust was God’s will.  He planned it, ordained it, and made sure it happened.  As Talbot notes, “whatever God has eternally planned and purposed and willed—whatever He has in that sense foreordained—inevitably takes place; to say that God has ordained (or foreordained) something is to say that He has determined that it will take place.”[ii]  When Satan comes to Job and takes his family and fortune Job does not cry out that Satan has done this.  Instead he cries out “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  It was ultimately God’s will that these things happened, even though He worked through a secondary agent to accomplish His purposes.

Scripture is filled with instances of God being the one who stands behind even the worst events in history.  In Isaiah 19:2 God moves the Egyptians to fight each other (an evil act).  The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah came from God Himself (Genesis 19).  We see God moving others towards evil throughout the Scripture.  Amos writes, “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid?  Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6).  The greatest evil in all of history was not outside the controlling arm of God.  When Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed that “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).  We know that the prayer was not answered.  Jesus would be nailed to a cross and murdered.  Yet, as Peter would proclaim in Acts 2:23-24, this was the plan of God.  God Himself had caused this great evil to come about.  This was Gods doing.  The meticulous sovereignty of God is clearly seen.

In the next post we will begin to discuss the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility by looking at something called Compatabilism.


[i] Piper. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2006), 43.

[ii] Ibid. 47.

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