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“Why Does God Permit Evil?”

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Some years ago, I sat in a doctor’s office and he told me he was an atheist because of the evil in the world.

There is perhaps no problem, no question which troubles more people about the Christian idea of God   that this one: “Why does God permit evil and suffering?

A couple of months ago, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, there was a lot of discussion of this.  A full range of opinions from those like the doctor to those who suggested that somehow God willed this event were expressed.

Some people deal with this question by explaining it away—nothing is really bad.  It’s just that we don’t have enough knowledge.  If we knew all we would see that really it wasn’t evil at all, just shadows that add depth to a beautiful picture.  In our world it is increasingly difficult to hold to that idea.

For others it is God’s will.  We may not understand but we must simply accept it.  Whatever will be will be.  It is punishment for sin.  He sends it for trial or testing.

More than 30 years ago, a Jewish Rabbi, Harold Kushner wrote a best selling book—Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.  Churches all over the country studied it.  His answer to the question was basically that God is limited in power and cannot prevent some things.

While it is true that many find comfort in some of these ideas the Bible says something different.

God is the creator and all powerful.  So, in one sense, it can be said that God is responsible for evil in that He created a world in which it is possible.  He gave human beings a choice and they made the wrong one.  Since all creation is woven together and interrelated, as the weaving of a fine fabric, those choices affect everybody and everything.  It is not just a spiritual flaw but even the natural order is affected.  Read the creation account about how humans’ relation to the earth is changed.  In short, we blew it and ruined everything.

But there is good news.  God did not give up, abandon creation, us.  He set in motion a plan to do it over, even better than before.  The key in this plan is Jesus Christ.  Through him God gives us a second chance to make the right choice—that is to trust God with our lives.

The good news is not that it is a cure for suffering and evil in this world but that God has a means for using suffering and evil to defeat itself (signified by the cross).  God’s great power is shown in, not that everything that happens is good but, that God uses even evil to carry out His great plan.

Evil and suffering are a reality in this life, but God is not pleased, in fact, suffers with us.  And He is doing something about it.  A new age has begun, a new creation described by John (Rev. 21:1-4).  The whole creation, Paul says, has been groaning, as in pains of childbirth…as we wait eagerly for…redemption.  In the meantime: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ…(Romans 8:35-39).

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