Christianity and the Problem of Evil

Today’s Readings: Numbers 34-36; Psalm 59; 2 Corinthians 1-2

One of the most common objections that I hear to Christianity is that if God is truly sovereign (that is, in control of every detail of the universe), then how can He let evil come into the world? How could God, if He is good allow bad things to happen?

In the short time of this blog, the reality is that we cannot cover such a vast subject. Every aspect of theology comes into play with this question. So I hope that our 2 Corinthians 1 text helps produce some clarity around the issue of evil.

First, the bible makes a few assumptions throughout.

  1. God is totally good
  2. God is not the author of evil, indeed, He cannot be
  3. God is completely in control of all the details of the universe
  4. Evil/Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience (that is their choice to disobey God)

So Evil and Death entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and God allowed this disobedience to take place even though He is completely and totally good and in control of the universe and all within it.

That is the tension that the bible holds and that is the tension the bible, I think, doesn’t seek to resolve philosophically for us. Rather, the narrative reveals what God is going to do despite Evil and Death entering the world through Adam’s rebellion.

Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t think the bible gives us awesome and really solid clues to think out how philosophically how a good God could allow Evil and Death to enter His perfect universe.

  1. God gives human beings a will (that is the ability to exercise their deepest desires within the limits of the world He has provided for them)
  2. God does not manipulate or twist the arm of Adam or Eve’s will to incline them to do good or evil (God allowed their wills to be free to choose rebellion against Him or allegiance to Him)
  3. If this is true, even though God is completely good, God takes the risk (really it’s a risk God ultimately knows will end up in Adam and Eve rebelling) to create and bestow them with His image and likeness and crown them as His vice-rulers throughout the world He created for their own pleasure and for His glory.
  4. As a result, God, in His total and complete goodness, sends His one and only Son to pay the penalty for Evil and Death on the cross and rise from the dead so that human beings brought into His perfect world so that He could restore all who place their faith in Him into not only a perfect relationship with Himself, but also into a renewed earth for eternity.

That at least is the narrative story of how the bible deals with the issue of Evil and what God is going to do about it.

So, onto the issue of our 2 Corinthians 1 text.

God might allow Christians to suffer (sometimes as a consequence for their own Evil actions and also because of the fallout of living in an Evil and broken world).

But the catch is that God promises to not allow that suffering to be wasted.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor. 1:3-4

God promises to redeem our suffering. He uses the very Evil that has come upon us for the purpose of comforting others and caring for others in our broken world.

God has promised to deal with Evil ultimately in Christ. As Christians we affirm and believe this whole heartedly. But what does God promise to do with the Evil in the world while we wait for Jesus’ second coming, when He comes to judge the Evil in the world and renew all things?

God promises, in the meantime, to use Evil against Evil so that Christians might be agents of His redemption by comforting those who are broken and hurting just as we ourselves were (and often still are) broken and hurting.

Evil is a problem that God has dealt with and Evil is a problem that will be dealt with once and for all when Jesus comes back again. We live in the now but not yet.

Now we live in a time when God’s promised Deliverer has come and conquered Sin and Death.

Not yet, however, have we experienced the full effects of Jesus’ first coming. We will experience it when He comes again however.

Evil doesn’t win.

Jesus triumphed and continues to triumph as Christians allow God to use them to comfort those in the world who have been wounded and broken by the Evil that is so prevalent in the world.

So what does that require us to do?

First, pray that God would alleviate your suffering. God does not delight or desire for His children to suffer. It does not delight God that His people hurt and cry out to Him in pain. He hears our prayer and longs to relieve us of our afflictions.

Second, after that prayer you must pray that God would receive all the glory, that is that His name might be made famous throughout the earth, even if that means you must continue to suffer so that others might be comforted and see Jesus for who He truly is: our Savior and Lord.

Thirdly, continue to pray for strength to endure knowing that God never wastes your suffering. God invites His people into His solution for Evil by enabling us to comfort those who need it most: those who need spiritual comfort in coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

No one likes suffering and no one delights in it.

But may we be a people who learn to delight in the opportunities that we are given to speak into the brokenness of the world, having been empowered by our God to address the biggest questions that people can ask. We have the answers to life’s most important questions through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Monday’s readings: Deuteronomy 1-2; Psalm 60; 2 Corinthians 3-4:6

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