Summary: God is not the author of evil and suffering in the world. Evil and suffering are consequences of our actions. Original Sin.
“God must not be good because He created evil.”
There is no question that our world is filled with evil and suffering. We come into contact with it every day of our lives and are forced to deal with it on an emotional, intellectual and practical level. How can we believe that God is both good and omnipotent in the face of evil and suffering? There are disasters, situations and human actions which are destructive to humankind yet God, whom we believe has the power to thwart such events, seems to do nothing to prevent them. It is not surprising, then, that people have a difficult time reconciling this reality with the idea of an all good and all powerful God.
I firmly believe that God does not make people sick; God does not want people to suffer. We can see this by looking at the life of Jesus. He healed the sick. He cured people. He didn’t make them sick! Why, then, is there pain, suffering and so much evil in our world? There is no good or easy answer when tragedies occur, but, in order to understand, we need to examine the presence of pain, suffering and evil in light of our Judeo-Christian roots.
God created everything to be good. The Genesis account repeats this as God created each part of the universe. We hear, after God had accomplished each task of creation, “And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 25) Finally, at the end of the Creation account, (Genesis 1:31) “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
When we sinned, that creational goodness, that original perfection, was spoiled and our environment, our world, was tainted. St. Paul observed that, though we desire to do good, we fail to do it because of an inner tendency for evil. In Romans 7:15, he confesses that, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very things I hate.” Later, in verses 18-19, we hear him saying: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want, is what I do.” He finishes off in verse 20 by saying, “sin dwells within me.” The fact is, we live in a world where evil abounds. It is rampant throughout every aspect of creation. We are subject to the evil actions of people around us. Because the world was ever changed, we called this original sin.
Original sin, though, only makes sense when we consider God’s gift of free will to humanity. St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in North Africa, who lived from 354 to 430AD, was an influential philosopher and theologian who shaped our present Christian thought as well as our understanding of the scriptures. Augustine believed that God created us with free will, the ability to do good or evil. As a result, there is no assurance that we will not choose to do evil, as is seen in the Genesis account of the Fall. Remember, in that account, Satan did not cause Adam and Eve to sin but enticed them to sin. Both Adam and Eve, not just Eve as we have been incorrectly taught, surrendered to temptation. It is logically impossible, then, for God to have created free creatures and guaranteed that they would never do evil. If we were created free, God chooses not to stop evil. In essence, due to God’s choice of gifting us with free will, God relinquishes power, which is a direct consequence of giving us free will. Likewise, it would have been illogical for God to create a world in which God controlled the “evilness” or the “freeness,” for this would remove the gift of free will that had been given to us. Additionally, the existence of free will, without evil, is an illogical possibility. Even though we have the possibility to commit great evil, we also have the capacity to perform great acts of goodness.
Free will then, leads to the consequences of our behaviors and choices. When recognizing that we all have free will, we can then admit that God does not cause or allow sickness, disease, natural disasters or sufferings but that they are results of choices either we have made or those whom we have elected in government, made for us. Frequently, we abrogate our responsibility and look to blame another, like Adam and Eve did in Genesis. Are we truly comfortable in projecting our faults on another in order to free ourselves of culpability and do we, time after time, hear ourselves saying as Adam did, “she gave me the fruit of the tree” (Gen 3:12) or can we hear the Eve within us say, “the serpent tricked me?” (Gen 3:13)