Summary: 1. Evil is more than just the absence of God. 2. Evil exists because God created moral beings. 3. Evil is coming to an end.
What’s Wrong with the World?
Here’s how the argument goes. “Did God create everything that exists?” the cynic asks. The Christian answers, “Yes.” The cynic goes on, “Well, if he created everything that exists, where did evil come from? How can a good and loving God create a world where “natural” disasters often take an extensive toll on human life and suffering? Why are there famines and floods, illness and death. Since God created everything that exists, and evil exists, therefore God created evil. Consequently, God must be evil. The only other option is that there is no God, and everything, including what we think of as evil, is mere chance and happenstance — a cosmic accident that has no rhyme or reason.” Those who use this argument want to say that either there is no God or, if there is a God, he is evil. Another possibility is that he exists, and he would like to do something about the evil in the world, but he is not powerful enough to do it.
These are important questions which need to be discussed. When a tragedy occurs I often hear people say, “Why would God do something like this?” or “Why would God allow this to happen?” Good people, Christian people, ask these questions, not just atheists or skeptics. How could God allow something like the Holocaust to happen? Why didn’t he stop the terrorists on 9/11 since it was in his power to do so? And why doesn’t he do something about the terrorism that is spreading around the world today? Why did God allow the tsunamis in the east and the hurricanes here in the west? Why do we have it so good and many parts of the world live in such poverty? Why are our babies healthy and well fed when in other places mothers hold starving babies until they die? People want the answer to questions such as, “Why did my marriage fail? Why did my father abuse me? Why did my child die? Why did as many as 1,800 people die in a mudslide six years ago?” What is wrong with the world, and why is there evil in it?
We need to think carefully about this, and so let’s first consider this thought: Evil is more than just the absence of good. A friend recently sent me a metaphorical story about a professor who was trying to prove that God does not exist. He was using the classic argument I referred to in the beginning. The professor said, “Did God create everything? Does evil exist? If so, then God created evil, and since we are what we do, God must be evil. And since Christianity presents God as good and loving, the Christian faith must be a myth.” One of the students in the class replied: “Professor, may I ask a question? Does cold exist?” “Of course,” came the reply, “You can feel it.” “But professor, the law of physics says that cold does not exist, it is simply the absence of heat.” Again the student asked the professor, “Do you believe that darkness exists?” “O course,” he answered again, “We have all experienced it.” The student responded, “But isn’t darkness merely the absence of light? You can study light, measure the weight and speed of the particles of light. You can use a prism to break light apart and study the wave lengths of its various colors, but you can’t study darkness, because it is simply the absence of light. In the same way, isn’t evil simply the absence of God? Is it not just like darkness and cold, a word that we have created to describe the absence of God? God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God present in his heart and does not want him in the world. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
It is an interesting illustration, and it does have some truth in it, but it can also be misleading. For this reason: evil is not a negative or passive force. It does not exist in a vacuum. Evil is real, as we have been seeing in the headlines this week.
When God created the world, he stepped back and looked at it all and the Bible says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:3). The creation which God made was good, but something has spoiled it. As the Scripture today said, the creation was subjected to frustration; it is in bondage to decay, and it is groaning as if it were experiencing the pain of childbirth. And we are groaning too as we wait for God to give the final answer and deliver the world from evil.