This topic has come up a couple times in recent days, so I wanted to just bang out a few thoughts on it.
What follows is not a full, scholarly treatment on Problem of Evil (in any of its various philosophical formulations). However, I hope it might be helpful to you, the next time someone poses this question to you.
I’m happy to get any feedback on this–and certainly let me know if you are able to use it in a spiritual conversation!
Why does the all-powerful, perfectly good God allow evil in the world?
- God is good and the ultimate standard for what can be defined as good. Without God, there is no way of accounting for good.
And evil is the opposite of good, so there is no way to account for evil if you don’t already know what good is.
Therefore, unless you believe in God (as He has revealed Himself in the Bible) you can’t say anything meaningful about evil. So we have to start there.
- If God allows evil to happen in the world (and He does), then there must be a good reason behind it. The perfectly-good God of the universe is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28-30).
In this world or any other, evil can never ultimately “win.”
- God does allow evil–both natural “evil” and evil committed by evil beings (humans and evil spirits). We see this in Scripture and in life.
- There are biblical examples of God intending and even predestining evil people to freely commit evil actions, in order that God’s surpassing goodness might be worked out in the end. For examples, consider Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery (explained in Genesis 50:20) and the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus (explained in Acts 1:16-17; 4:27-28).
God is not the author of evil–He is light, and there is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). However, He is sovereign over everyone and everything, the righteous and the wicked, and He is free to use it all according to His good purposes. He uses good people to make good decisions and bring about in good outcomes (often far better than was even intended!); He also uses evil people to make sinful decisions and result in (ultimately) good outcomes. How incredibly frustrating that must be for the devil! All his evil schemes keep being turned around against him to bring about good in the end!
Take, for example, the worst sin that was ever committed. The unjust torture and crucifixion of the only perfect man to ever live–God Himself in the flesh–turned out to be part of God’s plan to carry out the greatest rescue act in history.
Every time the Lord does this, the good He brings about far surpasses the evil that was worked, which, while still being authentically wrong, pales in comparison to the glorious greatness of God’s goodness.
- To keep from making this any longer, let’s summarize: God allows evil in the world, in order to demonstrate that He is so good that even evil cannot upset His good, pleasing and perfect will.
- When the redemption of Jesus becomes a reality in your life, He gives you a completely new perspective on the evil in the world and in your life. Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit to be with you and comfort you during your suffering.
Even in your hour of death, He will be there to strengthen you and to welcome you into Christ’s kingdom, where evil is finally overcome and only goodness remains. Again, the worst thing becomes the best thing. That’s how incredibly good God is.
Trying to Do It Yourself?
The Bible says that God is the one who brings good out of evil and calamity in the world. However, if you are like me, you naturally like to be the one in control. You would rather shape and direct your own life, but you and I cannot possibly work everything out for good. That is a God-sized task, and we can only get that from Him. And the Bible says we can only get to Him through Jesus (John 14:6).
If you don’t yet know Jesus, you can meet Him right now! Repent–give up trying to bring about your own good in your life (how’s that been working for you anyway?), and trust in Him. Claim Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (the ultimate good-out-of-evil story), and He will save you (Romans 10:9-11).
Want to know more? Looking for more resources to use in spiritual conversations? Got Bible questions? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.