Why Does God Allow the Devil to Live? (and a Couple Other Good Questions)

A friend of mine posted these questions, which her children had asked her, on Facebook today.  They were such good questions, and they struck me as the kind of questions people are asking at every age–certainly not just in childhood. I humbly submitted my response (which were written for kids, mind you), and I share that now with you.

The questions:

  • Why did God just not send Satan to death?
  • Why didn’t God just restart the world?
  • God knew that Satan was going to keep doing bad stuff so why didn’t He just put him in a cage or something?
  • Why did God create Satan if He knew he’d do bad things?

My response:

The Bible answers these questions, but not always exactly in the way we would like! There are three perspectives the Bible offers to the question.

First, God is God, and His ways are not our ways. We know He is good, but He is also WAY smarter than we are (obviously! He’s GOD!). Romans 9:20 says “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” In other words, at some point we just have to trust Him, that He knows what He’s doing!

Second, God is so GOOD, that He has a plan to make everything work out for good. He has already planned it out ahead of time. He has even planned it so that, when bad people or spirits (like the devil) choose to do evil things, God makes those bad things work out for good in the end. That’s pretty amazing, right? Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers (who had been super evil to him), “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good!” The worst thing that ever happened was when the Son of God, who had NEVER done ANYTHING wrong, was killed. Satan probably thought he had won–that he had beaten God! But God used that terrible sin to save all His people! The joke’s on the devil, because Jesus wins every time!

Third, we can have peace about these questions, the more we get to know Jesus. In Philippians 4:7, God tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The more we live with God, trusting in Jesus, following the Holy Spirit who lives inside God’s children, the better we feel about life, and God’s control over the world. The Bible says (in Romans 1:17) that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel (the good news about Jesus) “from faith for faith.” In other words, when we trust in Jesus, God gives us His Holy Spirit who helps us trust in Jesus more and more and more.

So to summarize it…

  1. God knows what He’s doing… even though we don’t!
  2. God’s plan is not just to make a good world, but to bring about a good world in which good completely wins the victory over evil. God will bring every bad thing that the evil devil does around for good. Take that, Devil!
  3. God will help you understand and trust Him more and more–even when you don’t totally get it, because He’s always with you!

Catechism Qs 3-4

How many Persons are in the Godhead?

Three!

Who are the Persons in the Godhead?

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened. Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove.  A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him.”

Matthew 3:16-17 (NIrV)

May the grace shown by the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. May the love that God has given us be with you. And may the sharing of life brought about by the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIrV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit….

Matthew 18:19 (NET)

Going back to the early years of this American experiment, there was a growing concern around the issue of diversity. The first settlers to arrive here from the Old World were English, but it did not take long for a large number of German immigrants to arrive. The Americans of English descent, then, began to worry that their anglo culture would be overcome by the norms, traditions, and religion of the Germans. It was a question of, how will this country achieve a sense of unity amidst all this diversity. Of course, there were two other people groups on the scene–namely the Native Americans and African-Americans–and it could be argued that the anglos did not exactly incorporate these two groups very well (but that is a discussion for another time).

Today, the question of unity amidst diversity has not gone away. In many ways it has intensified. And the question is relevant on every level, from a global scale (how will refugees from Syria integrate into Western culture?) down to our own homes (how will my son who wants to watch “Ninja Turtles” get along with his sister who is dying to watch “Strawberry Shortcake?”)

In the Bible, the question of unity and diversity is solved. And the answer comes in the very nature of who God is. The Scriptures present God to us as one God, ever-existing in three Persons. These are not three “personalities,” as though God were schizophrenic, but actual, distinct Persons. And yet God is one.

So, Christianity is monotheistic, believing in the one true God. Yet the one God has revealed to us as a Trinity–a tri-unity or “three-one-ity.” So there it is: God, the foundation of reality, in whom we all live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28) is united-in-diversity. The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. And these three are one.

If your children are toddlers, do not expect them to grasp this concept (as an adult, do you grasp it?!). It is enough for now that they know that there is one true God, and there are three persons in the “Godhead,” or divine nature. And this basic doctrine can be the foundation upon which you can build into your kids the complementary truths that (1) different does not automatically mean bad, and (2) it’s good to be united around what really matters.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is essential for understanding how the Church, which is a diverse bunch if ever there was one(!), can be one family–and how a family can love each other, even if its members are not all the same.

How does the Doctrine of the Trinity affect the way you see the world? Let me know.

Catechism Q2: Is there more than one true God?

Is there more than one true God?

No!

Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIrV)

I wanted you to understand that I am the one and only God. Before me, there was no other god at all. And there will not be any god after me.

Isaiah 43:10b (NIrV)

You are my witnesses. Is there any other God but me? No! There is no other Rock. I do not know even one.

Isaiah 44:8b (NIrV)

The Bible makes it clear, over and over again, that there is one God. There is one great King who sits on the universe’s throne. Sure, there are many false claimants to God’s throne–many who are called “gods”–but there is only one true God. In a way, this makes Christianity a very simple faith. And it sets Christianity against a litany of other religious options, such as…

  • Polytheism–(ancient paganism and modern Hinduism) teaches that there are many gods and spirits, who must be appealed to for different needs. However the Bible teaches one God, who supplies all our needs.
  • Henotheism (ancient regional religions and similar to Mormonism) teaches that there are many gods, but only one “for us.” Yet the Bible says that there is only one God, and He is God of all, and must be worshiped by all.
  • Pluralism (modern, Western political correctness) teaches that all views of God are equally valid. However, the Bible teaches that there is only one correct view of God, and that is the view He Himself reveals to us.
  • Gnosticism and Arianism (practiced in the first few centuries A.D. and similar to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe) teach that there is one high God, and at least one created, demi-god under Him. Yet the Bible teaches that there is only One deserving of the title “God,” and that is the uncreated God, the Lord, the Creator of everything.

Whether or not someone subscribes to one of the religions mentioned above, our modern world is filled with false gods–as my son Cubby and I call them, “pretend gods.” Scripture calls them idols.

An idol–a pretend god–is not just something you bow down in front of. Tim Keller defines an idol this way:

It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

We are tempted to give our hearts over to false “gods” every day. That’s why this basic, biblical truth, summed up in just one short word, is so important: “Is there more than one true God? No!

Frame (& Settecase) on Education

John M. Frame, in Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction” (Presbyterian & Reformed: Phillipsburg, 1994), writes:

One of the more unfortunate repercussions of America’s distorted view of “the separation of church and state” is that the public school children are able to hear advocacy of every system of thought except those that are arbitrarily labeled ‘religious.’ Who is to say that the truth might not be found in, or even limited to, one of these religious positions? Is it even remotely fair, in terms of freedom of thought and speech, to restrict public education to allegedly secular viewpoints? Is this not brainwashing of the worst kind?

While it’s not possible to advocate for every worldview extant in the world, it doesn’t really seem fair to exclude worldviews solely because the department heads have decided they fit into the category of “Religion,” does it?

Where does that distinction come from, anyway? Is anyone seriously going to argue that Atheistic Communism does not have all the trappings of religion, or that radical Islam does not meet the definition of “worldview?”

Christian parents need to remain vigilant as to what our kids are learning “out there,” and we must prepare to address Christianity’s conflict (and overlap) with all the worldviews our children may encounter, whether religious or “secular.”

As a Christian, your Lord, Jesus Christ, has all authority in heaven and on earth. Because that is true, you can be confident that the Bible (the fountainhead of the Christian worldview) has answers to all the questions and inconsistencies posed by the other worldviews. Is it arrogant to think that your worldview is the only totally correct worldview? Yes–but only if you invented it yourself. But you didn’t invent it yourself. You got it (and get it) from God. And you can trust Him to tell you the truth.

Here are a few Bible verses about that to chew on:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

Now go tear down some ideological strongholds for your kids! Unless you trust their public schoolteachers to do it for you.