By Curtis D. Fee
Joseph Stalin was responsible for the loss of millions of lives during his twenty-five-year rule of the Soviet Union. Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist, torturing and killing thousands in the process. Adolf Hitler instigated World War II and engineered the Holocaust as the dictator of Nazi Germany. Osama Bin Laden killed thousands of Americans on 9/11. Pol Pot oversaw the murders of more than a million people in Cambodia as the leader of the Khmer Rouge. Does evil exist in the world?
Certainly, men (and women alike) over the course of history have committed evil acts, but why? What is the motivation for their barbarity? If God is sovereign, then why does He allow evil to exist? As the Creator of all things, is God then also the creator of evil, or does evil exist only as the absence of good? Such questions have existed for centuries, and many answers have been offered by a range of sages. Let us start at the beginning. Well, at least shortly after the beginning, with a tree in a garden.
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not cat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, NKJV). One simple command. Not a codex. Not complicated. God introduced free will to the human race by giving Adam a solitary dietary restriction. Adam and his race, given the ability to choose obedience or disobedience, can demonstrate their love for God, not as automatons, but as beings created in the image of God. Once Adam’s sparkling incisors pierced the flesh of that forbidden fruit, sin entered into the world (Romans 5:12) and with it the deluge of consequences (one of which happened to be a Deluge), but the potential of sin was latent in the command of prohibition.
The conundrum is that God knew. God knew Adam would disobey, yet created him. To what degree then is God Himself culpable for the evil that exists in the world? God can be guilty only of loving us so much that the risk was worth the reward. The evil that exists in the world is not of God’s design, yet God is able to use even evil for His purpose. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, God turned the jealous actions of siblings into a means of preserving an entire family and nation (Genesis 50:20). When Pharaoh refused to release his Israelite workforce. God turned that rebellion into one of the most remarkable deeds of deliverance. When the Jewish leaders convinced the ruthless Romans to execute a Galilean carpenter because of insurrection. God turned their hatred into the defining act of the greatest love that a person can demonstrate (John 15:13). Grace triumphs over grief every time, and neither exists without the power of humanity to freely choose.
Suffering screams loudly for logical explanations. We fill our bodies with the poison called chemotherapy if we believe that the cancerous cells will be eradicated. We submit to the surgeon’s scalpel and the painful recovery process if we are convinced that, as a result, our heart will function at a healthier level. Discomfort, even self- or medically-induced, is bearable if there is a rational cause for its origin. But, what happens when the Divine Physician does not fully disclose the results of His remedy? Please understand that God does not cause the evil any more than the doctor initiates the sickness. So, we ask, even demand, to have an answer to why our brethren betray us. How does the rebellion of my teenage son play a part in God’s redeeming process? How does the hurt that I feel from my husband’s hatred help me understand divine love? If God would simply show us the chart and the data points and help us to make sense of the suffering, we could endure it. But when He responds, �Just trust me,” we storm out the office door eagerly looking for a second opinion, hopefully, a logical one.
Job may have wrestled with the same questions. “If God loves me, then why on a single day do the Sabeans steal five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred female donkeys? Why does the fire of God (yes, God) fall from heaven and burn up the seven thousand sheep? Why do the Chaldeans form three bands and take three thousand camels, killing the servants in the process? And why does a natural force, a great wind, come from across the wilderness and strike the four corners of the house and fall on the young people, killing my seven sons and three daughters?” (See Job 1:6-19.) To which God, instead of giving a tidy satisfactory answer, poses his own seventy-four questions to Job. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Have you commanded the morning since your days began? … Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? … Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light? … Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail?” (Job 38:4, 12, 16-19, 22, NKJV).
More questions provided than answers when it conies to the role and reason of suffering in a broken world. Stammering, Job responds, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2, NKJV). Sure, God doubles the sheep, the camels, the oxen, and the female donkeys, but you don’t replace ten of your dead children by having ten more, even if your new daughters are the fairest in the land. (Job 42:15.)
Catastrophe happens. As we pick up the broken pieces in a world littered by the consequences of the wrong side of free will, we may find ourselves doubting God’s existence or at least His benevolence. However, faith compels us to believe that God is, and that God is good. (Hebrews 11:6.) Let the tyrants of this world do their very worst; God will respond by showing us His very best.
From, “Pentecostal Herald” /February 2009/Page 16-18, by Curtis D. Fee
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