Jesus and the Problem of Evil

By Kevin Crispo

You will inevitably experience suffering and loss. As Stephen King said, “The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.” And when you feel the sharpness of those teeth, you might start asking questions. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “How can God allow gratuitous suffering?”

There is nothing wrong with such questions. The presence of faith is not measured by the absence of questions. It is measured by the presence of obedience.

Yet how do we make sense of the many facets of evil? How do we respond to those who say that the existence of evil is incompatible with the existence of God?

Here is how the problem is usually stated:
1. A good God would destroy evil.
2. An all-powerful God could destroy evil.
3. Evil is not destroyed.
4. Therefore, there cannot be a good and all-powerful God.

The Way Things Ought to Be:
In order to state that something is not how it ought to be, you must first know how it ought to be. That is the nagging stone in the shoe of secular ethics. If God does not exist, how can you know what a perfect world would look like? You cannot claim that this world is imperfect without a perfect standard by which you can know this. You cannot argue that a line is crooked unless you know what a straight line is.

C. S. Lewis said that moral disagreements demand objective standards. When you say that one person’s moral ideas are better than someone else’s ideas, you are comparing them both to an objective standard. You are saying that one idea conforms to that standard more than the other does.

That is why the existence of evil testifies to the existence of God. As William Lane Craig said:
1. If God doesn’t exist, then objective moral values don’t exist.
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, objective moral values exist.
4. Therefore, God exists.

Anyone can recognize the content of morality. But what’s the basis of morality? Ethical systems that refuse to acknowledge God cannot fully explain why humans have intrinsic worth, unalienable rights, and moral obligations.

The Euthyphro Dilemma
Atheists often respond to the moral argument for God by using a form of the “Euthyphro dilemma.” It is usually framed like this: Is an action good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

If something is good only because God says so, that means God defines goodness based on whims rather than principles. For example, if God were to say that stealing, rape, and torturing babies were “good,” would they be good? If so, then God’s decision to call something good is arbitrary. If something is good only because

God says so, then He is not using objective facts or principles to guide His decisions. God’s commandments are arbitrary if He has no reasons for them.

However, if God has reasons for His commandments, if He tells us to do something because it is good, then He is recognizing and instructing us to follow objective moral facts. He is, in that scenario, complying with an external standard. If God has reasons for His commands, then His reasons rather than His commands are what make actions either moral or immoral. If that is the case, then good can theoretically exist apart from God. And if good can exist apart from God, then we cannot find fault with anyone who holds a system of moral conduct that has no reference to God.

Does God have valid reasons for His commands? Some say that God gave a commandment against rape because such an action will cause unjustifiable harm to a person. If that is true, then the harm (and not the command) is what makes rape immoral. Therefore, rape would be just as wrong without God.

Either God has no reasons for calling something right or wrong, or He is indebted to a higher standard and therefore is not sovereign. That is the dilemma.

In response, the Christian can show that the dilemma is false. Gregory Koukl explained it this way:

There are not two options, but three.

The Christian rejects the first option, that morality is an arbitrary function of God’s power. And he rejects the second option, that God is responsible to a higher law. There is no law over God.

The third option is that an objective standard exists (this avoids the first horn of the dilemma). However, the standard is not external to God, but internal (avoiding the second horn). Morality is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good. His commands are not whims, but rooted in His holiness.

Could God simply decree that torturing babies was moral? “No,” the Christian answers, “God would never do that.” It is not a matter of command. It is a matter of character.

A Nearsighted Argument
The argument that God and evil cannot coexist is nearsighted. It ignores both the Cross (I Corinthians 1:1825) and the future (Revelation 21:1-8). In contrast, the Christian believes that since God is good and all-powerful, He became a sinless man who died for the sins of the world and will destroy all evil when He returns.

While we may not understand our present sufferings, the Incarnation and the plan of redemption involve actions that only a good God would accomplish, and only an omnipotent God could accomplish.

Thus, the Christian’s reasoning looks like this:
1. God is good and desires to defeat evil.
2. God is all-powerful and is able to defeat evil.
3. Evil is not yet defeated.
4. Therefore, God will one day defeat evil.

The existence of evil is compatible with the goodness and omnipotence of God when we consider that God may have morally sufficient reasons�that may be unknown to us�for allowing evil to exist in this present world.

Although the problem of evil is one of the greatest objections to the existence of God, paradoxically, it is one of the strongest arguments for His existence. Without God, the concept of evil is unintelligible.

Jesus Is the Answer
While God’s character is descriptive of morality, morality is prescriptive for us. It is how Christ acted, and it is how we ought to act.

But not everyone sees it like that. Some insist that individuals or societies decide what is right and wrong for themselves and themselves only. They say, “What is true for you may not be true for me.”

That notion, however, is self-refuting. If you claim that morality is a matter of opinion and nothing is true for everyone, then why should everyone accept that particular opinion as true? And if good and evil are just matters of opinion, then the question of “How can God allow evil?” degenerates to “How can God allow something I disagree with?”

If I believe that Jesus is God and you believe that He is not, we cannot both be right. Opposite views and contradictions cannot all be true at the same time and in the same way, because truth is exclusive and corresponds with reality.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is the only way to salvation and the final answer to the problem of evil. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

From, “Pentecostal Herald”/February 2009/Page 41-42, by Kevin Crispo

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