Friday, September 15, 2017

The problem with the problem of evil

An open Bible being read

I’ve spent most of the last week trying to write something that makes sense of the problem of evil. By this, I don’t mean I’m trying to explain it away, or downplay it. I’m trying to figure out the best way to put it in perspective. The question around the problem of evil looks something like this:

How can evil exist if God is as all-powerful and good as He claims to be? The solutions provided usually look like these:

  • God is willing to prevent evil, but is unable to.
  • God is able to prevent evil, but is unwilling to.
  • God is willing and able to prevent evil, but chooses not to.

Basically, as the argument goes, if God really was as powerful and good as we claim he is, he should just get rid of evil right now. There’s no reason for him to leave it in existence—in fact, there’s no reason for it ever to have existed in the first place! And if he won’t, well, is he really even a God we should worship?

That’s the (probably simplistic version of the) logic. On the surface, it’s pretty compelling. But it’s a problem for me. It’s a problem because I think it leaves out a fourth—and what might be the closest to biblical—answer. Here’s what I’m suggesting that answer is:

God is willing and able to defeat evil, and he has in Christ, he does in Christ, and he will in Christ. 

As much as our whys and what-ifs matter, we don’t have an answer to the question of why evil exists. We only know that it does. But we also know that God is the standard and source of all that is good. And he loves this world and the beings he’s created. So at every moment, he is continually showering grace on us, allowing us to see at least some forms of evil for what they are. But to a greater degree, God has already decisively defeated evil, and he did it through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He continues to defeat evil as he works in and through his people, the Church. And he will definitively defeat evil when Christ returns to make all things new.

In the meantime, although we don’t know the specifics, we have to lean on his character. We have to trust that God is actually good and really does seek the good of all who love him according to his purposes (Rom. 8:28). And we hope. We long for the day when evil will be no more. Because someday, it really will be.

In Christ, God has defeated evil. In Christ, he does defeat evil. In Christ he will defeat evil. And because of that, we will all rejoice.

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