Monday, September 15, 2008

The Existence of Evil

The atheist poses many a query concerning the nature & existence of God. Most commonly, they center on the basic concern “Why does a good God allow evil to exist?” But as they endeavor to challenge the existence of God, or at least indict God as being less than good, they pass over the much more poignant & personal probe “Why does a good God allow mankind to exist, when man commits so much evil?

The response the first question is simplistic- obviously, evil exists because man exists & perpetrates it. The atrocities of Auschwitz occurred because men consciously perpetrated them. The Cambodian genocide of the 1970s’ was not committed by an unseen force; it clearly had direct human causes. Even today, colossal evils go unchecked in many places- most notably Darfur. It’s man’s inhumanity to man, as the textbooks call it, but as it can be attested that there have been major events such as these across the entire span of man’s recorded existence, it should be seen as more typical than atypical behavior. As such activity would appear to be normative for humans, maybe it should be re-termed “man’s humanity to man”.

And the fact that the Darfurian tragedy continues to play out makes the rest of the world complicit in its evil. If we see a crime taking place & just obliviously carry on with our day, we give our consent to the deed & are therefore guilty of collusion. Most of us are appalled at the evils of Auschwitz in retrospect, but at the time it apparently didn’t bring great conviction- for Allied forces had intelligence on the death camps, but chose to allow them to continue operating unfettered. At the very least, they could have disrupted their ghastly operations by bombing the rail lines leading to them. This speaks to the evil lurking within even the hearts of the (comparatively) “good guys”. We see “bad” even in the hearts of the “good”. We may say that we were good because we chose to fight against the agreeably evil regimes of the Axis powers, but truly, no Allied power arose to fight the demonstrably evil Axis powers until they themselves were threatened. We, as a populace, were largely oblivious to the plight of suffering Asians, Africans, & Europeans until Pearl Harbor. It was much more self-preservation than altruism. As an ancillary to the mindset that would pose “Why does a good God allow evil to exist?”, we should in turn ask “If man is so good, why does he allow evil to exist?”

The hard fact is that man is not so good. We truly are not anywhere near as good as we think we are. When atheists, agnostics, or even Christians are befuddled by the supposed riddle of “Why does a good God allow evil to exist?”, they demonstrate an inherent proclivity to judge others without judging themselves, in violation of Matthew 7:1-5. The point of Jesus’ words here is that our ability to rightly judge the measure of another’s wrongs is constrained by our inability to judge evil at its closest proximity- within our very own soul. In other words, how can we rightly judge from afar (the heart of another), if we are incapable of rightly judging that which is very near?

The prisons are filled with people who have little, if any, conviction concerning their crimes. The petty thief thinks himself to be good for not being an armed robber, the armed robber thinks himself good for not hurting anyone, the murderer thinks himself good because he only killed one person, the rapist thinks himself good because, “you know, she was really asking for it”… the problem is the convicted have so little conviction concerning their crimes against humanity. But this attitude is not constrained to prison populations. How many of us have overlooked our own sin in the mad rush to judge another? I know I have been passed by the guy doing 90 MPH in a 70 MPH zone & indignantly thought “What a nut.” Sometimes I would be pleased to come upon him pulled over by a police officer a few miles later & would be contented as I thought “He got what he deserved”. But, thankfully, God would bring conviction to me as His Spirit asked my heart “But when will you get what you deserve?” God reminded that I was in fact doing 80 MPH when he passed doing 90 MPH. I had to slow down when I saw the officer too. While his sin was clearly greater than mine, I was most certainly a transgressor, worthy of punishment, as well. This is what Jesus meant when He said “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” A man blind to his own depravity cannot rightly decry the depravity of another.

Psalms 7 “A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, (2) lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. (3) O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, (4) if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, (5) let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. Selah (6) Arise, O LORD, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. (7) Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. (8) The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. (9) Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous-- you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! (10) My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. (11) God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (12) If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; (13) he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. (14) Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. (15) He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. (16) His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. (17) I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.”

David responds to evil intent of his pursuers by asking for God to be involved. He wants God to intervene & cease the evil being perpetrated against him. But in verses 3-5, David is well aware of the possibility of evil within his own actions as well; for that reason he seems to have the understanding he would also be caught up in the very judgment he desires for others. He clearly has judged his own actions in regards to this situation, & considers his own integrity first. But just as clearly, David’s sins are easily witnessed in the larger scope of his life. He was not confidently calling for God’s final judgment of His life overall, for he knows he has no integrity in that larger scope. He simply desires a righteous Judge to intervene & make a judgment as to the improper persecution he feels he is suffering. He is not asking any obtuse philosophical questions about why evil generally exists; he knows it exists, & first of all wants to repent of it within himself.

The atheist wags his finger at God for His supposed delay in judging evil, but is ignorant of the truth of the matter. This riddler enjoys his mock trial of God, so ignorant of the only thing staying the Lord of all from calling the real trial into order- the one where the riddler is the defendant- is God's awesome mercy. Man always has a ready indictment for the evil of others instead of himself, & the atheist is only taking this blind, hypocritical insolence a step further when he accuses God.

God’s desire for mercy all that restrains His “whetted sword” & His “readied bow” of fearsome judgment.

The atheist desires to judge God, but two things are required to make a right judgment concerning another- having understanding concerning the nature of sin that only comes by contrasting the standard of God’s Word with the deplorable inner reality & a repentant attitude concerning said reality. While there are many who hesitate at the doorway of repentance, most in the world never accept the validity of step 1: accepting God’s standard as the standard for judging what evil actually is. We lie to our bosses, cheat (& speed) if we think we won’t get caught, fornicate, & abide passively while all manner of evil goes on around us, yet moan about a God who allows evil. What hypocrites we are! If God ever decided put a stop to evil, Jesus would be returning to completely barren world, for no one would survive past the age of two!

The Lord declares to all “lower courts” of judgment:

Job 40:8 "Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?

If the riddler’s convictions regarding evil began with an honest scrutiny of the evil actively lurking within himself, his question would morph into the most poignant & personal probe: "Why does God allow me to exist, given that I have done wrong?" Try as we might, we cannot divorce the question of evil’s existence from the question of our own existence. Again, it is quite simply apparent that evil exists because we exist. All have sinned & fallen short of God’s standard of sinlessness, so that begs the real question: “Why does a good God allow me to live after my first evil thought or deed?


Our focus would thereafter not be entranced upon the alleged inactivity of God regarding evil, but upon our own inactivity regarding our own evil.

I say “alleged inactivity” because God in fact has been very active. Those that think God to be inactive in regards to evil show that they have never accepted the splendor of the Person nor the cross of Christ.

John 3:14-21 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (19) And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (20) For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (21) But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

Two thousand years ago, God was so deeply concerned about the problem of evil in the world that He Himself came down to deal with it face to face- literally. He confronted evil Himself time and again, yet, unlike us, it never was able to enter into His nature. This proved that Jesus alone was worthy to take on the punishment for our every evil deed.

Romans 8:24-28 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (26) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (27) And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (28) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Note the present tense language here, praise God, He did not cease interceding in man’s affairs with Jesus’ departure; no, God gives us His Spirit as a daily intercession against the influence of evil in our midst.


Even So... said...

Why does a good God allow evil? It is because He is merciful. If He were to institute instant justice none of us would make it through the day.

When we say the God has all power, we mean all, ALL, ,A-L-L power...he is the Creator, but also the sustainer, and yes the allow-er, but also the forgiver...

Truly an excellent teaching Steve...

MrsEvenSo... said...

I look forward to continuing this study on Sunday. Your diligence and perseverance is truly appreciated. Thanks Steve!

Dan said...

As I have already told you Steve, this is a great message and I have learned and grown from this. Thanks again for all the work that you do in prep for sunday school and Diamond Ridge. You are a blessing to us all.