Does God Have a Good Purpose for All Evil?

Many Christians and non-Christians, alike, struggle with why God would allow so much seemingly senseless evil in the world. When a child is buried in the waters of a tsunami, how can there possibly be any good purpose for that? Can’t an all-powerful God do better?

I used to ask these questions myself, but over the years I’ve learned that even though my heart wants to impugn the character of God, my mind tells me that I’m just wrong. Why am I wrong?

The whole argument stands or falls on whether I can prove that God knowingly allows some evil that has no good purpose. But that is impossible. Norman Geisler explains, in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question, why this argument fails:

Not only can no mortal assert with confidence that there can be no good purpose for some suffering (because we do not know it), but we can affirm with certainty that God does know the good purpose for all suffering and other evils. Why? Because God is omniscient, and an all-knowing mind knows everything.

Further, God is omnibenevolent, and an all-good God has a good purpose for everything He does or permits. Hence we know for sure that there is a good purpose for all suffering – including the apparently unjust or innocent kinds – even if we do not know it.

We, as finite human beings, cannot possibly hope to ever know the purpose for all instances of evil and suffering we see, but God, as infinitely knowing, can and does.

Let’s summarize this reasoning:

1. That we don’t know a good purpose for evil does not mean there is none.

2. An all-good God knows a good purpose for everything (including evil).

a. Some evil seems to us to have no good purpose.

b. But an all-good God has a good purpose for everything.

c. So even evil that seems to have no good purpose does have a good purpose.

3. Therefore, there is a good purpose for all suffering, even that which we cannot now explain.

We can be mad at God for allowing certain kinds of evil, but in the end we just don’t have the information He does. When we take our 4-year old to the doctor to receive vaccination shots, she is convinced that there is no good purpose for the suffering she is feeling when that needle enters her skin. But, as her mother knows, there is a good purpose for that needle. The child simply must trust her mother, and we must trust God.

  • “The whole argument stands or falls on whether I can prove that God knowingly allows some evil that has no good purpose. But that is impossible.”

    Yes, that is impossible. Not, that’s not the argument.

    You don’t start with the God assumption and then see if you can prove that God allows gratuitous evil; you start with the good and bad we see in the world and see if that points to an all-good, loving god who actively takes part in our lives.

    The evidence is pretty clear.

  • Tom Torbeyns

    Not all evil has a use. That is Calvinist horror twist of Scriptures imho.