Category Archives: Evil, Pain, and Suffering

Why Does God Not Give Justice to the Wicked?

Some wicked people do receive justice while they live. Think of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, as recent examples. They both were forced into hiding and died violent deaths. However, Job is correct that many sinful people seem to live a perfectly comfortable life and die peacefully.

If you are an atheist, the fact that evil people never face justice is a real problem for your worldview. Once a person dies, after all, there is no further chance for justice to be done. If you are a Christian, though, there is an afterlife and God promises that justice will be done.

So it is only in the Christian worldview that justice is guaranteed to be done for both the wicked and the righteous. God promises that each person will face the judgment seat and their thoughts and actions will be assessed by the Almighty Himself.   Whether a person receives justice during his earthly existence is, therefore, not the end of the story.

Commentary on Job 21

In the previous 20 chapters of the book of Job, Job’s three friends have argued that Job is being punished for sins he has committed. Their theology is simple: God always and immediately punishes the wicked and always and immediately blesses the righteous.

In chapter 20, Zophar summarizes this theology: “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.”

In chapter 21, Job answers Zophar. He starts in verses 1-3 by begging his “friends” to listen to him. Job requests that they stop mocking him for a moment and pay attention to what he has to say.

In verses 4-16, Job reminds his friends, first, of the horrible condition he is in. Then he begins to dismantle their faulty theology.  Job points out several facts about the wicked.  The wicked live to a ripe old age with their children. Their houses are secure, seemingly with no judgment from God.  The livestock of the wicked prosper, the wicked enjoy music, and the wicked even die in comfort. To top it off, they tell God to leave them alone! Contrary to Zophar’s theology, justice is not always and immediately meted out. Often the godless prosper and the godly perish.

On to verses 17-21. To Bildad’s claim that “the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out” (18:5) in death and that calamity and disaster are ready to overtake him (18:12), Job asks how often (three times in 21:17–18) do these things really happen? Theologian Roy Zuck, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, notes, “This so-called fate allotted by God’s anger to the wicked hardly fits the facts. Sinners are seldom blown away suddenly and easily like straw or chaff.”

In verses 22-26, Job reminds us that one man dies having lived a full and vigorous life, while another man dies having lived a life of bitterness and deprivation. Yet both men end up in the same place after they die. Zuck reminds us,

Wealth or health are not ways by which to judge a person’s character. One may be wicked, and die either young or old; or he may be godly, and die either young or old. These facts obviously conform more to reality than did the rigid view of Job’s three prattling prosecutors.

In verses 27-34, Job wonders how it is that his friends are unaware of these facts. Do they not speak to travelers who can tell them numerous stories about how the wicked never face justice for their crimes? No, the wicked are often carried to their grave by a massive funeral procession, and given great honor, because no one dare challenge them while they are alive. Job’s friends are fools and their theology is bogus.

Can There Be Good Without Evil?

Many people seem to think that good and evil are equal and opposite, and that good cannot exist without evil. In the Bible, God is the Good and Satan always represents evil. Are God and Satan equals?

The book of Job answers this question once and for all. God is clearly in command and Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission. God is the Creator and Satan is the creature, so they are not in any sense equal to each other.

God has always existed and Satan has not. Therefore, good existed before evil. Today evil exists along with good, but that is only for a limited time. The Bible promises that at the second coming of Jesus, evil will be quarantined so that all those who love God (the Good) will no longer have to live with those who reject God (and do evil). So, yes, there can be good without evil because evil is the result of finite creatures rejecting God (the Good).

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.

Will God Defeat Evil?

Many skeptics make the following argument:

1. If God is all-good, He would defeat evil.

2. If God is all-powerful, He could defeat evil.

3. But evil is not defeated.

4. Therefore, no such God exists.

Does this argument work? Not according to theologian Norman Geisler. In his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question, Geisler explains why this argument fails.

Now, in this form of the argument, it would appear the first two premises are true. Certainly being all-good, God wants to defeat evil. And if He is all-powerful (and can do whatever is possible to do), then there must be some way He can overcome evil without destroying freedom. If not, then why create free creatures to begin with? Why waste all of human history on a project He knows will fail?

Since God is omniscient (all-knowing), knowing “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), and since He has set aside a plan of redemption, including the death of His only Son (Revelation 13:8; Acts 2:23), and since He “chose us in Him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and since He infallibly predicts a victorious end of the world (Revelation 21–22; 1 Corinthians 15:25–28), then surely He has a plan that includes the defeat of evil without the destruction of freedom.

So what is wrong with the skeptic’s argument? The answer is found in premise 3.

The real problem then is in the third premise: “Evil is not defeated.” It has no time indicator on it. Since this is an argument in the present, it must be restated as follows:

1. If God is all-good, He would defeat evil.

2. If God is all-powerful, He could defeat evil.

3. But evil is not yet defeated.

4. Therefore, no such God exists.

When the argument is put in form, the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Evil may yet be defeated in the future. It simply does not follow that because God has not yet defeated evil He never will. To claim so is like saying that because a speaker has not yet come to a conclusion in his lecture he never will. Give him a chance. Listen to the whole thing. History is not over. Let’s wait to hear “the rest of the story.” We have no infallible knowledge of the future. Given who God is – keep in mind that He is all-powerful and all-good – we have every right to expect that He will defeat evil.

How Did Evil Arise in a Good Universe?

According to the Bible, an angel created by God (Satan or Lucifer) was the first creature to bring evil into the universe. But the question arises how this good creature, created by a good God, living in a good universe, could choose evil. God did not cause Satan to sin, so who caused Satan to sin?

Theologian Norm Geisler tackles this problem in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question. Geisler argues that there are only three options for who caused Satan to sin:

The best way to comprehend the basis of a free act is to examine the three possible alternatives. A free act is either uncaused, caused by another, or self-caused. That is, it is undetermined, determined by another, or self-determined.

No action can be uncaused (undetermined); that would be a violation of the law of causality (every event has a cause). Neither can a free act be caused by another; for if someone or something else caused the action, then it is not ours (not from our free choice) and we would not be responsible for it.

Hence all free actions must be self-caused, that is, caused by oneself. Now we can answer the question, “What caused Lucifer to sin?” No one did. He is the cause of his own sin. Sin is a self-caused action, one for which we cannot blame anyone or anything else. Who caused the first sin? Lucifer. How did he cause it? By the power of free choice, which God gave him. Thus God made evil possible by creating free creatures; they are responsible for making it actual.

So how did evil arise by free will?

1. A good creature (Lucifer),

2. With the good power of free will,

3. Willed the finite good of the creature (himself)

4. Over the infinite good of the Creator.

Geisler continues:

It is important to note that no evil need exist in order to will evil; for example, willing a lesser good can be an evil. Evil is created by a free person (oneself), and such a person does not have to participate in something outside of himself in order to be evil. The evil of willing oneself to take the place of God is an evil in itself. In fact, this is precisely what the Bible says about the first evil act of Lucifer: It was pride. . . .

Thus sin was born in the breast of an archangel in the presence of God. A stunningly beautiful and extremely powerful creature fell when he made himself, rather than God, the object of his adoration. God created only good things. One good thing He made was free will. A good being, with the good power of free will, chose to put his will over God’s. Who caused Lucifer to sin? No one else did – he was the cause of his own sin. Sin is a self-caused action, caused by oneself. Hence it is as meaningless to ask, “Who caused Lucifer to sin?” as it is to ask, “Who made God?” No one made God, the Unmade Maker, and Lucifer is the maker of his own sin.

Is Satan Totally Evil?

Many people mistakenly believe that while God is totally good, Satan, or the Devil, is totally evil. They are polar opposites of each other.

This idea, however, is false. Satan, while being totally evil in a moral sense, is not totally evil in a metaphysical sense. Theologian Norm Geisler explains the distinction in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question. Geisler writes:

The Bible speaks about Satan as “the evil one” (1 John 5:19) who is a liar by his very nature (John 8:44). Surely there is no good in Satan – is he not totally evil? Yes, he is completely evil in a moral sense, but not in a metaphysical sense. Just like fallen humans still have God’s image, even so Satan has the remnants of good that God gave to him as a created angel.

For example, Satan has good insofar as he is a creature of God, insofar as he has intelligence, and power, and free will. Of course, he uses all these God-given good powers to do evil; he is ever, always, irretrievably bent on evil. But this is only to say he is totally depraved morally, not that he is totally deprived of all creaturely good metaphysically.

God, on the other hand, is totally good, both metaphysically and morally. They are not opposites in a metaphysical sense. In fact, Satan could not even exist unless God created him. Evil is a corruption of good, a parasite. A personal agent who is totally and completely evil is, therefore, impossible.

What Is the Pantheist Answer to Evil?

The universal human experience of evil is a problem for all worldviews, not just Christianity. Philosopher Norm Geisler, in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Questionexplains that there are three main views on evil that come from the “big three” worldviews of pantheism, atheism, theism.

Pantheism affirms God and denies evil.

Atheism affirms evil and denies God.

Theism affirms both God and evil.

In a previous blog post, I explained why the existence of objective evil is a devastating problem for the atheist worldview, but why is the pantheist answer to evil also problematic? Geisler explains:

In general, pantheists believe God exists but deny the existence of evil. They believe God is good, God is All, and hence there is no evil. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, held this view, maintaining that “evil is an error of [the] moral mind.”

Most people, however, find it difficult to accept this answer. The old limerick summarizes their conundrum well:

“There was a Faith Healer of deal

Who said ‘Although pain isn’t real,

If I sit upon a pin,

And it punctures my skin,

I dislike what I fancy I feel!'”

So why is this a problem for the pantheist view?

In short, if evil is not real, then why does it hurt so badly? If pain, suffering, and death are not real, then how do we explain where the illusion came from? And why does everyone have it? Further, why is the illusion so persistent? Why can’t we make it go away?

When we wonder whether we are dreaming or awake, we can pinch ourselves. We know we have been dreaming because we wake up. But we don’t wake up from suffering, which always surrounds us and often invades us. We can tell an illusion because there is always a backdrop of reality by which we know it is an illusion. But evil is part of the backdrop of life itself. How then can it be illusory?

The pantheist is then left with claiming that the pervasive, universal phenomena of human suffering is unreal, an illusion. Rather than explaining what evil is, the pantheist has simply denied its existence. On top of that, I can guarantee that every person that claims evil and suffering are illusions, act every day as if they are real. The pantheist view of evil is simply unlivable and incoherent.

#9 Post of 2014 – Why Did God Create Adam and Eve if He Knew They Would Sin?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Some people wonder why God created human beings if he knew we would reject him and bring sin into the world.

The answer seems to be that God desired to have a relationship with creatures that would freely love him.  Only creatures with a moral conscience and an ability to freely make moral choices could have authentic relationships with God.  Rocks can’t love God, and neither can squirrels.

Unfortunately, it may be actually impossible for God to create free creatures like ourselves and not have some of them choose to reject Him.  Even though God knew that some people would freely reject him, He felt it was the worth the cost to give others the chance to freely love him.  This world is better than a world full of inanimate objects or robots who can’t freely choose.

What Is Evil?

We know that evil cannot exist without good. We know that evil is not the opposite of good, like yin and yang. But what exactly is evil?

Philosopher David Oderberg answers this question in an article entitled “The Metaphysics of Privation.” Oderberg first explains that evil is the absence of good.

But what is good? Oderberg writes that good is “a kind of fulfillment, the completion of some tendency of a thing.” If good is the fulfillment of a thing, then evil is the lack, or privation, of that fulfillment. Oderberg expands on the meaning of privation:

It is the absence of something on which some aspect of the world has what we might call a prior claim or title but where the claim or title need not be construed evaluatively. So, for example, if you have cooked me dinner, and I ask for a third helping of ice cream but you cannot give me any because you’ve run out, then in the technical sense of privation used here, my inability to have more ice cream is a privation, not a mere absence, because I had a prior desire for it.

The privation becomes an evaluative matter when we ask, say, whether I really need a third helping; since I don’t, I haven’t been deprived of it, in the evaluative sense, though I am still subject technically to a privation as opposed to a mere absence. The latter would be the case if you served me cheese for dessert and, without even a thought on either of our parts about ice cream, in fact I did not eat ice cream but cheese.

So your inability to have more ice cream when you want more ice cream is a privation, but it is not necessarily evil. What makes a privation evil?

[W]ithin privations there are those that are essentially evaluative and those that are not. Deafness and disease are privations we correctly regard as bad or evil. The essentially evaluative privations are, precisely, the evils. What they have in common is that they are all privations of good. Since – I am assuming – good is a kind of fulfillment evil is the privation of a kind of fulfillment. The relevant kind of fulfillment belongs to the nature of a thing – how it is supposed to function given the kind of thing it is.

Given that evil is privation of the good, Oderberg, after further analysis, concludes with three propositions about evil (actually there are five, but space does not permit me to deal with the last two).

1. Evil is real. By real, Oderberg is denying that evil is illusory or unreal, a position pantheists take.

2. Evil is a privation. As we discussed above, evil is a lack of good.

3. Privations are not real. What Oderberg means by this proposition is that evil is not a real thing like the computer I am typing on is a real thing, or the cup of tea I am sipping is a real thing. But privations are real in the sense that they have cognitive being. They really exist in the minds of intellectual beings. Privations are beings of reason.