|Why does God "allow" evil?|
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
In the old hymn "at the Old ruggesd cross", we have the dearest and best suffering for us. Did Jesus deserved it? No He did not. Yet, He suffered the worst ordeal of pain and torment, both physical and emotional, His body severely bloodied and disfigured for us, and His soul tormented on account of His separation from God on accounts of our sin. Jesus was the personification of why the worst things could happened to the best of people. God planned for and allowed it to happened, that the ultimate result of evil, resulting in death, could no longer have dominion over mnakind. Man may suffer unjustly in this fallen world, but death no longer has the impact, for Christ has rose again from the dead. We may never in this side of the world understand the reason behind "evil" and "why good people sometimes suffer", but Christianity is the assurence that by faith Christ has already conquered the worst that could happen to us, and in context, the short stint here on earth could not be compared to the eternity waiting for us.
Whilst addressing these questions, there are perhaps, fundamental issues that should be addressed:-
a) God is not the author of sin. Christians are called to make a difference.
Mankind is the wilfull authors of sin, with evil action and thougths against each other and with rebellion against God. When 911 occured, surely it was the result of religious fundamentalist whose hatred and evil thoughts and actions surpassed any concern that they may have for human life.
We should not blame God for the actions of the anti-Gay hate crime committed against Matthew Shepard. God had no part in it. The anti-gay demonstrators of Westbro Baptist Church may claim that "Matthew Shepard entered Hell on 12 Oct 1198" and demonstrated at the funeral of Matthew Shepard. However as they raised their hatred filled voices, the mourners sang Amazing Grace totally drowing out the voices of hate. The question of why God apparently "allows" such evil to be committed, should perhaps be asked what are Christians doing in response to evil, and be God's grace to this fallen world.
With sin, this world is a decaying and a fallen world. The bible's main emphasis is for Christians to be a light to Christ, and in being a light to Christ, to do the ministry of Christ. Jesus cares deeply for the basic needs of the people. In Mat 14:21, He fed 5,000 men (not including the woman and children). His ministry was marked not only by humanitarian efforts but by miraculous healings of men and women and even the raising of the dead. Jesus loves and cares for us intimately even knowing how many hairs that we have . (Mat 10:30). We are called to Love as Jesus loved us, and be a force for good in the midst of bad and evil things that often happens.
b) God is not responsbile for consequential evil
We should not also hold God accountable for the sin committed by His creation. For example, the car manufacturer would never be held resposbile for the driver speeding on the road and killing an innocent pedestrian. God gave us the choice to do good or evil. It is up to us, and we have to be accoutable to it by the moral laws of God. Sin entered because we chose to do evil.
c) Good and Evil are allowed to co-exist
Good and Evil, and its consequences sometimes to innocent victims, must co-exist if mankind were to be given a choice to turn away from their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is not out of the realm of impossibility for God to destroy the entire mankind because of evil, and He had done that before in the great flood because there was no one good or likely to turn to God except Noah. God has the moral right to destroy mnakind even our generation, but He chose not to. He instead gave us the possibility to decide, and to turn away from our sins, and to turn to Jesus. For that decision to be available, there must be evil to turn away from.
d) God is not the author of sin, nor is He a bystander but provides the ultimate way out
God is not the author of sin, nor was He a bystander uninterested in the affairs of men, nor was He uncompassionate not to hear the cries of humanity struggling under sin, and evil that abounds on earth. God is not an indifferent God but hears the heartfelt cry of His people (Ex 2:2, 1 Sam 7:8) sending the Judges, the Prophets and Kings to save them despite continuing to sin over and over again and taking the grace of God for granted. His compassions, mercies, and faithfullness are unending (Lam 4:22,23)
Sin and the resulting consequences of evil have always been a taken as a given in the bible. It entered through Adam. The entire bible is perhaps addressing the "sin question" with the Old Testament bringing us a narrative of how a stubborn people oblivious that they were sinners and requiring grace from God, adamant that they were could obey God's laws, being given the 10 commandments as if a teacher to show them of their need for Christ (Rom 5:13). The New Testament was the confirmation and the actualization of the prophecies in the Old Testament, concerning Christ our Saviour. In the book of Revelation, the cycle finally comes to an end - from the corruption of the original creation (Rom 8:21,22), to the new earth where sin and evil no longer abounds (Rev 21:1). The Old Jeruslaem full of religious self righteouness and hypocrisy to the extent of killing the Messiah God sent them will be replaced by the New Jerusalem where sin and evil shall be no more and we will live in peace.
e) God can only act within His legal rights
In the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami in Dec 2004 which killed more than 225,000 people, there was a number of questions raised on why God had allowed this to happen. On the other extreme, many muslim and christian religious leaders have claimed that it is a result of sin, such as Gay marriage, or that mankind did not take care of the earth properly. Such arguments have no basis. God is all powerful. He could have easily prevented the Tsumani. But God operates in a legal framework that does not permit Him to morally intvervene. The Earth is not own by God. It was given to mankind (Gen 1:28,29), and subsequently handed to Satan's control (Luke 4:6). It is therefore a fallen world. God have no legal basis to intervene unless there is an exeption.
God was looking at the heart of men whether there could be one who would follow Him, and be found faithful. He found that man in Abraham who at Mt Moriah offered His only son as a sacrifice to God and having faith that indeed God will resurrect his son. That gave the legal right for God to send is only begotten son. Mt. Moriah later became Jerusalem where Jesus died for us.
God did act - 2000 years ago. He provided a way out, a point of redemption, where He can save mankind. He gave His only son Jesus, that whosoever believed in Him, will be saved and be a child of God. A new heaven and earth will be created one day, and the reign of God restored over the fallen earth. As a child of God, we have access to God legally. We pray and God answers our prayers because of His Son Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20) whose death and resurerction brought us legal means to become a child of God having the price of our sins fully paid, and much more having resurrected hence overcame the powers of the world. We have health, and prosperity throught Jesus for though Him all the goodness and blessings of God flows. He was poor at the Cross that we may be rich in Him. He was wounded that we may be healed. He was astranged from God on account of our sin, that we may be united with God.
f) The issue of God "allowing" evil
In our "Post Modern" theology, we become enstranged from the God of the Old testament because it is apparently a cruel God and we come to worship only the God of the New Testament because it fits our theology of a God of love. In order to justify our position, we come to reject much of the Old Testament as being metaphorical or folk tales not understanding with wisdom that without the foundation of the Old Testament, the need for the resurrected Christ in the New Testament is meaningless. The creation study becomes just a story to us made up by the Hebrews. We close our ears and our eyes shut to anything from the Old Testament or over analysed it and by doing so we also missed the way and the meaning and true significance of the cross and the tread of Christ revealing God's mercy and grace from the Old to the New Testaments. The strong push by "progressive" or "Post Modern" ideas have resulted in a Conservative backlash to defend the bible and a push to the Christian Right to go back to the Jewish Laws. This over reaction tantamounts to intellectual suicide as if we are to be consistent have to reject the New Testament where Grace and Mercy abounds over law in Christ Jesus who made us a new creation apart from the Law. Christianity becomes pseudo Judaism devoid of Christ as its centrality.
Why does God seemingly "allow" pain and suffering even to the righteous? The question implies that God has the power and the authority to stop pain and suffering. Whilst, God has the power, He has no authority to do so. God is a covenant God and is bounded by His righteousness. The earth is given to Satan by mankind. It belongs to Satan and all its people within it to do what he wills and desires. God has no right to touch them unless they called and reached out to Him through Jesus Christ!. Only Christians are owned by God and have a legal right to ask for blessings and healings through Jesus Christ death at the cross. What right has God to intervene in Satan's kingdom! God can only intervene because of a legal reason, and that reason arosed when Abraham decided to sacrifice his son to God therefore giving God the right to send Jesus to die for us. God is always looking for legal entry points to bless and to save. God did not sit on the sideline and did nothing. He gave all He could, He gave His only begotten son that through Him we may become part of His family. To accuse God of permmtting and allowing for pain and suffering is to blaspheme His name.
g) God is not the author of cruelty or evil but of mercy and grace
The above is a typical example of cruelty apparently "instituted" by God for some "Post Modern" Christians despite their reluctance to admit their position. If read carefully, God is not cruel but being righteous and consistent with His principles. His all powerful nature does not allow Him to act without reflecting on His righteousness. Look closely and you will see God's grace and Mercy in the midst of judgement according to His morality. He is like the farmer always looking out for the lost sheep, always eager to find a legal reason of how He could bless, prosper and save.
God and the Hebrews entered into a covenant freely and not by any compulsion. The Hebrews agreed to abide by the terms that if they sinned against God by worshipping idols and not giving God the honor due, they would die but conversely if they followed the law, they would be blessed by God. Therefore when the Hebrews broke the law and the primary law which really shows their denial of God's grace and salvation, God is duty bound to kill them according to the covenant just as He is duty bound to bless them when they follow the law. He has no choice. But justice was meted out with mercy for they had a chance to turn back, to come back to the Lord's side. If God had not responded according to the covenant, He would not be a righteous God. God has no legal right to subsequently blessed the Hebrew nation if He is unwilling to judge them when they broke the law. But God's mercy abounds much even in the Law. God had to act in Exo 32. If He did not, Christ death at the cross has no meaning. But God gave a second chance for the Hebrews to be on His side and not on the side of the idol god. Simialrly, today, God's arms are wide open full of grace and mercy offering mankind salvation through Jesus Christ. But most reject Him and destined to suffer death.
Even Jesus, who so potrayed God's love could not simply ignore the demands of the law, the contractual arrangement entered into by the Jews. The Jews were asking whether they need to follow it because it was so harsh and drew more judgement rather than blessings! Jesus answered in Mat 5:17 that He did not come nor has the authority to destroy the consequences of failing to follow the law but He came to fulfill it by bearing its demands on our behalf, the demand of death when we fail to follow the law. The Law has no time limit or limited validity, the requirements must be met till eternity. Therefore, one needs to follow it and even better than the religious leaders (Mat 5:20) and there is no escape from the need to fulfill the requirements of the laws for blessings. Jesus came to fulfill the demands of the Law, the demand for one to suffer death when we break the law. Hence, Jesus came to fulfill the punishment of the Law for our sins in our place. Once we believed and accept Jesus into our lives, the punishment for our sins fall on Christ. It is simple, some say too simple, forgetting that it cost the life of the son of God. Jesus not only fulfilled the punishment demanded by the law, but also the blessings if we follow the law and do not sin. Because, Jesus is sinless, He fulfilled perfectly the requirements of the law to receive blessings. Therefore in Christ, we have a double blessings, of mercy of not receiving the judgement of the Law, of Grace by receiving the blessings of following the law perfectly because Christ is perfect.
Ten Years ago, on 06 Oct 1998, on the mountains at Laramie, Wyoming, USA, a young Gay Christian, Matthew Shepard lay dying, left alone to die after being brutally wounded by anti-gay thugs. There were no doctors nearby, no relatives, family or friends, no crowds of prayerfull whorshipers, but only the quiet sound of the icy cold breeze. And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind—the ever-present Wyoming wind—for the last time. He had one friend with him. One he grew to know through his time in Sunday school and as an acolyte at St. Mark’s in Casper as well as through his visits to St. Matthew’s in Laramie. He had Jesus.
At the end, no theological argument however persuasive, or extensive would comfort a grieving mum or dad faced with a seemingly unncessary tragedy resulting from accidents where no one should be blamed for, or where it is a hate crime committed with ill intent. The resounding question will be asked "where was God", and the answer is that God was there when the child died, God was there when Mathhew Shepard died, and both are now safe in heaven with Jesus. He has prepared the way, 2000 years ago, hanging on the post brutally beaten and disfigured not much more than Matthew had been. He chose to die to give us the choice to live. He went before us to prepare a place for us in heaven that one day we will come home and join Him, some sooner, some later.
No longer suffering, with their tears wiped cleaned by Jesus. We will meet them one day soon, and be re-united with the love ones that have gone before us. We too will one day meet death, but death will no longer have victory over us as Christians, and we will be with our loved ones forever, and shall no more remember our pains and sorrows in this short stint here on earth on our way to eternal glory.