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The Problem of Evil

Why does God allow evil to occur on earth? Is God an innocent bystander? This explores the difference between the will and plan of God and between God’s sovereignty and man’s authority.

Category - Short Book

Chapter 1

The Problem with Free Will

One of the most difficult and persistent questions in history is how a loving God could allow evil to occur in the earth. Usually, men explain evil as a creation of Satan in order to remove all responsibility from God's shoulders. Yet the problem with that view is that it lessens the problem but does not resolve it fully. The leftover problems that this explanation leaves must be ignored in order to make the theory workable.

For instance, if Satan is the creator of evil, who created him? Did not God create him? Did God create a defective angel? Was Satan a perfect angel with a free will which caused him to sin? Do all angels have free will? Is God taken by surprise when an angel falls? Is not a creator responsible for what he creates?

The common explanation to the problem of creative responsibility is "free will." If Satan has a free will, then he is said to be fully responsible for all that he does, leaving God innocent of anything evil that happens in the world.

This principle then extends to man as well. If man does evil, then he does so by his total free will, leaving God innocent of anything that men do.

These explanations come at the expense of God's sovereignty, of course. Is God incapable of creating any being without giving them a free will? Is God really an innocent Bystander in history? Is God really a helpless Superman in the sky who has all the POWER to stop evil, but is too much of a Gentleman to do much about it?

The leftover problems are: (1) When God created beings with free will, did He not know that they would start doing evil things? (2) Is a Creator not responsible for that which He creates? (3) Why would a good and all-knowing God create either spiritual or physical beings with the capability of doing evil things?

We are usually told that such things were necessary in order to avoid creating a bunch of robots. Well, first of all, necessity does not remove liability. We are back to our original question, except that instead of asking how a good God could create evil (or evil beings with free will) we must now ask what it was that seemed to compel God to create them this way. And how does such reasoning eliminate God's liability?

We have been told that this was the only way God could end up with a quality product in the end of time, and that God knew ahead of time that only a tiny percentage of men would "pass the test" and become the sons of God. We are left with the impression that God did not like this result—that He grieves over it—and yet this All-Wise God could find no other way to achieve His goal of bringing forth children.

The bottom line is that God's sovereignty and wisdom are greatly eroded by this explanation. The view first postulates spiritual beings who do things according to their own will, independently of God, and then postulates billions of human beings each having their own will and domain independent of God. By the time we enter all of these into the equation, we find that God is largely shouldered out of His own universe.

Worse yet, all of these independent gods in the spirit and in the world have no problem using force and coercion to impose their wills upon others in the earth—yet the rules somehow forbid God to do the same. Who makes up these one-sided rules?

Then also God's very wisdom and capability comes into question. Was He not wise enough to make a plan that would save everyone? Was He incapable? Does man's free will trump God's will? Is man the master of his own destiny, except for all the coercion taking place at the hands of other men or the things that the devil made them do?

If men are being coerced or forced by other men or spirits, then men are really only as free as their level of authority. As they rise in authority, they get to force and coerce others who then have less free will. But only the top authority—the king perhaps?—seems to approach having total free will. Everyone else is being forced to be obedient, even against his will.

Once again, we come full circle to the original concept that God (the Highest King) is the only One with total free will. Of course, if we believe that God and Satan are two independent gods of equal power, then we would have to conclude that both God and Satan have total free will in their respective domains, while man's will is limited by the devil’s force and coercion.

To this mix, we must add an additional factor. Did any man have the power to choose his own parents? Or the religion into which he was born? Or his class or economic status? All of these are powerful factors in determining whether or not he will be a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Jew. How much free will does a man really have to know Jesus Christ as you know Him? How much free will to accept Jesus did the man have who was born in the heart of the Congo a thousand years ago?

Can we really say that men have free will when we all know that many of the most important choices in life were never theirs to make in the first place? Is this not a limitation on the concept of free will?

There is another theological view that affirms that God is totally sovereign. John Calvin was rather famous for this view. He set forth the view that God sovereignly chose a few to be saved and most to be burned in hell. He did not leave this to any random chance or to man's free will. God foreknew all and predestined all to be either saved or burned in the end, he claimed.

Such a stern view, of course, does tremendous damage to our idea of the Love of God. But in Calvin's day, life was difficult, and it is doubtful that he really understood the concept of Love. He could not reconcile a Sovereign God with a God of Love, and so he chose to define God by His Power rather than by His Love.

The problems with this view are quite obvious to most people. Who wants to believe in a tyrannical God who is powerful enough to save everyone but deliberately chose not to do so? Again, there are a host of leftover problems with Calvin's God that remain unanswered.

In my view, the only way to reconcile a Sovereign God with a God of Perfect Love is to make Him so powerful that He can save everyone on the planet. To do so, however, one must also make Him totally Just. But how can a just God save everyone, considering the fact that there is so much evil in the world? Is there no way for an all-wise God to do this?

I believe that there is a way to save all mankind while preserving God's sovereignty, love, mercy, and justice—and every other part of God's character. If it could be shown that He is powerful enough to save all, loving enough to save all, and wise enough to overcome the problem of evil in the world without violating His own just character, would not this be the ideal God to follow? Would not everyone admire such a God and want to follow Him, not by compulsion, but by love?

That is the kind of God that I follow. This is the secret to really knowing God for who He is. Those who truly seek Him will find Him, but I have discovered that most people do not know that such a God even exists. Such a God is “too good to be true.”

Others have been so abused that they do not want God to change the hearts of their abusers and to save them. Their heart bitterness and emotional wounds will not allow them to forgive and let go long enough to conceive of such a God. They are looking for a God powerful enough to protect them from abuse, but not so loving as to work in the lives of their abusers, to turn them from their sin, and to save them.

Most people, however, simply do not know that the Scriptures set forth such a God, because they have been warned against Him by those who set forth alternate viewpoints. As we look at this more closely in this book, I will point out Scriptures for your consideration that you may have missed in the past.