Evil, Suffering and God’s benevolence
“You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.” (1 Kings 14:9).
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”(Gen 3:15).
What is evil? Where is it from? Does the existence of evil disprove that of God? Does the reality of evil oppose God’s benevolence?.
If you are anything with a conscience, a consciousness, and born of a woman, then you’ve probably asked yourself these questions or a version of them, a couple of times in your lifetime. These questions in my sense, are cardinally laced in the reality and not the superficiality of suffering and evil. They somehow, present to us the most unique opportunity to finally take the Blood of God’s hands or perhaps stoop in shame and guilt and seek eternal redemption in the name of our Lord Jesus.
The very potentiality of these questions cedes us the chance to investigate what I believe is a crucial step to understanding and believing in God’s divine plan ( 1 John 3:2, John 3: 16, Gen 50:20 ) while living in a world filled with walloping amounts of evil and suffering; that step I think is clearly understanding evil, its origin, and God’s eternal goodness. Therefore it is on these grounds that I attempt an answer to each question posed in the introduction to this write-up.
What is evil?
“Evil is what is inherent in the risky gift of free will given to man.” J.B Phillips.
Evil can be viewed in two ways basically. ie moral evil (evil committed by free
moral agents such as war, crime, cruelty, class struggles, discrimination, slavery, ethnic cleansing, suicide bombings, and various
injustices) and natural evil (such as hurricanes, floods,
Evil is the privation and or perversion of good.
It is the antithesis of the nature of God.
It is the destitution and penury we have earned through the sin of our first father(Gen 3).
Evil is the despotic, avaricious regime of Paul Biya(second-longest-serving president in the world,39 years in power and oldest president in Africa), current president of my beloved country, Cameroon.
Evil is the Kumba school massacre that took place at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in October 2020, in Anglophone Cameroons killing more than 7 kids and leaving more than 12 injured.
Evil is the women and children suffering beyond belief in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Mali, and war-torn countries of the like.
Evil is the world-famous Hitler wiping out six million jews.
Evil is Sadam against the Kurdish.
Evil is Papa Doc Duvalier of Haiti.
Evil is September 11, 2001, a day no American can ever forget.
Evil is the Spanish flu of 1918, the Asian flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and the recent COVID -19 of Wuhan China.
And oh sure, Evil is You and Evil is me(Romans 3: 23).
What is the origin of evil?
God looked at all He had made and saw that it was very good(Gen 1:31). Genesis tells us that everything the Lord made was good. So from whence cometh all this suffering and evil?.
It all started when man, enticed by the devil, used his free will to disobey God(Gen 3). Put in another way, man directed his will away from God and towards his desire. A fallen nature has ever since been passed onto every man and woman (Romans 5:12) and it is out of the sin nature that we today continue to use our free will to make evil actual (see Mark 7:20–23).
Does the presence of evil disprove the existence of God?
The presence of evil does not disprove the existence of God. Instead, it undeniably proves the existence of a perfect standard whose nature has no semblance to evil. This is because, for there to be corruption or privation of something, that thing must exist in the first place. Remember that evil, unlike you and I, does not have an essence on its own. It exists just as a result of or on top of another. e.g a branch as a result of a tree, bruise on your elbow as a consequence of the elbow existing in the first place, lack of money as a consequence of money existing.
An easy way to grasp this concept is to ask;
- Can there be a mud stain on your white pair of jeans without there being a white pair of jeans? Would you see mud in a mud hole and call it a stain if it were not on your white pair of jeans?. God alone knows what kind of weed you must have puffed before you call mud in a mud hole a stain.
Therefore, it is with this understanding that we can logically and necessarily conclude that evil exists if and only if God exists. It is also evidently logically appropriate that the contrapositive of this conditional sentence perpetually retains the same truth value. i.e If God does not exist, therefore Evil does not exist.
“If God does not exist, everything is permissible” Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Does the reality of evil refute God’s benevolence?
Have you ever held the thought that God’s goodness and the presence of evil is a glaringly obvious contradiction?. “How can an eternally good God and an evil world be compatible?” I’d ask myself sometimes. These questions nudge in a direction to search for answers; answers that I fully acknowledge won’t be that permanent solution to our unbelief but, might give us at the very least, a starting place in our journey to finding the ultimate peace and hope in Christ in a world with no shortage of malevolence.
Finding these answers, we shall be making use of an indispensable law in reasoning known as the law of noncontradiction. Put simply the law states that something cannot be true and false simultaneously. In another fashion; cannot belong and not belong at the same time and in the same sense. For example, I am Carlton. I cannot be Carlton and not be Carlton at the same time and in the same sense of the word Carlton which in this case is the name sense. But can I potentially not be Carlton, yeah! (If I change my name later on). That explained, together with the ever potent approach of valid logical reasoning, I shall essentially make several invocations of the law of non-contradiction to arrive at most of my conclusions. With all that said, let’s zero right in on the problem of evil and the goodness of God.
If God is the author of life, then three philosophical conclusions can be drawn from the problem of evil and God’s benevolence:
- God made the world full of evil and suffering. In other words, God is not willing to wipe out suffering and evil but is fully capable. If this conclusion is true, then surely God is a terrible celestial monster. But, how can God make the world full of evil, pain, suffering, and death, and then claim that the world is good(Gen 1:31)? Could God be the biggest liar in the history of lies telling?.
Titus 1:2, Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:18, all tell us about God’s inability to lie and with some other verses intimating that God abhors falsehood(e.g Proverbs 6:17). Hence this conclusion is self-defeating and cannot be true. Also, If God were not willing to solve the problem of evil, why would He bother to send His Son Jesus to suffer an excruciating death for people He does not care about? (John 3:16).
2. God is not able to wipe out evil and suffering. This conclusion suggests that God is limited and not all-powerful(contrarily, see Isaiah 43;13, Daniel 4:35, Mathew 19:26, Jeremiah 32:27). If God is not able to do away with suffering and evil, then what “god” are we talking about?. Are we still talking about God in the same sense?.
Again this conclusion can’t be true as the whole concept of God who is an eternal and omnipotent being is crushed(see instantly that this is a violation of the law of noncontradiction as the sense of the word “God” has been altered or poorly considered).
3. God made the world good and out of an abundance of His Love, allows for potential evil into it by giving man the delicate gift of free will. Hmm, now this seems to be the only conclusion capable of standing on the foundations of truth. It does not disagree with the sense in which the word “God” is used and does not refute God’s omnipotence.
This again seems to be the only conclusion that allows for an eternally benevolent God to be somehow compatible with a fallen world.
Nonetheless, it raises an important question. If God, in His eternal goodness, made the world good and we corrupted it by bringing evil into it through disobedience, what is God’s ultimate plan for you, me, the man to your left and the woman to your right, allowing evil and suffering into the world? I’ll let the reader ponder on that for some time(see 1 John 3:2, John 3: 16, Gen 50:20 for more clarity on God’s ultimate plan).
We can summarize the key points from above in this manner:
- Evil and suffering exist.
- Evil, suffering, and death came to us through the sin of one man and we have ever since been living in a bedeviled world.
- The existence of evil (privation/perversion of good) fundamentally suggests the existence of God contrary to intimating He’s non-existence.
- God is eternally good and that He allowed the possibility of evil into the world through the risky gift of free will given to man does not axiomatically make Him guilty of evil and suffering by any means.
It is my prayer that God continues to give us the strength to face this world forthrightly and without acquiescing to the lures of evil and the grip of nihilism. That God will open our eyes to recognize evil and flee from it, see Him for what He truly is and open our hearts to believe in the One He has sent(John 6:29) and that may His plan be fully realized in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God Bless, Stay in the fight,