By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
When we experience evil or observe the very real evil all around us, we often ask ourselves how a perfectly good God could allow it, and not just allow it, but allow a whole lot of it. The existence of evil is indeed a very perplexing issue especially for those who also believe in the God of the Bible who is said to be morally perfect and all-powerful. Indeed, if God is morally perfect and good, as well as all-powerful, surely he would not only be able to remove the evil, but he would also have the desire to so. But if God is able to remove the evil and has the power to remove it, why then do we still observe the reality of evil all around us?
The usual response to these questions typically take the form: God has morally sufficient reasons to allow the evil that transpires. I agree with this both as a way of showing that there is no contradiction between a perfectly good God and an all-powerful God and the existence of evil, since it is quite true that God may have reasons unknown to us as to why he allows the evil that he allows. If this is even remotely possible, it therefore follows that there is no contradiction. However, from the biblical perspective, are we left with a complete and utter mystery as to what God’s reasons are for allowing the evil that he allows? I don’t think that that is the case.
What I have presented thus far in a very simple way is what is commonly known in philosophy as the “Problem of Evil”. For many Christians, it has not only been a very serious intellectual challenge, but a very powerful emotional challenge as well. Even though I don’t see a contradiction between the existence of a perfectly good and all-powerful God and the existence of evil, this does not mean that I do not feel the emotional tension in the fact that I both see and experience very real evil in daily life. That being said, in the midst of this experience, we often ask ourselves, WHY? Does the Bible give a reason why? I think it does.
Let us consider the famous story in John 9 (The Man Born Blind). In John 9 we read of a man who was born blind. This is a great example of our previously stated “Problem of Evil”. Indeed, babies born with deformities or various diseases are often the very examples that skeptics use to bring the perceived problem out. As they are walking towards the man blind from birth, the disciples ask Jesus the very question that concerns what we are currently talking about. They ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice that the disciples wrongly assumed that the reason “WHY” the man was born this way was because of either personal sin or the sin of his parents. However, Jesus corrects their misapprehensions by saying, ” It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Notice that the “reason” this evil (being born blind) was upon this man had nothing primarily to do with his personal sin or the sin of his parents, but rather, it was for the purpose that the “works of God might be displayed in him”. The ultimate “REASON” or “PURPOSE” of this evil was to display God’s work, for the purpose of his own glory. God’s glory is on display when his power overcomes evil.
If we can ask the question again, and thus provide the succinct and powerful answer: Why does a good, all-powerful God allow evil? (Answer): So that he can display his power over evil and as a result, reveal his matchless glory! Or, as Christian philosopher Cornelius Van Til once stated: “It was God’s will that sin should come into the world. He wished to enhance his glory by means of its punishment and removal.” (Defense of the Faith, pg. 160).
While it is true, that we cannot always deduce the “specific and immediate” reasons as to “why” God allows certain evils, we can know in an ultimate sense that if God allows evil at all, it is only for his own glorious purposes which abound ultimately and finally to his own glory.
We read elsewhere in scripture that “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who WORKS ALL THINGS according to the council of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). God indeed works “ALL THINGS” according to his perfect council, and in doing so, his mighty and powerful work is displayed unto his glory.
If God works “all” things after the council of his own will, this would include the evil acts of men, and all other seemingly impersonal evils (i.e. natural evils: earthquakes, tsunamis, land slides etc.). When God created the heavens and the earth, he was not rolling the dice hoping that things would unfold unto his own glory and purposes, but rather, he has declared the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and has proclaimed that “my purpose will stand”. If God has a purpose for all things, then God has a reason for all things, and if God has a reason for all things then it follows that God has a reason for the evil he allows. And based on scriptural teaching, one of the primary reasons for allowing evil is to display his own glory and power over its effects. Praise God that his power and glory will conquer evil once and for all, and in doing so, his name will be proclaimed and glorified by all.