September 27, 2010

Theodicy: Why Is There Evil If God Is Holy & Good?

How many times have you heard non-believers or even believers make a statements like this: "If God is so powerful and so holy how and why would He allow evil and suffering?" "To me a God that allows evil is a mean and uncaring God." We also hear statements like "God is either mean or evil, or He just doesn't care" or worse we hear that He actually is "not all-powerful and cannot control the evil in creation so He couldn't possibly be God to begin with."

It is basically the very simple (and simple-minded) chain of reasoning that says that if God were omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent (loving), he would know about the great suffering in the world, have the ability to stop it as omnipotent, and choose to. He does not stop it so He could not be a loving God. The argument or discussion usually stops here with the people who would make this type of statement and they generally are not open to further reasoning. This inevitably blocks out the truth which also blocks God's providence and sovereignty in their minds/thought processes. How silly.

I posit that (1) God is poorly understood even by those that are in the Christian faith and (2) People that say absurd statements like this or ask questions like this are attempting to put God within a box of their own making thereby confining God to their myopic view of what He should be and how He should behave. I mean...get real people. Who's really at fault for the evil in this world? God or the beings that have actually perpetrated the heinous acts and then refuse to take accountability for them? The sinful human beings behaving like petulant and irresponsible children that went rogue. This leads to blaming God for our own recalcitrance and ignorance. We unjustly elevate ourselves to believe we can actually get inside God's head and know why He does things and how He thinks. Simultaneously we try to bring God down to a human level (if not lower) passing judgment on Him as if we are actually fit to do so. We deify ourselves and try to undeify God. All the while being satanically led on by the great deceiver...that slug Satan.


The term theodicy comes from Greek theos "god" + dike "justice"

Theodicy reconciles or tries to reconcile the evil of the world with a holy and righteous God. How an infinitely holy and just God can allow evil to exist and in some cases thrive in His creation. In doing so it implicates and draws in the idea of God’s justification and justice. As Christians we are to view God as the sovereign Creator. In so doing we relinquish the right to be the final say in judgment of ourselves and give this over to Him. By doing this we acknowledge that we have imputed sin as a product of Adam and the sin in the Garden (Enns 319, 323). Although created holy, man chose to disobey God and sin and thereby gaining for himself a penalty of death. Death not only physically but also spiritual unless we accept Christ’s redeeming/atoning work on the cross and repent. There is a price to be paid for sin since the wages of sin is death. Christ sacrificially put himself up as the ransom or a substitution to free man from the bondage to sin which is the source of the ills of this world or what many view as evil. Christ also abrogated the ceremonial law instituted by the Mosaic covenant (Enns 89).

Knowing what I have stated above, Christians should then truly understand their irreparable position in relation to a holy and perfectly just and righteous God that must judge sin or He wouldn’t be God which is directly contrary to the logic and thought processes of non-believers or those that doubt God's providence, sovereignty, grace and mercy. The correct and suitable response by Christians is to submit to the One who judges and is merciful and full or grace to forgive…if we accept His sacrificial offer and repent. In other words: We are reprobates and only He can save us. It is only by the grace of God we can be redeemed. Believing involves and act(s) of repentance in faith. This is not to be construed as a work. Faith is the vehicle that gets you to the destination or the eye that sees, the Lord Jesus has done that work for us already (Enns 97-98).

Because man and his entanglement with sin is the direct consequence from the fall of man in the world we can then link the above statements together. Man is created holy but falls choosing to sin. God being perfectly just cannot ignore sin as it is an affront against His holiness. In needing to respond to the sin of disobedience the world is under a curse and/or being punished for sin. Man will die, for the wages of sin is death. The world is now also at odds with God and/or anything divine. As converted justified believers, we are at odds with ourselves or our flesh that is still “of this world”. The best example of this is in Romans 7 and what appears to be Paul suffering from a multiple personality disorder. In actually he is talking about the tension between the spiritual good and the sinful flesh. He ends up doing things he doesn’t mean to do, and not doing things he should. (Enns 324-326). In other words sin and evil are ontological parasites. They are an absence of good. Had man obeyed we wouldn’t be in this mess. Regardless, humans often view suffering, sickness and death (the effects of the Fall) as bad or evil. Christians should view it as justice exacted against a sinful humanity. If we repent we will eventually be glorified in Christ and restored to our previous state (after death or rapture) anyway.

I will now closely parallel one of my sources and then comment as the source’s eloquence is in its specificity. The church (body) focuses on two primary aspects when it comes to Christian’s response to Theodicy/ or the church’s Biblical orientation to dealing with the idea of a God and the presence of evil in His creation. The primary assumption when dealing with this topic is that man knows better and this is dangerous because God’s ways are above our ways meaning we cannot understand His purposes because we only have a myopic human view or things but He has all aspects covered at all times. Macchia’s quote is brilliant:
“God has created humanity with the freedom to rebel and become vulnerable to satanic opposition. God has allowed satanic opposition to exist to test humanity’s free response to God.” (Macchia 202)

Macchia also states that:
“God wills to triumph over satanic opposition, not only for believers, but also through them. Therefore, the triumph of God’s grace has a history and a development.” (Macchia 202)

In a word: Brilliant (not uncaring). God uses the vessels of triumph to propagate further triumph…all to the glory of God. Just as he has placed the seeds of rebirth and new life within fruit, He has done the same with believers by placing the Spirit in men (indwelt). The whole implication here is that God is constantly active and involved in His creation and His creation once saved (us), actively pursues the will of God (usually).

What is also amazing here in this premise is that, for God to gain salvation over some “thing”, there has to be some “thing” to triumph over. God being omnipotent and sovereign over His creation has to first allow this to happen. Hence the existence of evil. The other question that arises from this is why God didn’t just make people (angels) love Him? Had He done this they would’ve never strayed. My response to this is one further question. Does forcing someone to love you actually constitute real love? For God to allow us to love Him of our own freewill He needed to allow us to hate Him or choose something besides love. Otherwise there would be no choice, only a directive or mandate. That’s not love. It’s called tyranny and despotism and that would make God a tyrant and therefore not God. If God is anything He is holy, He just and He is love.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Revised ed. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008. Print.

Macchia, Frank D. "Chapter 6 Repudiating The Enemy: Satan And Demons." Systematic Theology. Ed. Stanley M. Horton. Springfield: Logion Press, 2010. 194-213. Print. Anthology.

Further reading about Theodicy: Examining The Scripture LXXIV: Job's First Discourse & The Problem of Suffering


ArtWerx said...

the two Spirits which are at war solicit our allegiance. here's my bare, skeletal even, analogy: imagine this world is a room of power choices & each of us is a living appliance operating on an electrical battery of limited lifespan. on a giant wall are two outlets. each has a sign that can light up by itself & send us a message on it's attached LED screen. you can speak a question to either one & it might answer. one says: "plug into'll be free from needing that battery! (:D" the other says "plug into me...that other plug will fry & destroy your mechanism!" "is this true?" you ask the more powerful one. the reply is..."your battery is about to die anyway...better make up your mind!" the Kingdom of Heaven is for the powerful after all (you know what i mean...what's that verse? :)

Anonymous said...

What you haven't addressed is that if god is holy, how can there even exist the concept of evil? And if free will is the culprit, how will this work in heaven? Is god going to take away our free will, or does he have a means of giving us free will AND not sin? And why isn't jesus's "finished" work not working?

Andy Pierson said...

Actually I have addressed these concerns over the course of the series "Evil & Suffering". The first post that starts the series resides here:

In this 25 post series I go into explicit detail of how and why a sovereign God and evil can exist simultaneously and answer a majority of the concerns you've raised above in a Christian apologetic manner. As for Jesus' finished work not working. Is that His fault that its not working...or yours? Christ took the onus of your sin and offered is life in place of yours for your transgression. It is still your choice to sin. That is why you are only justified at conversion when you accept Christ's sacrifice. Sanctification or the act of making yourself continues until your glorification upon death. At glorification you are no longer able to sin in heaven. You can on the other hand continue to sin in Hell. For lack of a more polite way to state this, your theology is quite incomplete or skewed and is evident in the comment about heaven. Your comment is similar to the Sadducees question to Jesus in Mark 12:18-27 when they ask whom the woman will be married to at the resurrection. Christ's reply is exemplary for human assumptions about heaven.

"Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."

In other words: They assumed to understand how things would be in heaven never having been there nor having had a comprehensive understanding of what Scripture has stated about heaven.

You will not be able to sin in the presence of God...or you wouldn't even be allowed in God's presence. To align to the Kingdom of God you would need to "want" to align perfectly to His will. That is the whole point of being Christian. If you are not Christian then it is obvious why you have made such a comment.

As for evil/suffering, this topic by no means can be explained in a comments section in a single blog post of 4 or 5 paragraphs and that is why I posted 25 abbreviated posts on the topic from my thesis which was closer to 100 pages.

If you want a comprehensive understanding of Christian theology and the Christian God I recommend Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. If you want and extensive understanding I recommend Thomas Aquina's Summa Theologica (complete).

Lee Shin said...

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin

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