[Discussion: Any thoughts on why God allowed evil and suffering to come into existence?]
Even though we can understand that evil and suffering are not created things, but rather a corruption or lack of something perfect, it’s hard to deny that evil and suffering do not exist. They do. Even the happiest people on earth must deal with suffering and evil. Most people also agree that evil and suffering are bad. So why did an all-good and all-powerful God permit evil and suffering to come into existence in the first place.
The skeptic philosopher Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz words this apparent problem as follows: “If God is the best of all possible beings, then He must make the best of all possible worlds. But this world is not the best of all possible worlds; therefore, how can God be the best of all possible beings? If He is not, then the God of the Bible does not exist.”
[Discussion: Does anyone see any problems with this statement? What are some alternate beliefs W. Gottfried is blindly accepting by faith?]
This statement assumes that somehow you know that this world is not the best of all possible worlds? But again, if you are an atheist, where do you get your standard as to what is good or bad, better or best? Secondly, how would you know that this world is not the best of all possible worlds? Someone might say that a world without sin, without evil and suffering, would be a better world than the current one. To put it differently, why couldn’t God create heaven, with us already in it, where there is no evil and no suffering (1. Cor. 13:10, 12; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:4; 22:3). Why do we have to deal with this cursed earth full of evil and suffering before we can go to heaven? This is a good question, and probably something many Christians have asked themselves as well.
[Discussion: Anyone have any answers to suggest for this apparent dilemma?]
One possible answer that has been suggested, and I say possible because this answer may or may not apply, is that some things can’t be created to their best state directly. They need a process. In other words, Heaven is the destination and earth is the path. Someone could object to this though, saying that everything should be possible for an all-powerful God though.
[Discussion: Is everything and anything possible for an all-powerful God?]
However, everything is not possible for an all-powerful God. For example, God cannot do self-contradictory things. He cannot lie, because as a perfect being, him saying a lie would fall short of perfection. He cannot create a rock that he can’t lift, because he as an unlimited being, can always over-power any limited thing that is dependent on or created by him. Likewise, some things just can’t be created directly because it would be logically impossible just like creating a square triangle.
Likewise, some things just can’t be created to their best state directly. For example, character only gets formed through difficult situations. You can probably even think of some examples in your own life, where a difficult situation actually made you a better person somehow. As Norman Geisler puts it, there is:
Hence, a world where sin would have never occurred, would not be the best possible world. The best possible world would be one where people had the option to sin, did sin, but despite their sin God brought about a greater good by allowing it and then providing the satisfaction and forgiveness for it. Only in this kind of world can the higher virtues such as courage, patience, character and forgiveness be attained. Sure, this may not be the best world possible that could exist at this very moment in time, but it might be the best world possible if the objective is an eternity that’s the best possible eternity. Remember, God cannot make a rectangular triangle or a stick with one end, and some things require a process for the best end result. Also remember that compared to eternity, this life is like a blink of an eye. (See Francis Chan’s rope illustration about the briefness of this this life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86dsfBbZfWs)
A second possible answer for why God allowed evil and suffering to come into existence is that having us “walk through” earth before reaching heaven, will be for our good in terms of appreciating haven more. As per 2. Cor. 4:17: “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.”
(see also Romans 8:18). Even from our own human experience, we know that we usually value something a lot more if we had to go through some difficulty to get it, rather than it just being handed to us. Why can’t it work the same way in regard to heaven?
Here’s another possible way of looking at things: We know that there will be no evil and suffering in heaven, it won’t even be possible, but perhaps the best way for God to achieve this was to first allow us to have the ability to sin. Then, once we have seen and experienced the horrors of it, we will be able to more fully enjoy a place where good rules and evil is impossible. Have you ever had a dream where a loved one died? Then you woke up and realized it was all a dream. Certainly, you valued and appreciated that loved one more after that experience. Perhaps it’s the same with heaven and earth.
On earth we experience the absence of perfection. Everyone is none the less trying to reach this perfection in their lives, but nobody ever does. Everyone’s life sucks on some days in some ways. If someone says it doesn’t, I would suggest that they might be lying. Even the richest people in the world, who seemingly have everything, commit suicides. Even you yourself have probably thought many times that as soon as you get this husband or wife or car or dream home or job or money or whatever, then your life will great and happy, only for you to achieve what you wanted and with-in a few months realize your life happiness is pretty much the same as it was before and less than perfect. By going through and living in this imperfect earth, we can indeed yearn for ultimate happiness and perfection, and then consequently are better able to appreciate it more in eternity (Rom. 8:18-25). In a similar way someone who was born into poverty, may appreciate a luxurious life more than someone who was born into luxury and never knew poverty. You might of course say that the present pain is not worth the extra enjoyment of eternity. But the only way to say that would be to know exactly what eternity is like. And I doubt you know that.
The examples we went through above were some possible reasons why God may have allowed evil and suffering to come into existence. The reasons presented may be right, or they may be wrong, but the point is to illustrate that it is possible for there to be good reasons why God would allow evil and suffering to come into existence and then bring them to an end only at the perfect time when his purposes for the best possible eternity have been achieved.
For those who would object saying that God is using a morally wrong “end justifies the means” ethic, there is one important fact to keep in mind: God is not producing or promoting evil means to attain a good end. He is permitting them. A good parent permits a possible accident every time he permits his teenager to drive the family car; however, he is not promoting it.
The Bible has good news for everyone who has ever suffered or is suffering now. It tells us that God takes our suffering very seriously. He takes it so seriously, that he came on this earth to suffer on our behalf so that he could give us the ultimate and eternal victory over all suffering and evil. As horrible as the evils and sufferings of this short lifetime are, the Bible says that an even worse fate awaits those who die without having submitted their lives to God. One of God’s perfect characteristics is justice. Therefore, God has no choice but to judge everyone for every single sin they have ever committed, otherwise he wouldn’t be perfect in justice. However, because God is also perfect in mercy and love, he voluntarily came on earth to suffer the punishment that would fall upon us.
Yes, God is justice, but as Jesus, he took the form of a man, lived a perfect sinless life, and thus was able to offer himself as a sinless and innocent substitute to suffer perfect justice on our behalf. He “went through hell” for us, so we wouldn’t have to.
From the following three verses are from the book of Isaiah, which even non-Christian historians date to more than 500 years before Jesus, we read the following prophecy pointing to Jesus.
Isa 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isa 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
When I, or anyone else who has prayed to God repenting of their sins, and made him the master of their life, meets him at the day of judgment, something awesome will happen: A book with all my sins will be laid out, but as soon as that book is opened, there will be a note. That message on the note reads: “Paid in full”, signed by Jesus, with his blood. Well, that’s an illustration, I don’t know that’s how things will literally go, if there will be an actual book and note, but you get the idea.
According to the principle of sufficient reason, everything in the universe must have a cause and nothing comes into existence by itself. This means, that the creator of the universe, the unlimited and infinite uncaused cause, must by necessity transcend our universe. He must be able to exist outside of it, not be limited to his own creation or even to time itself, which he also created.
We also discovered that an unlimited and infinite being must by definition be perfect in everything, because if he wasn’t, he would not be infinite and unlimited, but limited. Thus, he is also perfect in knowledge, power, goodness and love. The reason why he is not perfect in badness or evil, is because those aren’t things on their own, but rather corruptions or lacks of something good. And again, an unlimited and infinite being cannot by definition lack anything.
God did not create evil, as it’s not a thing, but rather a corruption of something, but it does appear that God allowed this corruption to happen as evil and suffering exists. A few possible reasons why God may allow evil and suffering to exist for the time being is that some things, such as a rectangular triangle, are impossible for even an infinite and all-powerful being to do. Likewise, some things, such as patience, character, forgiveness, can only be brought out through a process. Thus, it’s possible God is allowing evil and suffering in order to bring about the best possible eternity.
An all-knowing God knows the end of all things. An all-good God wants to bring all things to a good end. And an all-powerful God can bring all things to a good end. Therefore, all things (including any suffering we don’t understand) will come to a good end – if not in this life, then in the next.
In short, bad things will happen to good people, but a good end is guaranteed for you if you have repented of your sins and made Jesus the master of your life. Furthermore, if you’re in this group, even the bad things that happen to you, are somehow working for your eternal good through a loving God’s infinite wisdom (Rom. 8:28), who takes our suffering so seriously that he suffered for us. As Paul says; “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
 Geisler, Norman L.. If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question (p. 63).
 Geisler, Norman L.. If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question (p. 64).
 Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (p. xiv / location 804/4761). Kindle Edition.
 Geisler, Norman L.. If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question (p. 68).
 Geisler, Norman L.. If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Question (p. 56).
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