Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Problem of Evil and Suffering: Its origins

           As we are on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I felt it necessary to do a series of blogs on the problem of evil and suffering.  Throughout the course of these next few blogs, the fundamental assumption will be two-fold: that only the Bible can answer the problem of evil. Second, although we may never fully comprehend all the issues raised by this question - yet God's goodness, justice and power are certainties, despite the presence of evil and suffering.  Today we will begin to look at evil's origins.

           We must realize that Lucifer was an angelic being that originally was created good and perfect along with the rest of creation (compare Genesis 1:31-2:3).   The closest the Bible comes to answering this question is Ezekiel 28:17a “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor". In other words, Lucifer took his eyes off of God's ultimate goodness and reasoned that his creaturely goodness was superior to God's goodness.  When it comes to the problem of evil, as it pertains to satan, we're not told why he did it, rather we're told what he did, and from whence it came - his focus on his beauty and the pride in his heart.

GOD IS NOT THE SOURCE OF EVIL, YET HE DECREED TO PERMIT IT       God is not the author or direct source of evil since no darkness is in Him (1 John 1:5). We know that God is eternally good and hates the sight of sin (Habakkuk 1:13). Whenever we speak of God's will, we can sometimes speak of what He decrees and what He Permits. We know from other scripture that nothing occurs in our universe apart from God either decreeing it directly or decreeing to permit it. (Please compare Daniel 2:21-23; 4:35 Romans 11:33-36).  In fact the Bible tells us in Isaiah 45:7 "I form light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil (some versions say "calamity"): I the Lord do all these things."             

          From these verses we can say the following: First, God decreed to permit evil. Second, God does not desire nor condone such evil. Thirdly, evil exists ultimately to bring glory to God. Though God did not place evil in satan's heart (for the Bible says it was satan who stirred up the pride), yet God did permit it to occur. Though God is against evil morally, yet He allowed it ultimately to bring glory to Him.  Bible teacher John MacArthur uses this simple string of thinking to bring clarity to the problem of evil:
A. God exists
B. Evil exists
C. God willed evil to exist
D. Though He is not the origin of evil
E. Yet He permited evil to accomplish one ultimate purpose, his glory

ILLUSTRATION: DIAMOND RINGS AND DARK CLOTHES            When I was getting ready to ask Debi to be my wife, I went to the Jeweler to look at engagement rings. The Jeweler brought out a dark piece of cloth. Now did I want the cloth? No. Then the Jeweler brought out some rings. Now they did shine, but was I able to see their beauty completely? Well, no not really. The cloth and the diamond are two completely different things. The diamond is a diamond, whether I see it or not. The dark cloth is completely useless and undesired by me. However, the Jeweler took the ring and placed it on the cloth. Wow! Did that ring ever pop out!  How is it that someone came up with idea of putting together a dark cloth and a diamond ring as a means of making the diamond more desireable to the onlooker? I don't know. Likewise, why did God decree to permit evil and suffering in His plan to offset His unending glory? Consider Romans 3:5 "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)  Though we may never fully comprehend the why questions in the problem of evil, we can be certain that God is always Good, always Fair and that in His Power He works to accomplish the Highest Good - His glory. 

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