Summary: Throughout the history of mankind there has been a continual scene of bloodshed, plunder, stealing, rape, torture, dishonesty, greed, lying, and corruption of every kind which has caused many to struggled to understand how God, who is a magnificent being of great love and compassion, and who is so powerful that he is able to control the entire universe, can allow such ungodly evil to exist, especially since it is within his formidable power to prevent it. This article provides the answer to that perplexing question.
The apostle John said that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The apostle Paul told the saints living in Rome, “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He also thanked “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).
Even atheists acknowledge that the God Christians worship is a being full of love, mercy, goodness, and kindness and that he is all powerful and all knowing. And they say these are the attributes of God, not because they believe it but because that’s what the Bible tells us he is like. Even though they themselves may not believe in the words of the Bible, they nonetheless acknowledge that this is what Christians believe about the God they worship. And it precisely because of this view of God that both atheists and Christians often wonder why such a magnificent and powerful being, who can control the entire universe, allows evil to exist.
Throughout the history of mankind there has been a continual scene of bloodshed, plunder, stealing, rape, torture, dishonesty, greed, lying, and corruption of every kind which has caused many to struggled to understand how a God who has such great love and compassion for all of mankind can sit idly by and do nothing to stop such evil, especially since it is within his formidable power to prevent it.
Christians say that evil comes from the devil but that comment leads to an even greater dilemma. It is believed that in the beginning there was nothing but God and that at some point he created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. That includes not only man and the heavenly angels but he also created the devil along with his vast army of followers and allowed them to go about the earth corrupting everything good God had made. Therefore, the question has often been asked, why did a loving God create a being who is so evil that his only purpose seems to be destroying everything God has created, including all of mankind?
For this reason, many people tend to blame God when something in their life goes wrong. In their mind they feel that since God could have protected them from pain and sorrow and didn’t then he is therefore responsible for whatever tragedy or misfortune happens in their life. However, those most likely to make this argument are those who either don’t believe in God at all or, if they do believe he exits, behave as though God has no relevance in their life. This can also include people who go to church on Sunday but when the service is over go about their daily activities without giving any thought to living the teaching of Christ. These are the people who pay lip service to God but don’t want him telling them what to do.
There are many other Christians who try to live a good, decent life but feel that is as far as they want to go when it comes to committing their life to Christ. Yet, when tragedy strikes, they are quick to ask for God’s help but are not interested in serving God when he asks for their help and, more often than not, it is people like this who complain the most when bad things happen to them or to others. Interestingly, it is those who have committed their lives to Christ who complain the least when they experience calamities or heartaches.
The reason why people blame God for the troubles they see in the world or face in their own personal life is because they have an incorrect understanding of why God created us and the role adversity plays in God’s plan for us.
The Bible tells us that in the beginning, when God created the earth, he pronounced that everything was good, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” Genesis 1:26,27).
God then “planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food” (Genesis 2:8,9). In this garden was the tree of knowledge of good and evil and God said to the man whom he had created, “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16,17).
There are a number of things we learn from this often-told story. The first is that of all God’s creations, only man was made in his image. That makes man a very special creature in God’s eyes and, interestingly, man is the only creature who God asks to worship him.
The second thing we learn is that God placed man in charge of everything on the earth. We say that God is all powerful but here God is allowing man to rule over all that God had made, and that also includes man himself. In other words, God gave man the right to decide for himself how he wanted to live and how he wanted to manage the affairs of the earth.
This becomes even more apparent when we consider the third thing we learn which is that God gave man the right to eat from every tree in the garden except one. God had endowed man with power and authority over everything he had created and provided everything man needed to be healthy and happy. But if that is so, then why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden if he didn’t want man to eat from it?
If God really didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat from the fruit of that particular tree there were a number of things he could have done to prevent them from getting to it. For one, he could have not planted it in the garden in the first place. Or he could have put something around the tree that would have prevented Adam and Eve from getting to it and, in fact, that is exactly what he did after they had eaten the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:24). He could have also carefully watched over man and quickly intervened the moment Adam went to reach for the fruit.
But God didn’t do any of those things. What he did do was go away and left the man, whom he had created and given complete authority, alone in the garden with just his wife. What we see then is that God gave man his freedom to choose for himself whether to obey God or not, and that is the key to unlocking the mystery of why God allows evil to exist in the world.
God loved man so much that he not only provided every good thing for him but gave him the freedom of choice. God didn’t want man to become a puppet, whose every action was controlled by God himself. God created man to be free to decide for himself whether to be obedient to a God who loved him so much that he provided everything man would ever need, or whether man would choose to live his life the way he wanted to, without any interference from God.
Our creator’s love for us is so strong that he was willing to let us have complete dominion over our own life if that was what we chose to do. God loves us so much that he will not force us to love him, even though he wants us to love him and does everything he can to show his love for us. But he wants it to be our decision whether we want to love him in return. God loves us so much that when we choose not to love him he allows us the freedom to stay away from him. He will call to us, persuade us, and continually encourage us to come to him, but he will always allow us the freedom to decide for our self whether to love him or to ignore him.
Imagine a society where there is no crime of any sort. There are only two ways that can happen. Either everyone is so good that no one wants to commit crime or you have a police state where your every move is being watched and the moment you go to do something wrong, you are immediately punished. According to those who blame God when something goes wrong, this is exactly what they want God to do. They expect him to be a super policeman who immediately steps in and thwarts anything bad from happening.
Yet these same people are the ones who want to live their own life without God telling them what to do. With them it’s a case of wanting God to control other people, but not themselves. Yet, at the same time, they want God to be fair, but to do that God has to treat everyone the same. Therefore, if we want God to control the behavior of some people, then, to be fair, he has to control the lives of everyone.
There will be those who will argue that they only want God to control really bad behavior, but in God’s eyes, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “there is none that is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). That means, in God’s eyes, all of us are doing things that he finds abhorrent, which includes telling white lies, getting angry at others, being prideful, taking the name of God in vain, not keeping the Sabbath day holy, etc. Therefore, if we want God to control the behavior of people who do bad things that would include all of us!
Those who blame God because there is evil in the world expect God to step in and prevent anything bad from happening, but the only way he can effectively do that is by taking away our freedom of choice and forcing all of us to do what is right. However, no one really wants that solution either, including God. Therefore, the only real solution is that we need to control ourselves.
But the problem with this is that when people lie, cheat, steal, covet what others have, and treat others badly is precisely because they don’t want to control their own behavior. And when that happens they bring misery upon others as well as themselves. On the other hand, when people choose to follow doing things God’s ways we find them treating others with kindness, thoughtfulness, courtesy, and love. Thus, the solution to ending misery and unhappiness is to choose to accept God into our life and live the way he asks us to.
Jesus taught us to refer to God as our Father in heaven and the scriptures repeatedly talk about us as being children of God. As every parent quickly learns, children like to think they know what’s best for them but because of their inexperience and ignorance their ideas are often wrong. For example, if a child is playing with a ball and it rolls out into the street, they would think there was nothing wrong with racing after it without looking for on-coming cars. Most children like to eat candy and don’t understand the harmful health effects of eating too much sugary food. Very few children like doing homework or chores around the house but would rather be outside playing. It takes wise parents to guide their children and teach them to do those things that will kept them safe, healthy, happy, and intelligent.
In the same way, our Father in heaven knows what is best for his children but too often we think we know more than he does and resist doing things his way. And when that happens we end up doing things that either hurt ourselves or makes life miserable for others. Yet, when people hurt others because they refuse to follow the teachings of Christ, they then blame God for their poor choices.
God is like an engineer who has designed an intricate piece of machinery, and because he has built it he knows how it’s supposed to operate and the best way for it to be used to get the maximum amount of efficiency from it. We, on the other hand, are like someone who has just discovered this new device and know nothing about it. There are two ways we can learn how to use it. We can either consult the owner’s manual and follow its instructions or we can use the trial and error method to figure out how it works.
God has designed a marvelously intricate piece of machinery we call our body that contains an astounding and complex computer we call a brain and he knows exactly the best way for us to care for that body and how to use our brain to interact with others in such a way that will make us happy and healthy. But he has also given us the freedom to choose to either consult with him and the user manual he’s provided on how to live a fulfilling life, or to choose to learn how to do that the hard way.
Jesus taught, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). But instead of men embracing the light and choosing to follow the teachings of the light of life “men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). As the apostle John explained, “whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:10).
Evil doesn’t come from God but from men who refuse to follow God. It is when people who choose to ignore God and want to live their life as they see fit that the love of others and of God is replaced by selfishness, pride, and greed As Jesus explained, when “iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew24:12). Paul expanded on this when he said that “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, [and] despisers of those that are good” (2 Timothy 3:2-3). This is the source of much of the pain and sorrow we see being inflicted on others.
But what about the devil? Why did God create him and his angels? The scriptures tell us that Satan was once a glorious angel in heaven and that God gave him the same freedom of choice we have. And it was because of that freedom that he chose to follow his own path and sought to become greater than God (see Isaiah 14:12-15). However, the consequence of his rebellion was to be cast out of heaven and his name was changed from Lucifer, which means light of the morning, to Satan, which means enemy or adversary.
But in his infinite wisdom, God is using Satan to help bring about his own purposes, and he does this in two ways. The first is to help bring people to Christ. Many times it is when a person has hit rock bottom, mostly because of poor decisions, that they come to the realization that they need to change their lifestyle and begin looking for a way to better their situation. Or perhaps this happens when people have faced a dire situation that they couldn’t handle on their own and are desperate for help. There are countless stories told of people who have come to Christ when they have found themselves in dreadful circumstances with nowhere else to turn. Most often it is people who are comfortable with their lives who don’t feel the need to change.
The second thing God does with evil is to help strengthen those who already believe in him. There have been many instances throughout history where people’s faith has actually become stronger because of opposition. There is a saying that goes, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and this principle applies to many Christians who have had to stand strong in the face of persecution, oppression, ridicule, and scorn. Those who have been willing to give their life rather than renounce their faith are held in reverence and honored as martyrs, and it’s not uncommon for non-believers to be inspired to accept Christ because of the strength of courage and peace in adversity they see in followers of Christ.
It might be argued that adversity doesn’t always have a positive effect upon people, and that is true. There have been Christians who have renounced their faith in God when bad things have happened to them, or when they feel that being a Christian will not be advantageous to them. However, adversity can be used as a stepping stone to help us rise above the evil in the world and take us to a higher level of spirituality. On the other hand, we can stumble over it where it causes us to fall away from God and descend to the level of the world. But it is our decision that determines if we choose to use danger, hardships, and misfortune as a stepping stone or a stumbling block.
But, with freedom there inevitably comes responsibility for the choices we make. When we make good choices we reap good results but when we make bad choices at some point we pay a penalty for them, either in this life or the next. Jesus said that there was going to come a time when “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew12:36).
Those who don’t believe in God obviously don’t believe there will come a time when they will be judged for everything they’ve said and done, but what we believe is of little importance. Either we will be judged as Jesus said or we won’t, and no amount of belief either way is going to change that. Those who don’t believe in God are gambling that there won’t be a judgment day, but if they are wrong then they will have lost the bet. On the other hand, if Christians are wrong and there is no judgment day, they will not have lost anything but will have gained peace, contentment, and happiness while they lived in this world.
If there is a God and he is fair and just in all of his actions, then he will reward those who have chosen to accept him and sought to follow his ways with a gift that is far more magnificent and glorious than anything we can possibly imagine. On the other hand, those who have chosen not to follow Christ are not entitled to the same reward. That is only fair and right. Instead, they must seek their compensation from him whom they chose to follow.
Why is there so much evil in the world if God is a being of love? It’s because God has given us the knowledge of good and evil and the freedom to decide for ourselves which one we want to choose. He invites us to follow him and choose good, but if there is evil in the world it’s because we choose to ignore his ways, therefore we have no excuse for blaming God.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of God