The Faith part 2
Facing the Problem of Evil
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 18, 2009



Video – The Problem of Evil

This is possibly the most common and the strongest argument against the existence of an all good, all powerful God. It goes something like this…

If God is all good, then He’s going to want to get rid of all evil and suffering in the world. If God is all-powerful, then He’s capable of getting rid of all evil and suffering. But yet evil and suffering exist. So either God is not all-good, or He isn’t all-powerful, or He isn’t even all there.

But this isn’t a new argument. It’s a question that theologians, philosophers, and even skeptics have dealt with for centuries. As early as 300 B.C., the philosopher Epicurus expressed it this way…

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”
— Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief

I explained last week that one of the reasons we’re going through this message series is because there are so many attacks being made on Christianity right now and we’re so unprepared to address them. But the truth is, there are good, reasonable, logical answers for the questions that skeptics and anti-theists are proposing today.

Including this one: If God exists, why does evil exist? Or phrased another way, why do bad things happen to good people?

Now, understand, people ask this question from different perspectives. Some people are just trying to start an argument, and no answer no matter how logical or well thought out will suffice. For other people, they’re in the midst of something tragic… they’ve been the victim of evil and they’re suffering. For them, their questions are based on emotion and the best response is to focus on God’s faithfulness, His mercy, and his grace that can see them through this difficult time.

But for others, their questions are honest and they’re really seeking answers. They’re not looking for platitudes or for religious mumbo-jumbo. They want reasonable answers.

Now, what we’re not going to do this morning is focus on the authenticity of the Bible. We’ve talked about that in the past, and we’ve already discovered that the Bible is simply the most reliable book of antiquity. We’ve talked about how it’s been supported by historical evidence and by archaeological discoveries. Plus, in chapter three of The Faith, Chuck Colson does discuss the dependability of the Scriptures, and you can read about that on your own.

So this morning, we’re starting with the understanding that the Bible is a reliable source to help us understand and answer this question of evil. So let’s get to that. Why does evil happen? Well, simply put…


What is the Christian Response to the Problem of Evil?


1.    Evil happens because we live in a fallen world.

If you’re reading along in the book, then this week as you read chapters 5 and 6 you’ll read about this. You’ll read about how when God first created this universe, everything was good. There was no evil, there was no corruption, it was perfect.

But then we sinned. We rebelled against God. We chose our own way instead of His way. And that’s what we call The Fall. We fell into sinfulness.

Romans 5:12 (NLT)
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

So we learn from this that…

•    Evil is the result of our rebellion against God (i.e. sin)

But not only does this original sin spread to everyone, but it spreads to everything. All of creation has been affected. That means…


•    Our sin has contaminated all of creation

After that original sin, this is what God said in Genesis chapter 3…

Genesis 3:17-18 (NLT)
“…The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.”

Think about it like this… when you cook chicken, do you prepare the raw meat on a cutting board, and then use the same cutting board to prepare your salad? Why not? Because you don’t want to cross-contaminate your food. Otherwise you might end up with salmonella poisoning.

Kind of like what happened with Maple Leaf Foods last summer and into the Fall. There was a contaminant in one of their plants in Ontario that spread to the food and ended up causing the death of at least 20 people.

That’s the way it is with evil. Our sinfulness is an evil that has contaminated not just us but has spread to all of creation.


•    God does not create evil, but He does allow evil

God created us with the ability to choose. We often call this free will. It means that we have the capability to make decisions in everyday life, and we have the capability to decide whether we will love and honour God or if we will reject Him. And it’s when we reject him that evil becomes a reality.

Now, God could have made us without the ability to choose. But without the ability to choose, we would end up being his puppets. He wanted us to be able to freely choose to love Him. He didn’t want to force us to love Him, because any love that is forced is not genuine. It needs to be offered willingly.

Of course, along with the ability to choose to love God comes the ability to choose not to love Him. And when we reject Him and reject Biblical morals and values, we’re left with what we call evil. Thus, while God does not create nor desire evil, He does allow it. He has to allow it for free will to mean anything.

Listen to what Peter Kreeft, a philosopher at Boston College had to say about this…

“…It is not logically possible to have free will and have no possibility of moral evil. In other words, once God chose to create human beings with free will, it was up to them, rather than God, as to whether there was sin or not.
That’s what free will means. Built into the situation of God deciding to create human beings is the chance of evil, and, consequently, the suffering that results.”
~ Peter Kreeft


•    God can and does use evil for good purposes

Art Linkletter is a television veteran who has been in show business for 75 years and will turn 97 this year. He’s best known as the host of House Party, the longest running daytime variety show in television history, and Kids Say the Darndest Things. He’s also famous for his connection with Walt Disney and as the only person to ever have five shows on T.V. all running at the same time.

He’s a fascinating man, he’s had a very successful career, and he’s lived a long and full life. But it hasn’t all been rosey. He has suffered some devastating loses. For example, he lost one of his daughters when she jumped out of an 18 story window, which he claims was the result of an LSD flashback from 3 months earlier. Plus, he lost one of his sons an automobile accident. He has indeed suffered great lose.

“So I’ve had tragedies. But I found this out about a tragedy: It either leaves you diminished or enhanced. If you face up to it, if you make the best of it, you’re a better person. You appreciate love, you appreciate life, you appreciate all the things of being with people.”
~ Art Linkletter
Larry King Live, January 22, 2003

You know, bad things do happen. Evil exists. But God has the remarkable ability to take even the terrible things that happen and use them for the good.

Back in the Old Testament, we’re told the story of Joseph. You may know his story. Joseph was one of 12 brothers, but he was his father’s favourite. So his brothers became jealous of him, captured him, and sold him into slavery in Egypt. While in Egypt, Joseph was falsely accused of trying to rape his master’s wife so he was thrown in prison. Well, through a series of events Joseph was brought before Pharaoh to help interpret a dream Pharaoh had had. The dream was a warning about a famine that was going to strike the land. So Pharaoh appointed Joseph as second in command over all Egypt and gave him the task of preparing for this famine. Well, that famine came, and the very same brothers who sold him into slavery came to him to beg for food. And when Joseph told them who he was, he went on to say…

Genesis 50:20 (CEV)
“You tried to harm me, but God made it turn out for the best, so that he could save all these people, as he is now doing.”

Joseph understood that while God is not the author of evil, He can take the evil things that happen and turn them around and use them for the good.

And the truth is, you may never know what God is doing. Kind of like the butterfly effect… the idea that the tiny flutter of a butterfly’s wings may create changes in the atmosphere that can ultimately change the course of a tornado, or create a tsunami, or something like that.

Well, it can be like that with evil. You might not be able to see any good in it at the moment, but over the course of time… even centuries… God may take that evil that happened to work out His own good plan.


But still, some people still insist that an all-loving all-powerful God can and should eliminate all evil. Could He do that? Sure He could. However…

•    For God to destroy all evil would mean to destroy us

Because none of us are completely free from evil. Have you ever stolen a cookie? Have you ever told a lie, even a little one? Have you ever wanted to get revenge? Have you ever cheated on a test? Have you ever told a dirty joke? Have you ever acted in jealousy or even had a jealous thought? Have you ever felt an intense anger or hatred for someone else?

Oh, maybe you’ve never done anything that could get you thrown into prison. But that’s just a matter of degree. We’re still talking about evil. And if you’re honest, you have to admit that you have been evil yourself.

Chuck Colson does a good job of recognizing this fact, that none of us are pure and innocent. All of us are sinful. All of us are evil.

We may not all be murderers or rapists or international terrorists, but we are all experienced in evil in our thoughts, our actions, and our attitudes.

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

So instead of whining and complaining that God allows evil to exist, thank Him for not destroying all evil, because that would mean He would destroy you. When it comes to evil, it’s only a matter of degrees. We’re all guilty. And God can’t stand any of it.


2.    The solution to the evil in us is Jesus

You’re going to be talking about this in your LIFE Group this week. You’re going to be talking about what Colson calls “The Invasion”… when God entered into His own creation and Jesus was born to a virgin. You’re going to talk about why that was necessary.

And you’re going to talk about the crucifixion. You’re going to talk about why Jesus had to die. But let me try to explain it like this.

God is a God of mercy and of justice. In His mercy, He looks at our sinfulness and He wants to extend forgiveness to us. But His justice demands that a price be paid… that there be punishment for the crime of rebellion against Him. And the only way to satisfy both His mercy and justice, and the only way for us to be reconciled to Him, was for Him to come and to live a completely sinless life, but then to die a sinners death, paying the price for your sins and mine.

You and I could never earn forgiveness, but Jesus made forgiveness possible.

Jesus died for me and for you. But that wasn’t the end of the story, was it? Because Jesus also rose from the dead. He conquered the grave and proved that He has authority over life and death. And therefore we have the hope of eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Jesus… His birth, life, death and resurrection… Jesus is the solution to the evil of sin that resides within us. You’re going to talk about all that this week in your LIFE Group.


3.    We look forward to an eternity free from evil

This is the whole message of the Church: that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to face the death sentence that we deserved for our own evil so that we could experience a full and abundant life with Him in Heaven for all eternity. And that eternity will be free from all evil.

2 Timothy 4:18 (NLT)
Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
 
I’ve told you about this before, but I remember when my Great-grandmother died. She had spent a lifetime loving God and serving Him. Well, when she was 94, her health took a turn for the worse, and she was admitted into the hospital, and we all knew it wouldn’t be long.

And that day came. I wasn’t in the room at the time, but from what I understand the last thing she said was “Heaven at last!” What a powerful statement: “Heaven at last!” It was all she had hoped for. It was what she had looked forward to all of her life. And it was soon going to be a reality. This woman, despite her poor health and imminent death, found a source of peace and hope that cannot be found anywhere else but in the person of Jesus Christ and in the promise of eternal life with Him, freed from all evil.

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NLT)
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
 
In the book of Revelation, in the vision John had about what will happen after the second coming, John said…

Revelation 21:3-4,27 (NLT)
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”…
Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

All those things will be gone. There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more evil of any kind.

So while we struggle with evil now… internally and externally… there will come a day when those of us who are followers of Christ will experience a complete transformation and will enter into an eternity where we will never again experience evil in any form.

Romans 8:18-21 (NLT)
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.


 

 

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