Updated: Nov 9
Article by Steven Lester
I think R. C. Sproul Jr once said it this way when he was asked, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” To which he replied, “He has only done that one time, and that was His only begotten Son.” The point is that there are no good people that somehow deserve only the favor and benefit of God. The truth is, all people are sinful and rebellious. All people deserve the holy judgment of God, including death and everlasting punishment. When one truly understands this premise, then questions like “why doesn’t God stop evil?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” collapse under the reality of a thrice Holy God.
It is not new that Christianity or theism is constantly attacked with this line of questioning. “Why doesn’t God stop rape, murder, death of children, hunger, etc.?”, are not new. Variations of the same question have been posed all through scripture at various time periods and even today. I am going to show you several faulty premises the questions have built in.
First is the misunderstanding of God. The gravitation of human sinfulness is to reduce the image of God into an idol. In particular, an idol that takes on the character of the creation. God then, is similar to man. By reducing the transcendence of God in this way the holiness of God is diminished. God is above all things Holy. That is, He is not like humans. His holiness is such that any deviation from His will or His character is a major issue and it's called sin. God is jealous of His holiness and will take action against any infringement of it. In fact, the retribution of God is eternal judgement. The eternal judgement of God against any infringement of His holiness is consistent with the keeping of His holiness and His character. If God was to somehow sterilize His character by “letting sins slip”, or “sweeping them under the rug” it would compromise His very Nature: He cannot deny Himself. God must remain just. This high view of God is revealed by the Scriptures and is a jarring notion to the minds of fallen men.
The second faulty premise is the misunderstanding of man. Men, in contrast, are not holy. They are created, flawed, and corrupt by original sin. They are guilty of sin bequeathed by Adam and guilty of sin committed daily. Men are naturally enemies of God, they are blind to God’s nature, deaf to His words, empty of knowledge concerning His will, and only seek to usurp God and become their own authority. Sin is so glazed over that men accept it, promote it, glory in it, and lust for it. Men hate God because they love their sin. The notion of a Holy being is violently pushed out of the psyche and society because men love evil. The concept of the extent of the fallenness of men is very offensive to the modern mind. Men dare not look into the scripture to find the real truth about themselves. If men ever look into a mirror of introspection it’s always of their own making and then they always turn to their best side.
Third is the misunderstanding of morality/ethics. Ethics divorced from absolute authority will remain subjective at best. Culture has replaced God as the lawgiver and celebrities have replaced Moses as the Law’s spokesmen. Culturally founded ethics are inconsistent and vacillating. Abortion is glaring inconsistency in the cultural ethic. Murder is killing someone premeditatedly. This definition vacillates with the unborn. If it is convenient and it’s an unborn baby, it is choice. We live in a society that will concur that rape is wrong while at the same time, a huge number of the same population will attest that murdering unborn children is right. Sins are determined on how bad sinful people think they are. Society places a watermark on the landscape of human despondency that hilariously tries to separate right and wrong from a cultural perspective.
Culture is evolving or de-evolving may be more appropriate. Ethical change is a reflection of the ever changing culture. Case in point is the relevantly recent push by the pedophilia population to be lumped in with the LGBTQ community. They have rebranded their name as Minor Attracted People (MAP) in order to be more socially palatable. If one Google searches the subject the results will astound you as to the inroads they are making. If “love is love” then the LGBTQ community should have no ethical issues with allowing the MAP crowd to come sit at their table. The obvious problem with ethics is that right and wrong must come from an absolute authority. When a person says, “Why did God allow this lady to be raped?” there is an assumption of right and wrong: rape being wrong. Without a moral absolute, the question can become, “Who says rape is wrong?” In fact, who says anything is wrong? Who determines that even Nazi Germany was wrong in their systematic execution of millions? It was, after all, society who determined the ethic. Rape is wrong, murder is wrong, and will receive just punishment. The reason the Christian can attest to this moral absolute is because the ethic is found nestled in the very nature of a Holy God, expressed in the scripture and seen in the person of Jesus Christ. The naturalist cannot give an absolute in terms of morality. The reasoning then follows why should any ethic be superimposed upon anyone? For the good of society? Now the problem arises, who defines what is “good” or “profitable” for society? And around and around it goes.
The fourth faulty premise is the hypocrisy of borrowing from the Christian worldview to accuse the Christian faith. Any challenge to morality is essentially an act of the highest hypocrisy. The Judeo-Christian ethic founded in the pages of scripture is transposed upon society, providentially guided in the hearts of men by God restraining society from eating themselves. Whenever there is a dialogue using ideas like “good” and “evil” then by default the Christian worldview is presumed. Why? Because no other worldview can account for the basis of an absolute morality/ethic. (I would argue even to the point of the use of logic, reason, math, and words are all subsumed under the Christian worldview and no other worldview can account for them.)
In my formative apologetic years I often debated online (the merits of such arguments can be discussed at another time). One instance in particular stands out. In pressing home the very point of Christianity’s exclusive right to moral absolute, I asked an atheist to tell me the basis of why he thought genocide was evil. Being the honest atheist he was, agreed that he could not call it evil. He said it just “was." At least he wasn’t a hypocrite. Many flaming, militant atheists argue using the same morality that originates from the Judeo-Christian worldview. Yet, when pressed, they cannot account for evil and have to borrow the Christian worldview to accuse the Christian of inconsistency. It is like the flea denying the existence of the dog that is sustaining its very life.
So to answer the question, "Why God would permit evil?" it is because of His secret will, bringing to pass His providential plan through and overtop of the evils of men. Because of His holiness and man’s sinfulness, He is perfectly just in whatever tragedy that may happen to rebellious humans. It follows that no one can point at Him and accuse Him of being unjust when any evil happens to a fallen, rebellious world. Yet, in God's providential care He works all evils out for the good and saving grace of His elect and to the indictment and damnation of the wicked.
To conclude where I began, the only truly “Good” person was Jesus Christ. He is the only person that ever suffered unjustly. Evil befell Jesus and wrath was poured out on Him. God did not withhold suffering even from His Only Begotten Son. And it was through the vicarious death and resurrection of His Son, that faith in Him would provider salvation to many. So as the great passages in Romans 8 says, “Everything works together for the good to them that love the Lord and who are the called according to His purpose.”...This would even include evil things.
Pastor of Crossroads Church