Untangling The Problem of Evil

August 28, 2018

Let’s untangle the mess that we call Evil:
some of it’s choices of sinful people;
some of it’s judgement; some of it’s danger;
some of it’s pain, & when pain is a stranger
to heaven-bound hope, your love-tank gets cratered.
Then it’s called suffering—we’ll come to that later.

1. Endless Examples of Evil

War, poverty, death, disease, cancer, child abuse, rape, murder, genocide, injustice, et cetera…

2. The Classic Trilemma: ‘If Evil Exists, God Cannot’

Since Epicurus (the Greek philosopher), people have suggested that the reality of evil proves that God (ie. a perfectly powerful and perfectly good God) does not exist:

  1. If God is unable to prevent evil, then He is not perfectly powerful.
  2. If God is unwilling to prevent evil, then He is not perfectly good.
  3. Therefore, since evil exists, God is either not perfectly powerful, or not perfectly good.

3. The Problem of Evil turned Inside-Out: The Moral Argument

But to speak of actual evil, presumes that the universe has some underlying moral structure.

Consider the Moral Argument for God’s existence:

  1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist. [Else we cannot coherently speak of ‘evil’.]
  3. Therefore, God exists.

4. The Radiant Perfection & Total Goodness of God

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with You. Psalm 5:4

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one…   James 1:13

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  1 John 1:5b

5.The Consequent Goodness of Everything That Actually Exists

“Therefore, whatsoever is, is good. Evil, then, the origin of which I had been seeking, has no substance at all; for if it were a substance, it would be good.”     [Augustine, Confessions ch.XIII]

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31a

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11a

6. ‘Evil’ as Mythical Leviathan: Technically Non-Existent, but Vividly Real

41  “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? 2 Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? 3 Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? 4 Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?… 9  Behold, the hope of a man is false;he is laid low even at the sight of him. 10 No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me?… 18 His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn. 19 Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth. 20 Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. 21 His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth.

God’s response to Job, ch. 41

7. Satan therefore Not Essentially Evil, but Merely Fallen.

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering… 14 You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God… 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. Ezekiel 28:13-15

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’ Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15

Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:18

8. ‘Why then the Law?’ – The Dangerous Drug of Medicinal Morality

“You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.“ Genesis 2:17

What kind of Daddy puts the kids with their toys in
a magic garden with a tree made of poison?
But drugs are medicines when used with precision–
Judgment is a vital tool when you’re the Great Physician.

Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”   Mark 2:17 19

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions… 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned all under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:19a,21-22 7

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. Romans 7:7-11

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees!”  Mark 8:15//Luke 12:1//Matthew 16:6,11

9. The Reality of Choice

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”               Joshua 24:15

10. Sin has Consequences

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“    Romans 5:12

11. ‘Sovereignty of God’ as Spiritual Jujitsu 柔術

_“Jū” can be translated to mean “gentle, soft, supple, flexible, pliable, or yielding”. “Jutsu” can be translated to mean “art” or “technique” and represents manipulating the opponent’s force against themselves rather than confronting it with one’s own force._  [Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujutsu ]

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

12.  ‘Pain’ as Helpful & Necessary Low-Level Physical Feedback

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. [Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprosy ]

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ Leviticus 13:45

(This sounds cruel and uncaring to the sick person, but symbolically it makes sense–pain is a basic binary signal, crying out ‘unclean, unclean’ when overstimulated nerves alert the body to the possibility of dangerous damage. Leprosy results in the loss of ability to feel pain–and so in crying out ‘unclean, unclean’ the leper is forced to shout to those around, instead of his nerves shouting to him… Does that make any sense?)

A leper came to Jesus, imploring him, and kneeling said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” Mark 1:40-41

(So, think–in healing the leper, Jesus restored the man’s ability to feel pain!)

13. ‘Suffering’ as Possible (Faithless) Output of our Good (God-Imaging) Capacity for Self-Understanding via High-Level Personal Narrative

Whether pain is experienced as ‘suffering’ or simply as ‘price-worth-paying’ is all dependent on the (non-)existence of confident hope for a positive outcome.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit… Romans 5:3-4

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  Romans 8:35

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…  2 Corinthians 4:17

14. Innocent Suffering as Gospel Requirement

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…  1 Peter 3:18

No man can possibly redeem his brother or pay his ransom to God. For the redemption of his soul is costly, and never can payment suffice, that he should live on forever and not see decay… But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Psalm 45:8-10,15

15. Evil & Suffering as Irrelevance compared with Encountering God

Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!  Job 23:3

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.  Job 42:5-6

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…  Philippians 3:8,10

16. Evil Undone Part I: God-Forsakenness made Impossible by the Cross

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?      David, Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?   Jesus, Mark 15:34

17. Evil Undone Pt. II: Spirit-Filled Witness as Sufficient Intermediate Solution

6 The apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:6-8

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  Romans 5:10

18. Evil Undone Pt. III: The Ultimate Eschatological Extinction of Evil

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25:8

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4