Apologetics Lecture 12 Answering the Problem of Evil

Answering the Problem of Evil

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In this lecture, we will discuss …

 What the problem of evil is
 Why it is important
 How to answer specific worldviews
 Unscriptural ways (all bad?) to address the problem of evil
 A Biblical response to the problem of evil

Why is the Problem of Evil Important?

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Is there a problem with evil?

A typical formulation of the argument could go like this…

1.If God is all-powerful, he is able to prevent evil from happening.
2.If God is all-good, he would desire to prevent evil from happening.

Conclusion: so, if God is both all-powerful and all good, no evil thing would happen.

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3.But evil happens.

Conclusion: Therefore, an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.

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Now, of course, that is a very philosophical way of looking at it. But who has not asked the question, “why do so many bad things have to happen?” Or, “why did this bad thing happened to me, Lord?” Or an unbeliever might ask, “God, why did you kill my child?”

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This is the emotional way of viewing the problem. The emotional way of viewing the problem of evil also contains the philosophical syllogism above.

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Is there an answer to the problem of evil?

Do you mean by the question, “is there way to explain and defend God’s providence in every instance of evil?” For example, can we defend God’s sovereign control, his all-goodness and his all-powerfulness in light of each individual instance of evil?

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I will not be able to supply that to you. Nor can anyone else. We may not be able to satisfactorily reconcile God’s sovereignty and goodness with every instance of evil.

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We could answer the question by citing Romans 9:17 and then be done with our discussion.

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Romans 9:17 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”

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Why does evil exist? So that God might display his power and that his name might be proclaimed throughout all the earth. For example also see John 9:1-3. Why was the man born blind? For God’s glory, of course!

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John 9:1–3 1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

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But does this really remove all the mystery? You still wonder why, in order to display God’s power and good name throughout the earth, does he require evil, which seems totally opposed to everything that God is?

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Why can’t God display his good name without the existence of pain for little babies? If I’m totally in control of a situation and someone dies, I’m responsible in court!

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Who gets what answer?

To make things more complicated, different people ask these questions!

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We can answer differently to different people in different situations.

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For example, a Christian who is suffering may need encouragement to continue in the faith. If you need encouragement to continue trusting God despite what seems to be an unexplained evil, yes we can help here.

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For the atheist, I think we can offer to him pretty good rebuttals to his notion of the problem of evil.

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For the unbeliever who is personally suffering in some way, it gets more difficult.

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Considering the following, did God allow all of this? Did he control it? Did he foreordain? Did he cause it?

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Moral Evil: Human against Human evil

Anders Breivik kills 77,

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Natural Evil: Human Suffering and Natural Disasters

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If God is in control/ordained them/allowed them, how can God not be blamed?

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Theoretical Christians ask, “How can God be loving when He lets/allows/ordains/causes/etc. these things to happen?”

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In fact, someone came to my office once and asked, “I heard about a little girl, nine years old, who was repeatedly raped and finally killed from being attacked by a hammer. God being so good/loving, how could He allow this to happen? He has the power to stop it, why did He not stop it?”

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Theoretical (philosophical/intellectual): Atheists ask, “How can your God exist?”

Personal (emotional): Unbelievers and believers ask, “If God is good/loving, how could he let my child die/my young spouse die of cancer?”

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In other words, everyone everywhere asks the same question why do bad things happen to people? The same people might be able to understand why someone who just robbed and murdered someone was later struck by lightning, but they have a hard time when children are tortured and killed.

Why is evil a problem? Defining the problem

Let’s get a theological definition of the problem of evil. We already gave the syllogism above. Let’s work that out a little bit.

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The problem of evil is a difficulty due to the existence of evil, both moral and natural evil. This evil exists in a world created by God. The Bible teaches God is both completely good and all-powerful.

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If such a God existed, there would be no evil, since God would both want to eliminate evil and would be able to do so.

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One of the following…

 Deductive: If such evil exists, then it is logically incompatible with the existence of God.
 Evidential: if such evil exists, then it is unlikely that God exists.

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When we respond to these problems, we are giving forth a theodicy, “a defense of God.”

Answering the problem of evil biblically

We want to attempt to answer the problem as biblically as possible. But why?

It is important to answer it biblically because the Bible itself is preoccupied with the problem of evil. And it is God’s word! He has the answer! It is raised continuously in the book of Romans and even the whole Bible addresses the entrance of sin, which is the foundation of evil, and how God is deals with it.

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That seems obvious, but suprisingly, many multi-doctorate-d Christians respond and fail to understand the Scripture’s response!

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Arguments not found in Scripture

Before addressing good and biblical arguments for the problem of evil, we will first address arguments not found in Scripture. Some could be…

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 cogent and helpful, but unscriptural, not anti-scriptural. We can use these.
 some are cogent but anti-scriptural
 some are unscriptural and not cogent.

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We can’t use the last 2.

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We will have each solution answer the following question, “If God is so good/loving, why did _____ [evil event] happen? (Child die, natural disaster, etc.)

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Solution 1….

Evil is an illusion

Answer: the evil in the events did not happen. The evil that you see in the event is not real. It is an illusion.

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Kind of like this (hit the lights):

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http://bestnweb.com/images/blog/illusion/spin-illusion.png

Look at the outer edge and watch the inside spin!

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Though it appears to spin, you know in reality it is not.

Though it appears to be evil, in reality it is not.

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Evaluation: this is merely a play on words. If evil is an illusion, it is a horrible illusion! It’s an illusion that brings about pain, death, suffering, etc.

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So what is the difference between illusory pain and real pain? I still feel it. And the problem of evil is still unaffected.

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Someone could just ask the same type of question, “how could an all good all-powerful God give us terrible illusory pain?”

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In Scripture, however, evil is clearly treated as a reality. It has solutions, God addresses it, and we know sin is at the root of it.

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It remains that God works all things after the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:11. This includes people’s sin and evil, though God is not the author of evil. Read Genesis 50:20; Luke 22:22; acts 2:23; 4:28; Romans 9:1-29.

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Human events: Because the human heart is evil humans commit evil.

God’s response: Because the human heart is evil, God responds to sin Genesis 3:17-19.

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This is not a solution nor is it a biblical response. No matter how you analyze evil, it still is experienced by people. To categorize it as an illusion does not help.

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“If God is so good/loving, why did _____ [evil event] happen?” ANS: It didn’t actually happen, it was an illusion.

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God is weak: he cannot overcome evil

In other words when faced with the syllogism above…

[[A typical formulation of the argument could go like this…

1.If God is all-powerful, he is able to prevent evil from happening.
2.If God is all-good, he would desire to prevent evil from happening.

Conclusion: so, if God is both all-powerful and all good, there would be no evil.

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3.But evil happens.

Conclusion: Therefore, an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.]]

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…the advocates of this solution would concede the first premise.

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“Why did that bad thing happen? It is because God was unable to prevent it.”

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God does not overcome evil because he is unable to overcome evil. He is unable to prevent it. This is the viewpoint of the famous book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.

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This obviously denies Christian doctrine. In Scripture, God is clearly omnipotent, omniscient, and sovereign. His goodness is unquestionable.

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Unlike the first one, here you actually do have a so-called “solution.” You have a weak God. Obviously, it is in unscriptural position.

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If God is unable to overcome evil, he is unable to overcome any evil, or even personal eternal calamity. Someone may be intellectually satisfied, but they are faced with evil triumphing over God.

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This is The Best Possible World

This defense would say that certain evils are logically required in order to achieve something good.

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In other words, this position would say, “why did that evil thing happen? So that [insert good thing can happen].”

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God, being infinitely good and powerful, has made the best world that there possibly ever could be. Accordingly, he has allowed evil to come into the world in order to produce the best overall result.

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It sounds convincing at first, but does a perfect world that concludes with the best overall result logically require evil? I mean, God is perfect and there’s no evil in him and the original creation did not contain evil, Genesis 1:31.

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In other words, in this view, because this is the best possible world in the sense that in the end it will have the best result possible, evil is required right now.

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I reject that evil is required. This would seem to make God the author of evil, which He is not (James 1:13; 1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 5:12).

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However, taking into consideration sin and redemption, etc., our world is clearly the best world that God could have made. Read Romans 8:28; 9:22-23; Phil. 1:29. God, in his infinite wisdom, will use every evil motive and sin tainted thought for his own glory and for the good, that is Christ likeness, of his people. And with this world that we are in, with all of the sin and evil, God demonstrates his compassion.

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But the problem is that technically, we do not know whether the world we live in is the best possible world. This gives real complicated when you’re talking about what is possible within God.

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If God is free to make things that are either perfect or imperfect (Ex. 4:11), he would be able to make things that are either perfect or imperfect as it relates to this world and the end result of this world as well. So, in other words, we cannot claim to know whether we’re living in the best possible world and that therefore all the evils of this world are logically necessary.

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Man Has a Free Will

Of all the answers to the problem of evil, this is the most common.

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1.Evil came about by free choice of God’s creatures (Satan, man, etc.).
2.This free choice was not controlled, foreordained, or caused by God.
3.Therefore, God cannot be held accountable for it.
4.Therefore, the existence of evil does not violate God’s goodness.

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In other words, God cannot be held accountable for something that came about by the free choice of other creatures. This free choice was not caused by God or controlled by God or foreordained by God. Therefore, how can you say it violates God’s goodness?

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This is a fairly viable option. Let’s investigate it biblically.

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 What does the Bible say about man’s freedom?
 Man is free in the sense that he makes real choices.
 Before the fall, man could choose good or evil. This freedom has been removed by the fall (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10ff) and restored only by redemption (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ro. 6:1-14; John 8:32).

Okay, we’re doing good…

 Where should we place the blame for sin?
 Man is responsible for his own sin, not God. This is even the case when God foreordains an evil event. Read Genesis 50:20; acts 2:23; 4:27.

This response is good so far…

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But Scripture argues against this response in a certain way. Scripture denies that God has not foreordained/caused/directed the choices of man’s “free” will. Here, we will need to look at several Scripture passages. We already noted Genesis 50:20; acts 2:22; 4:27.

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Let’s also look at 2 Samuel 24:1 (1 Chr. 21:1); Proverbs 16:9; Luke 24:45; John 6:44, 65; acts 2:47; 11:18; 13:48; 16:14; Romans 8-9; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29).

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Romans 9. This passage specifically addresses the problem of evil. Notice that Paul does not resort to saying something like, “Evil came about by the free choice of intelligent creatures and it was not controlled, foreordained, or caused by God. God cannot be held accountable for it.”

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In this passage, the evil that is addressed is why so few Jews have believed in Christ for salvation, causing agony for some. The response, as we will see, presupposes the sovereignty of God. Read Romans 9.

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One would have to ask the adherents to this position, “why would Paul bring up the problem of this evil here unless Paul assumed that faith is actually a gift from God?” In other words, if faith in Christ solely rested in the “free will” of man, why would Paul attempt to defend God? The problem would then seem to be with man, not God. But Paul is addressing the problem of Israel’s rejection in light of God’s sovereign control, not their “free will.” In other words, the problem is that even though Israel is God’s people, he has withheld the gift of faith from them.

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So how does Paul answer this problem of evil?

1.Understand the “people of God” when it refers to Israel: There’s a difference between those who trust God by faith and those who descended from Abraham.
What is the cause of this division? Is it human choice or God’s choice? His focus is God’s choice, 9:11, 12. It was God’s “purpose in election” and it was “by him who calls.” The illustration of Esau and Jacob demonstrates that God foreordained their destiny. God did not choose Esau, he chose Jacob. God foreordained that.
2.Understand that God is just in his choices concerning evil: If you have an objection, Paul already knows it, Ro. 9:14. Was God unjust to ordain this evil for Esau? It was before he was ever born!
No, God is not unjust. Why not?
· Free-Will Position: This position rightly says “no” but only because they believe God saw Esau’s free choices all the way back before the beginning of time, which were not determined or controlled, etc., by God in any way.
· Paul: But if you ask Paul, it’s because of God’s free choice, not man’s free choice. Ro. 9:15. This is emphasized in Ro. 9:16.
Then, verse 17, we have God’s purpose for raising up someone who is evil, and verse 18, Paul’s conclusion about God’s choice toward evil people.
3.Understand God Does What He Wants! Verse 19 the problem of evil is addressed again, which is….If it’s up to God to determine whether this evil comes upon individuals or not, then how can we be blameworthy in God’s sight?
So why does God still blame us?
· Free-Will Position: Because God does not control our free choices. He does not control, foreordained, direct, or cause them.
· Paul: Romans 9:20-24.

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Scripture does not argue the way this position does, if you read the book of Job or any other passage. All of these passages have as their presuppositions God’s sovereignty. Clearly then, this position is unbiblical. Read Amos 3:6; Isa. 45:7; Eccl. 7:14; Lam. 3:37-38

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Building Character

This position says, “Why did God allow that evil thing to happen to you? Because, in order to come to full maturity, you must undergo suffering.”

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Granted, suffering builds character. Hebrews 12; Ro. 8:28-30.

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 However, was Adam not mature when he was created?
 How does this relate to unbelievers? They are likely to learn nothing from it.

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This is similar to the….

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Stable-Environment

… Argument. C.S. Lewis argued this one.

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1.We need a stable environment in order to make plans.
a.My comb does not turn into a tortoise.
b.Therefore, I can make a plan of combing my hair.
2.A stable environment opens up the possibility of evil.
c.Gravity is part of a stable environment
d.If I fall down, gravity is not suspended.
3.Therefore, evil must exist if we are to enjoy a stable environment.

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 However, was Adam not in a stable environment when he was created before the fall?
 Granted, I do not know how Adam and gravity related before the fall. Evidently, perfectly, but in what sense I do not know.
 But what we do know, is that there was no pain and suffering until the fall. And previous to the fall, we had a stable environment.

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Is Ro 9, election, talking about election to salvation? No, it’s individual election for carrying the Abrahamic promises and the seed of Israel. Paul applies God’s choice of Jacob to God’s saving purposes.

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I do not believe in reprobation, symmetrical (or equal), double predestination, that active/positive decree of God whereby He elected certain individuals for damnation just as He elected others for salvation. I believe that, with a passive/negative decree, God passes over certain individuals, leaving them in their native unbelief (preterition) and punishes them for their sin (damnation). God never initiates sin and is not responsible for sin (Ja. 1:13); man is (Ja. 1:14-15). Therefore, man is also responsible for his own damnation. However, God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens to every man, including the unconditional hardening of certain sinners’ hearts (Ro. 9:16, 18; see Job 2:3; Ps. 33:15). I believe that the two facts that man is responsible and yet God is the ultimate cause (Ro. 9:19-20) is a mystery.

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Indirect Cause

This position would say, “why did that evil thing happen to you? God is the indirect, not the direct, cause of the evil. Therefore, he bears no blame for it.”

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For example, God is the ultimate cause of my lecture tonight, but not the author of it. He is not the author of what I say or do not say and therefore, he is not blameworthy.

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The truth in this position

 God’s relationship to moral evil is indirect. James 1:13 and the serpent, not God, tempted Eve.
 Moral blame is only attached to the creatures.

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But the question is, is there some relationship between these two facts? Is there a disconnect between the fact that God is indirectly related to evil and that moral blame is only attached to creatures?

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In other words…

 God is indirectly related to moral evil.
 Moral blame is only attached to the creatures.

…but this begs a question doesn’t it?

 …what is the relationship between those 2 statements?

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Let me ask this question. Is there a disconnect between me hiring a hitman to kill Bob and that hitman killing him. Am I blameworthy? Yes.

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In other words, indirect causality does not hold up; it’s not helpful. Just because I do not hold the trigger, does not mean that I am not responsible. And just because God is indirectly related, doesn’t necessarily mean that he is not responsible either. (we’ll see this later from Job)

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Now perhaps you see the problem of evil more clearly, how it is a problem!

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Above the Law

This position says, “why did this evil thing happen to you? God is not blameworthy because he lives on a different moral plane. He is righteous; he can do what seems right to him.”

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You cannot say that God is on a different plane morally and therefore God can do whatever seems right to him, because the laws that God has given are a reflection of his own character. Exodus 20:11; Leviticus 11:44-45; Matthew 5:44-45; 1 Peter 1:15-16.

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An aside…

Answering Atheists Offensively

This argument only goes so far, but it is important when answering atheists on a theoretical and philosophical level.

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The problem of evil is important in answering atheists because it is the only apparent proof in favour of atheism. Other atheist may claim they have other proofs for the non-existence of God, but this is the only one that can claim to be a proof.

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Their arguments are against theism, but arguing against theism is not proof in favour of atheism.

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Atheist may claim up to three different types of arguments against theism.

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1.Any evil disproves an all-good God.
2.The amount of evil and that it is needless and pointless, disproves God.
3.That evil things happen to good people just as much as to bad people, disproves God.

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From my doctrinal statement…

I believe that the problem of evil is only a problem for atheists. If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, how can evil exist? The atheist answers that, since evil exists, there must be no God. The deist may state that if there is a God, He must not be good or He must not be omnipotent.

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However, there is no logical contradiction in the posing of the problem for the theist.

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1.God is omnibenevolent.
2.God is omnipotent.
3.God created the world.
4.The world contains evil.

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[as Christians, we can attempt to answer the question of “What is the relationship between these 4 premises]

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But the atheist posing of the problem is problematic:

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1.The idea of God is that He is omnibenevolent.
2.This God is omnipotent.
3.This God created the world.
4.The world contains evil.
5.An omnibenevolent God would not allow evil to exist [or] an omnibenevolent God always eliminates evil immediately, with no delay.
6.Evil exists [or] evil is not immediately eliminated.
7.Therefore, this God cannot exist.

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For the atheistic syllogism to hold true, one of the two options in premise 5 must be proven. Either “An omnibenevolent God would not allow evil to exist” or “an omnibenevolent God always eliminates evil immediately, with no delay.” However, neither of these can be proven by atheistic posers of the problem.

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Perhaps more importantly, atheists and naturalists cannot prove premise 4, concerning the existence of evil. The atheist does not believe in an ultimate standard of evil. If there is no ultimate standard, evil cannot be defined absolutely and is, therefore, merely “the violation(s) of a subjective preference.” But evil defined as “violation(s) of a subjective preference” makes the premise above (“the world contains evil”) read this way: “the world contains violations of subjective preferences.” This does not contradict the premise that God exists.

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In other words, violations of a subjective preference do not contradict the premise that God exists. The existence of God is in no way contradictory to violations of our subjective preferences. Preferences must include mundane things as well in the atheistic worldview. If I ordered vanilla ice cream at Dairy Queen and I received chocolate ice cream, it is not valid to conclude that God does not exist.

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All the following are wrong and everyone views them differently…Get your emotions on your sleeves for each of the following.

 I received chocolate ice cream at Dairy Queen when I ordered vanilla ice cream. That’s wrong. Someone should not go to jail for that.
 I put 2+2=5 on a math test. That’s wrong. I should not go to jail for that.
 I toture children. That’s wrong. I should be put in jail for that (or worse).

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These are all “wrong” and everyone knows it. Upon what foundation does the atheist see the difference between how wrong each is? Why do you not put dairy queen workers who err and math failures in jail, but you do put children torturers in jail?

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Convention? Then, in another world, we could switch these around and it’s ok! Let the child molester go free and put the math failure in jail. How do atheists explain how they have moral disgust in their hearts? Does convention explain it? If convention does, then we are morally right to pick new morals. Execute all the math failures!

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Absolute evil is only logically consistent for the theist. Therefore, the very posing of the question by the atheist presupposes the Christian worldview.

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Make sense?

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However, this alone is insufficient for an answer to the problem of evil.

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When an unbeliever asks how we account for evil and we say that he has a worse problem, we do not give an account for evil. We merely say he has a worse problem. But we also would need to give the right answer!

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God created everything good, but men choose to rebel, bringing about evil. Nature, the serpent, and man were cursed. God does not directly cause moral evil (Ja. 1:13), but He is sovereign over it. He has good purposes for evil (e.g., Ro. 8:28-30). I believe that God’s decrees and sovereignty are not fatalistic, because fatalism has no ultimate cause in view. Fatalism (destiny) is controlled by unintelligent factors and does not allow for human choice. However, the Bible clearly teaches that human responsibility is as real as divine sovereignty. Behind the living God’s actions is always love (1 Jn. 4:8).

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God is the author of certain things (directive will). He created (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:18) and actively controls the universe (Dan. 4:35). He sets up kings and governments (Dan. 2:21) and elects certain people to salvation (Eph. 1:4). He also creates calamity (Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). However, He is not the author of certain things, e.g., sin, though He actively controls it and it is included in His eternal plan (permissive will). There is a distinction between making the decree and executing the decree. He can use secondary “non-authorship” means to execute His eternal decree.

So what’s the Bible answer to the problem of evil?

Good Arguments

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We need to do is discover exactly what the Scriptures teach so we know how to address this question to Christians and unbelievers who believe in a good God.

Where we’re headed…

 God is the Standard for His Actions
 History Proves the Surety of God’s Justice and Goodness
 Past: God has vindicated his justice and mercy in the past; therefore, we can trust him to vindicate himself again.
 Present: the greater good: God uses evil to bring about greater good.
 Future: God promises full deliverance from all evil.
 God has Given a New Heart to Believers
 the problem of good
· Why do we not do more evil?
· It’s amazing God has forgiven anybody!
· Multiple reasons to give thanks.
 Christians considering leaving the faith: Posing the problem of evil demonstrates a changed heart!

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So here we go! …

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 God is the Standard for His Actions

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For this section, we will look directly at Scripture passages that will teach us the following themes concerning the problem of evil.

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1.Those who “shake their fists” at God have charges directed back at them. The charges are reversed.
2.The sovereignty of God is honored.
3.God rejects the supposed obligation to explain himself.
4.God’s Word/character is proven to be reliable.

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In order to think God’s thoughts after him, we need to understand Scripture’s perspective regarding the problem of evil. First of all, Scripture never sets forth the assumption that God is required to give us an explanation for anything that he does.

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This is essential to understand. Is a sovereign, all-powerful God, who rules the entire universe, required to give you an explanation for a particular evil that has happened?

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What we will do is go through passages of Scripture that bear this out.

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Genesis 3

There are many questions that we have regarding the story about how evil entered into the world in the first place. You can make a strong case that Adam and Eve eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the worst evil that ever happened.

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It’s the foundation for all other evil occurring on Earth. It’s the reason for all of the tsunamis and earthquakes that kill hundreds of thousands of people.

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Where did Satan come from? If he was created good how did he become evil? Why was he allowed to go into the garden? Why did God, who is infinitely good, foreordain this entire event to take place?

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But the passage does not answer these questions! Adam blames God for giving him the wife who tempted him (Genesis 3:12). But God does not explain himself. Instead, God declares Adam’s sinfulness, pronounces a curse, and then leaves. Thus, the charges are reversed.

Genesis 22

A similar pattern is found here. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own son. His son, Isaac, is the child of promise through whom would come all the blessings of Israel. How on earth is this compatible with God’s goodness? Obviously, Abraham believed that Isaac would rise from the dead, and the story tells us that God prevented it from happening, but was this not playing around with Abraham’s love for his son?

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But the passage does not answer this question! What is the purpose behind both of these passages not answering our questions concerning the problem of evil? God is claiming His right to be trusted. In other words, it doesn’t matter what might provoke your suspicion of God or his actions. God is sovereign and that’s the way it is. And we would expect that, frankly, given who He is.

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Exodus 33:19 declares the name of God. God does not have to submit to man’s judgments, values, thought processes, etc. God is not obligated to explain himself. He is the King and we’re the subjects. Obviously, this goes against our sinful desire for individual autonomy.

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Job

It is similar in the book of Job. Job of course believes he is suffering unjustly and demands an interview with God, Job 23:1-7.

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God gives him the interview in Job 38-42 but it is on God’s terms not Job’s terms. God gets to ask the questions, not Job. Read Job 38:3-5.

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Many other similar questions God asks Job. Here’s the point:

 Job was ignorant concerning the way God works in the natural world.
 The spiritual world of good and evil is much more beyond understanding than the natural world.
 Therefore, Job was even more ignorant concerning the way God works in the spiritual world than the natural world.

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Job confesses defeat in 40:4 as well as Job 42:2-6.

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Here is another clear example of our first principle, namely that the charges are reversed. Just like Adam intended to bring charges against God (God gave Adam his wife), God reversed the charges (the curse). The result is that the one genuinely complaining (‘shaking fist’) is convicted of sin.

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Even though we can read the first part of Job and understand that God permitted Satan to tempt Job, Job never learns why he has to endure the suffering. In fact, Job 2:3.

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Clearly God says that there was no previous condition or entity, no reason or cause previous to Job’s suffering, for why the suffering happened.[1] Job is godly; he deserves reward.

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Also clear is God’s involvement in the matter.

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When Satan provoked God, God permitted Satan to destroy Job without reason.

Satan is the agent; God the author.

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There is something to prove between God and Satan. Ephesians 3:10; 1 Co. 4:9

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But surely the following is a good analogy, right? …A son asks a dad, “Can I hit my sister?” “Sure,” says Dad. What a bad Dad! Now, are you going to draw the comparison and conclusion with God? That God is a bad god? Now wait a second…this would be making God in our image!

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Why did God allow Satan to do this? Clearly God was interested in proving the point that He can overcome Satan. But why would God be so interested in that to the detriment of Job?

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And why was Satan created and permitted to make these evil choices at all?

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The book of Job does not answer these questions! Just because we see that there is a heavenly battle going on does not mean that we are somehow in a better position than Job. In other words if someone says… “if only I could be in heaven then I could know why these bad things are happening to me.” This is to no effect! It’s not true!

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We’re in the same position as Job; every human who experiences suffering is in the same position as Job.

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Therefore, we have to receive God’s counsel to Job as our own. We were not there when God laid the foundations of the earth. Take Job 38-42 as your counsel and as the counsel you give to others.

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We are not wrong to ask inquisitive questions about the problem of evil; however, we need to be careful not to accuse God or doubt his goodness or we will be rebuked like Job was rebuked.

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Matthew 20:1-16

Read Matthew 20

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This is Jesus parable of the workers in the vineyard. Some work one hour others all day but they all receive the same exact pay. Some complained about this being unfair, that is, the problem of evil. But the master, or in our discussion God, replies, “You agreed to work for such and such a wage. I am not being unfair to you I have made a decision to give the man working one hour the same pay as I gave to you. I have the right to do with what is my own. You are envious because I’m generous.”

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In this very parable we have all four of our biblical themes when it comes to the problem of evil.

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1.The charges are reversed: those who complained about the master being unfair were in turn accused of being envious.
2.The master responds with a note of sovereignty, Matthew 20:15.
3.The master does not give any reason for why he gives all the workers the same pay, other than he is generous. He was not concerned whatsoever with violating human judgment.
4.The master proves he is reliable and trustworthy, Matthew 20:13.

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Plus, if you interpret the situation correctly, as the master sees it, you will see that the master is not unfair to those who worked all day but only that he shows generosity to those working just one hour. In other words, what are your presuppositions when trying to evaluate God’s character and purposes with reference to evil? Your presuppositions are either good or bad.

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You may not always be able to determine God’s perspective on everything. ;o)

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However, you can always assume that his character will be that which he has stated.

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Romans

 Romans 3:3-4.

Read Romans 3:3

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Is God unjust to Israel, since they received the promises of God, when He withholds saving faith from some? So in the context he is talking about Jews and Jews were the recipients of the promises. What if some of these Jews, who were recipients of all the promises, do not actually believe? It is clear in Paul’s mind that God gives faith. If God does not give faith to some Jews, is God no longer faithful?

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Here, we can fall back on principle number three, that Paul does not allow the burden of proof to be put on his own shoulders. Instead, Paul rebukes this. Read Romans 3:4.

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So the one complaining is rebuked

God’s word is proven to be reliable

God rejects any obligation to explain

God’s character is proven to be honorable

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So if God withholds saving faith, then wrath results. Read Romans 3:5. In other words, how can God righteously inflict wrath when my unrighteousness actually demonstrates God’s righteousness?

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Read Romans 3:6.

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Paul merely upholds God’s sovereign right as the supreme judge. Paul offers no reason or explanation as to how God is able to avoid a charge of injustice. This is even more emphasized in Romans 3:7-8. Paul merely asserts their condemnation.

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And we dealt with Romans 9 in detail last time. We can conclude from Romans 9 that God is sovereign and can do what he wants to do; he can have mercy on whomever he wishes and he can harden whomever he wishes. If you are going to accuse God, God is justified to turn the tables on you. Read Romans 9:19-21.

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So here we go again, our principles….

 Complaining against God equals disobedience, even in the area of the problem of evil. Will you accuse God like as in these passages in Romans?
 God expects you to trust him and obey even when he does not give you intellectually satisfying answers.
 God is sovereign over every situation
 God’s word is reliable
 God is not unjust, but holy.

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If you were addressing this with someone, you could say…

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Summary: God is not subject to human judgment. We are subject to him. Whether we like it or not, this is our situation. Knowing this, though, also be sure of God’s goodness, which is clear from Scripture.

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“Think of our situation as human beings. We are in a humble position. We have sinned against God and God has cursed the earth. We chose to sin. When we think some evil has come, be reminded that we are subject to him that he is not subject to us. The Scriptures inform us that he is completely good in every way.”

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Now, this is not to say we are to believe this blindly. This is just part of the response. We need to understand our position before God. There is a sense in which this is sufficient. But thankfully, the Bible gives us more insight into the problem of evil.

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Secondly now….

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 History Proves the Surety of God’s Justice and Goodness

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How can we be sure of God’s justice and goodness? God must be just in order to be consistent with himself and he must be good in every situation. The Bible says so.

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And saying that it does is the right answer! But we can also know the methods and manners God uses in order to vindicate himself. How does God justify his actions?

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Summary: God vindicates (proves) his justice by helping us to see history from his perspective.

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The scriptural answer to the problem of evil also includes helping yourself and others see the past and present and the future from God’s viewpoint.

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And with this, we are talking about time. Part of the problem of evil is that moral evil and human suffering are all drawn out in time. If atrocities happened instantly with nothing drawn out in time (including mourning), we would be less upset by it. So we have to deal with time. We will deal with how God acted in the past, present, and future.

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When we look at the past, we can say…

 Past: God has vindicated his justice and mercy in the past; therefore, we can trust him to vindicate himself again.

In the Bible we learn that God tests his people throughout a time period and then we see how God at the end, vindicates Himself. He requires His people to wait! In the end, he proves himself to be trustworthy and reliable.

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We could go through the story of Exodus, how God’s people of Israel waited hundreds of years to be delivered from slavery. We could see how Moses waited from age 40 to the age of 80 to meet God and to deliver Israel to its promised land. We could look at the wilderness wanderings and see how God’s people had to wait and wait. They complained against Moses and God was faithful to judge as well as being gracious.

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They went to the Promised Land and soon they began to do what was right in their own eyes, forgetting the Lord and serving other foreign countries. They would cry out and God would help them.

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God commands that they offer sacrifices that don’t take away sin nor did they crush Satan’s head. Israel increasingly disobeys and finally we have the promised Messiah.

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So you see all of those sins that were previously passed over. In other words, how can God be just and merciful to his people under the Old Covenant? How can God be both just and merciful at all?

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The answer is found in Christ! Romans 3:26. The atonement proves that God can be both just and merciful. Christ has satisfied the justice of God whereby he may give mercy to those who believe. Forgiveness is now justified because of Christ.

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So in other words, this exercise shows that history under the Old Covenant presents the problem of evil in two different ways.

1.The problem of God’s people having to wait through suffering and temptation.
2.The problem of reconciling divine attributes.
 How can God be both just and merciful to sinners?

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If you were living in the Old Covenant, you could wonder how God could be merciful to you and just to you at the same time. That was a problem. You would have had no idea how God would have resolved that problem. And then Jesus came and now we know.

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So God’s people waited these hundreds and hundreds of years for the coming of the Messiah and this waiting and waiting caused anticipation to the point that when he Messiah finally came, we can sense all the more the liberating power of salvation.

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This exercise is helpful in that it tells us that even though we don’t understand a particular problem (e.g., problem of evil), we can see that in the past God has solved a problem that previously seemed unable to be solved.

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However, clearly this does not explain earthquakes and genocide. But it does help us understand that God vindicated his justice and his mercy in the past and he could vindicate them in the future as well. In other words, with the sufferings of little children, we can observe that God was faithful to satisfy his own justice and mercy. We can assume then that he will do that again.

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He satisfied his justice and his mercy far beyond any expectation that he could. There is a marvelous picture of all the glories of God in the gospel that goes far beyond what we could ask or think. Will not God continue to be God in this way in the future and with reference to all problems?

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So it makes sense to trust God even while suffering or while observing other people suffering.

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 Present: The greater good: God uses evil to bring about greater good.

God uses evil for his own good purposes. We need to deal with the problem of evil in a God centered way, not a man centered way. The Bible is God centered.

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So when we speak of the greater good we’re talking about one good being greater than another when it is more in keeping with the glory of God, not man. Other words, we should not be talking about things like…

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“Well if such and such bad thing did not happen, then such and such good thing for man’s happiness would not have happened.”

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This is not to say that man’s happiness is ignored by God. Indeed, what is good for God is ultimately good for man, who was made in the image of God. Even death and persecution lead to ultimate happiness and blessedness.

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So the greater good for God will result in the greater good for man, that’s why we revel in the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21-22.

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However, to be clear, God’s ultimate glory and man’s happiness do conflict, especially when we think of unbelievers for all of eternity. But when man’s happiness is in conflict with God’s glory, we have no right to choose man’s happiness and accuse God. We must choose God’s glory. This would fall back on our first principle of God being the standard for his own actions.

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Scripture does give us some explanations for certain evils, but it does not give us every explanation for all sorts of evils. God does use some evils in order to advance his good purposes.

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1.We already investigated God’s justice and mercy and that problem in the old covenant, as seen in Romans 3:26.

Evil: God’s attributes of justice and mercy in conflict previous to the Messiah. How could God justify wicked people and still be just?

Solution: Christ, Romans 3:26.

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Sin is used to display God’s justice and mercy.

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2.Judgment of evil during this life and in the future.
 Read Matthew 23:35: Jesus is speaking to the scribes and the Pharisees and pronouncing woes upon them. They persecuted the prophets in verse 34 and are judged for it in verse 35. God will judge sin.
 John 5:14. Jesus seems to indicate that a worse thing would happen to the man whom he healed if he were to continue in sin. In other words, God will judge evil.
3.Suffering for someone’s salvation: Christ suffered and redeemed; similarly Paul sees a similar significance to his own sufferings, since they both have the same purpose for salvation. Read Colossians 1:24. Paul knows God is usin his sufering for God.
4.Zechariah 13:7-9; Luke 13:1-5; John 9. These verses teach that for unbelievers, suffering is intended to gain their spiritual attention and to seek to help them change. When tragedy strikes, God’s message to everyone is repent!
5.Suffering for God’s children is his discipline, Hebrews 12:4-6, especially persecution in the context. Discipline is good for His children.

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These are merely some of the reasons that God has chosen to teach us. We cannot always understand God’s reasoning behind every evil. Every evil event for God’s people has their good in mind Romans 8:28. However, God is not obligated to give us further reasons for his conduct.

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Since we can understand that God uses evil in order to bring about good over and over again, shall we not assume that in the goodness of God, in the infinite goodness of God, shall he not do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think especially as it relates to evil? Even though we cannot see it now, by faith, can we see it afar?

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 Future: God promises full deliverance from all evil.

Looking at the problem of evil from history, thirdly we need to understand the future. We are still waiting for ultimate redemption in the final day of God. We have not seen all of God’s the good results of all of God’s purposes.

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In the future, we can see God’s total vindication.

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Just as God told Habakkuk, we also should wait for God’s judgment 2:2-3 and remember God’s past works 3:16-17.

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One day, you will be able to say with the saints Revelation 15:3-4.

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In other words, when all of history is concluded there will be a revelation that will remove any doubt of God’s goodness. At that day, God may shut our mouths as he did Job’s. It may be as well that seeing God face-to-face will cause such a transformation that we will be able to say that the judge of all the earth has done right.

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There’ll be no future problem of evil all evil will be dismissed. And if we believe that that day was coming, we can be content today.

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Unfortunately, Scripture does not give us a tight theological solution to this problem. We are exhorted, given reassurance, given examples of how God uses evil for good, and were given motivation to keep trusting and obeying God even though there is much wickedness in the world.

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However, we do have philosophical proof that the problem of evil does not disprove God or his goodness. We have seen as previously. We have every scriptural indication that God is good that God is loving and even though we do not see the reasons for God’s permission of certain kinds of evils, this gives us no reason to doubt his goodness or his love.

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In fact, given man’s fall from God (which is HUGE!)…

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 God has Given a New Heart to Believers
 the problem of good

We actually have a problem of good! If you can bring up the problem of evil you can also bring up the problem of good. In other words,

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· Why do we not do/see more evil?

Given man’s fall away from God and desire to rebel against God, why do we not have more evil?

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Just like the parable in the vineyard in Matthew 20, has not God been generous to you and to everyone, no the matter what their stage of life is, to give them food, water, air to breathe, clothing, happiness? God has been generous in every way to every single human individual on earth, even though that person has rebelled so much against him!

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· It’s amazing God has forgiven anybody!

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And so it is amazing that God has forgiven anybody and it’s amazing that God has given anybody any happiness at all! The only thing that anybody ever deserves matter what their stage in life is death and hell! Given the situation on earth, that there is some happiness, I would assume that hell could be even hotter, but God has likely even put a limit on that. He’s merciful, even in Hell!

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Thus, we have multiple reasons to give thanks for what God has done.

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Real Life

So, if somebody asks you, “how can God be loving when a nine-year-old girl is raped and murdered?”

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 I would answer to the atheist, intellectually, first of all, it does not disprove the existence of God. In fact the posing of the question presupposes the Christian worldview (namely, that there is actual evil in the world)
 Secondly, I would explain Scripture’s answer. Namely,

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1.Complainers have charges directed at them; charges are reversed. [now people genuinely interested are not complainers]
2.The sovereignty of God is underscored/honored.
3.God rejects the supposed obligation to explain himself.
4.God’s Word/character is proven to be reliable.

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Passages that demonstrate this concisely include Matthew 20:1-16 and Romans 3 and, above. You could also point them to the book of Job.

 Thirdly, demonstrate that history proves that God is always good and reliable when it comes to problems of evil. This includes
 past (Ro. 3:26)
 present (God judges evil and can do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think), and…
 future examples (we will conclude Revelation 15:3-4 and understand perfectly that God is just and good and merciful.).

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In short, “I know God exists; evil would be impossible otherwise. The Scripture tells us that God is not obligated to answer our questions about his actions. God has shown himself and his word to be reliable and God is always in control of the situation and that control is honorable. Scripture also bears out that those who complain against him will have those charges reversed against them.

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I know God has solved difficult problems of evil in the past that he is judging evil and doing exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think today and that in the future he will demonstrate his righteousness and goodness and mercy to the eyes of all. God has proven to have sufficiently moral reasons for the calamity He causes or allows.

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In fact, I’m surprised that there is any goodness at all in this world! I’m surprised that anybody lived past childhood without being judged to hell! We are so incredibly sinful, sinning against an eternal God, why should God not destroys us all?

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from Apologetics Lecture 12 Answering the Problem of Evil

Go to Theology Main Page

Go to Apologetics Lectures Main Page

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  1. NET: 8 sn Once again the adverb ~N”xi (khinnam, “gratis”) is used. It means “graciously, gratis, free, without cause, for no reason.” Here the sense has to be gratuitously, for no reason.” The point of the verb !n:x’ (khanan, “to be gracious”) and its derivatives is that the action is undeserved. In fact, they would deserve the opposite. Sinners seeking grace deserve punishment. Here, Job deserves reward, not suffering.

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