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DOES THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL AND SUFFERING
A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, May 29, 2005
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).
College students are often confronted with the problem of evil. Why does evil exist in the world if there is a God? Why doesn't God stop the evil if He exists? Many people think that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God. The argument goes like this.
1. Evil and suffering exist in the world.
2. If God were all-powerful He would be able to prevent these things.
3. If God was wholly good, and was a God of love, He would be able to prevent them.
4. If there were an omnipotent and wholly good God, evil and suffering would have no place in the world.
5. Therefore, there is no such thing as an all-powerful and wholly good God.
This is a serious charge against belief in God. This argument was used concerning the death camps in Hitler's Germany. More recently it has been used concerning 9/11. "If God exists," the question says, "why did He let these things occur?" This is an application of the argument in a general sense to historical events. On a more personal level, it goes like this, "If God exists, why has He allowed me to experience this pain and suffering?"
How can a Christian answer this argument? I believe that there are three main ways to answer it from the Bible.
I. First, God did not create evil and suffering.
God did not create evil and suffering. Christians don't dodge the argument. They answer it by saying that God did not create evil and cannot be accused of doing so. Personally, I have never felt that this question deserved more of an answer than that. I was raised in a non-Christian home and environment. I heard people in my own family give this kind of argument against God as a child, and later, in a more sophisticated way, when I studied at a secular university (Cal State L.A.). The conclusion I drew as a small boy settled the question for me all the way through college. It was as simple as this, "You can't blame God for the evil created by Satan and sinful human beings. God allowed Satan and man a certain amount of free will in their conduct, and they made wrong choices that led to suffering and evil." What I thought about this in my childish mind still seems like a perfectly good answer today.
In Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, we are given a picture of the entrance of evil into the universe. Turn to Isaiah 14:12-15 for a description of this. Please read it aloud.
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which 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 [God]. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).
So, there you have the explanation for evil, as given in the Bible. God allowed Satan to have a certain limited amount of free will, which Satan, a previous angel in Heaven, misused when he rebelled against God. As a result, he was cast out of Heaven onto the earth, awaiting the time when he will be consigned to Hell.
In the third chapter of Genesis, we find our first human parents in the Garden of Eden. The serpent was there also, embodying Satan. Satan tempted our first parents to sin, which brought ruin to the entire human race, and brought a curse on creation itself. God allowed man a certain limited amount of free will, and man misused this free will by deliberately sinning against God by listening to Satan and eating the fruit that God had forbidden him to eat. This had terrible consequences, both for man and all of creation. Please turn to Genesis 3:17-19 for a description of this. Please stand and read these three verses aloud.
"And unto Adam he [God] said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:17-19).
You may be seated. All human suffering, and even the suffering of nature itself, was not caused by God, but came from the wrong choice, the rebellion against God, by our first parents.
So, we see from these passages of Scripture that we cannot blame God for evil and suffering in the world. Evil and suffering were not created by Him. Evil and suffering are the consequences of the sin and rebellion of Satan and human beings.
Now, the atheist will probably say, "Why did God allow Satan and man to have such a choice?" The answer, to my childish mind, was that God chose to give Satan and man a certain amount of choice, and they made the wrong choices. That still seems like the correct answer to me. And it is quite a simple answer.
Auschwitz and the other death camps in Hitler's Germany resulted from man's sinful disobedience to God. So did the witch trials in Europe and the Middle Ages. So did the Crusades. These medieval Catholics were not obeying the clear teachings of charity in the New Testament. They deliberately cast off Christ's teaching to "love thy neighbor as thyself" when they committed these atrocities - just as our society has rebelled against God by rejecting Christ's teachings of love and charity, when they willfully murdered 46 million babies in the Abortion Holocaust in America. We can't blame any of that on God. God didn't do any of those evil things. Man did them, doubtlessly inspired by Satan, God's arch-enemy.
But why did God allow them to do these evil things? Because He gave them enough free will to do them, and they chose to disobey Him. If God had not given them this much free will they would have been mere robots, not human beings capable of such choices.
II. Second, evil and suffering are not permanent.
The second answer to the problem of evil is that evil and suffering are not permanent. The popular author and defender of Christianity, Josh McDowell, has said,
Because of the fall, the world is abnormal. Things are not in the state they should be…Any solution that might be given to the problems mankind faces must take into consideration that the world we live in is not normal (Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p. 412).
Yes, the world is out of order, or as McDowell put it, "not normal," as God originally intended it to be.
But that is not the whole story. There is a new world coming, in which God will make everything right. Suffering, pain, and evil will end.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…" (Revelation 21:4-5).
I realize that will not satisfy the atheist. He will say something like this: "Then why doesn't God do that right now?" Turn to Romans 11:33-34. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud. Begin reading halfway through verse 33.
"How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?" (Romans 11:33-34).
You may be seated. We can't fully understand why God waits to set things right, because the Bible does not reveal everything about God's judgments, ways, and purposes.
I realize this will not satisfy the atheist who insists on knowing every inner motive of God. But, in my childhood thinking, I realize that I couldn't even figure out why human beings did what they did, much less God! Romans 11:33-34 says that we do not fully understand the "mind of the Lord." To my childish mind, that sounded reasonable. Since I didn't fully understand the motives and thoughts of my relatives and friends, how could I expect to fully understand the motives and thoughts of God?
III. Third, evil and suffering were experienced in the flesh by God Himself.
That's what the term "incarnation" refers to. It means that God became flesh.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us"
"For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).
Christ was God in human flesh on earth. Dorothy Sayers said,
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is…He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping experiences of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1949, p. 4).
God, in Christ, went to the Cross to save sinful man. This puts the problem of evil in its proper perspective. Evil and suffering were overcome by Christ when He rose from the dead.
The existence of evil and suffering do not disprove the existence of God. Instead, they prove the sinfulness of man, and man's need of redemption. And God the Son came into the world to redeem sinful man. The Apostle Paul said,
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
(I Timothy 1:15).
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was converted from atheism as a young man. Later he spent fourteen years of torture and suffering in a Communist prison for preaching the gospel. In 1964 Pastor Wurmbrand was ransomed from the Romanian Communist government when Christians from the West paid $10,000 for his release. In May, 1966 Wurmbrand testified before the United States Senate. He took off his shirt in front of the Senators to show 18 deep torture wounds covering his body. His story was carried in newspapers around the world. I knew Pastor Wurmbrand personally. My wife and I had dinner with Pastor and Mrs. Wurmbrand in their home. He spoke at our church many times. He always had to sit while preaching because the bottoms of his feet were covered with scars from beatings which made standing difficult for him. In his book, Tortured for Christ, Pastor Wurmbrand told of a young woman who was on trial for spreading the gospel. The atheistic Communist judge said, "Your religion is anti-scientific." The girl answered,
"Do you know more science than Einstein, than Newton? They [believed in God]. Our universe bears Einstein's name. I have learned in high school that its name is the Einsteinian universe. Einstein writes, 'If we cleanse the Judaism of the prophets and Christianity as Jesus has taught it from what came afterwards, especially from priestcraft, we have a religion which can save the world from all social evils. It is the holy duty of every man to do his utmost to bring this religion to triumph.' And remember our great physiologist Pavlov! Do not our books say he was a Christian? Even Marx, in his preface to Das Kapital said that 'Christianity, especially in its Protestant form, is the ideal religion for remaking characters destroyed by sin.' I had a character destroyed by sin. Marx has taught me to become a Christian in order to remake it. How can you, Marxists, judge me for this?" It is easy to understand why the judge remained speechless (Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, Diane Books, 1976 reprint, p. 120).
It is easy for a college professor, who lives in the comfort of a Western nation, to say that the existence of evil proves there is no God. But Christian people who have lived under Communism and have suffered greatly for their faith, like Pastor Wurmbrand and this girl, know that the existence of evil only proves that human beings are sinful and in need of the love and salvation found in Jesus Christ.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
(I Timothy 1:15).
(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Psalm 14:1-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"How Great Thou Art" (by Carl G. Boberg, 1859-1940;
translated by Stuart K. Hine, 1899-1989).
THE OUTLINE OF
DOES THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL AND SUFFERING
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1).
I. First, God did not create evil and suffering, Isaiah 14:12-15;
II. Second, evil and suffering are not permanent, Revelation 21:4-5;
III. Third, evil and suffering were experienced in the flesh by