The Problem of Evil – a Biblical Theodicy


If God is great and God is good, then why would he allow evil to exist?

Evil is a daily reality. Our suffering, as well as the suffering of others, vividly marks the presence of evil in our world. Every newspaper contains many examples of evil and its painful  consequences. Entire religious systems have come from human attempts to explain evil and to give people a reason for continuing the daily struggle with evil and the pain and suffering brought about by it.

As Christians, we are no exception. The problem of evil affects us deeply, it touches us in the core of our beings, and it demands answers. Some seem to find answers in philosophy or theology, while others confess their struggle and anguish. The issues are many and deep, and the answers are elusive, especially as we attempt to find them within our own paradigms of theological thought. The problem of evil challenges our belief systems and forces us to reconsider our thinking about humanity and God. This problem shatters every preconceived notion by which we may comfortably attempt to explain evil away, and haunts us with questions too deep to be satisfactorily answered by our own thinking.

It is important, therefore, to allow God to reveal to us what we cannot otherwise know by ourselves, and to endeavor to look at the problem of evil and its many related issues as much as possible from God’s perspective. We must have a thoroughly biblical approach, letting Scripture, rather than our own preconceived belief system, indicate the path to follow.

But what is the problem of evil?

Since God reveals himself as supremely good,1 we understand “good” to be anything that is in harmony with God’s character, will and goals, while “evil” can be defined as any state or condition that is contrary to God’s character, will and goals. If we were to consider only the goodness of God, we could perhaps explain the existence of evil as something God does not like, but is powerless to eliminate. This is the approach of authors like Rabbi Harold Kushner, but it is not a biblical approach. The Bible reveals that God is not only good, but almighty and omnipotent,thus demanding a different explanation.

The Bible proclaims the existence of a good and omnipotent God; it also witnesses to the existence of evil. Nonbiblical responses to the presence of evil tend to deny one of more of these biblical propositions, and in so doing cannot fully answer our questions. Some nonbiblical responses deny the existence of God, others deny the existence of evil, some deny the goodness of God, while others deny his power or ability to avert evil. Such responses can be summarized and grouped as follows:

I. Denial of God’s existence

A. Dogmatic atheism

The absolute denial of the existence of God, a firm conviction that there is no god, that the material universe is eternal and that all existing forms of life have evolved or otherwise formed from material atoms, which are eternally endowed with specific properties.3

B. Philosophic atheism

This form of atheism does not completely deny the existence of a First Cause, but it refuses to believe in a personal, self-conscious and divine Being who is more than a first cause or force.4

C. Practical atheism

Although this form of atheism does not reject the concept of the existence of God at an intellectual level, it nevertheless rejects it from a practical perspective. It is manifested in a life of indifference as if, for all practical purposes, God does not exist.

All these forms of atheism have in common a refusal to acknowledge the existence, and therefore the morality of a superior personal Being. Whether the atheist refuses God’s existence entirely, or simply lives as if God did not exist, the result is the same. Man is not accountable to a superior Being, but only to himself. Any definition of good and evil becomes either arbitrary or relative, and so does the responsibility of the atheist.

Several authors have turned to atheism following a major traumatic encounter with evil. One example is Richard Rubenstein (After Auschwitz), who concluded that the evil in the concentration camps is simply incompatible with God, and since the reality of evil could not be denied, mankind should abandon any notion of a “personal God of love.”

Although atheism would seem to resolve the apparent incompatibility between the existence of God and the existence of evil by denying the first, it still fails to provide any reason for the existence of evil that may give our lives and our suffering any value. Life, then, becomes wasted in misery and utterly meaningless. Additionally, since “good” and “evil” can be defined only by social consensus, as if they were matters of opinion, the very perception of evil remains unexplained. Even the evaluation of any given view as evil or good becomes an arbitrary and debatable decision.

Atheism cannot be accepted as a satisfactory answer. It is a form of denial, a sort of nonanswer that, in order to explain the existence of evil, denies the very source of good, thus leaving us utterly hopeless.

II. Denial of God’s power

A. Dualism

This is a philosophical view that was influenced by Plato. According to Plato, the primary essence, archetype and origin of all beauty, wisdom and goodness, which he referred to as Good or even God, “communicated itself as intermediary archetypal ideas to produce all individual things.”5 All individual things had their origin in moral and spiritual formative principles, but had to be made out of preexisting matter, which is regarded as inherently and essentially evil and opposite to that Good essence. “Plato’s system was therefore rent by an irreconcilable dualism of mind and body, spirit and matter, good and evil.”6 Dualism, therefore, does not ascribe all power to one god, essence or force. Rather, it contemplates two equal powers in the universe, both eternally existent: the spiritual and the physical, good and evil.

Dualism may conclude that there are two major forces in the universe, Good and Evil, but neither of them has all power and therefore neither can completely prevail over the other.7 Hence, we see good and evil in this world. We can often find elements of dualism in Christian thought, such as in the Platonic sense of body or matter being evil, and soul or spirit being good.8 Dualism offers no solution to the problem of evil because it regards evil as separate, but eternally co-existent with God. Since the two have always co-existed, there is no reason to believe that it will not be the same in the future as well.

B. Scientism

According to this view, God is limited in his power because He is subject to the laws of nature. In the words of Rabbi Kushner, “God does not want you to be sick or crippled. He didn’t make you to have this problem, and He doesn’t want you to go on having it, but He can’t make it go away. That is something that is too hard even for God.”9 God is limited, imperfect, bound by various laws.

Any theodicy that is based on the assumption of God’s limitedness or lack of sufficient power to eliminate or avert evil is nonbiblical, and therefore not true. On one hand, it contradicts scriptures that affirm God’s power over Satan,10 over the laws of nature,11 and over all creation.12 But it has several other problems as well. For instance, such a theodicy would tend to attribute all evil to acts of nature or to Satan (or an evil force) that are in opposition to God’s will, thus denying the biblical truths that God himself, although not the cause of evil, is still in control over it and over its extent.13

It also places God at the same level, or even at an inferior level of power, as Satan. This approach may lead to a totally distorted view of God and of humanity. (Kushner comes to the point of viewing himself at the center of the universe, as a really “good” person, together with a few others. He maintains his personal goodness against the imperfection and the limitations of God and of the rest of the world. In so doing, even loving God and other people takes a self-centered perspective of making ourselves better and stronger.)

Logically, the idea of a finite, limited God who is subject to the laws of nature, or limited by some other force that operates in opposition to him, is flawed. The very creative act that is attributed to him then becomes impossible, for it would mean that he created something greater or more powerful than himself, which would then limit or oppose him on equal terms.

III. Denial of God’s goodness

A. Pantheism

Pantheism is the belief that the essence of God is in all things. It is the opposite of atheism, since it teaches that everything is god and god is everything. God, however, is regarded as an impersonal entity rather than a personal being. “It differs from materialism only in the name which it gives to the infinite substance from which all things flow.”14 In pantheistic thought, evil is part of God just as much as good is. So pantheism has no genuine explanation for evil. It also denies the personality of God, who is not distinct from the universe. And since the highest goal of humanity is to be “reunited” with the rest of the universe, ultimately pantheism denies the personality and distinctness of human beings as well.15

B. Satanism

Although this is a fringe belief, it is growing more common in our society. It is a small anti-Christian movement that includes elements of magic and witchcraft that find expression in what is generally called “black mass.” The followers of this small movement worship Satan while they mock and ridicule God. Far from being a solution to the problem of evil, Satanism emphasizes and magnifies evil to the point of worshiping it.16

C. Deism

Tillet gave a concise analysis of the deistic approach to evil:

Deism teaches that there is a God, and that He created the world, but created things do not need His presence and the exercise of His power in order to continue in existence and fulfill their functions. The material world is placed under immutable law; while man, the rational and moral free agent, is left to do as he wills. God sustains, according to deism, very much the same relation to the universe that the clock-maker does to his timepiece. Having made his clock, and wound it up, he does not interfere with it, and the longer it can run without the maker’s intervention the greater the evidence of wisdom and skill on the part of the maker.
God according to deism has never wrought a miracle nor made a supernatural revelation to man. The only religion that is possible to man is natural religion; he may reason from Nature up to Nature’s God. The only value of prayer is its subjective influence; it helps us to answer our own prayers, to become and be what we are praying to be. If the Divine Being is a prayer-hearing God, He is at least not a prayer-answering God. The laws of Nature constitute God’s general providence; but there is no other personal and special providence than this, according to deism. God, the deists affirm, is too great, too distant, too transcendent a Being to concern Himself with the details of creaturely existence.17

Deism, then, presents a God who is too great and lofty to care enough about his creation to intervene to stop evil. It denies God’s love, his eminence and his involvement in the preservation and support of his creation as declared in the Scriptures.18

IV. Denial of evil

This approach denies the existence of evil and attributes it to human thought, perception or illusion. Various religions take this view, including:

A. Christian Science

A movement founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), believing that “only the spiritual is real, while the physical is unreal. God is Spirit and everything real is a reflection of Him. God is ‘all-in-all.’ Nothing possesses reality or existence except as divine mind or ideas.”20 To the Christian Scientist, salvation means to be saved from one’s own illusions, and evil does not exist because God is all. Evil is an illusion.

B. Theosophy

A derivative of various religions and spiritualistic practices founded by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a spiritualist medium. Humans are regarded as complex, having one spirit, three souls, a life principle and two bodies. According to theosophy, right and wrong, or good and evil depend on how each person reckons them. What is wrong or evil in one person’s mind is for that person wrong or evil, but the very same thing may not be perceived as wrong or evil in someone else’s mind, and so for that person it is not wrong or evil. Theosophy borrows several views from oriental religions, as well as from spiritualism and occultism.21

Illusionism not only contradicts the Bible, but it contradict everyday experience as well. Denying the existence of the problem is not a solution, but can only perpetuate the problem, or even make it worse.

A full criticism of nonbiblical approaches to the problem of evil would need to address fundamental issues such as the existence of God, his nature and revelation, the inspiration of the Bible, issues of biblical canon and why the Bible should be preferred as a source of knowledge about God above other religious writings. This is far beyond the scope of this paper, which assumes a biblical Christian position.

Theistic theodicies

Various theodicies have also been formulated from a theistic viewpoint. Several should not be ignored and are briefly introduced here:

I. Process Theism

A. Key assumptions

  1. Evil can be justified if its presence serves the purpose of producing greater good or a better world.
  2. Every individual possesses some degree of creative self-determination and freedom.
  3. Therefore, God “cannot unilaterally bring about any state of affairs in the world.”22
  4. The world is not a unilateral creation operated by God, but rather a “co-creation” of God together with other entities.

B. Basic elements of the theodicy

  1. Since God cannot bring about any state of affairs in the world, neither can he cause or prohibit any evil.
  2. God is therefore not directly or uniquely responsible for the existence of evil.
  3. However, since God is attempting to entice mankind by means of “noncoercive persuasion” to a higher and greater complexity, he is in a sense responsible for the possibility of evil that derives from such a process.
  4. Since a world that is more complex is also a world with more potential for good, even with the resultant possibility for evil, it is regarded as better than a world with less evil, but also more superficiality and therefore less opportunity for good. God’s creative goal, then, is acceptable and good. Any occurrence of evil in the process is therefore justified, since it is necessarily connected to this acceptable goal.
  5. God, therefore, cannot be blamed for his role in bringing about evil.23
  6. If God had the power to intervene unilaterally, he would remove many of the existing evils.

C. Critical analysis

  1. Critics of this view affirm that for humans to possess self-determination does not necessitate the kind of evil we see in the world.
  2. The validity of the key assumption – that God cannot intervene in the affairs of this world unilaterally – has also been argued against. Various leaders have been able to manipulate the desires of the masses, showing that unilateral persuasion is possible, and should be all the more so for God.24
  3. God’s value of intense novelty, which has the potential for greater good as well as for greater evil, rather than triviality, which limits both good and evil, has been argued as unjustified in light of the appalling evils that have resulted from it.25
  4. Another criticism offered against process theism is that it lacks a future hope, and makes God “too human” by limiting his ability to influence the outcome of this world.26

II. Freewill theism

A. Key assumptions27

  1. God intervenes unilaterally in the affairs of this world, and is not limited to persuasion.
  2. However, God cannot force creatures endowed with free moral agency to make the decisions God would have them make.
  3. Since God has given humans free moral agency, God is not always able to guarantee that what he wants to happen in this world will actually occur.

B. Basic elements of the theodicy

  1. God brings about evil, but only for a morally acceptable divine purpose, and is therefore justified.
  2. God cannot grant freedom of choice and at the same time control the use of it unilaterally. To the extent that God grants such freedom, evil cannot be avoided.
  3. God is justified in permitting (or not prohibiting) evil to occur because to allow mankind to exercise freedom of choice is regarded as a morally acceptable goal.28
  4. Freewill theists admit that it is possible to point out free choices that God could veto without altering the moral integrity of the world. They deny, however, that there is any objective evidence that God could intervene more often than he does without negatively affecting human freedom.29
  5. There are many evils in this world that God would remove or prohibit if he could control free choice.

C. Critical analysis

  1. The basic assumption that God cannot grant moral freedom while averting or prohibiting the evil that such freedom can produce is challenged by other theists as implausible. They find it difficult to believe that God could not have accomplished his goals without either causing or allowing all the evil that has affected human history.
  2. Other theists argue that it is implausible that all the evils that exist are directly connected to God’s purposes and goals. An example is provided by Griffin, a process theist, who states that God could have surely limited some of Hitler’s freedom without necessarily altering or negatively affecting humanity’s overall freedom.30
  3. Critics of this theodicy argue that the existence of a world with so much evil cannot be morally justifiable by a perfectly good Being, even if all we experience were to be directly related to the exercise of human freedom.31 According to them, granting humans free moral agency is not a sufficiently great good to warrant such horrendous suffering as humanity has experienced. Therefore freewill theism appears to have an inadequate concept of God’s goal and purpose.
  4. Freewill theism seems to overlook the fact that God occasionally overrules man’s free will in order to bring about some particular plan of his mercy or judgment. It must be noted, however, that God’s providential actions do not determine an individual’s ultimate destiny. God never forces humans into salvation or damnation.32

III. Theological determinism

A. Key assumptions

  1. Divine control is compatible with human freedom. This is in opposition to freewill theism.
  2. God is able to grant significant moral freedom to an individual while at the same time limiting or controlling the use of that freedom.
  3. Whatever happens in the world is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, and it occurs only because God has decided that it should happen.33

B. Basic elements of the theodicy

  1. Since nothing (not even human free moral agency and decision making) can limit God’s ability to bring about his goals, then the occurrence (not merely the possibility) of every instance of evil is necessary for the achievement of a morally justifiable goal, and therefore is justified.34
  2. The proponents of this theodicy admit that they cannot explain how every occurrence of evil is directly related to God’s goals and purposes. However, they affirm that since only an omniscient mind could propose or describe a world with only good and no evil, we are not in a position to argue objectively that any of the evils humanity has experienced was not required to accomplish some divine purpose.35
  3. Theological determinists argue that since humans are unable to know with certainty all of God’s goals and purposes, we cannot objectively prove that the goals or purposes that require any given evil cannot be considered morally acceptable.36

C. Critical analysis

  1. Since the proponents of this theodicy assert that God controls everything, even human choices, then they must hold that all existing evil is necessary to accomplish God’s purposes. However, this would mean that a world without such evils is less desirable than the actual world.37
  2. Others, in particular freewill and process theists, argue that if so much evil is actually (and not just possibly) necessary for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, then his plan, which includes all such evils, cannot be considered morally acceptable or justifiable.38
  3. Determinism should not be confused with predestination or fatalism, inasmuch as it does not propose that human affairs have been prearranged according to an unavoidable fate. Nevertheless, it seems to fail to account for the exercise of free choice against the will of God. It would also seem to render meaningless God’s appeals to human choice in the realm of conversion, implying that whether the individual will change is not a matter of choice as much as of necessity to accomplish the greater plan of God.39

IV. Soul-making theodicy

A. Key assumptions

  1. God is a good God who interacts with humanity for the purpose of leading humans to him in a way that exalts them for their ultimate and utmost good and glory.
  2. God accomplishes his purpose by providing for the good of humanity, but at the same time allows evil to exist in order to form character in humans through perseverance, and to build faith and hope in God.

B. Basic elements of the theodicy

  1. God allows and uses suffering as a means to lead the human mind to hope in God rather than on self.
  2. Pain, which is capable of taking hold and sustaining the individual’s attention, is defined, in the words of C. S. Lewis, as “God’s megaphone” through which he awakens humanity from their slumber.
  3. Each individual, in order to transcend the evil that distresses him, must seek help from someone who is powerful enough to free him from such evil and pain. Evil, then, together with the suffering that comes from it, is regarded as a means to lead us to a relationship with God, who desires to deliver us from such circumstances.
  4. The experience of almost insurmountable evil shows us that we are living only a fleeting life in the flesh, and that what really counts and deserves our deepest attention is our morality and spirituality.
  5. Since a virtuous character is defined as the ability to turn intrinsic evil into an extrinsic good, in order to be able to acquire virtues, one must develop good habits through the experience of significant evils.
  6. God has a good reason for the evils he allows. This is explained through the concept of doubt-belief.
  7. When we become exasperated with evil, we form what is called a doubt-belief (doubts in regards to the existence of a loving God), which are not sinful to form (although they are sinful to harbor or to follow), but natural and in line with the way we have been designed.
  8. God’s past manifestations of goodness toward humanity warrant the formation of “Meta-M beliefs” (memories of the manifested goodness of God), which defeat or override harboring doubt-beliefs.
  9. This is based on the assumption that any sound and rational mind would be sufficiently aware of God’s past actions and demonstrated goodness toward humanity.
  10. In other words, past goodness overcomes present evils and moves us to hope to enjoy the promise of a happy future existence.40

C. Critical analysis

  1. Some criticize this soul-making theodicy for departing from the Augustinian tradition of free will and for failing to place sufficient responsibility for evil on humanity itself.41
  2. Although soul-making seems to be close to being a biblical theodicy, there are some assumptions that may not be biblical after all – for example, assumption “c.” The conclusions would seem to support Irenaeus’s theodicy, which calls for all men and women to ultimately experience redemption by God. Although it is biblically true to state that the Lord is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,”42 it is also true that man’s mind without Christ is by nature hostile to God, and for some people, the results of evil will be utter rebellion and hatred.43

Biblical emphases

Much of the discussion involved in these theodicies stems from philosophical theology. They seem to be devoted primarily to the study of theological issues through the methods of philosophical reasoning and observation, rather than through a careful study of the scriptural revelation. As a result, much of what is concluded seems to be in terms of predefined logical classes, attempting to fit the argument within the context of a philosophical view. Although I cannot argue against the utility of logic, I must note that such a process can be misleading. As the apostle Paul wrote, we ought to “see to it that no one takes [us] captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”44 It is interesting to notice, in light of Paul’s words, how the role of Christ is almost unspoken of in the theodicies presented so far. Redemption through Christ may be alluded to, but it does not carry the weight it deserves, and certainly not the centrality it finds in the Bible.

Additionally, most of the theodicies described above seem to focus on a justification of the presence of evil in terms of a greater good that is to be achieved within the boundaries of this present world. In so doing, they fail to give sufficient attention to the scriptural revelation and to the eschatological aspect of the problem. The Scriptures do point to a greater good and a better world, but they are also very clear in asserting that such a world is not to be found in the here and now, but in the future order of things.

A biblical theodicy must therefore keep in mind the vital importance and the centrality of the redemptive work of Christ, as well as the future or eschatological hope that is so extensively present in the Holy Scriptures. In addition, it must also give appropriate consideration to five major aspects of the biblical revelation on the issue: (1) God and God’s involvement in his creation, (2) humanity and the nature of humanity, (3) God’s relationship to evil, (4) humanity’s relationship to evil, and (5) the ultimate outcome and defeat of evil. As in any theistic theodicy, the major questions we are facing revolve around God’s perfect goodness, his omnipotence and the existence of evil. We should give special attention, therefore, to what the Bible teaches  about such issues, while also keeping in mind that although the Scriptures do not offer a systematic theodicy, they teach us enough to provide at least a partial answer to our questions.

I. God and his involvement in his creation

The Bible makes no attempt to prove the existence of God. The presence of his creation is evidence of his existence. However, the biblical teaching about the relationship of God to his creation is unique and is distinct from other religions. The Bible teaches that God is transcendent – distinct from his creation and superior to it (contrary to the beliefs of pantheism). At the same time, however, God is also immanent – he is very involved in his creation (contrary to deistic beliefs), and he is the Sustainer of all things.45 In Ephesians 4:6, both transcendence and immanence are declared in a single sentence.

God is also revealed as a personal being, rather than merely a First Cause or a Force. This becomes clear as we see him personally involved in his creation, and he is referred to in a personal way, walking in the garden of Eden and addressing Adam and Eve personally,46 laying out plans to save humanity, establishing a covenant with Abraham,47 Isaac48 and Jacob,49 preserving Joseph in a hostile environment in order to provide for the sons of Jacob,50 leading Israel, and so on. When he revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush, God introduced himself as YHWH, “the One who is,” the “I Am,” or the self-existent One.51 God introduced himself by name, a descriptive name revealing that he is the One who was, is and will be. This statement of God presents God as a personal, self-conscious Being who is establishing a relationship and seeks a covenant with humans. Only a personal Being would introduce himself by name and seek a relationship with humans

The Bible also reveals God as being holy.52 In the Old Testament, this quality is attributed to God in two senses: absolute majesty53 and ethical holiness.54 In the New Testament the concept of holiness is distinct in that “the external aspect of it has almost entirely disappeared, and the ethical meaning has become supreme.”55 The New Testament reiterates the holiness of God56 but focuses in particular on the attribution of this quality to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit,57 and to Jesus Christ as the archetype of ethical perfection.58 Holiness is expressed in God’s character,59 his name,60 his words,61 his works,62 and his kingdom.63 God’s holiness is one of the communicable attributes of God, and it provides the pattern for humans to imitate.64 It is, in a sense, what God is, as well as the essence of God’s plan for humanity.

As a corollary of his holiness in the ethical sense, God is also defined as supremely good. The goodness of God is a fundamental scriptural truth.65 “Although we might discuss God’s goodness in some abstract philosophical sense, in Scripture his goodness appears most clearly in his dealings with people. He is not only good in general, but he is good to us (Psalm 23:6; 68:10; 73:1; 119:65; 145:9; Lam 3:25; Luke 6:35; Rom 2:4; 11:22; Eph 2:7; Titus 3:4). Human goodness is modeled on divine goodness (Matt 5:48).”66 Goodness is revealed as a peculiar characteristic of God, but also as an attribute that is communicable, principally through and by the Holy Spirit.67 Goodness, with holiness, can be defined as what God is and also as what God’s plan for humanity is.

What we have seen so far is enough to dismiss pantheism and deism as untrue. However, some authors, like Kushner, would not argue against the holiness and the goodness of God, but would deny his power and his ability to deal adequately with the evil present in this world. In Kushner’s view, God is defined as “imperfect,” weak and dependent on man’s love.68 In a sense, Kushner describes a god who is inferior to his creation. It is therefore important to see what the Bible reveals about God’s power and ability.

The Scriptures reveal the omnipotence of God in various ways. On one hand, the idea of strength or power is a concept inherent in the names of God throughout the Old Testament.69 On the other hand, various declarations describe the unlimited extent of such power. We read, for example, that nothing is too hard for God,70 that he can do whatever he pleases,71 that no one can hinder him,72 that with him all things are possible (or nothing is impossible),73 etc. His omnipotence is manifested in his creative work,74 through the works of nature,75 through his control of history,76 in his miracles and wonders,77 in his power over death,78 and in his redemptive work.79 In these, we also see that God uses his infinite power to sustain his creation and to accomplish his purposes. We see therefore his sovereignty proclaimed.80 That God is supremely sovereign is also a logical conclusion of what we have already seen, for if he is transcendent and omnipotent, but also immanent, the only logical conclusion is that he is “the source of all creation and that all things come from and depend upon [him].”81 He is sovereign.

Kushner, however, is not the only one who presents an argument against God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Various other authors have treaded on the same path by asserting that God is limited either by the laws of nature (a scientistic view), or by man’s self-determination and freedom (a process theistic view), or even by his own choice or will, as a form of self-limitation. Such attempts to reconcile human notions about the problem of evil by limiting the omnipotence and the sovereignty of God must be rejected as unbiblical.

In summary, the Bible reveals a Creator God who is personally involved in his creation. He is a holy, good, omnipotent and sovereign God who has a plan for humanity: a plan that contemplates sharing his holiness and goodness with human beings, and a plan that God has the power, the will and the sovereignty to bring about despite any opposing force or will.

II. Humanity and the nature of humanity

The biblical account does not devote much space or much explanation to the events of creation, but simply states it, almost as a self evident fact. In just a few verses, we see God’s wonderful creative work accomplished and his masterpiece formed.82 At first, we see him at work in preparing an environment that is ideal for human life. Then, God finally created the first humans.83 He created them from the physical elements of the earth, male and female, subject to decay and change, like the rest of the physical creation.84 From a physical and chemical point of view, we are no different from other living creatures.85 Yet, God created the first humans as unique beings, for he made them in his own image and likeness86 – capable of establishing and entertaining a special relationship with their Creator.87 In the first chapter, every stage of creation is called “good,” except for God’s creation of the first humans. Then his expression of approval changes: his work is now called “very good.”88 Human beings hold a special and precious position in God’s creation, and are not the result of some chance evolution or “accident” of fate. The Bible reveals that God and his holy angels take great pleasure in his creative work,89 especially as it is manifested in the physical and the spiritual creation of human beings. It is for a reason that humans were created uniquely equipped for a special relationship with God: a plan that will bring honor, glory and praise to God90 and will result in the achievement of the fullest potential not only of humanity, but of all creation.91

Much has been and could still be said about the meaning of being created in God’s image and likeness. Some of the essential aspects of this truth can be found at the mental, spiritual, moral and relational levels.

We have been created with the God-like ability to reason, to be self-conscious, to imagine something new and create and form it. Both the concept of the Hebrew bara (to create something new) and ‘asah (to form, to produce from labor from something already existing) used in Genesis 1 and 2 are present in human creativity. We have also been endowed with the ability to communicate not only in complex and abstract verbal forms, but also to convey emotional and spiritual concepts. Additionally, God has placed in us an awareness of eternity and infinity, also a God-like quality.92

We have the unique ability, among physical beings, to have a relationship with God. We have been given an awareness of the immaterial, spiritual realm of existence. But more than that, we are capable of interacting with it, we are able to relate to God and to one another in a personal, spiritual way. Not only do we have the ability to establish personal relationships, but we have been created with an innate and desperate need for them. Children die if they are deprived of relational contacts, even though they have all they need for their physical sustenance. Young and adult humans alike suffer greatly if their relationships are altered or severed. Our sense of community, our interpersonal and collective sense of identity, our deep and profound oneness with another human being, as in a successful marriage, and our need to belong all remind us of God’s oneness and of his plan to elevate humans to a level where we will also be one with him.93

We have been created to be accountable to God for our actions and choices.94 God has endowed us with the inner, spiritual capacity to perceive right and wrong, justice and injustice, which is a God-like characteristic. Our likeness to God is manifested in our behavior when our choices are holy, or in harmony with God’s standards or law. On the other hand, in sin we manifest our present unlikeness to God. The image of God in us, altered (yet not destroyed) by human sin, can be restored through forgiveness in Christ and sanctification,95 in view of the full human potential yet ahead.

The one aspect that has been the most discussed and argued about, however, is the freedom of  human beings to make moral choices (free moral agency or free will), and the relationship between such freedom and God’s sovereign control over his creation. Much of the discussion on this issue seems to stem from a polarization between two philosophical views. On one hand we find a deterministic and almost fatalistic view of the absolute sovereignty of God, while on the other hand we find a God-limiting concept of human free will. Both tend to use an “either/or” construct in which their opposing views are presented and contrasted as the only alternatives. It is necessary and appropriate to briefly see both positions here.

Proponents of an absolute sovereignty of God state that God is in control over every action or thought and over all events that occur in creation. Their typical argument can be summarized as follows: either (1) God is working within the creation to manage all things according to the immutable counsel of his own will.96 This includes the statement that God orders the will and the actions of all men,97 and that every single event in all the universe is subject to God’s sovereignty,98 both the destructive as well as the productive, on a moment-to-moment basis.99 The only alternative for them is that (2) God is like the deists portray him, having abandoned the world he created to pursue its own course.100 God walked away from the day-to-day control of his creation, abdicating his sovereignty in favor of natural laws and human freedom. Since the alternative presented is not plausible and is nonbiblical, then we can accept only the initial argument.

However, the argument seems to be distorted, and it would lead us to distorted conclusions. For example, it would be much like saying that a father (a biblical analogy) is either in absolute control over every single thing his children see, do and say (as an absolute controller), or he will abandon his children and his family entirely to themselves.

On the other side, proponents of the concept of a God-limiting human moral freedom argue their case in a similar way. They also oppose two views: either (1) God, in order to grant free moral agency to man, has limited himself in favor of the working of the laws of nature and of the freedom of the will.101 or (2) God has created humans with will, but he governs them as puppets, giving them only the illusion of having a will. Since the alternative is not plausible, and it may even imply a form of deception on God’s part, then we can accept only the initial argument proposed.

Again, the argument seems to be distorted in favor of a given view. Human freedom seems to be portrayed at the same level as God’s freedom, and therefore incompatible with it. Granting humans their moral freedom then necessitates the limitation of God’s. This, however, does not account for the fact that nature and the creation is revealed to be limited, not God. Nature is finite, limited by the laws of nature God himself created. Likewise, humans have been endowed with free moral agency, but they, too, are limited, finite and mortal. God is not limited by human freedom, but man is limited by his very nature, as well as by natural and moral laws. Humans cannot exercise their free will by choosing evil and still obtain good results. Yet, in his perfect goodness, God is law to himself. He is above any physical or moral law! In this sense, he is the only One who has true and absolute freedom. Man’s free will is something God intended and wanted. It is not a limiting factor for God’s will, but rather an expression of it for the present time, while his spiritual plan is still under way. Additionally, for God to be limited or to limit himself in favor of the laws of nature or of the freedom of the human will, would imply that these are somehow in opposition to God’s will, and at his level. This would lead to a form of dualism that is unbiblical and therefore unacceptable. At the same time, however, humans can exercise their freedom of choice to act in a way that is opposed to God’s will. Numerous biblical references prove this.102

The Scriptures affirm God’s sovereignty, his control over all creation and his absolute freedom. At the same time, however, Scriptures affirm the fact that humans are free to make their own choices, but are limited and subject to natural and moral laws. Humans can make choices that are against the will of God, but in so doing they violate natural and moral laws and suffer the consequences of their choices. On occasion, when deemed necessary to maintain his overall plan, God exercises providential control by guiding the actions of specific people in a way that will accomplish his overall design.103 When such actions are evil, however, it is not God who instigates them, but rather the individual himself or Satan.104

III. God’s relationship to evil

What we have seen above leads us to an important consideration. As concurrence is introduced, we see how God stands behind good, but does not directly stand behind what is evil, even when he uses it to accomplish his purpose. It is important to establish clearly at this point that God is not the creator or the originator of evil.105 The Scriptures tell us that evil originated with the rebellion of Lucifer, an archangel who had been created sinless and a morally responsible being.106 Lucifer rebelled against God in self-generated pride.107 It was an act of the will of Lucifer, exercised in a way that was contrary to God’s desire. Thus Lucifer (meaning brilliant star, morning star, or bringing light) became Satan (the adversary). Since then, Satan has continually attempted to pervert and destroy God’s plan, deceiving other beings and promoting idolatry and every other form of sin.108

Although God was not the originator of evil and cannot be blamed for it, he did not stop or prevent Satan from his deceptive and sinful work. In so doing, God has decreed that the presence of evil (which is not due to him or his will) would have a part in his plan.109 We see in Scripture that Satan and humans both act of their free will, but God in his sovereign providence can lead the circumstances in such a way as to still accomplish his glorious purpose. One of the many biblical examples can be found in the story of Joseph, son of Jacob. Joseph’s brothers acted toward Joseph in a way that was evil and sinful (and therefore against the will of God).110 Yet, Joseph stated that it was God who sent him to Egypt in order to provide for the survival of the tribes of Israel.111 God did not cause or force Joseph’s brothers to sin against him. That would contradict James 1:13. Rather, Genesis 50:20 gives us the clue that we need. Joseph’s brothers had acted in a sinful way of their own choice. Yet, God turned their evil intentions around, and led the circumstances in such a way that good would result not only for Joseph, but for the whole people of Israel and for God’s plan. The fact that God can use even evil to obtain good results shows that he is far superior to any evil, and it manifests the excellency of his character and the goodness of his power.112 Although God has decided to permit evil in order to accomplish his purposes,113 on occasion we see him preventing or limiting the intensity or the extent of the evil that is generated by the sinful choices of free moral beings.114

Perhaps the most important message the Scriptures communicate to us about the problem of evil is that God overcomes it and defeats it. He came into this world as our Redeemer and Savior, experiencing to the fullest extent the consequences and the suffering that results from the presence of evil in this world. He was not the source of any such evil, but willingly suffered the consequences of it for our sake.115 It is through his redeeming sacrifice and his love, and through faith in him, that God also enables us to overcome evil with good.116

IV. Humanity’s relationship to evil

In the beginning was God, without any evil. Evil was introduced by a created being, Lucifer. Even at the creation of the first humans, we read that everything in the Garden of Eden was fine, and evil was not present, except in Satan. What God had created and made was very good.117

An observation, however, can be made about the meaning of “very good.” Some have taken it to mean that the first humans at creation were perfect, and this implies that Adam’s original state is the most we can possibly aspire to. Redemption and glorification, then, means only a return to that pre-sin condition or state. This view, however, does not seem to take into consideration various scriptural points. Adam and Eve could not be perfect, for perfection assumes the ability to remain sinless after having withstood the temptations to sin.118 Christ was perfect in this sense, but Adam and Eve were not. The symbolism of the two trees also shows an important truth in this regard. Their need for the tree of life, as well as God’s deployment of an angel to prevent their access to that tree after their sin, implies that Adam and Eve had the potential for perfection and eternal life as well as for rebellion and evil. Of course, they were not forced by God to exercise their capacity for evil. Rather, God specifically told them not to do it.

Sin – which was introduced by Satan – entered the human race through the rebellion of Adam and Eve. As a consequence of their sin, the first humans and all their descendants were drawn away from God. The image of God in them was not destroyed, but warped and contaminated by sin. Their nature became hostile to God,119 and as a consequence, their communion with God was severed. They incurred divine disfavor, suffered guilt and faced the sorrows of pain and death. Human relationships broke down so much that the firstborn son of Adam and Eve became a murderer and killed his brother.120 The whole creation, instead of being brought to its glorious potential, was condemned to wait in frustration until the day when the children of God will be finally manifested in glory.121

V. The ultimate outcome and defeat of
evil

After showing humanity many important lessons through the experience of the people of Israel,122 “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman,”123 that he may redeem humans from their sins. He came to partake of the “cup of God’s wrath” or the consequences of our sins in our stead.124 As we approach the subject of the problem of evil, we should be careful not to presumptuously elevate ourselves to the role of judges of God and of his ways. After all, Scripture, history and our daily lives confirm that we are all sinners,125 deserving only to receive the penalty for sin.126 When we place God on trial and expect him to justify his ways and to satisfy our logical and philosophical requirements, we seem to forget that a “good life” and a “good world” do not belong to us. Contrary to what some (like Kushner) teach, not one of us is really good.127 So, as we ask the question of why evil causes good people to suffer, we have already ignored a basic biblical truth, and therefore have already distorted the argument.

We are all sinners, subject to the destructive and deadly consequences of the evil we have collectively and individually chosen. Yet, in his awesome mercy and love, God has entered our suffering in the person of Jesus. He willfully experienced what it means to be a human in a fallen world, and carried on himself on the cross all our sins and all our evils. He did it for us, not for himself. He was perfect, and had overcame sin and evil in living a perfect life. In his death, undeserved because he was sinless, he paid our penalty and set us free from the bondage of sin. Far from having to justify himself to us, God has already given us the greatest and most complete answer anyone could ever give to the problem of evil.

It is through him that we are promised that evil will not be present forever in this world. One day, all evil will be eliminated. The entire creation will be made new128 and will rejoice in the glory of the children of God, redeemed through the blood of the Lamb.129 As evil will be no more, the suffering that comes from it will also disappear. All evil and the suffering it causes are only a temporary experience, and as such they serve a purpose in God’s plan for the time being.

What do we learn, then, from the temporary presence of evil in our world?

From moral evil we learn that our sinful ways – led by Satan’s rebellion and based on the attitude of self-determination and self-fulfillment – do not work. Humanity is so set in its ways that only when we reach the point of desperation and realize our helplessness before moral evil
and its tragic consequences, can we finally surrender to the evidence that God’s ways are best. Until then, humans will continue to seek their own ways and “solutions” to humanity’s problems, stubbornly using in our rebellion those very qualities in us that should remind us that we are bearers of God’s image, and that whatever good can be found in us actually comes from him and is a reflection – however confused or altered by our sinfulness – of his goodness.

From natural or random evil we learn that “home is not here yet,”130 and that we cannot look at our present existence as we seek the fulfillment of those longings for righteousness and for good that we share with the rest of God’s creation.

Ultimately, for us humans, only hindsight will answer the problem of evil in a way that is fully comprehensible. I believe that it is for this reason that God gave us a glimpse into our future glory, and made a stunning statement about evil and suffering, “that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”131 As unbelievable as it may sound, it is in the pain that results from evil that such a future glory is best understood. If we could sum up all the human suffering from all ages, all the heartbreaks and disappointments, all the pain we experience in our lifetimes, all the horrors of the concentration camps, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of Rwanda and Bosnia, only then we can  begin to understand the awesome meaning of God’s solemn promise.

Indeed, the glory of what God has in store for us is so majestic and so awesome that even the Scriptures can only hint to it, unveiling eternity and infinity as the backdrop against which we need to frame it. When the plan of God will be finally fulfilled, when all is done, God will finally release his creation from its groaning and anticipation. When the children of God will finally be manifested in the freedom of God’s given glory, then all things will be made new, and evil will be forever defeated and annihilated. God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; for the first things are passed away,”132 and “will no longer be remembered or come to mind.”133

What is happening here and now, what is at stake in our human experience, is truly of cosmic proportions. It is so majestic that the entire creation will be transformed. What God asks of us now is that we trust him, that we appreciate his goodness in the great and little miracles of this
life, which give us a small reminder of better times to come, and that we read the presence of evil in this world as a reminder that what God offers us is not for the here and now. It could never be, for our present life is too limited for a glory and a joy that only eternity and infinity can ever contain.

Endnotes

1 1 Chr. 16:34; 2 Chr. 5:13; Ps. 25:8; 33:5; 34:8; 86:5; 100:5; 106:1; 107:8; 118:29; 119:68; 135:3; 136:1; 145:7,9; Nah. 1:7; Luke 18:19; Rom. 2:4; 11:22; Jas. 1:17.

2 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; Ps. 147:5; Jer. 32:17; Luke 1:37; 1 Cor. 2:5; Eph. 3:20; Heb. 1:3.

3 Jacob W. Capp, “Atheism” and Wilbur F. Tillet, “Providence” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), ed. James Orr, CD-ROM (Austin: NavPress Software, 1998).

4 Capp, ISBE.

5 T. Reese, “Philosophy,” ISBE.

6 Ibid.

7 A variation of this can be found in the concept of God’s struggle with Satan which is found in Christian thought today. See, for example: Gordon C. Olson, The Essentials of Salvation, CD-Rom (Bible Research Corporation, 1997) pp. 90-95, and Roger T. Foster and V. Paul Marston, God’s Strategy in Human History, CD-Rom (Bible Research Corporation, 1997).

8 Mark 7:21-22 and Ephesians 4:23 are sufficient to dismiss the dualistic notion that the spirit or the mind is good but the body or matter is evil, for sin does not generate in the body, but in the heart, in the mind, and it is a product of the spirit. Satan is a spiritual being, not a material one.

9 Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (London: Pan Books, 1982), p. 136.

10 See Job 1-2, where Satan is clearly limited by God in what he can do to Job.

11 Josh. 10:13; Matt. 8:26-27.

12 1 Chr. 29:12. See also Ps. 62:11; Rom. 1:20; Dan. 4:35; Jer. 32:27 and Matt. 19:26.

13 Jas. 1:13; 1 John 2:16; Job 1:12-22; Isa. 45:7.

14 Wilbur F. Tillet, “Providence,” ISBE.

15 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 269.

16 Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., “Devil Worship,” The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, 
Version 2.0, CD-Rom (IBM/WorldBook Inc., 1999).

17 Tillet, ISBE.

18 Cf. Psalm 104.

19 Joseph Gaer, cited in Gary E. Antion and Douglas Ruml, World Religions in Brief (Arcadia, Ca.: Attenborough & Sons, 1984), p. 21.

20 Antion and Ruml, p. 98.

21 Ibid., p. 131.

22 David and Randal Basinger, “The Logic of Theodicy: A Comparative Analysis,” Journal for Christian Theological Research, 3:3, 1998,  http://apu.edu/~CTRF/articles/1998_articles/basinger.html.

23 Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

24 David Basinger, “Divine Persuasion: Could the Process God Do More?” Journal of Religion 64.3 (July 1984), 332-47; Basinger, Divine Power in Process Theism (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988) ch. 1. Cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

25 David Griffin, God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 309; John B. Cobb and David Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 75. Cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

26 Zeke P. Moore, “A Theodicy for Today,” Christianteacher.com, May 20, 1999, http://www. christianteacher.com/toolbox/theodicy.html.

27 Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

28 Ibid.

29 Bruce Reichenbach, “Natural Evils and Natural Laws: A Theodicy for Natural Evils,” International Philosophical Quarterly 16 (June 1976), pp. 179-88; William Hasker, “The Necessity of Gratuitous Evil,” Faith and Philosophy 9 (Jan 1992), pp. 23-44, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

30 David Griffin, God, Power and Evil; Evil Revisited: Responses and Reconsiderations (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), pp. 87-89, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

31 Griffin, Evil Revisited 17-19, 91-92; William L. Rowe, “Ruminations About Evil,” Philosophical Perspectives 5 (1991), p. 72; David Basinger, “Divine Omniscience and the Soteriological Problem of Evil: Is This Type of Knowledge God Possesses Relevant?” Religious Studies 28 (1992), pp. 1-18, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

32 Cf.: Ex. 11:9-10; Deut. 2:25; Josh. 11:20; Ps. 22:28; Pro. 21:1; Jer. 32:27-30; 50:9; Dan. 4:17; 4:32; Zeph. 3:8; John 7:30; 18:31-32; 19:9-11; Rom. 13:1; Rev. 17:17.

33 Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

34 Ibid.

35 Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1961), ch. 5, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

36 Clark, ch. 5 and John Feinberg, “God Ordains All Things,” Predestination and Free Will, eds. David and Randall Basinger (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), pp. 19-43, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

37 Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

38 Clark Pinnock, “Clark Pinnock’s Response [to John Feinberg],” Predestination and Free Will, pp. 57-60, cited in Basinger and Basinger, JCTR 3:3 (1998).

39 Cf. Gen. 6:5; Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:19-20; 45:22; Jer. 18:5-10; 21:8; Ezek. 20:7-8; Matt. 23:37; John 1:11; 5:40; Acts 7:51; Rom. 2:5-11; 6:16; Gal. 6:7-8; Rev. 3:20.

40 Edward N. Martin, “Proper Function, Natural Reason and Evils as Extrinsic Goods,” Global Journal of Classical Theology, Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept. 1998, http://www.trinitysem.edu/journal/martinpap.html.

41 See R. Douglass Geinvett, Evil and the Evidence for God: The Challenge of John Hick’s Theodicy (Temple Univ. Press, 1995).

42 2 Pet. 3:9.

43 Cf. Rom. 8:7; Rev. 16:9, 10-11.

44 Col. 2:8.

45 Cf. Gen. 2:4-25; Acts 17:25, 28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3.

46 Gen. 3:8.

47 Gen. 15:1-21; 17:1-22; Mic. 7:20; Luke 1:73; Rom. 4:13; 15:8; Gal. 3:6-18; 3:29; 4:22-31; Heb. 6:13-14.

48 Gen. 26:2-5; 1 Chr. 16:15-19.

49 Gen. 28:13-22; 35:9-15; 1 Chr. 16:13-18.

50 Gen. 45:4-8.

51 Ex. 3:14.

52 Isa. 6:3; Ps. 99:3, 5, 9; 22:3.

53 Lev. 20:3; 1 Sam. 2:2, Ps. 98:1; Isa. 52:10; Dan. 4:8-9, 18; 5:11, et al.

54 Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Ps. 24:3ff; Isa. 6:3, et al.

55 J.C. Lambert, “Holiness,” ISBE.

56 Luke 1:49; 1 Pet. 1:15ff; John 17:11; Rev. 4:8; 6:10.

57 Matt. 1:18; Acts 1:2; Rom. 5:5, et al.

58 Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; 4:30; Heb. 7:26, et al.

59 Ps. 22:3; John 17:11.

60 Isa. 57:15; Luke 1:49.

61 Ps. 60:6; Jer. 23:9.

62 Ps. 145:17.

63 Ps. 47:8; Matt. 13:41; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:27.

64 Lev. 19:2; 11:44-45; 20:26; 1 Pet. 1:16.

65 Ps. 25:8; 34:8; 86:5; 100:5; 118:1; 136:1; 145:9; Matt. 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; 1 Pet. 2:3, et al.

66 Carl B. Bridges, Jr., “Good, Goodness,” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).

67 Gal. 5:22.

68 Harold S. Kushner, pp. 153-155.

69 See: El Shaddai in Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:24-25; Ex. 6:3; Yhwh Tsaba’oth in Ps. 24:10; Isa. 2:12; 6:3, 5; 8:13; Jer. 46:18; Mal. 1:14; ‘Abhir in Gen. 49:24; Ps. 132:2, 5; Isa. 1:24; 49:26; 60:16, et al.

70 Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:17.

71 Ps. 115:3; 135:6.

72 Isa. 43:13.

73 Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27.

74 Gen. 1:3ff; Deut. 8:3; Ps. 33:9; 65:6; Jer. 32:17; Rom. 4:17; Heb. 1:3; 11:30.

75 Job 5:9ff; 9:5ff; 38, 39; Ps. 65:7; 104:9; Isa. 40:12ff; 50:2; Jer. 5:22; 31:35; Amos 4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6, et al.

76 Amos 1:1-2:3; 9:7; Isa. 10:5, 15; 28:2; 45:1; Jer. 25:9; 27:6; 43:10.

77 Job 5:9; 9:10; Ps. 72:18.

78 Matt. 22:29; Mark 12:24; Rom. 4:17, 21, 24; Eph. 1:19ff.

79 Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; Rom. 8:31; Eph. 3:7, 20; 1 Pet. 1:5; Rev. 11:17.

80 See also Dan. 4:25, 35; Rom. 9:15-23; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11.

81 William Leonard, “Sovereignty of God,” Holman Bible Dictionary (Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), CD-Rom, NavPress Software, 1997.

82 Gen. 1.

83 Gen. 1:26-31.

84 Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Job 33:6; Ps. 103:14; Isa. 64:8; 1 Cor. 15:47; 2 Cor. 4:7; 5:1.

85 Eccl. 3:20.

86 Gen. 1:26; 5:1; 9:6; Jas. 3:9.

87 Ex. 29:45-46; 33:11; Deut. 6:5; 10:12; Ezek. 16:3-14; Matt. 6:9-14; 22:37-38; John 3:16; 15:4-10,15; Acts 17:27-28; Rev. 21:3-4.

88 Gen. 1:31.

89 Job 38:7.

90 Isa. 43:7; Eph. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 10:31.

91 Rom. 8:19-22.

92 Eccl. 3:11.

93 John 17:20-23.

94 Rom. 14:10-12.

95 Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10.

96 James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986) p. 176.

97 Ibid., p. 178.

98 Jerry Bridges, Trusting God (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988), p. 37.

99 Ibid., p. 96. Calvin would go as far as to state that “Satan also, himself …is so completely the servant of the Most High as to act only by His command” (Commentary on Romans).

100 Montgomery Boice, p. 176.

101 John Newport, “Evil” and William Leonard, “The Sovereignty of God,” Holman Bible Dictionary.

102 Luke 7:30; Matt. 23:37; Acts 7:51, et al.

103 Ex. 11:9-10; 2 Sam. 24:1.

104 Ex. 7:14; 8:15; 1 Sam. 6:6; 1 Chr. 21:1-4; 2 Sam. 24:10.

105 Ps. 5:4; 50:21; Prov. 15:26; Rom. 1:30; Jas. 1:13.

106 Ezek. 28:11-19.

107 Isa. 14:12-15; 1 Tim. 3:6.

108 Gen. 3:5; Matt. 4:8-9; 12:24, 41; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:5; 10:14-22; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; Rev. 12:7, 9; 20:3, 8.

109 Eph. 1:11; Rom. 8:28; Gen. 50:20; Acts 4:27-28; 27:22-24, 31, 44.

110 Gen. 37:4-5, 8, 11, 20, 24, 28.

111 Gen. 45:5-8.

112 Isa. 53:1-6; Eph. 1:11-12; Rom. 9:6-29.

113 Gen. 2:16-17; 3:6; 37:26-27; 39:15-18; 40:9-23; 45:5; Deut. 28:17; Num. 14:36-37; Job 1:12-22; 2:5-8; Prov. 21:1; Isa. 5:6; 14:24-27; 45:7; Zech. 1:18-21; Matt. 23:37; Acts 5:5, 10; 14:16; 1 Cor. 11:30.

114 Gen. 20:3-4, 6, 17-18; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 13:1-5; 2 Thess. 2:6-8.

115 Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 1 John 4:8-10.

116 John 16:33; Rom. 8:22; 8:28; 12:21; 1 Cor. 15:20-24; 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Eph. 1:7; Phil. 3:10; Col. 1:24; Jas. 1:2; 1:12; 1 John 2:2; Rev. 1:18.

117 Gen. 1:26-31; 2:7-9, 15-25.

118 Zeke P. Moore.

119 Rom. 8:7.

120 Gen. 4.

121 Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-23.

122 1 Cor. 10:1-13. See also Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), pp. 45-47.

123 Gal. 4:4.

124 Isa. 53:4-6; Luke 22:42-44.

125 Rom. 3:9-18.

126 Rom. 6:23.

127 Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Rom. 3:9-18.

128 Rev. 21:1-4.

129 Rom. 8:19-22.

130 Philip Yancey, p. 246. See also: C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 103.

131 Rom. 8:18.

132 Rev. 21:1-4.

133 Isa. 65:17-18.

A comment from John McKenna

My concern is that we do not equate the contingency of the creation directly with evil, and that we do not equate as opposite and equal realities the “good” creation with the “evil” that appears within God’s creation. Evil mysteriously appears in God’s good creation with a created freedom whose will opposes the uncreated free will of the Creator. The mystery of God and godliness and the mystery of evil may never be thought to exist in the first place on the same level of reality.

Author: Luciano Cozzi

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