Why does God allow so much suffering and evil?
"Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" - Amos 3:6
In light of the events of the last few days, I re-watched a message from the West Coast Ligonier Conference (2008) by Dr. John MacArthur on the question of evil and suffering in this world. It was a very good use of an hour as it fixed my heart and mind on the truth claims of the Bible regarding God's Sovereignty over evil in this world. I very much recommend this teaching found here. - JS
Here are some notes I made as I watched:
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SO MUCH EVIL AND SUFFERING?
FOUR FORMS OF EVIL:
MORAL EVIL – Personal sin (transgression)
SUPERNATURAL EVIL – Sophisticated corrupt spiritual identities that seek to torment, entice, deceive and seduce (heresy and false religions have their source in the demonic – the doctrine of demons – 1 Tim 4)
THE EVIL OF HELL (eternal punishment)
1) Evil exists.
2) God exists.
3) God wills evil to exist (He takes full responsibility for all that occurs). If He did not permit its existence, it would not be here.
Evil occurs because God, who could have prevented it, permits it. The permission of evil is under the control of God. To say that it is permitted is to underline the point because God is not Himself evil and could not be the author of evil (James 1:13). It is vital to stress this. But it is not as if, when evil occurs, God temporarily loses control of the universe that He has created and sustains and governs.
"...though Christians face the difficulty of explaining the presence of evil in the universe, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before one can even have a problem of evil, one must first have an antecedent existence of the good. Those who complain about the problem of evil now also have the problem of defining the existence of the good. Without God there is no ultimate standard for the good." – R. C. Sproul
In order to try to get around what some people think to be a poor reflection on God regarding point number 3, two main theological errors have been put forward.
1. Process Theology – in simple terms, the idea that God is learning and growing and developing as He reacts to the events of time.
2. Openness Theology – the idea that the future does not yet exist and so not even God knows it. However this goes against clear statements of Scripture. God knows the end from the beginning, is omniscient, and this is why such much of the Bible is prophetic in nature.
Westminster Confession of Faith: God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
THE WHY OF EVIL? For His glory.
Evil is NOT good, yet God has good purposes for evil to exist - God will triumph over evil and will judge it, eternally, and in the life of a Christian, even work all things (including evil things) for the good of those who love Him. To be able to do this, He must be Sovereign and Lord over all evil.
Romans 9:22 – God demonstrates (1) wrath (holy anger) (2) mercy. God gets glory as His wrath against evil is revealed. God gets glory as His mercy towards evil people is revealed.
THE GREATEST EVIL – the crucifixion of the Son of God, the most evil act in human history, and yet out of it has come the greatest good. This act was clearly ordained by God from before the foundation of the world. Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27, 28.
Gen 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me (the despicable actions of sin against Joseph by his brothers), but God meant it (the very same sinful actions) for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today..”) I cannot fully grasp HOW this is so (its mind blowing), but accept that IT IS INDEED SO. God is entirely Sovereign and man is entirely responsible.
Job 38: Tough talk from God…. God did not feel the need to explain to Job the WHY of his calamities… just asked Job a series of penetrating unanswerable questions. Job 42: Job’s response “I repent in dust and ashes”
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SOME FURTHER THOUGHTS: Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He wept. Why would He weep knowing that He was about to remove the cause of weeping by His miraculous power? The answer is, because Jesus feels our pain. He identifies with us fully.
Lets weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. When we are genuine in our sympathy and compassion for hurting people perhaps one day, we might earn the right and privilege of being asked the “why” question. And it is then that we can point these precious souls to a God who is not merely trying to react to a situation, but One who is Lord over it and who will work even the evil they have encountered all too well for His good and Sovereign purposes. God "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Ephesians 1:11). What an abiding place of rest this is.
"There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation - the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands - the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by world-lings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne." - C. H. Spurgeon
At a time like this, while we struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible, we can only cling to God and to one another. We weep with those who weep, and we mourn with those who mourn. As we do, we know that God, too, is grieved by the overwhelming sorrow produced by this sinful atrocity. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said He came "to bind up the brokenhearted." As the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3), the Lord Himself is "close to the brokenhearted, and He rescues those whose spirits are crushed" (Psalm 34:18 NLT).
We are very much a hurting and grieving nation at the present time. Let us pray for all those affected by the events in Portland and Connecticut this last week. May He also use us to point people to the arms of our loving Savior.