God and Evil
by Benjamin Hammond
I thought I might start this blog with a particularly common issue raised against and amongst Christians. It is called ‘the problem of evil’. It is called ‘a problem’ because to secular or non-chirstian people, the fact that there is apparent evil in the world creates a problem with Christian doctrine. Is raises the question, ‘How can God exist?’, and if he does exist, why is he allowing bad things to happen? In the Bible we read of a God who is loving and kind, and who shows mercy to all who ask. These are common traits associated with the Judeo-Christian God today. Many people look at this kind and loving God, and then they look at the world and they wonder how both can be real at the same time. I will attempt to address this issue.
Why do bad things happen? A large percentage of the worlds population is malnourished, without clean water and little or no food. Many people live in poverty. People are unjustly killed every single day, natural disasters sweep our planet, and people endure suffering in their lives till their bitter end. For people such as Richard Dawkins, things like this challenge the existence of a God who is all loving, all knowing, and omnipotent (all powerful). Dawkins writes:
my experience is that godly people, who show no evidence of even beginning to understand the Argument from Improbability, are reduced to quivering embarrassment if not outright loss of faith, when confronted with a natural disaster or a major pestilence. Earthquakes, in particular, have traditionally shaken people’s faith in a benevolent deity, and December’s tsunami provoked a lot of agonized soul-searching on the question “How can religious people explain something like this?”
To present such an argument – that evil in the world is evidence for an all loving, omnipotent God’s non-existence – one has to assume that God is responsible for everything in the universe, which leads me onto my first point.
Is God responsible for everything in the universe? My answer to this would be no. From a Christian perspective, human beings are extremely influential beings. We have a direct connection to the heart of God (Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.) If we didn’t, God wouldn’t ask us to pray. And in the beginning of time, when Adam bit into the forbidden fruit, when man first sinned, we directly affected the heart of God. We hurt God. And not only did we do that, but we allowed evil to work it’s way into our lives. We did that. Not God. We have a massive share of responsibility in the universe, God is not responsible for everything. We are accountable for a great deal.
So, that is the first argument out of the window. However, the argument can be adapted to challenge Christian doctrine once more: Did not God allow us to sin? I thought he was all-powerful. Couldn’t he have stopped us? Couldn’t he have intervened? I am not disinclined to believe that God was not aware at the moment Adam bit into the fruit. He was very much aware, I am sure. So why didn’t he do something?
Now we are entering a new level. First of all, I approached the argument on a free-will basis. An assumption behind my counter-argument was that humans can choose for themselves. But now we find the argument against Christian doctrine assuming a determnistic view. The view that everything is under God’s control, and that God is indeed responsible for everything in the universe. And quite right too. It is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. God knows our every thoughts, our every move, and our every word – even before we are born. What do I have to say for this?
Before I have a shot at this argument – if God knows everything, why didn’t he stop Adam from biting into the fruit? – I must clear something up. I have already mentioned that I believe humans have free will, and that God is not responsible for everything in the universe. However, I also believe that God is responsible for everything in the universe, and that a human’s every step is already known by God. Don’t get confused. This is paradoxical, yes. But there is a paradoxical nature to God, which I may post about later. But now, I assume the same stance that the argument against Christian doctrine uses – the deterministic one.
So, why didn’t God stop evil from coming into the world? Why did he create humans if he knew that they were going to hurt him anyway, and that they were going to welcome evil? The only other answer to this from a Christian perspective is: God allows evil. But this brings us back to square one! How can God allow evil if he is all loving, and all caring?
I believe that evil is a fundamental part of true growth. There is what we call, ‘the rule of opposites‘. Cold cannot exist without heat, black cannot exist without white, the darkness cannot exist without light, and evil cannot exist without good. This rule states that everything has an opposite, and I believe it to be true. We can find this rule going as far back as ancient China, with Ying and Yang (good and evil working together).
In Christianity, humans cannot achieve their ultimate purpose without evil. Our sin is what borught us down, and when satan said in Genesis, “when you eat the fruit, you will become like God.” he wasn’t lying. We gained knowledge of good and evil (not to mention jeopardising our souls). Jesus brought us back up, and as we experience evil, we learn good. Evil is an opportunity for good to show itself. We cannot be like God if we only see light, nor can we be like him if we only see darkness. Our ultimate end is to become like God, and to do that we have to experience both light and darkness. We were in light, then we sinned so that we were in darkness. Jesus came over to the darkness, and brought us back into the light. Evil is evil, and I am not defending it, I am saying that evil is necessary. When our experiences of evil are given to God, we grow.
That is a simple and very brief counter-argument. If I was to elaborate, I would go into earthquakes and hurricanes. The ultimate use for such disasters, I do not know, but I understand that God uses such things for good. There is a quote that I found saying, “Haiti was one of the biggest disasters of a generation, then the earthquake happened.” It was made by an evangelical group, made happy by the things that, according to a Christian, are happening in Haiti that are good. People are making Jesus their friend.
To conclude, the problem of evil can be a problem simply because we don’t know the intentions God has. From a Christian perspective, evil can be explained. Maybe we brought it into the world. Maybe God then allows it to continue for the sake of growth, and the ultimate end. And so, to say that God does not exist because of these things is something I would simply have to disagree with. Just as any philosophical argument cannot be valid unless it looks at both sides of an argument, so we cannot grow unless we have experienced both good and evil. God uses even evil to help us.