God and Evil

Evil exists. So how can God exist?

Either God is bad [he does evil himself], God is limited [his power cannot prevent evil], or evil does not exist in the first place; or so we might be tempted to think anyway.

But none of these three positions work. A bad God is a contradiction in terms, as is a limited God. In both cases the God we would be talking about would not actually be God.

A God who is bad would be evil himself, because he would not be separate to and against evil in the first place. A limited God who cannot prevent evil, would not be able to rule all things in the first place. But in asking about whether God exists separate from and above the existence of evil, we are of course asking about a God over and against evil.

And of course the non existence of evil is only a theoretical concept adopted by atheists. Christians do not deny the existence of evil in order to uphold belief in God; we are the first to unequivocally affirm the reality of evil.

Evil exists. So how could such a God at the same time exist, a good God with power over evil?

But how can evil exist in the first place if God does not exist? By definition evil can only exist if God does too. In order to deny the existence of God, atheists must deny the existence of evil too. But the problem with atheism is that it is not true to the world we see and the lives we live, lives full of the experience of evil.

Evil is the distortion of what is good; it is the perversion, the twisting of what is right in the world. And so by denying the existence of evil, atheists also deny the existence of everything we know by nature to be both good and right.

But to deny evil is to deny the existence of things that we know are bad. And to do that we must deny that things can be wrong in the first place. This stems from a denial of the existence of objective moral values, or laws. Laws must be given by one who has ultimately responsible; the owner, the director, responsible for our governance and judgment. It is in order to deny accountability to judgment that atheists want to deny both God and evil.

But evil exists, and so does God too.

And this God can only be good [so hating evil and always doing good] and all powerful [above all, controlling even evil].

So we have only one consistent option:

Since evil exists [and therefore God must exist] then God must be using evil for good.

The concept of 'using evil for good' raises many questions, but it is throughout the Bible affirmed again and again; that the all good and all powerful God reigns over and against evil by using it to magnify both his goodness and his power.

Elsewhere in Evil and the Sovereignty of God I have given a survey of the Bible's teaching on this subject; God, far from doing evil himself or being a victim of it, rules evil by making it achieve what is ultimately good.

This certainly can be hard to understand. But the problem of the existence of God in view of evil is not solved by denying the existence of God, as though by questioning God's existence we can make more sense of evil in our world, or at least cope with it better. For if God does not exist then we really do have no body to complain to; no body to question; and in fact, we are faced with a false reality in which we must deny our own perplexity, anguish, grief and turmoil, because by rejecting God we have denied the reality of all the evil itself that we suffer. This would be more terrifying, surely, than holding onto belief in a God over evil -- a God who we can call out to with our arguments; a God who we can turn to.

Nor is the problem of the existence of evil in view of God solved by denying the existence of evil. Evil is real, we know it, we feel it, we suffer it. It is not good, it is not right, and we know that it really is bad and wrong. But the denial of the existence of evil makes all the atrocities, all the pain and hurt, the war and genocide, the rapes and murders, the exploitation and the greed and lies; it makes is all 'disadvantageous', a subjective sadness relative to us -- but really and actually just "a part of life". They may be unfortunate for us, but not wrong as such; an inconvenience but not bad actually; an unhappy happening, but not an evil. The mature modern mind will just "accept them" and "move on". All the bad and ugly and evil of our world would simply by cause and effect, time and chance, and survival of the fittest and the lucky.

This is more unbearable, surely, than holding onto the reality of evil in the face of our suffering -- evil that is real, and that we can really hate.

How it is that God in his goodness and power actually uses all our evil ultimately to magnify his own goodness and power, we may never really comprehend this side of heaven; the most we might aim for is childlike faith.
But one thing is easy. Since evil exists, God must exist.

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