Volume 1, Edition 3
It is my prayer and my hope that the tragedies that continue to fall upon our nation bring about a season of reflection, a season of prayer, a season of revival, yet I cannot help but think that just the opposite may be occurring.
It is with all too much frequency that on the heels of so many acts of senseless evil, as well as natural phenomena which has appeared almost apocalyptic in nature, that the loudest outcry I am hearing is “where is God in all of this, why would he even allow such calamity to befall us?” In a rhetorical sense, the answer is already pursed on their lips and that answer is simply this; “there is no God!”
But if there is no God or if God is not predisposed to our current state of affliction can we adequately address or even solve the problems of evil and suffering? Without a God where can anyone find the hope of redemption, or the meaning and cause of human tragedy and suffering?
Brian McLaren writes; “suffering is just as tragic, if not more so, without God because there is no hope of ultimate justice, or of the suffering being rendered meaningful or transcendent, redemptive or redeemable. It might be true that there is no God to blame now, but neither is there a God to reach out to for strength, transcendent meaning, or comfort. Why would we seek the alleviation of suffering without objective morality grounded in a God of justice?”
The premise of McLaren’s statement finds roots in the writings of Augustine and Aquinas, in which they argue that evil has no independent being. It is always defined as an action which fails to comply with a pre-supposed standard of goodness. The very definition of evil then depends upon an understanding of good. Augustine argued that evil is parasitic, in other words, it must depend upon the good to have any definition at all. He would further argue that although a Christian faces the difficult task of explaining the presence of evil in the world, the pagan has a problem that is twice as difficult. Before the problem of evil can exist, one must have a basic theology of the existence of good. It is one thing entirely to try to explain the problem of evil, but now the pagan has twice the dilemma in that they also need to define the existence of good. Here is the conundrum then for those who deride the Christian God; without Him (God) there is no absolute standard for everything that is right and good.
Are we then as flag bearers of God faced with the problematic task of assigning evil? If God indeed exists (and He does), and if God is sovereign (which He is), then is God to blame for all our moral failures, not to mention the natural catastrophes?
This is where great care must be exercised in response to a vexing question. Scripture must be our guide. We dare not deny passages from Genesis that recount the story of Joseph and his brothers or Exodus which affirm that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, which do reveal that God did cause evil to come about, but we must exercise great restraint in attributing the evil actions to God. Nowhere in Scripture is God ever to be blamed for evil or more importantly for taking pleasure in evil. Humankind is never excused for the wrong that we do in Scripture and we also take note that we are never excused from our responsibility in the evil that we do just because we proclaim God to be sovereign.
It must also be noted that we find the ultimate outpouring of love from God the Father to us, in the personhood of His Only Son, Jesus Christ who was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-25).
Within these verses God the Father is clearly revealed as the architect of the plan for our salvation, knowing full well that this would be the only way to release humankind from the bondage of sin. Yet while He is the architect of this plan, He is in no way attributed with performing the “lawless act”, rather it is the evil act of lawless men.
Instead of chasing down every lead to find cause and reason, or where to assign blame, we should develop a deep assurance from the providence of God in that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28.) It was with this strong conviction that Joseph was able to tell his brothers, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
At the end of the day for those who are grieving due to unspeakable acts of evil in this world, assigning blame or forming a doctrine to understand evil does nothing to assuage them of their pain, grief and loss. Instead Christians would do well to pay attention to the Word of God as recorded by the Apostle Paul;
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
 McLaren, Brian: Finding Faith; A Self Discovery Guide for your Spiritual Quest. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 1999. pp. 86-97
 Sproul, R.C.: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/mystery-iniquity/
 Grudem, Wayne: Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) 1994. Pg. 323
 Ibid., pg. 327