How do we answer the person who asks why God allows incidents such as we saw in America on September 11, 2001? Surely if He were a God of love He would stop it.Furthermore, if He is an all supreme beingandin control of this world nothing bad would ever happen.
As a foundation on which to build an answer et me give what is a very good explanation of evil. It is written by Gregory Koukl and the full article can be found on The Stand to Reason web site
The first step in answering the problem of evil is this: We’ve got to get clear on what this thing “evil” actually is. It does seem to follow that if God created all things, and evil is a thing, then God created evil. This is a valid syllogism. If the premises are true, then the conclusion would be true as well. The problem with that line of reasoning is that the second premise is not true. Evil is not a thing… evil has no ontological status, I mean that evil, as a thing in itself, does not exist. Let me give you an illustration to make this more clear. We talk about things being cold… Coldness is the absence of heat. When we remove heat energy from a system, we say it gets colder. “Cold” isn’t a thing… Cold itself isn’t being “created.” Cold is a description of a circumstance in which heat is missing… Evil is like that. Evil isn’t like some black, gooey stuff floating around the universe that ‘gloms’ onto people and causes them to do awful things. Evil is the absence of good, a privation of good, not a thing in itself.
Evil of course appears to the ‘man in the street’ to bring a complete contradiction to the character and purpose of God. How can evil be allowed if God is really who Christians say He is? We need to investigate this and put forward a reasoned argument.
That recorded, let us get back then to our original logical sounding question as to why God does not stop the evil. Just what do we say in the face of such a challenge ?
We would have to begin by pointing out that we couldn’t answer such a question based on one incident in time. The very question of course attests to the fact that the person asking the question is describing an all powerful God who is greater than man and lives in a different dimension. Such a God lives outside the restrictions of man’s world and we need to look at the overall purpose of this God and how one event in time fits in with an eternal plan.
God’s original plan
What was God’s original plan for man? Why did He create him in the first place and why did He give him this home called earth? That answer alone could take up hours but there are one or two main facts that we would want to point out.
1. God’s point for creating man was for good and not for evil. He never created a man so that He would go and do evil acts. He looked at the creation after man was placed on this earth and said of what He saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
2. God was close to man, coming each day and talking with him in his own home (Genesis 3:8).
3. God created a companion for man that would be with him all the time because He did not want him to be alone – Genesis 2:18.
4. He allowed man to name the animals that he would live with – Genesis 2:19 – and He told him that under God’s authority he was responsible for the earth and all it contained (Genesis 2:15).
These actions create for us a picture of a loving God who wanted man to have the very best and wanted him to be involved with the purpose that He had for the earth. This is totally inconsistent with the idea that God ‘created’ evil and simply sits back and allows it all to happen.
What happened then? What we in religious jargon call ‘The Fall’ is what happened – Genesis 3:1-6. The very name ‘fall’ signifies that man came from a higher place and ended up in a lower place. All that he had with the great Creator God mentioned in the last section was lost. How did this happen?
The man and the woman decided that they did not want to serve God as it had been set up and that they wanted to branch out on their own. They did not just believe what God said but were prepared to listen to the lies and propaganda of God’s enemy Satan – Genesis 3:1,4.
Before we talk a little more about Satan let us also note that the man and the woman had to take responsibility and accept the consequences of their actions. They could not simply divorce themselves and say it was evil! Today it is the same, we have a responsibility to choose whether we do or do not do the evil.
However, back to Satan or the Devil. If we accept that there is a supernatural God then equally there is a supernatural Devil that stands for all that is opposite to God and His will. This being is greater than man by himself because man is only natural not SUPERnatural. Satan’s desire is to take control of this earth and its people. The Bible clearly tells us about his character.
A deceiver – Revelation 12:9
Satan has something to hide (see also 2 Corinthians 11:14.) The art of deception involves making something so close to the original that it looks just like what we are expecting the original to be. That is deception and that is the way that Satan behaves. He will only counterfeit something that God is doing and will make it as near to the original as possible so that many will be fooled.
Causes doubt in God – Genesis 3:1-5
Did God really say that? Satan seeks to focus our attention on one thing to the exclusion of everything else, just as he did with Eve and the tree. She had walked past that tree often before and it had not bothered her. That day though Satan made her vision lock on to the fruit and consider it repeatedly even though she had the rest of the trees in the Garden. This is how he works today. He concentrates our attention on one particular aspect, puts a question in the mind and allows us to develop it.
A liar – John 8:44
Satan cannot tell the truth for truth’s sake – the exact opposite of God who cannot tell a lie. Satan however delights in telling half-truths or using true statements in a way that will bring glory to himself and turn the attention away from God.
A tempter – Matthew 4:1
Satan tempts us always to rebel against God and His ways – see Matthew 4:2ff. Compare this with 1 Samuel 15:23 – rebellion is the seedbed of witchcraft.
A devourer – 1 Peter 5:8
If he can! – note carefully the context. Whereas this is Satan’s nature do also note that God has given us the ability in Him to resist the Devil so that he must flee. In other words God has given us a way out. We cannot blame the Devil, because we can resist him.
Jesus died on the Cross to set us free from the evil that surrounds us and deal with the power that the Devil would try and have over us. Once again we see the act of the loving and all-powerful God that does enable us to deal with evil in this world.
The Devil seeks to take us away from trusting and believing in God. He has to get us to believe that God has not got our best interests at heart but has ulterior motives. However history shows that it is Satan that wants to control and God that wants to set us free.
The result of the ‘Fall’ is that man no longer automatically has this close, intimate relationship with God. Instead we are born in conflict between the God who created us, put us on the earth and loved us and this other supernatural being who simply wants to destroy that relationship. All that he offers is negative but somehow he appeals to the ‘I’ in me and so I go along with it.
This conflict has been present in every human being since the fall. We all have it and we either have to fight against it so we come in to a place of peace with God, try to ignore the whole fact of God and remain neutral, or give in to it and listen to Satan and all his lies and propaganda. The trouble with the middle option is that it is not really open to us. Jesus said,
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matt.12:30).
Every human being faces this issue. Those caught up in and those who perpetrated the events of 11 September are no different.
What is called the ‘good news’ is that God does not leave us without help. It does, however, take an act of our will to come to peace and rest in Him and we do not always want to do that.
Rebelling against God and having an argument with Him leaves us in a no-speaking situation. As we know from human events in the world today when this happens we have to arrange peace talks. But to hold such talks means that both sides need to be willing and one party, whether they are in the ‘right’ or not, needs to make the first move and break the deadlock.
That is exactly what God did. Even though He was in the right He made the first move by sending Jesus Christ to be the bearer of my punishment so that I could go free. Going free of course means coming back into that loving relationship and purpose that was God’s plan in the first place. It also means that I enter into a relationship with Him that is beyond just this small time that I am on the earth, it has an eternal dimension. When I die and leave this world, by whatever means that is, I know that I have eternal life in a new dimension with the God that loves me and gave me a purpose.
What therefore becomes the crucial question is not why doesn’t God do this or that but why don’t I do something about it? Where am I in my relationship with God? None of us start off this life in that loving relationship and so we are somewhere in the other two states mentioned above.
The extreme example is someone who has clearly decided to go his/her own way and has taken on board all the whisperings and propaganda the Devil can hand out. Such a person is not doing what is God’s will but rather the desires that come from the Devil. How can such a person blame God for what is happening?
What we see in the news is the cumulative effect of many individuals who do not follow God’s way. What is happening on a national or international level is simply a larger picture of what is happening on a personal level.
However, what about the person who is staying in the middle and sitting on the fence, can they blame God? Again no, because as we have seen they are not being really neutral. In not doing anything they are still siding with the evil forces of this world, those whisperings and propaganda against God, because they are not opening up their heart and receiving the peace offering that the Lord holds out.
The third group – those that have realised they are wrong, have repented and have received the peace offering of the death of the Lord Jesus – are now seeking to walk in God’s way and know what His will is for this world.
Still, why doesn’t God step in right now and deal with all those who rebel against Him? The answer is within His character – a holy and just God that only wants the best for all. If He stepped in now and ended it all, thousands would be lost forever and not come back into that loving relationship. God, therefore, has patience even though it must break His heart at times. He has also, of course, made provision for everyone who is willing to come His way.
God does not want the world to be at war and one day He has clearly said that He will return and bring peace out of this chaos. At that point we are told that every knee will bow down to His Lordship and Kingship – Philippians 2:9-11.
Until that day evil men will do evil things but remember, first, God is ready to bring peace to anyone because He already is sitting at the table awaiting our presence to agree on the ‘peace talks’. And, second, He is ready to give assurance concerning His eternal plan.