If God is so good and powerful, why does He allow evil and suffering? A helpful lecture by Dr. Gary DeWeese of Biola University…

“We require God to remove evil after evil until a paper cut is worst evil in world. How can there be a good God if He allows paper cuts?” (Dr. Gary DeWeese)

The lecture entitled Solving the Problem of Evil by Dr. Garrett DeWeese; Biola University Christian Apologetics Department is extremely helpful when addressing the valid question, “If God is so good, why does he permit evil and suffering in the world?”  I listened to this lecture a while back while in the Christian Apologetics program, and it was outstanding.

Dr. DeWeese explains the fact that there are two different kinds of evil:

  1. Moral evil; caused by free choices of moral agents (e.g., Nazis used their free will to cause suffering in others)
  2. Natural evil (Phenomena of nature; Operation of non-moral causes)

Dr. DeWeese further explains:

“Now, most concerns when we talk about the problem of evil have to do with moral evil. But when we come back to Bambi, the fawn that was horribly burned by the forest fire caused by lightning, you have to ask, ‘Why did God make a world in which natural cause and effect can bring about such suffering. And I think something like this…would give us the very same kind of answer as the free will defense did against moral evil. Conclusion, of all of this, God is a good God. He did not need evil to exist in order for His goodness to be good! He did not need to create at all. God did not need you and me. Or creatures like us. But having freely made the decision to create, and having decided to gift the creation with freedom, thereby to receive greater glory from it, God also made possible suffering and evil. God did not make suffering and evil. He made it possible. Do the existence of suffering and evil in our world count against the existence of God? I think so. I think there are arguments. I don’t think atheists that talk about these arguments are irrational. But I think the positive arguments for God’s existence together with the defenses, the rebuttals, that we can offer for the arguments from evil, are such that we can have great confidence not only that God exists but that evil can be successfully dealt with philosophically, and with using the theological resources of our faith as our understanding of God grows, our certainty of that conclusion will grow as well.” (See source; Emphasis mine)

This is such a complex subject.  If you have the time, please listen to the audio by Dr. DeWeese I provided in the link above.  It is okay and good to ask questions like these.  God is a God of truth, and He is not afraid of nor mad at our honest questions.  What is not okay is to go through life – never digging and arriving at the answer – and dying with unanswered questions.  What a tragedy that would be.  So, if you are digging and asking questions, good for you.

Another kind of moral evil: Suffering for being a Christian and/or doing what is right

In addition to moral evil and natural evil, there is a sort of evil and suffering that comes about by doing what is good!  This falls into the moral evil category.  This is what the rest of this article will be about.  Crucial to note is that this is temporary.  For the Christian, there will not always be suffering:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Remember, even Jesus suffered:

“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9)

God does not delight in evil.  Human beings have free will.  God did not make puppets.  Rather, He made people with the ability and freedom to choose good or evil.  If He made puppets, there would be no love because it would be forced love.  Love must contain a free choice to be love.  God chose to send His Son into the world because He loves you and me.  He gave us freedom to choose Him or not, to choose right or to choose wrong.  The puppets would have no choice or freedom in the matter.

There must be free will.

What does it mean to be blessed?  People of the world want to be blessed. Christians want to be blessed. Everyone wants to be blessed, and nobody wants to “suffer”. We often wish people “blessings” and want them to “be blessed”. But, what does it mean to “be blessed”? Prosperity preachers (false prophets) will tell us that being blessed means health, wealth and happiness; a great job, popularity, and a lot of money. This is what most of the world thinks. The definition of blessed that Jesus gave was quite different. Jesus said that when we are experiencing such things as being “poor in spirit”, mournful, meek, desiring righteousness and being persecuted, insulted, and falsely accused…this is when Jesus says we are “blessed”.  It is when we experience these issues that we are truly ‘blessed’…according to God. It is when we are “afflicted in every way”, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and delivered to death (whether spiritually or physically) that we are truly blessed (2 Corinthians 4:1).

This is God’s truth, yet how many Christians believe this? And how many pastors faithfully preach this?

Another example is that Jesus says it is more “blessed” to give than to receive. Yet, we often equate blessings not with giving or sacrificing something of value to us, but with receiving something from someone or from God.

Remember Acts 20:35, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Being falsely accused of evil, being persecuted and insulted because of Christ – yep, that’s blessed in God’s eyes. There are future rewards for those sufferings.  Some of us are blessed and don’t even know it. Jesus says, “for great is your reward in heaven”. Life’s temporary happiness is worth nothing compared to eternity. The Apostle Paul called his troubles “light and momentary afflictions”, and he went through nothing that we would call “light afflictions”! He was beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:17)

Jesus explains true blessings. God sees blessings differently than the way we see them, for His understanding is higher than ours. He even conveys in Scripture that suffering for being a Christian is a blessing. He goes so far as to say all true Christians will be persecuted: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus believes that if we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings (suffering for being a Christian; doing or saying Godly, Biblical, Christian things), then we are to “REJOICE”, that when His glory is revealed, we will have exceeding joy. We are to be happy when we are reproached.  This is opposite of the worldly view.

Here is a passage from 1 Peter 4 about suffering: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator”.

Did you know that people hated Christ?

“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:13)

Christ made it clear that people of the world (and that includes worldly, Christian-in-name-only people) would hate His disciples. In fact, Matthew 10:25 makes it clear that if we truly are His disciples, then we could even be called worse things than Jesus: “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”.

Disciples will love others, but they will be hated in return.

Jesus calls this blessed.

He even goes so far as to say, “woe to you” (how horrible it will be) for some: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Wow.  Being praised by the crowds, in God’s eyes, is not a blessing, but a woe? This, again, is a completely opposite view of what the world calls “blessed”.

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him. This was the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew, chapter 5. Jesus explains more of what it is like to be truly blessed:

The Beatitudes:
“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

Are you blessed? Count your blessings! This will be comforting to some. I pray this is enlightening and comforting to Christians who suffer for Christ and an eye opener for those who refuse to. Be blessed.

The Loneliness of a Christian by A.W. Tozer
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world.
His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorptions in the love of Christ; and because with his circle of friends there are few who share his inner experiences, he’s forced to walk alone.
The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord himself suffered in the same way.
The man (or woman) who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk.
For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided, and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for the friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none, he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.
It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.
Source: DeWeese, Gary.  (n.d.).  Solving the Problem of Evil. [Lecture and transcript]. Biola University Christian Apologetics Department.  Accessed October 1, 2018.
This article was originally published September 8, 2011

One Comment on “If God is so good and powerful, why does He allow evil and suffering? A helpful lecture by Dr. Gary DeWeese of Biola University…

  1. This post has certainly made me think about what it means to be blessed! It's so true, there is such a difference in how the world views being blessed and how God views it. I think I need to work on being blessed in God's eyes a little more than the world's. We must always put God first and trust in Him! "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."(Psalm 34:8)

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