I am here in Alaska, looking at bright glaciers, sharp mountains, including Mt. McKinley towering to the north, remembering how much God can in and do though one young person working and speaking in a chapel in Glacier National Park.
The age old question has become more real lately:
“How can a loving, omnipotent and omniscient God allow all the pain and suffering (evil) in this world.”
So why is there evil? In the simplest terms, it’s because people worship and serve other gods. Romans 1:18-2:16 says it in very straight forward terms: God made Himself known to humans and He was and is clearly seen, but they did not honor Him, rejected His love, exchanged the glory of the immortal God for other gods and followed their own lusts. The outcome is ugly! But God didn’t stop. He kept showing “the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience.” Paul’s point is that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). Verses 5-6 and 8-9 make it clear that those who reject it will find wrath and judgment. But verses 7 and 10 make it clear that those who do the good work of responding to the kindness of God that leads to repentance by repenting will get eternal life. Verse 10-11 concludes: there is “glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.”
God continues to live among us with nail pierced hands, showing the depth of His care and the power of His freely available transformation. But the common response continues to be “forget You. I want my own gods, my own lusts.”
And the result is evil.
One day He will come, establish His kingdom, destroy evil. Like the disciples, on hearing the truth that the Spirit was being poured out in New Covenant ways, asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” His response basically is, “It will happen some day. In the meantime do the work of extending My grace to the world.”
So the common question “why does God allow evil” is really a blame shifting question. The real question is “Why, in the face of the freely available goodness of the LORD, do we persist in worshiping other gods, wallowing in our lusts, and provoking God’s anger rather than His blessing?” Those of us who are Jesus followers continue to make every effort to add make every effort to add to your faith to goodness to knowledge to self-control, to perseverance, to godliness, to brotherly kindness, to love.(2 Peter 1:5-7) doing His good in the world.
So the real and present question is how much good can we do inÃ‚Â this broken world,Ã‚Â a world we break and keep on breaking?
So we keep boundaries even when it’s frightfully difficult. We pursue gentleness even when competitiveness presses. We feel the overwhelming loneliness, knowing that it is shared. We remain quiet even when the urge to take action is intense.
And we pray for His healing power, hoping we can be a part of the grace process until He comes. But for the big picture, our prayer is just like His: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We resonate with the disciples, “Maranatha.” And like Him we hurt to see the evil and evil doers continue.
Note: This model of providence is the “ship” theory of A. W. Tozer and the “train” theory of Francis Schaeffer. Another model is the “script” theory of meticulous providence. It seems to me it is not only unbiblical (if God controls every detail to His glory, then why does He get so angry at evil?), but also without any answer for the goodness of God and the evilness of evil. The “answer” of the free will model of C. S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, etc., fails in that God sometimes does interfere in free will.
That is a great place to start! And you’d know about that, Bill. Thanks for modeling grace in suffering
Habakkuk… oh, say chs 1 and 2 for starters?
What you are doing is a place of powerful ministry, Mark. Questions are real. I’ll do a post on sin soon.
The atonement paper is becoming a book with Mark Driscoll. It’s in progress now.
As I continue to serve the Lord in the chaplain ministry at the Regional Justice Center, men want to know answers to the questions you pose, here. I appreciater your insight on the blame shifting from man’s love of the darkness apart from Christ to God. The follow-up question for all of us in our daily living is how can I stop the cycle of recurring sin in my life. How do I break the chains of sin? I always start with 2 Timothy 2:22 and then to the character and actions of God in His Great Salvation, Hebrews 2:9-14.
Did you ever complete your paper on the atonement that remains in the Western papers for faculty and students? I’ve started to use your awesome notes on hilaskomai within your atonement theology class notes in the jail and in our church adult classes.