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Responding to the Problem of Evil

Anthony Bosman


If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does He permit evil? This question of the ages has often served as a obstacle to faith. Anthony Bosman engages students in a discussion to see how the great controversy theme helps us think deeply about and respond to the problem of evil.


Anthony Bosman

Assistant Professor


  • May 24, 2017
    2:00 PM
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So I polled my friends on Facebook one day and it's always a dangerous thing right now you don't know what you can get out of it but pull them God is blink as it how would you describe God what was in the response you might expect to come in and some people say things like God is good God is Love God is powerful god is made you do say well when he was one that caught my attention God is nots. He goes on to explain he says to clarify I think that God is not at least one of the following things all loving all powerful or real that he doesn't exist or is not all loving or is not all powerful because I can't understand how he can be all of these things at once. Now earlier today we're talking about how to share hope right. So here's an opportunity how do you think you ought to respond to this. No you're wrong no I was in my approach. I just asked him to explain what are you talking about he CAN YOU EXPLAIN I want to better understand what you're saying and you see here it says you more replies this became a very. Very lengthy discussion and it was fascinating but let me tell you the the big problem that was hanging him up it's an old problem it's called The Problem of Evil it's often achieved first to Epicurious he's a he's a Greek philosopher by the third century and he poses it like this Epicurious says is God willing to prevent evil but not able. Then he is not. He able but not willing. Then he is malevolent you see both able and willing then whence cometh evil. Is he neither able nor willing then why call him God this is the call the Epicurean tried he's saying OK if God is willing to print evil and he's not able to vent evil that he's not maybe not all powerful right if he's able to prevent evil but he's not willing to prevent evil then he must not be good he's not a good God and all loving god is a malevolent God is a bad God if these both able and willing to prevent you whole Then why is there evil. But it is neither able nor willing to be event evil then why would you call him God right this is a classic criticism of the classic Christian the standing of God And so one response to this is simply wrong I guess you're right let's throw away the god concept maybe doesn't make sense there is evil after all and let's see how well we can do without it so one person attempted this is a German philosopher interesting enough he was born in October of one thousand forty four maybe you know something else that happened that year down month so need she a well known atheist German philosopher famous for saying God is dead. So what is need she saying he's not saying a god was a law about some point he died when he is claiming is that we have no longer have any need for the idea of God as a society you know intellectually we can recognize you know there's no need for God as you don't ever face that sentiment at all you know maybe like we've progressed past the need for the idea of God That's what you believe back then but now we know better I kind of falls back into that story of progress we progressed in terms of technology I guess we've also progressed in terms of understanding of religion and we've also progress in terms of understanding morality and we progress to know that God is the. But Nietzsche recognized in saying this they would be consequences. If she observes in twilight of the idols when one gives up the Christian faith one polls the right to Christian morality from under his one's feet. And has a system a whole view of things thought out together by breaking one main concept of it the faith in God one breaks the whole Nothing remains in one's hands so wasn't you saying saying if you give up the concept of God God is dead that entails something in particular all of the the morality all of our conceptions of good and evil Christianity had had hinged on the idea of God that also all fails right he was a more modern author who becomes the same conclusion Richard Dawkins a well known atheists he writes in his book a draining view of life he says the universe as we observe it has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no purpose no evil no good nothing but a blind pitiless indifference So what are they saying they started out with is rejecting the idea of God but I was joking that he of God A few other things came with it that the Christian system of morality the notions of good the notions of evil the notions of purpose those began to disappear as well after all this is not a mind behind the cosmos then what is there to imbue the cosmos with purpose if there's not some mastermind behind it thing good and evil this is our convention that we come up with that the words we use to describe that we prefer of that's thing over that thing but there's no binding force that tells us that indeed this thing actually is good in this thing actually is evil it's something we have must come to agree upon ourselves and it my understand of good and evil. Maybe different than you understand good and evil in my societies understand good and evil may be different than your good evil but these are conventions constructions the not actually something that's imbedded in the substance of the universe does not make sense where the coming from so the saying we've gone away with God But now actually losing these other categories as well. But now wait a second something curious has happened. The Epicurean dilemma begun by putting I cannot is in there is evil in the universe and we said because even the universe how could a loving God that must not be a god right but then we get rid of the idea of God what happened. And how does it make sense to call something evil right you can say I don't prefer that activity and it's distasteful when I use the word evil but when you use the word evil really just mean I prefer of this over this right or my society has decided collectively that we don't like this kind of behavior but if it was a different society they might have decided something different right so by abandoning notion of God We actually abandon the rights of the privileged to be able to call us something evil. But we know that there's evil right like Surely when we say something is evil we don't merely mean that mind it's used to taste full we actually mean that there's something evil that we actually mean that this is is wrong beyond just my preference but even if I thought it was right it is still wrong when we're committed to this view it was something very curious has happened the presence of evil at first seem to be making us question the existence of God But actually if you really believe there's evil in the world it seems like you must think concluded that in fact this reinforces belief in a God You see what happened. In order to actually sustain your belief that there is evil then you must have some sense of well the must be something that declares it as evil there must be something that scribes that is evil is not merely my preference my system is evil I'm trying to say that foundationally the outside of my opinion is not just a subjective thing it's not just like I like strawberry ice cream more than memoir than chocolate ice cream actually trying to say some actions are evil beyond what I think what you want things even of all the world believe those rights I want to say that there's still something wrong about this but in order for me to justify the view I must maintain a belief in God and so I say we go back to the Epicurean try lemma we look at it again let's not be so quick to throughout belief in God that doesn't seem like it actually helps us resolve this. How instead might we answer this try lemma if God is both good and powerful then why does he permit evil. We tried to on our way the idea of God but it left us in just a moral muck of not being able to discern between good and evil at all we know there's evil but now we want to understand if God is good and he's powerful why does he permit evil. Take thirty seconds think about it. And I want to hear from a couple of you. A previous discussion on the great controversy a motive might be helpful. In you how would you how would you help how to explain to someone if God is both good and powerful. Why does he permit evil it would summon someone willing to offer an explanation an explanation not get at me but an explanation get out a friend who may be struggling across this question and isolation of someone maybe not. Much of a Christian background how do you explain to them why God commits evil. OK guys let's go ahead listen to his explanation and now a few other people chime it will try to answer it God is both good and powerful all good all powerful why does he made evil. It could be that God is. Allow circumstances to pave the way for a greater good that is beyond our conception. To borrow an example in the television show Star Trek they have a law called the prime directive which prevents. Officers from interfering in other societies. Who may be going through a developmental stage in order to allow them to come to the realization of peace and unity on their own terms rather than sort of holding their hand and maybe forcing it upon them in order to create a more just society for themselves so they can themselves reach a more enlightened state. But to do that you have to also permit them to go through the struggles. Maybe war and disunity. And the things that we deal with today. Wonderful So his answer is. Example store track of maybe a parent in a child a parent might allow a child to make some bad choices may be experiencing a consequence of those choices but in the end it's so the child matures and becomes a well thinking relevant adult right is one explanation often given for why God may permit evil but I want to suggest that maybe is a weakness with this. Yeah that explains why maybe I'm allowed stub my toe or burn my hand because then I learned I shouldn't touch the of bin and I should be more careful when I walk. But doesn't really. Justified Holocaust does that really justify genocide I mean there's some real bad evil in this road and it seems like there's some kinds of evil that to build us up there's some kind of adversity we face and we come out stronger because of it. By the way is the one who first said whatever does not kill me only makes me stronger but some things do kill us and they kill children they kill innocents and there's something evil you look at and you say this is purposeless evil I can't other how can this evil possibly be leading to any greater good. Someone else want to offer Engle and some kind of not how you might resolve why an all good all powerful God would permit evil and not just the small kinds of evil but also the those those acts that you just you know you watch a documentary on and by the end you just in tears right. Why would God permit these kinds of things you want to chime in. A couple of months ago. That this idea and what that. God is most ultimate love and something he just can't comprehend it would make sense for him why he loves us so much that he would rather allow and he doesn't even it's hard to it's hard to say because he doesn't call things happen he allows them to happen so basically he's being very very patient and in the Bible you notice that he's saying every day is another chance to make it right with Him because He loves us so much it doesn't he's also suffering with us it's not like he's looking over and saying you know what I'm just going to look over it no he's everyone's going to pay the price for that and they are paying a price if you haven't noticed they are paying a price for their actions but it's only out of love that God to sustain in them and allow anything to come about so that their salvation. Recognize and realize and love does not force anyone to do anything I think that's also very important there out there also you brought his idea of love which I appreciate so much I think in order to understand I'll come back with a few more hands in a second in order to stand why God acts in the way that he does we have to know what is his end goal right what he's really trying to bring about if he was simply trying to bring about a universe where there is no. Evil you make a universe with no people but what is his alternate end goal. Appreciate this insight from the great controversy we're told that God does not force the will or judgement of any you takes no pleasure in a slavish obedience he desires of the creatures that his hands shall love him because he is worthy of love he would have them obey him because they have an intelligent appreciation of his wisdom justice and benevolence and so he would begin to see if this is God's great goal that I want individuals to love me freely love me because they understand that I am worthy of their love not because they preprogram to do so not because the forced a chorus to do so but to freely love me then in order for them to freely love me I must allow for the possibility that they would choose otherwise and even choose otherwise in a way that would cause great pain great measure e right. There's still a difficulty though because not all evil seems to be caused by individual choices right we can trace a lot of evil choices but things like hurricanes maybe choices feed into if we are better stewards of the earth maybe then we would have as bad of hurricanes but still we have you know natural disasters we have all kinds of disease some of them may be traced in some way to human. Agents but a lot of these things you like it just seems like sometimes the world is out to get us right like the world isn't a very friendly place there's natural evil. Women explanation for natural evil come in how US Christians do we understand the presence of natural evil. OK let's let me come to the back and very briefly how might you explain the presence of natural evil I think it's pretty simple when man fell the world. Wonderful we can leave it out but. So. So you see you have a language like an Romans eight the creation grown it writes You have language in in Genesis where the choices of individuals impacts not just them with the environment around them as well so all to merely It does trace back to some kind of choice excellence. So we're beginning to get a sense of why God permits evil. But still the question of why is the evil I want to understand this is a question society a large struggles with rights so so one well known franchise has recently been revived Star Wars has this built into them in stories you have an idea of the force and in the force there must always be a balance between the light the jet eye and the darkness the Sith right and so it's always about maintaining this balance in the forests this very much comes from an issue to religion notion in yang good and evil they must exist in balance and sometimes you Christianized this idea when we see evil we say things like this is part of God's plan and we interpret it like we see this evil existing in the world God must have willed evil into existence to accomplish some greater end right it is. For some reason God meeds evil as part of his plan in order for in the end everything to come out just writes. This if you make sense. Were hesitant to accept this view I would say the biblical view is reliably other odds with this while strong auras and eastern religions may try to justify the presence of evil the Bible takes a very different route. We looked earlier that is equal twenty eight No it is equal twenty eight knows what it does three times and equals twenty eight percent level of US fifteen it cause Lucifer the one whom evil into the universe because imperfect three times it says you have Signet of perfection full of wisdom and perfect in beauty you were playing less in your ways you were perfect from the day you created till unrighteousness was found in you not placed but found God made things perfect perfect perfect but then suddenly evil showed up and we can try and understand it was through pride but then we ask why was Lucifer proud to what can we explain why that evil into his heart answer no controversy tells us it is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence you want some reason why Lucifer sinned you want some reason for why evil into the universe this is impossible to give sin is an intruder whose presence no reason can be given it is mysterious on accountable to excuse it is to defend it. I often think of it like this where having a great party tonight right with going to party and then you know Johnson shows up and whenever Johnson shows up to a party you know. Starts making mess of things it's no fun right it ruins the party every time and so Jonathan's here and we're like why is Jonathan at this party can someone explain why Jonathan is hearing. What if someone could what if someone said Oh Johnson's here because Anthony invited him and so he came along with Anthony then there is sponsor happy Well I guess now there's a reason for John to be here so we have to tolerate him right but what if instead when we asked why is John in here we go well there is no reason for Johnson to be here he doesn't belong here he's an intruder he's alienated there's no purpose for him to be here if that was the conclusion what then would we do we kick him out the very fact that there is no explanation no reason for evil to exist gives us hope that evil give you get rid of you we can eliminate it right if there was a reason we evil to be here then that suggests that evil would always need to be here the must always be a balance in the forest but the fact that there is no reason for evil means of those hope that evil can come to an end and this is precisely what Scripture does rather than try and give some reason to justify the presence of evil Scripture doesn't do it doesn't say Oh yeah the evil is here because you know your god needs a little bit even one little bit of good no doesn't do Ansted Scripture says evil is alien a sin is alien it doesn't belong Now let me tell you how we're going to get rid of it. That is the story of scripture. So this beautiful promise that we have in a home and the promise goes like this name him Chapter one Verse nine why you protest against God why you we belive against God why you transgress in his law why you choosing sin do you not know he's going to make an end of this the. And not only will make another end of it but notice the the force of this promise when he does make an utter end of it. It will not rise up a second time. We may question why God is taking so long why God is choosing to respond the way he could crush things he could he could have stopped a billion much sooner but God's angle is not in which end rebellion. God's end goal is to prevent all future rebellion that's a much more ambitious thing right it's not just OK this something's broken I need to fix it it's not going to fix it so it never breaks again it's a little bit tougher thing to accomplish until we see what God does in the plan of salvation that the way that he he sometimes seems to move slowly but always through love never through correlation that this is God's means of providing a solution so that the problem would never happen again not just for humanity before all of creation. We're told education of the cross is a revelation to all senses of the pain that from its very inception sin has brought to the hearts of God every departure from the right every deed of cruelty every failure of humanity to reach his ideal brings a grief to him. We must resist this idea that God is sitting back and he's an interested in the state of the world that he's taking his time because you know he just doesn't care that much or he's not impacted that much the reality the great inside of Scripture is the one who suffers most because of sin because of evil is not us but it's God that's that that's the message of the heart of the cross but the one who suffers the most is not us but God in eternity the only one who will have scars on his hands is not us but Christ if you read the book of Revelation in the New Jerusalem. Crisis still described as a lamb with a sacrificial symbol the sacrifice of Christ has significance into eternity because Into Eternity it's the sacrifice of Christ now prevent any future rebellion any time attempt to deviate from the right any time we're tempted to choose the wrong in eternity minded woe we see the consequences of sin we see how this is played out in our world we see what this is done to the Son of God right if that sacrifice alone now prevent evil from ever rising again some people have this notion that when we get to heaven suddenly we're going to become robots or suddenly we become On able to sin that's not true will happen we get to heaven is by that point we have so grow to understanding of how good God is and how evil sin is in the facts of sin on God that we will never desire to sin again. We were freely choose the right. I do need point we could start another rebellion at any point we could become the next Lucifer because of how God has handled the supplants ovation this time so perfectly so well we'll be protected from ever happening again we have a history of we can look back we see no lawlessness doesn't lead to freedom you say leads to freedom but we see the ends of Holocaust we see and the genocide we see it ends with the Son of God on the cross we don't want to go that way again this media was brought to you by audio for years a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about your verse or if you would like to listen to more service please visit the W.W. audio org.


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