The problem of evil - Part 1

SERMON TOPIC: The problem of evil - Part 1

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 6 March 2016


Sermon synopsis: One of the most common questions people ask Christians is how a good, all-knowing and all-powerful God could allow evil in the world.

The problem of evil in the world and why a righteous God would allow it, troubled the prophet Habakkuk.

Hab 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

In “De Ira Dei” the early Christian writer Lactantius attributes a variant of the following paradox to the Greek philosopher Epicurus:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
- Download notes (5.36 MB, 1294 downloads)

- Download audio (10.58 MB, 1593 downloads)
- All sermons by Gavin Paynter

- All sermons on APOLOGETICS

- All sermons on ETHICS

- All sermons on PROBLEM OF EVIL

- All sermons in ENGLISH


One of the most common questions people ask Christians is how a good, all-knowing and all-powerful God could allow evil in the world.

(PART 1)

The problem of evil in the world and why a righteous God would allow it, troubled the prophet Habakkuk (Hab 1:13a):


Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

Many of David’s psalms are his cries of despair where he questions why evil is seemingly prevailing:

Psalm 94:3 (NKJV) Lord, how long will the wicked, How long will the wicked triumph?

Psalm 43:2 You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?

And this famous psalm was quoted by Jesus on the cross:

Psalm 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.


While some today teach the prosperity of the righteous, the psalmist Asaph, like David, noted that from his perspective it was the wicked who seem to be prospering – and he questioned God about this.

Ps 73:2-14 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant


when saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. 

 They scoff, and speak with malice; their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.


They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

In “De Ira Dei” the early Christian writer Lactantius attributes a variant of the following paradox to the Greek philosopher Epicurus:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Epicurus (341-270 BC)


The term Theodicy 1 refers to the aspect of theology concerned with reconciling the existence of a good God with the existence of evil.

The term was coined in 1710 by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz 2 in a work entitled Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil. The purpose of the essays was to show that the evil in the world does not conflict with the goodness of God, and that, notwithstanding its many evils, this world is still the best of all possible worlds. 3

1 From the Greek (theós, “god”) and (dík?, “justice”). 2 Leibniz was also a mathematician who along with Isaac Newton is credited independently as the inventor of calculus. 3 " problem-of-evil


Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716)

Non-Christian theodicies

Denial of God’s existence (Atheism)

Denial of God’s power (Dualism, Polytheism)

Denial of God’s goodness (Deism, Pantheism, Animism, Satanism, Polytheism, Gnosticism)

Denial of evil (Hinduism, Christian Science, Theosophy)

Cessation of existence (Buddhism)

Yin & Yang (Taoism)


Christian theodicies

Process theology

Soul-making (Irenaean) theodicy

Theological determinism (Calvinism)

Freewill theism (Arminianism)


Atheists say that there is no force or rational mind out there. And since there is no God, there is no evil or good – those are only subjective determinations invented by humans.

British agnostic Bertrand Russell once commented, “No one can believe in a good God if they’ve sat at the bedside of a dying child”. Hence, in this view, evil is evidence that there is no God, unless one would postulate a God that is not good. The unfortunate reality is that the atheist can take no comfort in such a heart-wrenching situation, for in a godless existence suffering is ultimately meaningless. 1

1 " problem-of-evil


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

In Russell’s own cheerful words, “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark… for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious Power.” 1

1 Philosophical Essays, 1910


Damon Linker writes in “The Week”:

“If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.1

1 8 March 2013 " Hopelessness_of_atheism


Damon Linker

C.S. Lewis, on hearing of the epitaph on a man’s grave which read: “Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and with nowhere to go” replied: “I bet he wishes that were so”. 1

1 Preface to Lewis’s “The Seeing Eye” by Walter Hooper


Atheism cannot be accepted as a satisfactory answer. It is a form of denial, a sort of non-answer that, in order to explain the existence of evil, denies the very source of good, thus leaving us utterly hopeless. 1

(Atheism) still fails to provide any reason for the existence of evil that may give our lives and our suffering any value. Life, then, becomes wasted in misery and utterly meaningless. Additionally, since ‘good’ and ‘evil’ can be defined only by social consensus, as if they were matters of opinion, the very perception of evil remains unexplained. Even the evaluation of any given view as evil or good becomes an arbitrary and debatable decision. 1

1 "https:// God/ theodicy


In fact, how can atheists honestly argue that the existence of evil proves that God doesn’t exist when they claim not to believe in the existence of evil? Former atheist, turned Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis wrote:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. 


 But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too-for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist-in the other words, that the whole of reality was senseless-I found I was forced to assume that one part of the reality-namely my idea of justice-was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. 1

1 Mere Christianity


Some explain evil by saying that God is good, but has limited power.

Dualists believe that there is a good god and an evil god, who are both equally powerful. Evil comes from the evil god and the good god is not strong enough to always prevent it. E.g. in Zoroastrianism we have Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, two coeternal spiritual “twins which are renowned to be in conflict”, responsible for the existence of good and evil in the world.


Polytheists worship individual deities who are usually not omnipotent or omnibenevolent and the powers which they share are distributed among the diverse gods.

But these positions offer no solution to the problem of evil. If the good God has limited power we will always have evil. In contrast the Scriptures affirm God’s power over Satan, over the laws of nature, and indeed over all creation – along with the ultimate triumph of good over evil.


Others deny God’s goodness or his personal interest in mankind to some degree or other.

Deists believe that there is a cosmic power: unknowable, impersonal, some kind of rational power out there, but he has no ability or desire to connect to us in any relationship. He is not personal; he cannot know or be known. Their God is detached from the world. He doesn’t even dabble in this stuff down here – like a clockmaker, after making the clock he winds it up and leaves it to run on its own. He is however unmoved and untouched by any of it.


But the Bible reveals God as a personal being, rather than merely a First Cause or a “force”. We see him personally involved in his creation, walking and talking with man in the garden of Eden. He establishes covenants, he uses prophets and priests as his mouthpiece and ultimately comes to live among us in human form and calls us “friends” and “sons”.

Gal 4:4-5 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman … to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.


I no longer call you servants… Instead, I have called you friends… (John 15:15)

Polytheists worship individual deities who are not omnipotent or omnibenevolent. Like the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods, many of these ‘gods’ are malevolent, self- serving and malicious. As 2nd century Christian apologist Tertullian remarked to pagans:

Nor do the whoring, raping, murderous crew you describe as gods deserve anything more than imprisonment in Tartarus, since that is where you would assign any man who behaved like that. If they don’t deserve that, why do you condemn in your courts men who do the same sorts of things? 1

1 Apologeticum


Pantheism is the belief that the universe and the sum of all in it is identical with divinity. The problem of evil is a very serious one for pantheists. If evil exists and everything is god, then evil is god too. Therefore cancer is god (in fact all diseases are god), pollution, the slum and natural disasters are also god.


C.S. Lewis criticizes pantheism because of this:


If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. 1

1 “Mere Christianity” (Book 2) - What Christian’s Believe

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

The pantheist who thinks evil is a part of god (or an illusion) won’t work to correct it. Why help fight cancer when cancer is also god? And so C.S. Lewis continues:

“Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God’… (Christianity) thinks that God made the world—that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made out of his head’ as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” 1

1 Ibid


Animism (i.e. ancestor worship) is a form of pantheism. Animists believe that evil is caused by good spirits who are angry or by evil spirits who are just simply evil. Animists attempt to ward off the anger of the good spirits (dead ancestors, gods, etc.) by performing sacrifices. As evil spirits cannot be appeased, the help of a shaman is required to drive them out of an individual or a community.

Again this position offers no permanent solution to the problem of evil. The evil spirits remain trouble- makers and the good spirits are seemingly forever grumpy about some supposed minor grievance.


Satanism is a fringe movement with followers who despise the creator God and worship the rebel fallen angel Satan.

Rather than attempting to offer a solution to the problem of evil, Satanism glorifies and promotes evil.


The position of some Gnostics is that the highest God is good but unknowable, but the creator God is evil. In this view the Old Testament creator God (who they called the Demiurge) was the author of evil. As the Gnostics viewed the material world and flesh as inherently evil, the creator of the material world was not only ignorant, but also malevolent.

However this does not actually address the problem of evil as the superior entity is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, yet doesn’t address evil.


Christians totally reject the notion that an evil god could create the beauty and order we find in the physical universe. While the evil Demiurge was the Gnostic way of explaining the existence of evil, this view stands in stark contrast to traditional Christianity, which sees an originally good creation by the most high (good) God as being corrupted by created beings who have free will - like the fallen angel Satan.


Others get around the problem of evil by claiming that it doesn’t really exist. Everything is actually good, you just think it’s not good. Evil, suffering, cruelty and death are illusions. If you just look at things from the right perspective, then they will disappear.

According to Theosophy, what is considered evil in one person’s mind is wrong for that person, but if the very same thing is not perceived as evil by someone else, for that person it is not wrong.

Christian Scientists believe that only the spiritual is real, the physical is unreal. God is Spirit and everything real is a reflection of Him. God is ‘all-in-all.’ Nothing possesses reality or existence except as divine mind or ideas.” 1 To the Christian Scientist evil is an illusion.

1 World Religions in Brief by Gary E. Antion; Douglas Ruml


Hindus believe that the entire universe is an illusion. The problem is that this view is not grounded in reality. Renowned philosopher and Presbyterian pastor, Francis Schaeffer wrote:

“One day I was talking to a group of people in the room of a young South African in Cambridge University. Among others, there was present a young Indian who was of Sikh background but a Hindu by religion. He started to speak strongly against Christianity, but did not really understand the problems of his own beliefs.” 1

1 The God Who Is There


Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)

So I said, “Am I not correct in saying that on the basis of your system, cruelty and non-cruelty are ultimately equal, that there is no intrinsic difference between them?” He agreed… the student in whose room we met, who had clearly understood the implications of what the Sikh had admitted, picked up his kettle of boiling water with which he was about to make tea, and stood with it steaming over the Indian’s head. The man looked up and asked him what he was doing, and he said with a cold yet gentle finality, “There is no difference between cruelty and non- cruelty.” Thereupon the Hindu walked out into the night. 1


Denying the existence of the problem is not a solution. It only perpetuates the problem. Our common sense, reason and experience reject the feasibility of this view.

Why do people who believe evil and pain are illusions double over in pain when their stomach hurts?

Why do they jump out of the way of on-coming truck if it’s an illusion?

And worse still, how is it possible that they die from illusions? It is apparent that the presumably “correct understanding” of evil as an illusion does not prevent evil, illness and death.


In eastern religions reincarnation and karma doesn’t solve the problem of evil – it perpetuates evil. E.g. If I beat my wife, I’ll come back as a wife who must be beaten. However the husband who beats me must then come back as a wife who must be beaten etc. etc.

In Christianity Jesus PAYS the price for sin. The debt is settled and evil is atoned for.

Heb 9:26 … But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.


Buddhism centres on the problem of suffering. The Four Noble Truths constitute the essence of Buddhism:

Life is suffering – we are born in and live in suffering, and we die in suffering. Suffering is ‘having what you wish you hadn’t and not having what you wish you had’.

Suffering is caused by desire. When there is a gap between desire and satisfaction, there is suffering.

The way to end suffering is to end desire. The state where you have ended desire is Nirvana (extinction).

The means to reach the end of ‘ending desire’ is the Noble Eightfold Path of ‘ego-reduction,’ a life-long task of ‘desire-reduction’ to reach Nirvana. 1

1 " docs/ The_Problem_of_Evil_and_Suffering_A_Worldview_Analysis_4.doc by Rev. Sudhakar Mondithoka


We generally try to overcome suffering by increasing satisfaction. But Buddha’s solution is ‘decreasing the desire to zero’. 1

When we think critically, we will realize that Buddha’s solution is not adequate and counter-intuitive. In a sense, it is not a solution at all. Nirvana is like spiritual euthanasia, killing the patient (self or ego) to cure/ get rid of the disease (selfishness or egotism) instead of curing the disease and saving the patient. 1

1 Ibid

Doctor I have a bad headache.

I recommend a suicide pill!


In Buddhism, karma (the law of moral causation) keeps people in an endless cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara) through reincarnation. The only way of escaping the cycle is attaining nirvana (cessation of existence), hardly something to aspire to.

In contrast the Bible says that we die once:

Heb 9:27 … Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…

And Jesus offers not annihilation, but eternal life:

John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”


In the Chinese religion of Taoism the concept of yin and yang holds that evil and good are complementary opposites within a united whole. So if one disappears, the other will disappear as well, leaving emptiness. 1

Every positive factor involves its negative or opposing one. What is usually called evil, as physical and mental manifestation, is the result of a lack of balance between the two opposing principles… Evil belongs to the nature of the world, so humans have to subscribe to the universal harmony and respect the equilibrium of the two polarities. Tao is eternal and so are the two principles Yang and Yin, so that good and evil must be eternal, as necessary elements of our world. 1

1 " evil.html#07


Atheism: Evil and good are just relative terms because there is no God.

Deism: God exists but is either impersonal or else detached from the world.

Dualism: God is good but not all-powerful. He cannot always thwart the equally powerful evil god.

Animism: Evil exists because of evil spirits and angry good spirits.

Satanism: Despise the good God and serve a fallen angel.

Gnosticism: An evil god created the physical world, and the material world is thus inherently evil.


Polytheism: There are many gods and not all of them are good and those that are good are not all-powerful.

Pantheism: God is the sum of everything, so evil is as much a part of god as good.

Hinduism & Christian Science: Evil is an illusion.

Buddhism: Existence is the source of evil.

Taoism: Like good, evil is eternal.



Let’s look at some Christian theodicies:

Some modern Christian theologians are teaching what is called Process Theology. Developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000) and John B. Cobb (1925-), this is a position that effectively limits God’s immutability, omnipotence and omniscience.

In process theology, God does not know the future exhaustively. He can guess at what may or may not happen, but absolute knowledge is not attainable until events actually occur. 1 (It) is the idea that God is in process and is trying to get where he wants to get, just like we’re trying to get where we want to get. That bad things happen because God can’t stop them. 2

1 "https:// questions-process-theology 2 " resources/ sermons/ 90-235/ the-origin-of-evil


This is a similar concept to the struggling God of prominent American Rabbi Harold Kushner who wrote the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”

Kushner’s best-seller was prompted by the death of his 14-year old son and he seeks to comfort other grieving people. His answer to the philosophical problem of evil and suffering is that God does his best and is with people in their suffering, but is not fully able to prevent it. 1

1 "https:// wiki/ When_Bad_Things_Happen_to_Good_People


Harold Kushner (1935-)

A criticism of process theology is that it offers a too severely diminished conception of God’s power… Critics argue that this conception diminishes divine power to such a degree that God is no longer worshipful. 1

… if God can’t do anything about evil, then he can’t do anything about sin. We have no redeemer. We will die in our sins. Not only that, if God is too weak to do anything about evil, then he is too weak to have any real effect on the world or our lives at all. Our hope for a better world is nothing more than wishful thinking. We are no better off than if God didn’t exist. 2

1 "https:// wiki/ Process_theology 2 "https:// article/ problem-evil


In the Irenaean 1 or Soul-making 2 Theodicy, God is good but he allows and uses evil and suffering as a means to lead humans to trust in God rather than in self.

Irenaeus proposed a two-stage creation process in which humans require free will and the experience of evil to develop. Humans are not created perfectly, but in a state of imperfection. Humans were first created in the image of God, and will then be created in the likeness of God. Humans are imperfect because the second stage is incomplete, entailing the potential, not yet actualised, for humans to reach perfection. To achieve this… humans must be refined and developed. Evil and suffering exists in the world because this is the best way for humans to develop. 3

1 Named after 2nd century theologian Irenaeus 2 A phrase taken from the poet John Keats. 3 "https:// wiki/ Irenaean_theodicy


Hunger leads to pain, and causes a desire to feed. Likewise evil offers the opportunity for character building and growing morally. Richard Swinburne, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, writes:

We would never learn the art of goodness in a world designed as a hedonistic paradise.


Swinburne also states:

A world without evils would be a world in which men could show no forgiveness, no compassion, no self sacrifice. And men without that opportunity are deprived of the opportunity to show themselves at their noblest. For this reason God might well allow some of his creatures to perform evil acts with passive evils as consequences, since these provide the opportunity for especially noble acts. 1

1 Providence and the Problem of Evil


Richard Swinburne (1934-)

Compassion, a valuable virtue, can only exist if there is suffering. Bravery only exists if we sometimes face danger.

Each individual, in order to transcend the evil that distresses him, must seek help from someone who is powerful enough to free him from such evil and pain. Evil, then, together with the suffering that comes from it, is regarded as a means to lead us to a relationship with God, who desires to deliver us from such circumstances. 1

While some aspects of this theodicy are supported by Scripture in that evil and suffering are clearly used by God to develop our character, some criticize it for failing to place sufficient responsibility for evil on humanity itself.

1 "https:// God/ theodicy


Theological Determinism takes the view that whatever happens in the world is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, and it occurs only because God has decided that it should happen.

Since nothing (not even human free moral agency and decision making) can limit God’s ability to bring about his goals, then the occurrence (not merely the possibility) of every instance of evil is necessary for the achievement of a morally justifiable goal, and therefore is justified. 1

1 "https:// God/ theodicy


This is the position Calvin held. In Calvin’s view, although God is good, he is the author of evil and uses it to accomplish a greater good – so the end justifies the means. Making God the author of evil is not something we have to infer into Calvin’s doctrine. He explicitly stated it:

I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Is 45:7); that no evil happens which he hath not done (Amos 3:6) 1

Incredibly Calvin claims that sinners do not commit acts of depravity in spite of God’s commands, but because of the command of God.

1 Institutes, Bk. I. 18:3


Calvin used Isaiah 45:7 to ‘prove’ that God creates evil.

Isa 45:7 (KJV) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

But the context is about how God treats Israel if they obey or disobey him and the verse is better translated in most other versions:

(NASB) The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity

(NIV) I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster

So in context it refers to an “evil or bad situation” and not to “moral evil”.


In Freewill Theism God’s creatures have free will and by virtue of that have the capability to choose evil – thus they are the originators of evil. This is the view of Arminians.


It is apparent in the account of Eden that Satan has already rebelled against God. Man however exercises his free will to disobey God’s direct command by eating from a tree, which is aptly named “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Following Satan’s advice, man chooses a path where he takes on the part of God by deciding for himself what is good and evil. Yet, like Adam, man blames God for evil.

For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:5)


According to C.S. Lewis in his book “The Problem of Pain”:

evil comes from the abuse of free will.

God cannot force creatures endowed with free moral agency to make the decisions God would have them make. Since God has given humans free moral agency, God is not always able to guarantee that what he wants to happen in this world will actually occur. 1

God cannot grant freedom of choice and at the same time control the use of it unilaterally. To the extent that God grants such freedom, evil cannot be avoided. 1

1 "https:// God/ theodicy


Peter Kreeft (professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College) says that God created the possibility of evil, but not the evil itself, and that free will was necessary for the highest good of real love. Kreeft says that being all-powerful doesn’t mean being able to do what is logically contradictory, e.g. giving freedom with no potentiality for sin. 1

1 "https:// wiki/ Problem_of_evil


Peter Kreeft (1937-)

C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata - of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating. 


The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (...) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will - that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings - then we may take it it is worth paying. 1

1 C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity


Process Theology: Like some non-Christian alternatives, it’s denies God’s power to stop evil.

Theological Determinism: Like some non-Christian alternatives, it’s denies God’s goodness by making the author of evil. God originates evil to bring about a greater good. This is the pure Calvinist view.


Soul-making theodicy: Sees evil as necessary for the greater good of character development. Many virtues only display themselves when confronted by evil.

Freewill theism: Sees evil as an unwanted side-effect in order to have the greater good of a world with free choice, choice being a vital factor for the existence of true virtue in particular love. This is the Arminian view.

The Scripture teaches both the judgement of evil and the ultimate triumph of good. Evil was dealt with on the cross. C.S. Lewis beautifully displays this event in his story of the Narnian lion Aslan offering to take the punishment due to Edmund at the hands of the white witch.


While the punishment for sin was covered by the atoning death of Jesus, those who refuse to avail themselves of God’s forgiveness through the atonement, will be judged and pay for their own sin:

Rev 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.

Many who complain about the evil in the world and ask why God doesn’t intervene, at the same time protest at the doctrine of judgment and hell which declares that God will ultimately judge evil.


Remember how we saw the psalmist Asaph battling with the problem of the prosperity of evil men? Well if we read further in his psalm, he shows the answer to his own questions. He gets his answer when he contemplates their final destiny, not their present prosperity.

Ps 73:13-28 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure … If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 


 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies… Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.


God’s attitude in tolerating evil in our world is perfectly expressed by Jesus in the Parable of the Weeds (Tares):

Note that the weeds (representing evil and the wicked) are not there from the outset – they are planted later.

Matt 15:24-26 The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.


The weeds are planted not by the farmer, but by an enemy.

The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”   ”An enemy did this,” he replied (vs 27-28).

“The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil” (vs 38-39)


God will tolerate evil for a limited period of time:

The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” ”No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (vs 28-29).

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil (vs 40-41).


So the parable indicates that God tolerates evil for a certain period of time, but will ultimately judge it.

It is God’s grace that allows evildoers to live, not his lack of justice or power, that they may still have the chance to repent. And for the same reason his grace permits evil for a season.

2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


God created a perfect world. Moral evil, disease, death and disasters are the result of the fall of man. God subjected the creation to death, decay and calamity not just as a judgment, but as part of the process for it’s rehabilitation:

Rom 8:19-23 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.


Ultimately good will triumph, when the kingdoms of the world again become the property of Christ and he reigns in righteousness:

Rev 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”


Suffering, pain and even death will be done away with:

Rev 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

It seems that sin and suffering are linked in a causal relationship.


Rev 22:3a No longer will there be any curse.

Coming after God’s judgment of sin (in Rev 20), these subsequent passages in Revelation appear to indicate that these negative things (death, morning, crying, pain, the curse) came into being in the presence of sin, and in the absence of sin an idyllic creation is restored.

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Here we can observe various changes in nature with a restoration of the animal kingdom as it was before the fall of man.


And our former suffering will pale in comparison to the glory we receive when God restores all things:

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

Rom 8:17-18 (ESV) And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.




Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations taken from the ESV:

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”