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Sermon No: 2793-The problem of evil - Part 2



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SERMON TOPIC: The problem of evil - Part 2

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 17 April 2016

Topic Groups: PROBLEM OF EVIL, ETHICS, ARMINIANISM

Sermon synopsis: Arminius taught that Calvinist predestination and unconditional election made God the author of evil.

But 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).' - Institutes , Bk. I. 18:3

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

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 2)

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 I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

Atheism: Evil and good are just relative terms because there is no God or absolute morality. Your sufferings are meaningless and there is no ultimate justice against evil.

Deism: God exists but is either impersonal or else detached from the world. Evil is thus man’s problem to battle and solve on his own.

Dualism: Evil will always exist because, although God is good, he is not all-powerful. He cannot always thwart the equally powerful evil god.

Polytheism : We’re stuck with evil because there are many gods and not all of them are good and those that are good are not all-powerful.

NON-CHRISTIAN THEODICES

Pantheism: Evil is here to stay – ‘god’ is the sum of everything, so evil is as much a part of ‘god’ as good is.

Animism: We’re stuck with evil because of the presence of evil spirits who will always be there. In addition the good spirits are always getting displeased about something and will continue punishing us.

Satanism: Evil and rebellion are venerated. The good God is despised in favour of serving a fallen angel.

Gnosticism: We’re stuck with evil in the material world because the creator god of the physical world is evil and the good god is unknowable. The creator rather than man or Satan is blamed for the evil in the material world. Only the wise escape the inherent evil of the material world by “self help” and gaining “hidden” knowledge.

NON-CHRISTIAN THEODICES

Taoism: You’re stuck with evil because like good, evil is eternal. Evil is required for balance in the universe.

Hinduism & Christian Science: You just live in denial: evil and suffering are illusions, despite the fact that you live with their consequences every day.

Buddhism: As long as you exist, you’re stuck with evil. So aspire to non-existence.

Christianity: Evil is an abnormal situation and will ultimately be judged by a good and all powerful God. God will right the wrong in the world and restore his creation.

NON-CHRISTIAN THEODICES

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.

CHRISTIAN THEODICES

THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Arminianism Calvinism

Freewill Theism vs Determinism

“The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will.” (Alister E. McGrath - Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford)

Not a single church figure in the first 300 years rejected it… The only ones to reject it were heretics like the Gnostics, Marcion, Valentinus… In fact, the early Fathers often state their beliefs on “freewill” in works attacking heretics. 3 recurrent ideas seem to be in their teaching:

The rejection of freewill is the view of heretics.

Freewill is a gift given to man by God – for nothing can ultimately be independent of God.

Man possesses freewill because he is made in God’s image, and God has freewill.” 1

1 https:// arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/ 2012/ 12/ 31

EARLY CHURCH & FREEWILL

The early church believed that misuse of free will was the source of evil. Methodius of Olympus (died c. 311) wrote:

I say that man was made with free will, not as if there were already existing some evil, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but that the power of obeying and disobeying God is the only cause [of the bestowal of free will. 1

In contrast although the early Gnostics had different ideas than Calvin about the creator God, they reached a similar conclusion regarding the source of evil – namely God:

Gnostics: an evil creator god is the source of evil.

Calvin: a good creator God is the source of evil.

1 Concerning Free Will

FREE WILL OR GOD?

Refuting the Gnostic idea that the Creator was evil and hence the originator of evil, Methodius writes:

Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, and her unwritten commands, are guilty of impiety towards God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. 1

Note that the Gnostics also had a similar deterministic view to that held in Calvinism – holding that man had no true free will and that he was governed by fate (God’s sovereignty in Calvin’s version).

1 The Banquet of the Ten Virgins discourse 8, chap. 16

FREE WILL OR GOD?

Calvin taught double predestination. He wrote, “We assert that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined both whom he would admit to salvation and whom he would condemn to destruction.” 1

Arminius rejected the idea of double predestination “for this doctrine says that he wishes to damn… Truly this differs much from the goodness of God”. He says that the doctrine of double predestination “is inconsistent with the freedom of the will, in which and with which man has been created by God; for it prevents the use of freedom”. 2

1 Institutes 3.21.7 2 Religious Currents and Cross-Currents: Essays on Early Modern Protestantism By Johannes Van Den Berg

DOUBLE PREDESTINATION

Arminius taught that Calvinist predestination and unconditional election made God the author of evil. 1 But 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). 2

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 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ History_of_the_Calvinist-Arminian_debate 2 Institutes, Bk. I. 18:3

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

Calvin uses 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 English 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”.

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

The Hebrew word isרע (ra') which… is a generalized term for something considered bad, not held to mean specifically wickedness or injustice in this context, but to mean calamity, or bad times, or disaster. 1

E.g. Strong’s ref 7451 shows the variance of the word’s usage based on context.

Gen 2:9 …the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 40:7 … “Why do you look so sad today?”

Gen 26:29 “that you will do us no harm…”

Gen 28:8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac;

Gen 41:3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt… (Surely no-one would see this as a morally evil cow?)

1 http:// www.worldlibrary.org/ articles/ Problem_of_evil

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

Similarly Calvin used Amos 3:6 as a proof text to show that God allegedly creates evil.

Amos 3:6 (KJV) … shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

But again the context refers to a bad situation (as chastisement for disobedience) and not to moral evil.

(NASB) … If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

(NIV) … When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?

Again we all know there’s a big difference to the meaning of the word “bad” if we talk about “a bad person” or “a bad situation”. So context is always extremely important.

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

The Book of Job is written primarily to address the problem of evil and suffering in the world. The five main characters debate if a good person could ever suffer – or if God would always prevent it.

Job was a righteous and just man, besides being healthy, prosperous, and blessed with a large family.

JOB

Satan challenged God, claiming that Job served God out of convenience and was only righteous because God had sheltered him and rewarded him. Satan alleged that if God were to allow everything Job loved to be removed, he would cease to be righteous.

JOB

Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (Job 1:9-10)

A look behind the scenes indicates that although God did not initiate the suffering, he permitted Satan to test Job by destroying his wealth, children and health. The book of Job indicates that Satan cannot touch God’s people without his express permission and even then, with limitations.

JOB

But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. (Job 1:11)

Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. (Job 1:12)

Job is visited by three friends, who are shocked at his situation, but insist that God never allows bad things to happen to good people. They are convinced that Job must have done something to deserve his punishment.

JOB

Job denied this charge and stated that he would be willing to defend himself to God.

JOB

A fourth friend named Elihu arrived and criticized all of them, stating that God is always perfectly just and good.

JOB

God then responded directly to Job, explaining that the workings of the world are beyond human’s limited understanding because we do not see the big picture of the universe from God’s perspective.

JOB

God stated that Job’s three friends were incorrect, but that Job was also at fault for questioning God.

JOB

God then restored Job’s health, wealth and family. The book offers two answers to the problem of evil and suffering:

Suffering is not always discipline, but may be a test.

JOB

You will be rewarded later if you “pass the test”.

God is not accountable to human’s limited conceptions of morality.

But because Calvin understood God’s sovereignty to operate in the absence of free will, he does not view Job’s trial as God’s permissive will. Instead he makes God the author of Job’s trial (i.e. God does not permit the evil, he initiates it!)

But though afterwards his power to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission, yet as the sentiment is true, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it has been done,” we infer that God was the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments. 1

Yet James wrote, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…” (James 1:13)

1 Institutes, Bk. I. 18:1

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

While Calvin explicitly taught that God is the author of evil, some professing Calvinists have distanced themselves from that view. E.g. Calvinist John McArthur says:

… there are people who teach that. I was reading some of it this week that God made evil, he created evil for good purposes. He wanted to affect some good purposes and he needed to do evil to do it, so he created evil for good purposes. None of those is true… Let me put it to you simply. God is not responsible for evil; His creatures are. 1

But in reality the above view (which is absolutely correct) is inconsistent with double predestination. If God’s creatures do evil, but have no free will - predestined to behave as God decreed – then by implication God is the author of evil.

1 http:// www.gty.org/ resources/ sermons/ 90-235/ the-origin-of-evil

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

Calvin himself lists 3 objections people raised against his teaching, that “that God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will” (which he attempts to refute): 1

There are two contrary wills in God, if by a secret counsel he decrees what he openly prohibits by his law.

God is made the author of all wickedness, when he is said not only to use the agency of the wicked, but also to govern their counsels and affections, and that therefore the wicked are unjustly punished.

Evil happens by the permission, not by the will of God.

1 Institutes, Bk I, 18:3. In case anyone thinks that Calvin is being unfairly treated in this regard by having words put into his mouth, or that this is a “straw man” created by Armininians, they can read his doctrine regarding this in his own words at: http:// www.ccel.org/ ccel/ calvin/ institutes.iii.xix.html

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

The Bible teaches the concept of God’s perfect will and permissive will.

We see this illustrated clearly in the story of Balaam and Balak where, due to his permissive will, God allows a situation to arise which contradicts his stated perfect will.

Scenario: Balak instructs the elders of Moab to request Balaam to come and curse Israel.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

God’s stated perfect will in Numbers 22:12-13 is:

But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you.”

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

According to Calvin’s understanding of God’s sovereignty, this is exactly what should have happened (i.e. Balaam shouldn’t go to Balak). But when Balak offers Balaam money (22:17) 1 he subsequently goes to Balak, seemingly with God’s approval (22:20).

1 The Bible indicates that Balaam was a man who loved money:

Jude 1:11 … they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error…

2 Pet 2:15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

However it becomes apparent that this is God’s permissive will - as the subsequent events indicate that he is clearly displeased with Balaam’s decision to go to Balak.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

Balaam encounters God’s angel who states, “I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me” (22:32). And the angel makes it clear that he had intended to kill Balaam, and would have done so, had he not been thwarted by the actions of an animal who repeatedly avoided the angel (22:33).

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

Although Balaam was in line with God’s will by refusing repeatedly to curse Israel, his subsequent actions still undermine God’s perfect plan for blessing Israel. In a subsequent act of sabotage, he informs Balak how to get the Israelites to curse themselves.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

His advice for Balak is to entice Israel to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols, 1 resulting in a judgement of God on Israel. 2 So here we have a clear case when God’s perfect will is negated by his permissive will, because of the actions of men.

1 Rev 2:14 … There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 2 Num 31:16 They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

See NOTE 3

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matt 23:37)

If you don’t believe that God’s perfect will can be thwarted by the free will of man, what sense would the following passage make?

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

Calvin opposed the idea that evil is a result of God’s permissive will, but believed rather that it was his perfect will (albeit in order to achieve a good result).

For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how, when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his Judgments.

GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL

While it is true that God used the evil actions of men like Nebuchadnezzar as vehicles for his judgment on Israel, it does not follow that their actions were not deeds of their own free will.

The twisted logic of Calvin that the end justifies the means - i.e. God authors evil to achieve good – is criticized by the apostle Paul.

Rom 3:8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

Surely at times God can use the acts of evil people to bring about good, without instigating their evil actions?

GOOD FROM EVIL

E.g. God who foreknew what would happen to Jesus, predestined the plan of salvation using the cross as it’s vehicle:

1 Cor 2:7-8 (NASB) but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory

Note that free will is implied in that “the rulers of this age” would not have crucified Jesus had they understood what it would accomplish. They were not forced to do a predetermined act – they did it willingly because of their ignorance of the ultimate implications of their actions.

GOOD FROM EVIL

Acts 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

By virtue of his foreknowledge God allowed Jesus to be handed over. God removed the protection as he did with the hedge he had around Job.

But it was the wicked men (who lacked foreknowledge of the end result) who chose to put him to death.

GOOD FROM EVIL

So while God had foreknowledge and it was part of his plan of salvation, he most certainly was not responsible for Jesus’ death, which was effected “with the help of wicked men”.

In reality men and Satan sin as a result of being free will agents. God, by virtue of his wisdom and foreknowledge, will often use even the sinful acts of others in order to accomplish his good purposes.

Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In these cases God is thwarting the plans of the wicked, but certainly not inspiring them.

GOOD FROM EVIL

E.g. Joseph’s brothers intended evil when they sold him into slavery, but God permitted it - intending it for good (saving his people from starvation). .

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gen 50:20)

According to Calvin’s strange theology, God “impels” sinful men and Satan to commit sinful acts in order to accomplish his will (which we thought was for men not to sin?).

And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God. I admit, indeed, that God often acts in the reprobate by interposing the agency of Satan; but in such a manner, that Satan himself performs his part, just as he is impelled, and succeeds only in so far as he is permitted. 1

How can God “impel” evil when he is infinitely good? God cannot lie (Num 23:19, Heb 6:8) and cannot deny himself (2 Tim 2:13). If God’s nature is one of love and holiness, it is absurd to say that he initiates acts of hatred and evil - that is contrary to his nature.

1 Institutes, Bk. I. 18:2

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

If Calvin is correct, we could argue that God is not all good and Adam was justified in indirectly blaming his sin on God.

The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate. (Gen 31:12 NASB)

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

How can God “impel” evil when his relationship with evil is described as follows:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. (Hab 1:13a)

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. (Ps 5:4 NASB)

“The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Ps 92:15)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)

… “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:16)

“As for God, His way is blameless…” (2 Sam 22:31 NASB)

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deut 32:4)

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace… (1 Cor 14:33 KJV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

God is not the creator of evil because:

… God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

So how could God who is too pure to look upon evil, has no evil living in him, cannot be tempted by evil and doesn’t tempt anyone with evil – be the author of evil?

The answer is that God is not responsible for evil. The source of evil and sin is outside God – and lies with the free will agents he created, both angels and men.

1 John 2:16 For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world.

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

In fairness, many Calvinists (e.g. John Piper) will claim that God decrees and ordains all evil, while denying the charge that this makes God the author of all sin and evil.

Thankfully, Piper is uncomfortable with calling God the author of sin, while still maintaining that God ordained and decreed all sin for His glory… First, we must point out that Arminians do not have a problem with God being in control of all things, including evil. Arminians define this within the bounds of God’s permission. God permits evil. Evil does not take God by surprise. But God does not control things in such a way that His creatures sin irresistibly (i.e. of necessity). Piper may not claim this either, but the logic of his position demands it. 1

1 "https:// arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/ 2012/ 03/ 13

GOD THE SOURCE OF EVIL?

DID EVIL HAVE

TO BE CREATED?

Let there be evil!

The early church father Hippolytus rejected the idea that evil was created:

Evil had no existence from the beginning, but came into being subsequently. 1

He taught that although God created everything, he is not the author of evil – which came about as a result of man being given the capacity of self-determination:

But God, who created it (the world), did not, nor does not, make evil. He makes what is glorious and excellent; for He who makes it is good… But man, from the fact of his possessing a capacity of self-determination, brings forth what is evil, that is, incidentally.

1 Hippolytus, Against all Heresies, Bk. X, ch. xxix

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

After each of his creative acts we are told that “God saw that it was good.” And when he completes creation we read that “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31)

There is no account of God creating evil.

But God gives man free will with a choice to reject his commands. And his only command is to refrain from eating from a tree which God aptly calls “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:15).

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

Later on we read that “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Gen 6:5)

When God sees the resultant evil in the world he “regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Gen 6:6).

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

Going further back than the Fall of man, we read in Ezekiel 28:15-17, a passage believed to refer to Satan, that he was created perfect but subsequently fell because of pride:

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour.

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

Therefore, evil is not created by God, but is a perversion of his creation, a result of using free will against the very purpose it was created for, against free-willed obedience to God in a communion relation based on love. In order to have this kind of perfect communion with the creator, a personal being needs the possibility to choose it freely. This is why God allows starvation, disease, murder, war, and all other evils in our world to exist… However, evil was not intended by God and is not linked to the essence of God and creation… The doctrine of hell, as horrifying as it looks to be, points to the fact that evil has an end, that is has limited temporal power and influence in God’s creation. 1

1 http:// www.comparativereligion.com/ evil.html#07

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

Why Does God Allow Evil? … The most interesting thing about this question is that everyone, regardless of beliefs, seems to have an inherent sense that this world is not as it should be and that God, if he exists, should set it right. Where does this inherent sense come from? How is it that we can imagine a better life? Why do we know that creation is flawed? Since we have all experienced both love, joy and peace as well as hate, sadness and pain we can confidently say that we want more of the prior and less of the later. We can imagine a better life. This lines up precisely with the teachings of the Bible which says that the earth was at first created perfectly, without evil… If then we were at first created for a perfect existence, it makes sense that this imperfect existence is far from satisfactory. 1

1 http:// www.davidpaisley.ca/ #!The-Tough-Questions-Why-Does-God-Allow-Evil/ c1e1p/ 73B11E5F-C870-4BE0-9EE8-2AEE2A104FE4

DID GOD CREATE EVIL?

As heat is the energy of vibration of atoms or molecules, objects get colder as their component molecules move slower. When the molecules stop moving you reach absolute zero (−273.15° Celsius). So in effect ‘coldness’ is not an entity – it is simply absence of heat.

So in the material world God did not have to create cold – he created heat and cold is the absence of heat.

HOT & COLD

Likewise darkness is not an entity – it is simply the absence of light. That’s why in Genesis 1 we read of God creating light, but we never see him creating ‘darkness’.

Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

So God never created darkness – he only created light, but the possibility of darkness immediately existed as a consequence of the absence of light.

Gen 1:4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.

LIGHT & DARKNESS

Let there be light!

In the Bible light and darkness are used as analogies for good and evil. So in a similar fashion to it’s counterpart of darkness, evil does not have to have a creative origin – it is merely the absence of good.

Somewhat surprisingly Calvinist John McArthur uses a “free-will” defence of the problem of evil when he says:

… to disobey God was to initiate evil. Evil is not the presence of something, evil is the absence of righteousness. You can’t create evil because evil doesn’t exist as a created entity… Evil is a negative. 

LIGHT & DARKNESS

John McArthur (1939-)

 Evil is the absence of perfection. It’s the absence of holiness. It’s the absence of goodness. It’s the absence of righteousness. Evil became a reality only when creatures chose to disobey. Evil is a lack of moral perfection. God created absolute perfection. Wherever a lack of that exists, sin exists. And that cannot exist in the nature of God or in anything that God makes. Evil comes into existence when God’s creatures fall short of the standard of moral perfection. 1

While I fully agree with McArthur’s defence here, it is definitely not the position that John Calvin held. 2

1 http:// www.gty.org/ resources/ sermons/ 90-235/ the-origin-of-evil 2 Interestingly the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides also viewed evil as a nonexistence, namely the absence of good, which could not have been produced by God. And the medieval Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas held a similar view.

ABSENCE OF GOOD

An identical position was held by Augustine, who was the inspiration for Calvin’s ideas on predestination:

Augustine … focuses on the Genesis story that essentially dictates that God created the world and that it was good; evil is merely a consequence of the fall of man… 1

Augustine argued that God could not have created evil in the world, as it was created good, and that all notions of evil are simply a deviation or privation of goodness. Evil cannot be a separate and unique substance. For example, Blindness is not a separate entity, but is merely a lack or privation of sight. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Problem_of_evil#Augustinian_theodicy

ABSENCE OF GOOD

Rev. Sudhakar Mondithoka writes:

Evil is a departure from the way things ought to be. It does not exist in itself, but in another as a corruption of it and is hence an ontological parasite. It is not unreal, for privations are real. For example, blindness is a real physical lack of sight that ought to be there. God created only good entities. But created entities have in their very nature the potentiality for or possibility of (not necessity) deterioration and non-existence because they are finite and hence have part actuality and part potentiality. Thus creation makes evil possible, because created entities can be deprived of some good in them. But how did the potential get actualized? The answer is linked to the fact that God created creatures (like humans and angels) with freedom. 

ABSENCE OF GOOD

 The wrong exercise of freedom (a good gift) is the cause of the corruption of the good world that God made. With freedom come the possibility of and the capacity to actualize the potential for evil. Since humans are free but finite, they are capable of evil. Human choice (when wrongly exercised) changed metaphysical evil from being a theoretical possibility into an actual reality. Thus creaturely free choice is the first cause of evil although God’s free choice was the cause of creation. The misuse of freedom by humans brought about a departure in Mankind’s relationship with their creator from the way it ought to be. All evil (moral or natural) can be explained as a consequence (direct or indirect) of freedom wrongly exercised… 1

1 http:// www.mondithokas.com/ docs/ The_Problem_of_Evil_and_Suffering_A_Worldview_Analysis_4.doc

ABSENCE OF GOOD

FREEWILL THEISM

God’s creation of persons with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value. God could not eliminate evil and suffering without thereby eliminating the greater good of having created persons with free will who can make moral choices. 1

Freedom of choice, along with the loving relationships which would be impossible without this freedom, provide the moral justification for God permitting (or not prohibiting) evil to occur.

1 http:// www.biblicalcatholic.com/ apologetics/ VB-DOD-ProblemEvil-Wiki.pdf

FREEWILL THEISM

Why is true choice so important? Christian camp counsellor and blogger, David Paisley, writes:

One of the most central aspects of love is choice. Love is not love if it is forced. Many aspects of love can be forced out of someone but love itself cannot be forced because then it would no longer be love but rather obligation, duty or simply self preservation. As with many of life’s tough questions, I find it valuable to relate this to one’s own human experience. If you were to discover that your wife or girlfriend had been forced or paid to spend time with you then your whole relationship would fall into question… Love therefore must be a free-will choice.  1

FREEWILL THEISM

 It is in that free-will choice where the problem lies. The problem that causes us to have to live in an imperfect world where evil is allowed to continue. God is love and thus God is choice. God desires that everyone would have the opportunity to freely choose to love Him and to love each other. However, in order for there to be a choice, there must by definition be an alternative. The alternative is to hate rather than to love; to be evil rather then good. In order for there to be love there must then be hate. The only other option is a world where we are forcibly submitted to God’s will, which as I have shown, is not love. God is love and so as much as it must pain him everyday to witness, God gave us choice. Evil is the result of people having choice. 1

1 http:// www.davidpaisley.ca/ #!The-Tough-Questions-Why-Does-God-Allow-Evil/ c1e1p/ 73B11E5F-C870-4BE0-9EE8-2AEE2A104FE4

FREEWILL THEISM

Like Asaph, David comes to a similar conclusion about the evil that exists due to the prosperity of the wicked:

Psalm 37:1-40 Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 

THE JUDGMENT OF EVIL

 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken. Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. 

THE JUDGMENT OF EVIL

 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing. 

THE JUDGMENT OF EVIL

 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish. The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked or let them be condemned when brought to trial. Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it. 

THE JUDGMENT OF EVIL

I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

THE JUDGMENT OF EVIL

Calvinism: God is the author of both good and evil. He foreordains men’s choices and then holds them fully accountable for those choices which were forced on them. He forces some to love him and then seems pleased that they do and rewards them. He forces others to sin and then is angered that they do and punishes them.

Arminianism: God is the author of good and it is against his nature to do evil. The potential for evil is one of the trade-offs which exists by virtue of the fact that we have been given free will. God created a world that includes freedom and contingency and in his love, he operates providentially and redemptively within the world. Empowered by God’s prevenient grace, men either choose to serve God or to reject him. As such God justly holds them fully accountable for their choices.

CONCLUSION

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

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. (http:// www.Lockman.org)

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.”




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