Disclaimer: Here’s a try at Christian apology. First attempt. If you feel offended, don’t go ahead.
This is a question evangelists of all religions deal with everyday. It seems that the world is by large, a very evil place. In ancient times, humans have endured despotic and barbarous civilisations, such as Ancient Egypt. As time went on, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution has continually improved on the quality of life throughout the world. The way people saw the world has changed. Civilisation has suddenly become more tame, as compared to the people that has came and went before it.
But why in this age, after Hitler and Pol Pot, do we still see evil? Is it in the media? Is it in the terrorists and fundamentalist thinking that we see pervading in our society? Or maybe it’s groups like Boko Haram, which operates in Nigeria. Boko Haram bombs schools, massacres students and burns books. All of this in the name of their God. To an outside observer, not only is all of this evil, but intrinsically detrimental to society, as students cannot be educated. Under-education students will make an unskilled workforce that private companies will not hire. It’s a vicious cycle of poverty for them.
We see so much evil. So people will ask religion: Can there be a loving God with so much evil in the world? It distills into not whether there is evil in the world, but your view on the role of God, and what God does to curb this evil. I will argue on the side of Christianity. Denominations are irrelevant.
People who ask if a loving God exists usually don’t believe in a God most of the time. And if there is no deity to take the place of “God”, people become confused. This is because what a deity does is dependent of religion. The deity you envision in the place of “God” might be that of a punisher, somebody who would dispel all sin and wrongdoing from this world.
Such a deity will be eagerly watching from the heavens, looking out in earnest for sin. When he sees an infraction, he’ll jam his fingers on a red button. The next second, a lightning bolt streaks out of the clouds. You are reminded not-too-gently that the deity doesn’t take too kindly to sin. Or maybe, you see a deity that has made the world so perfect, that such sins will not happen in the first place. Such a deity is however, not the Christian God.
The God we believe in are neither of these characters. Of course, he is omnipresent, of course, he is omnipotent. The God we believe in is a God that abhors evil, and has suffered human pain and death to repeal our sins. Our God is one who believes in salvation, and he is not one who exercises direct control in our world, and this is not just about evil.
I have two tiers to my essay. The first of which will be covering that an all-powerful God can still allow evil to happen, and my second tier is on why he does that.
Obviously, the biblical concept of an infinitely-powerful God and Creator, demands that this Infinity can produce and control all of life at will. This does not just have to be about the presence of evil in this world. It is also about the number of chromosomes in each nucleus of each cell. He can control the temperature of the Big Bang to the millionth of a Kelvin, just so that life could exist in this universe. By the way, it is only in three dimensions where the solar system could exist. Gravity in four dimensions would be too strong for even vaguely elliptical orbits to form.
This essay isn’t about pitting creationism against evolution. However, there is not a single hint in the Bible that shows that God’s power is constantly exercised. To quote Nahmanides, a medieval Jewish scholar, “the world [channeled by the laws of nature] functions according to its natural pattern.” Here are two of many episodes in the Bible that make this truth so clear. (These examples were used in The Science of God, by Gerald L. Schroeder.)
- To aid in the conquest of Canaan, God promises to send hornets in order to make the enemy flee (Deuteronomy 7:20). Here is God openly controlling nature. In Deuteronomy 7:22 we read, “And the Lord thy God will cast out those nations little by little…lest the beasts of the field increase upon you.” Why little by little? God can control hornets to drive out entire nations, but why doesn’t he keep the beasts from multiplying? Nature has already been given free reign at this level
- In Leviticus, it is stated that only the tribe of Levi out of the 12 tribes of Jacob, can serve directly in the Temple. The Bible provides a list of birth defects that will disqualify a Levi from serving in the temple. But why would God make humans with birth defects? This does not only apply for birth defects, this also applies for diseases and cancer. The biblical concept of an infinite God is a God that will make all births perfect. The world as described in the Bible does not function to our demands. Most births are born perfect, but not all. Nature has its level of freedom.
As shown above, the Bible has repeatedly implied that God created the world to employ its own course. With this attitude towards world management, not everything will be “good”. This lack of perfection is not a prerequisite to an all-powerful God. Time and again, God’s model of world management throughout the entire Bible encompasses withheld control. This allowed the world to develop according to the laws of nature, and this is enough for evil to develop.
After all, isn’t the formation of man by God a retraction of his infinity? The entire idea that He formed the “heavens and the earth” out of chaos and out of a void, allowing even the slightest chance that sin could happen, a contraction where He removes part of his Infinity. Through this, there is a greater potential for imperfection. Isaiah clarifies this concept, “I am the Eternal, there is nothing else. I make light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil.”
We see that the Christian God is a God that allows evil to form in this world. But the question going through our heads now is: Why? Why does God allow evil to form in this world? Couldn’t he make a brilliant utopia?
In truth, God did not intend for evil to happen upon humans. Let’s talk about hell. Hell seems to be designed for humans, but it isn’t. It was designed for the devil and his angels. So why would humans have to go there? Actually, we don’t. God has made it clear throughout the Bible that if we follow our Maker, we are spared from burning hell.
But we constantly find it hard to obey, and increasingly easy to disobey, why? As Schroeder brilliantly puts in his book, “The laws of nature provide direction, but within that direction there is leeway, meanderings contingent upon the immediate environment, just as a river’s meanderings are contingent on its local terrain…In humans, these meanderings are called free will.”
God had a utopia for us, and it was called the Garden of Eden. However, in Genesis, it has been clearly stated that Adam and Eve, being naturally human and naturally immoral, succumbed to temptation of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That’s the first sin. The first infraction. The rest is history.
Now we have seen that God has created imperfection out of his Infinity, allowing the world and evil to form. But how does he deal with it? With His current attitude to world management, He seems like the typical deistic god, create the world, and watch it unfold like a stage-play. He does nothing, right?
Not true. The God we believe in, as we’ve stated above, seems to prioritise salvation over intervention. But in order to give us salvation, he would have to rescue us from hell, the only place his mercy does not reach. God kindly interrupted our rebellion with a solution. God put on human flesh, in order save us, he had to represent us. In order to represent us, he had to put on human flesh to be one of us.
Not only does he have to be a man, he has to be a God-Man. He has to be fully divine so that he is a holy sacrifice to satisfy the judgement of God. So God needed to be two things: He had to be fully human so that he could suffer, die and represent us. Because he was holy, he could satisfy an infinite God.
This suffering isn’t ordinary suffering, Jesus didn’t just die because we had to die. He bore the wrath of God for the anarchy of the whole world on his shoulders. This wrath was designed for all the anarchy and all the infractions against him. Because he was fully God, he was able to absorb all that wrath. He was able to take the blow designed to damn us into eternity.
That is how he circumvented our sin. That is the ultimate solution that would enable Man to join Him in paradise. Well, now we know how he goes about dishing out salvation, but what about now? Plenty of evil is happening in modern times. Why doesn’t he do anything about it?
That is also about the kind of God we believe in. We believe in a God, that is willing to suffer himself so that we can be saved. For every sin, for every ounce of evil we succumb to, the wrath designed for us had been projected upon Himself. Not only that, he forgives us for it. He will love you for it. Before you can even perform the commandments, Jesus has forgiven all your sins. In Romans 6:23 He says, “The wages of our work is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Not only does he take on wrath designed for the sin of the world, he loves you and forgives you for it. And for all the evil in the world he is waiting for it to work with his solution. He’s waiting in pain for people to receive salvation. And he’s the kind of God that’s willing to wait one more day for one more person to be saved.
Are you tired of earning favour? Why not start receiving favour.
Then he [the criminal crucified with Jesus] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “ I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-23 NIV)