I was asked the question once again the other day. It came from one of my kids, all who have helped me hone my theology to a shard edge over the years.
“Daddy, why do bad things happen? Why doesn’t God stop all bad things from happening so we can all be happy?”
Leave it to children to get right to the heart of the matter. IF God is in charge, and bad things happen, then why does He allow it?
Below is my answer…
(1) If we agree that God is love, and the source of all good–then it would follow that evil, by definition, would be to go against God’s character by violating His will. Evil is in the world to the degree that sin is in the world. But the question remains: why does God give us the freedom to go against His will?
(2) The classic answer is: God wants a real relationship with us. There can be no love (or real relationship) without free choice. We cannot be programmed or forced to love. It is something that arises from our hearts–a choice we make–a relationship we experience. According to the Biblical doctrine of creation, God made us in His Image. We stand unique among the created order in that we have the ability to have a real world love relationship with God. A big part of that “image” involves having a free choice.
(3) In giving Adam and Eve a free will, (wanting to have a loving relationship with them) God was willing to risk rejection along with the prospect of love and praise from His creation. Adam and Eve, in spite of all the blessings God bestowed on them, did the unthinkable: they disobeyed God. With their disobedience they created the entrance of evil into the human race. While Adam and Eve were originally created “very good” by God and were innocent until they disobeyed God’s mandate, their own choice to disobey God resulted in death—both physical and spiritual (spiritual death = separation and alienation from God–which is why as soon as they committed the sin they hid in shame.) Why did God give that mandate? Love must be tested. Up until that point Adam and Eve were just going with the flow but weren’t faced with a real choice to love God vs spurn God. According to Genesis chapter 3, they flunked the test, and sin came into the world. (see Romans 5:12-17 for Paul’s commentary on this.)
Sin has been with us ever since. The physical result of Adam and Eve’s sin was sickness and death, which has been on to all of us.. The moral result, also passed on to all of us, was a strong inward tendency—called iniquity– causing all of us to rebel and seek our own selfish interests and stray from God’s design and purpose for our lives. Some people or more openly sinful than others ie serial killers and evil dictators. Some people manage to live seemingly righteous lives. But IN OUR HEARTS we are all infested/cursed with the sin nature.
(4) The only way God could INSURE that there is no evil in the world would be to kill off every free moral agent in the universe and start over by creating a world where genuine free will does not exist.
(5) Rejecting that option, God is happy to keep things the way they are because, in spite of the fact we have ALL violated His commands, He reaches out to those of us who are willing to come back to Him and humility and faith. (Love finds its deepest fulfillment when it overcomes amidst great difficulty.) People will only seek to love God above all else because they have hit rock bottom, have decided knowing and loving Him is the most important thing in this life (and the next), and are willing to fully commit their lives to Him. This is what is meant by “repentance” ie completely changing your mind and your life direction. All of the is ONLY POSSIBLE because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, taking our punishment for us.
Evil will continue to exist in this world, but God calls those who follow Him to overcome evil with good. The day will come when God creates a new heaven and a new earth and evil will forever be eradicated.