The problem of evil in the world, part 1. God’s attributes

Doubters of God say that evil exists in the world because God is either all powerful but doesn’t care, or that He cares, but is too weak to change things. This is false logic. It represents a misunderstanding of true reality and what the Bible says about God and the world. Over the next few blogs I plan to go into detail about why the above phrase is wrong, and share my understanding about what the Bible says about evil in the world.

It takes more faith to suffer faithfully than to receive a miracle.

No matter what has happened, is happening or will happen, God loves us

Blaming God

The Kingdom of God

gavel

To get a general understanding of why there is evil in the world and why God apparently is not doing enough to prevent it, let us think of a scene in a courtroom. Let us imagine for a moment that a man is on trial for the rape and murder of a young child. The judge of the trial listens as the evidence is overwhelming as to the guilt of the man. There is no doubt that he did what he is accused of doing, and besides that, he is seemingly unrepentant about it. The prosecuting attorney makes an airtight case. The defense is weak and basically just asks for mercy. At the end of this trial by judge, the judge makes the ruling that while what the man did was despicable and wicked, he has decided to let him go free, and orders that his record be expunged.

Now can you imagine the outrage at this decision? How the family of the child would be devastated and call this an outrageous miscarriage of justice? Everyone would wonder if the judge had been paid-off to do such a thing. He would be branded an unjust judge, unworthy to be a judge for the rest of his life. There would most likely even be threats on his life.

But why the outrage? If this judge truly has authority over the outcome of this trial, isn’t he powerful enough to let this man go? The point is that even though he has the “power” to do it, it is not the “just” thing to do. If this judge were good, he would subject himself to the laws of the land and to justice and render a verdict fitting the crime. He would “subject” himself to doing what is just.

So what does this have to do with God? To understand how God works, we must understand the attributes of God. Most of our own ideas and society’s understanding of what is good, just and true comes from each of us having been made in the image of God, (though that image is darkened because of sin and is thus warped in many cases).

The two most important attributes of God in relation to this question are His justice and His love. God is 100% just. In the above courtroom example, God could never just let someone who has committed such a grave action escape a punishment which fits the crime. Why? Because He is “obligated” by His attribute of justice to always do the just thing. Obligated is not really the best way to describe it because it is His very nature to do what is just all the time.

The prosecuting attorney in the above case would be doing all he could to get the judge to do the just thing. The devil is the one standing before God insisting that He do the just thing. He is trying to make sure that God remains true to His just nature, ready to accuse God if He doesn’t. The devil has a vested interest in doing this since, because God is holy and we are sinners, the devil has a claim over us. He has this claim because while we may have never come close to the gravity of the crime the man in the example committed, the fact that we have sinned at all makes it impossible for us to enter into the presence of a holy, perfect God. God’s own justice prevents us from “coming to the father” as sinners. And the only alternative to being God’s people is to be the devil’s property.

It is here that the great message of salvation in the Bible comes into play. God gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. As sinners, God’s attribute of justice will not allow us into His holy presence. But His attribute of love has made a way, through the death of Jesus, the substitute sacrifice, who died in our place, for He did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all (Rom. 8:32). God satisfied His justice by Jesus dying in our place so that we could be justified and forgiven and be able to enter into His presence sinless, without any blemish, and thus snatched us from the devil’s claim over us as sinners.

It was a high price to pay, and it was not easy. There are things God cannot do, and one of them is that He cannot just let anyone into His Holy presence. He cannot just declare them sinless or set aside His justice. He “had” to provide a 100% perfect sacrifice, and His attribute of love moved Him to do that by sacrificing His beloved Son. The devil can no longer claim that we, God’s people saved by grace, are sinners and therefore justly belong to him and deserving of hell. God fulfilled the requirements of justice through Jesus, therefore the devil no longer has a just claim over us. The devil could have justly “objected” that God was not acting justly had He not paid a just price for us, but the Good News is that He paid the perfect price.

The courtroom analogy covers the essentials of the dynamics involved for God to be able to erase our sins so that we, though faith in Him, can be forgiven and justly come into His presence.  But how does it also explain why there is evil in the world? In this scenario, we still have God as the just and loving judge, and we still have the devil as the prosecuting attorney. (The word Satan means accuser.)

There are an amazing couple of verses found in Luke, during the temptation of Jesus: The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)  I have put in bold letters the devil’s amazing claim, something most of us are seemingly unaware of.  The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said that they had been given to him, and he can give them to anyone he likes. Wow. Really? Does the devil really have authority and power over the kingdoms of the world? Are they really his? I do not think this is an empty boast, for if it was, the devil knew Jesus could see right through it. The devil could only say this to Jesus if he actually had the power to deliver on it.

In a later post I will share many different verses throughout the Bible which basically say that what the devil is saying here is true. There are verses which say the devil is the god of this world, that the world is under his power. He has an incredible amount of authority over the world. The book of John especially is constantly contrasting “this world” and “above.” Throughout His ministry Jesus contrasted “the kingdom of God” with the “kingdom of this world.” If God has full reign over this world, why did Jesus say He came to “establish” and “set up” the Kingdom of God”?

So the devil has vast authority and power in this world. In fact, since this world is given over to sin, the devil has a “just” right to do what he wants with this world. Sin has given it over to him. He has justly taken hold over many things in this world.  Much of the world, according to the Bible, is under the kingdom of the devil.

So while God is still God and is working mightily in the world , the fact remains that the vast majority of the world remains under the kingdom of the devil, and as such, remains under his authority and power, and under his powerful delusion, for he is the father of lies.

The devil stands before God and makes his just claims over many people and happenings in this world. You can name any type of evil and suffering in this world, and it is a direct result of sin and of the fact that such a majority of this world has not submitted itself to the kingship of God through Jesus. God is powerful, He is working, but He is constrained by His attributes to act with justice, and that unfortunately involves giving the devil his due, recognizing that the devil has a just claim over those who have turned their backs on God, and to let the consequences of sin be fully played out.

Now I do not pretend to understand all the dynamics of God’s love, justice and power and what limits He puts on the devil and exactly how He works out His justice in this world, and how that all works itself out through our petitions and how He lovingly protects His people.  But what I am sharing here is what I believe to be the basic idea of how to begin to grasp and understand what we see happening.

Job was a just man who loved God, and the devil apparently had a right to work behind the scenes in this world to cause Job all kinds of problems, though God did not let the devil kill Job. A lot of dynamics are going on there too, not all of which we fully understand. What I do know is that this is not heaven. This is “the world” and the Bible paints a picture of it as being in opposition to God. But as believers and people of faith, we put our hope in God and know that He can give us perfect peace, in Him is our only hope, that He loves us and will always be with us. We also know from Revelation that God will put everything right in the end. He wins!

This is not a cosmic struggle between too equal powers. God is all powerful, but He limits Himself because of His justice, and when the devil has a just claim over someone or something….

We who follow Jesus are His people and under His kingship. He loves us unconditionally.  He give us a peace that passes all understanding. He is with us and will never forsake us. But that does not mean we or our loved ones will not suffer. In this life, we may get sick, suffer and even die “before our time.”  It happens everyday to people in this world of sin and we live in the midst of it, being in this world but not “of” this world.  Almost all of God’s people in the Bible: the prophets, the apostles, etc., were either killed or suffered greatly, but kept the faith despite all that (Hebrews 11).

It is important to keep in mind that these hardships are not the worst thing that can happen to us. The worse thing that could happen to someone is if they went through all these hardships and then died without having given their lives to God through Jesus. That is the greatest tragedy. So let us ever forget His no-holds-barred love for us. Allow God to release you from the claim the devil has over you.  To see a video I made about this article for my local church, on Facebook: Why is there suffering?

This world is not heaven, but when we do get to heaven, all will be perfect, His will being done in all things.  As Paul says in 2 Timothy, chapter 4: 6-8: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

In many ways this is a fight, not against people, but against the devil and his cohorts, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12-13: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

4 thoughts on “The problem of evil in the world, part 1. God’s attributes

  1. Pingback: Having hard times and suffering is normal. Or, You need more faith to suffer than to experience miracles | Seeing Scripture anew

  2. Pingback: Having hard times and suffering is normal. Or, You need more faith to suffer than to experience miracles | Seeing Scripture anew

  3. Pingback: The error of blaming God | Seeing Scripture anew

  4. Pingback: Christmas was necessary because of something that God could not otherwise do | Seeing Scripture anew

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