God and Evil

God and Evil

Seems an odd question, yes? The idea that the source of good could promote or tolerate evil is beyond thinking. But some Bible passages seem to suggest that God is ok with evil when it suits his purposes. I disagree.

God and Evil: Good vs. Evil

Good and evil have always warred. When God created the heavens and the earth, he declared his finished work to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Only good existed. Surely, God would not declare something good that was evil. Satan was did not spoil the world yet. Goodness ruled Eden.  A unique tree grew in Eden: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Within its desirable fruit lay the seeds of spiritual catastrophe. Yet the mere existence of the tree was neither good nor evil. It simply existed. Evil would come once mankind rejected the command of God.

Evil was possible, but never desired. God would banish Adam and Eve from the garden because they sinned. Satan had taken man’s eternal life. Death invaded the pristine empire of God. But God had a plan. A savior was coming. God would reveal the details over centuries but man could escape from Satan. A thickly veiled promise from God is in Genesis 3:15. Satan would suffer a terrible head wound from one born of woman.

God and Evil: The Horrific Price of Evil

We know that God does not promote evil because of the terrible, personal, price of evil that God would bear.  The placement of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil created a world with choice – a far better world than one without. But choice brought a dark possibility. If man were to choose wrongly, the result would be catastrophic.

Peter says Jesus was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” as the world’s savior (1 Peter 1:13 – 25, esp. 20. c.f. Proverbs 8:23; Micah 5:2; Ephesians 1:4). God was not surprised by the sin in Eden but was already fully prepared to rescue sinners from their deserved fate. That rescue demanded the death of Jesus so that God might maintain his pure righteousness (Romans 3:21 – 31). Would God tolerate sin while knowing that it would cost the life of Jesus? It is evidence of his extraordinary grace that he has not already destroyed the world. God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), therefore, he bears with us and provides every person the opportunity for salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

God paid an extreme price for our sins. He will never promote evil.

God Uses Evil But Does Not Cause Evil

This is a crucial point. God has often used evil poeple to accomplish his purposes. Consider characters like Pharaoh, Jephthah, Nebuchadnezzar, The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, King Herod, Judas, or Pilate, These wicked people chose an evil path but were still useful in God’s overarching plan. Were it not for Pharaoh, Israel’s family would have never survived the great famine and later produced Jesus. God used Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah (Jeremiah 1:15). He worked through despicable Judas to bring about salvation.  Even the soldiers who nailed the hands of the Savior to the cross were used by God.

God’s ability to precisely know the future allows him to carefully weave his plan through, and in spite of, the evil of men. God knew what Judas would freely choose when faced with temptation to betray Jesus. It was Judas’ choice, and he chose wrongly.  God used Judas’ sin but did not compel his sin.

Scripture says God hardened Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 4:21). But how? Did he compel that hardness or is there another explanation? To be consistent with the entirety of the Bible, we conclude that Pharaoh must have maintained his free choice.

God desired the saving of Pharaoh because he wants all people to be saved. God did not force Pharaoh to be obstinate and hard-hearted. But God understood that Pharaoh was so wicked that when confronted with the purity and truth of God’s demands and power, he would be stubborn. Thus, God’s very nature caused the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Still, God worked through that to bring Israel out of captivity. His mighty works, done at Egypt’s expense, would often be recounted by God and Israel. God can and will work with any freely chosen path to bring about his will. It is a mistake to suggest that God deprived man of his will and forced his sin.

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