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Evil

If God created Satan, does evil and sin come from God?

One of my former professors, Dr. Clay Jones, recently released a book titled Why Does God Allow Evil? One of the classes I took from Dr. Jones also went by the same title, and it was arguably the most important class I have taken so far. What I realized is that even though we can’t know the exact reason God allows evil, we can still have good answers when asked.

It is also a good reason I took this class because this question comes up more than any other when I am speaking to students. Here is a recent message I received on Twitter.

Ryan, help! Why does God allow evil? Perhaps a bigger question is why Satan? If God created Satan, does evil & sin come from God?

This question is very similar to another common one that is asked. Some people ask, “If God created everything, and evil/sin is a thing, then didn’t God create evil?” The first step in answering this question is to first define evil.

What is evil?

Evil is usually thought of as something that is morally wrong, causes harm to someone, or a sinful behavior. In Understanding The Culture, evil or sin is defined as any action or inaction that violates the will of God. When we look at evil in this way we see that evil is not a thing. Since it is not a thing, it is not something that comes from God.

Instead, evil is the absence good. We can have good without evil, but we cannot have evil without good. Dr. Frank Turek explains it by saying that if you take all the rust out of a car you have a better car, but if you take all the car out of the rust you have nothing. In the same way, evil is the privation of good. It is the mistake in something, and if gone, if you have something better.

So, why Satan?

God did not create Satan evil. Satan began as an angelic-like creature who chose to rebel against God. This rebellion was only made possible by free will. Why does God allow evil? One reason is that God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Free will is the perfect good that God desires for his creatures. It is free will that allows us to freely love or reject God. This is what is required to have a loving relationship with someone since you cannot force someone to love you.

In response to the original question

God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact. Satan was created as a good creature with free will to choose to love or reject God. It was Satan’s rebellion against God that brought evil into the world and led to the fall. Therefore, evil and sin did not come from God.

Is free will really worth the pain and evil it causes? Read my previous article on the value of free will.

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Reader Response: How can God be loving and command killings?

A few weeks back I posted the blog How can God be loving when he commanded killing in the Old Testament? (Video). This video was part of a Q&A filmed up at Hume Lake this past summer. After posting the video, I received a comment from an atheist pointing out seven different issues/questions that he had about the video. So, I have taken the time to record a podcast with my response to his objections. Click on the link above to see the objections yourself, and then listen to the podcast below to get my response!

Comment below with your thoughts on my response!

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How can God be loving when he commanded killing in the Old Testament? (Video)

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Does God send good people to hell?

I had the privilege of writing an article for the newly released Apologetics Study Bible for StudentsThis bible was released on July 1st, and is a great resource for your students. Here is just one of over 130 answered questions.

Does God send good people to hell?

This may be hard to take in, but it’s necessary to recognize that there are no good people. Jesus states in Mark 10:18, “No one is good except God alone.” Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” And the Lord looked down to the earth in Genesis 6:5 and saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Therefore, the first step in responding to this question is to recognize that we are broken, sinful beings and that only God is good.

We only need to look at the last century to see many examples of human evil. 20-26 million died in camps in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. 300,000 were tortured, raped, or killed in Nanking, China. Another 20-43 million starved to death and 46,000 scholars were buried alive under Mao Zedong in China. 1.2 million Armenians were killed by the Turks from 1915-1923. Six million Jews were killed in concentration camps and another six million of Slavic decent under Adolf Hitler. And in the United States there have been over 55 million babies killed since 1973. This list could keep going because these aren’t rare occurrences. This is what humans do!

These atrocities were not committed by just a few individuals. As Dr. Clay Jones, professor at Biola University says, “It is the average member of the population that commits genocide.” The police battalions that were responsible for capturing, transporting, and executing Jews in Nazi Germany were composed of ordinary men. These men had ordinary jobs with families before joining the Nazi police battalions. You have to ask yourself this question, “If my life had turned out differently, could I have been a guard at Auschwitz?” The answer is “Yes”, because they were ordinary humans just like you and me that committed these acts.

Now you may be thinking, “I am not the same as Hitler, Mao, or Stalin. I do good things.” Well there is a difference between a good person and a person that does good things. We have created the idea in our culture that if you do good then you’re good, and if you do bad then you are bad. However, this is not the view that Jesus held. Jesus was very clear in that only God is good. Therefore, doing a good act doesn’t make you a good person. It only makes you a doer of good.

A better question is, “Do bad people go to hell?” That answer seems obvious. The more important question to ask is, “How could anyone possibly enter heaven?” We are broken and don’t deserve to be with God forever. Hell is the place of eternal punishment for those who have sinned against God, and we all deserve to go there. But this is where we recognize the tremendous grace and compassion of God when He sent Jesus to die for us. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Recognizing our brokenness makes Paul’s words sink in that much more deeply. It is a miracle God pursues us, heals us, forgives us, reconciles us, and brings us into right relationship with him.

How is an eternal hell an example of a loving God?

Last week I wrote Vengeance: A Lesson From Captain America Civil War. In this post, I talked about how we should stop letting vengeance consume us and instead trust that justice will come. That justice is promised to us by God. We see this in Romans 12:19 which says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Vengeance is the Lords and we need to trust in him and his perfect justice.

However, this may cause problems for some people. The problem for some is that God’s justice means that many people will go to hell. This seems to make God’s love and God’s justice be in conflict. “If God is love,” they might say, “then hell wouldn’t exist.” How is an eternal hell an example of a loving God?

Well as Greg Koukl states in his new book, The Story of Reality, people who ask this question are on to something. “Hell is not an example of God’s love. It is an example of his justice. His love is demonstrated by his free offer of pardon from hell, which many decline. But they will not be able to decline his justice.”[1] It is important to be able to separate these two characteristics of God. God is completely loving and completely just. His love is made perfect through the death of Jesus on the cross by which all are offered a free pardon from hell. If we refuse the free offer of God, then we will face his justice. And as Greg says, “They will not be able to decline his justice.”

Finally, it is important to point out that God is not sending people to hell. Instead, people go to hell as a result of their sin. Without Christ’s forgiveness, we are guilty. It’s like being sick with a curable disease and refusing to see a doctor. When we die, we cannot blame the doctor for our death. We also don’t say that the doctor killed us. It was instead the disease that killed us, and it is our own fault for not accepting the doctors help and curing us. In the same way, we are guilty and have to go to God to be forgiven. Those that reject God’s help cannot blame him. It is a free gift that is offered to every person, yet many reject it. When we reject God’s love, then we will face his justice.

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Discussing The Story of Reality with Greg Koukl

[1] Greg Koukl, The Story of Reality, 162.

 

Are evil and God incompatible?

Evil exists inside of our universe and appears to be incompatible with an all-loving God. However, the existence of evil is evidence for the existence of God.

The biggest argument against the existence of God is the fact that evil exists in our universe. Many believe that if God is all-loving and all-powerful, evil would not exist. Since evil does exist, God cannot exist. What this fails to recognize is that there may be good reasons for God to allow evil to exist in this world.

First, we are able to have a better understanding of evil when we have an accurate view of eternity. This life is not all that there is. If God exists, we will live for an eternity and the evil of this world will shrink down to non-existence.

Second, we can also understand the existence of evil when we understand free agency. God created each person with the ability to freely choose love. In order for love to be a free choice, one also has the ability to hate. This is the cause of much evil.

Third, we have the problem of limited knowledge. There is no way to understand the purpose God has for allowing every evil act. Now I’m not using this as a cop-out. I’m not saying “we just can’t understand” every time God does something we don’t like. There are many responses to difficult questions that I have dealt with here. What I am saying is that in order to understand everything we would have to have knowledge of everything, and since we are limited beings we simply don’t. When we recognize this, then we can know that even though we don’t understand it, God may have a good reason for allowing the evil in our lives.

Naturalists will use this argument against Christians to show that God does not exist. What they fail to understand is that without a mind, free will, or an objective moral standard, there is no evil. Evil cannot exist if we are only physical beings. We would only be reacting to our chemicals and one would be unable to judge another for actions committed. So, rather than evil being used as an argument against the existence of God, we see that evil only exists because God exists.

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The following blog series comes from a paper I wrote for J. Warner Wallace on his book, God’s Crime Scene. He has given me permission to post my summary of each chapter for this series. This is a short summary of the eighth chapter, not an exhaustive look at all of the possibilities. If you would like more information, you can purchase God’s Crime Scene here, visit his website, or email me and I will provide further resources.

Apologetics Resource: Responding to the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is one of the most difficult objections a Christian can receive. It is easy for a skeptic throw out challenges as to why God would allow pain and suffering if He is all-powerful and all-loving. The hard part is for the Christian to be prepared to respond correctly and convincingly to these challenges when put on the spot. For this reason I have compiled the last ten post on responding to the problem of evil in one location. I hope these posts prepare you so you are ready to defend your Christian convictions the next time you are put on the spot. Enjoy!

1. Answer the Christian: Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?

Short answer: We suffer from Adam’s sin because we were intimately connected with Adam in the beginning.

2. Answer the skeptic: Why does God let a child die?

Short answer: Children die because they are born into a fallen world where there is disease and where people sin and make mistakes.

3. Answer the skeptic: How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?

Short answer: It is fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children because it kept them from further harm.

4. Answer the skeptic: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Short answer: There are no good people.

5. Answer the skeptic: Why is eternal punishment fair?

Short Answer: Eternal punishment is fitting for the eternally unrepentant.

6. Answer the skeptic: If conscious belief is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?

Short answer: God will make sure that those who would repent will have the opportunity.

7. Answer the skeptic: Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.

Short answer: Life as we know it is all about free will and good is only possible if evil is possible as well.

8. Answer the Christian: What good is the suffering I endure?

Short Answer: God uses suffering to teach us, refine us, and help us be more like Jesus.

9. Answer the Christian: How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?

Short Answer: Heaven will dwarf our suffering into insignificance.

10. Answer the Christian: Why does God allow evil?

Short answer: God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact.

You may also find “10 Reasons Why God May Allow Suffering” useful as well.

I hope you enjoy this resource and find that it helps you as you defend your faith. Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter (@ryanpauly3) for daily articles from many different blogs, subscribe to the new Coffeehouse Question podcast that will be posted every Saturday on iTunes, and send in your questions to questions@coffeehousequestions.com. Thank you for your support and God bless!

Why does God allow evil?

Answer the Christian: Why does God allow evil?

Short Answer: God allows evil in order to keep our free will intact.

In order to stop evil on this earth God would have to destroy our free will. Without free will, we would become robots and be unable to freely love God.  Even though God made evil possible by giving us free will, it is humans that made evil actual by choosing to rebel against God. It is because of evil that humans learn the horror of rebellion. Dr. Jones says, “They also learn to overcome evil with good. This knowledge prepares them to be fit inheritors of God’s kingdom where they will use their free will rightly in their reigning with Jesus forever and ever.” Since we have seen the effect of using free will poorly, we will be able to use our free will rightly in Heaven. We will not want to sin because we have seen the devastating effects of it.

Now one may wonder, couldn’t God give us free will yet not allow evil? Well, in order to not allow evil, God would have to intervene and stop those who use their free will poorly. “And, it seems rather odd for God to bother to give us free will only to have to spend so much time counteracting it.”[1] I used an analogy in my classroom that helped my students understand this concept. Imagine if I told my students that they could sit wherever they liked as they entered my classroom. Then, when they began to choose seats I said, “No, not that one. Not that one. Nope. Next. Next. Okay you can sit there.” And then I did that with every student. Did my students really have the freedom to choose their own seats? No. I told them they had freedom then stopped them from doing something until they did the exact thing I wanted them to do. That is not true freedom.

Instead of limiting our freedom, God has decided to keep our free will intact even though He knows people will misuse it. There will always be people that reject God and use their free will in negative ways. These people will be judged one day, but God has not stopped evil because He desires more people to come to a saving knowledge of Him. Our hope can rest in the knowledge that there will be a day when God steps in and puts an end to all pain and suffering. We don’t have to live with this forever.

Along with this keeping our free will intact, I have written 10 reasons why God allows suffering.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?

[1] Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, 98.

How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?

Answer the Christian: How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?

Short Answer: Heaven will dwarf our suffering into insignificance.

It is useless to respond to the suffering in this world without looking at Heaven. If this earth is all that we have, and there is nothing to look forward to, then this suffering is all there is. Without Heaven, we are born into suffering, will suffer most of our lives in different ways, and then we will perish; never knowing a world without suffering. However, a view of Heaven mitigates our suffering on earth and puts things into perspective. For example, if we say the average person suffers for twenty years out of their eighty year long life, they suffered for about twenty five percent of their life. However, if that same person suffers for twenty years and then spends an eternity in Heaven, they have suffered zero percent of their life in comparison. Even a billion years of suffering out of an eternity is zero percent effectively.

Many people do not spend time thinking about Heaven because they do not understand how great it will be. “Some of the devil’s dirtiest deeds regard his doctrinal distortion of Heaven. He’s made it sound like a place no one would want to go. After all, who wants to sport flightless wings, sit on a cloud, strum a harp, suffer amnesia (one devilish distortion is we won’t remember anyone), and sing endless choruses?”[1] If you come to the place where you are not looking forward to spending an eternity in Heaven with God, then the devil has succeeded.

It may also be hard to have a heavenly perspective because heaven is so far beyond our comprehension. It is hard to imagine what we will do for all of eternity. Even though we are not able to comprehend everything about Heaven, there are many things that we can know. We will be living with the all-loving, all-compassionate, all-forgiving, all-powerful, peaceful, good God. There will be no pain or suffering. That is absolutely incredible to think about after living in this broken world. “The Creator of stars and moons and planets and the Milky Way Galaxy and of yellow, orange, pink, and purple sunsets will be there.”[2] We can only imagine that Heaven will have many things from this world as well as things that are far greater. This understanding should help us put our life here on this world into perspective and know that the suffering we endure is only temporary, but life with God is eternal.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?

[1] Clay Jones, “Why I Look Forward to Eternity,” Clay Jones, January 30, 2012, accessed December 7, 2015, http://www.clayjones.net/2012/01/why-i-look-forward-to-eternity/.

[2] Ibid.

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