There is no doubt that evil is real. All we have to do is watch the news.
And we don't doubt that good is real, possible, and desirable, too. We are inspired by everything we perceive as good all the time.
Yet many doubt that God is real, despite the reality of both good and evil. Both of these actually point to the existence of God, and that He is a good God, too.
But many of us wonder from time to time if God is both good and evil, rather than God being only good and the opposition to all things evil. His actions are often mysterious, complex, unfathomable. At such times we are left wondering - even while licking our wounds, nursing our hurts or grudges, or suffering in silence - if He isn't also a mixture of both good and evil?
- Why allow natural disasters?
- What about all the innocents who suffer?
Or perhaps the questions strike closer to home:
- Where was God when [insert bad experience here]?
- Why was this [insert injustice here] allowed to happen?
These questions which arise from our own hearts and shed light on our efforts to interpret our experiences in light of what we believe. Is God really good? If God really is good, why did He allow this?
This series Jesus Among Other Gods is a cursory examination of essential questions of life examined through the lenses of various religious and philosophical worldviews, with a response from a Biblical and Christian theological perspective.
Perhaps it arises from our desire a midst the chaos of life to find a solid anchor in God that I hear Christians say from time to time "God is in control of everything." I admit that I cringe when I hear this. "Everything?" Really? Every rape? Every murder? Every injustice against innocents? All contractions of diseases? Etc. Etc.
What we do believe is this: God is all powerful. God is all knowing. God is working out His will in human history. But what we also find is this: God has limited his power and control to allow us a space we refer to as "free will." We are morally free agents able to make both good and bad decisions. Follow me in thinking this through: If God exercised the full extent of His power and will at all times, nothing would actually happen outside His control. All things would be good, perfect and holy in accordance with His divine nature. But true love - yes, philosophically genuine love, not the mushy, sappy stuff Hollywood and culture have carnalized and dumbed it down to be - requires freedom of choice. If we can't choose not to love God, is it really a choice? No. So in order to give us the freedom to choose to love God and walk in relationship with Him, He also had to risk and give us the freedom to choose not to love Him, too.
And we did make that second choice.
But we didn't make it in a vacuum. We are told in Genesis 3 that the serpent, a physical embodiment of Satan, had for his own strategic purposes in opposition to God, positioned himself at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil...the ONE tree of which Adam and Eve were told not to eat. It was this one tree and it's fruit and this one prohibition placed in the Garden of Eden that provided true freedom of choice. If there were no prohibitions and nothing to contravene, could they have sinned? No. But the enemy was there to capitalize upon this possibility.
And, having rejected God's Word and way, we chose Satan's word and way. And thus evil, sin, suffering, death, disease, injustice, etc. etc. entered into the world, both into humankind and all human kind was given responsibility for: All of physical creation.
God is not the source of evil. Satan is. And we bought into his lie.
And this is why we need a Saviour, for we cannot save ourselves from the mire in which we've cast ourselves throughout human history.
Do you know the Saviour? Check out the "Why Jesus?" page on this site, and/or contact us to find out more. We look forward to this conversation with you.
But hold on for just one more minute!
This series is "Jesus Among Other Gods," so we need to compare our Biblically based thoughts on this topic with those of other faiths. Let me summarize what we covered in this sermon:
In Taoism, with it's centrally focused theme of Yin and Yang, it might be easy to construe that God is both the source of good and evil. That's because Yin represents all that is feminine, negative and dark (sorry ladies...I didn't make that up, so don't criticize me on that point), and Yang is the principle that is masculine, light and positive. Yin and Yang are present in all things, and to be in balance. God as we conceive of Him in Western or Middle Eastern theology doesn't enter into the picture. So to lift the non-theistic good-and-evil duality from Taoism and try and superimpose it upon the God of the Bible is a suit that won't fit.
In Buddhism the Buddha encountered demons, who are tortured souls in turn torturing others. Upon encountering his enlightened being, the story goes, they submitted themselves to him. And so elements of evil became servants of what is good. In the larger Buddhist scheme, this non-theistic religion/philosophy was developed to answer the question of why there is suffering in the world. Since suffering is perceived as evil, yet there isn't any god in Buddhism, we cannot say that it teaches that 'god' is the source of evil as well as good. Rather, Buddhism teaches that our suffering arises from the errors of our attachments - be they mental or physical - and our behaviours. And a central false attachment producing suffering is the belief in a personal god.
And what about in Islam? It's classified by Muslims as an "Abrahamic faith" with roots in the person of Abraham of the Bible. As such, we'd expect that Islam would have a very similar perspective on good and evil and their relationship to God, the Creator, Sustainer and Judge. But this point shows a stark difference between Allah of the Qur'an and God of the Bible.
Instead of God being all good, resisting evil and standing in judgement over it and all who participate in it, it is surprising to most outsiders to find that Allah is the source of evil.
Muslims have conceived of Allah as being so supreme, that he must be the creator of all things, including evil. They conceive of Allah's will as being so supreme, that he has willed all things - all thoughts and actions of every man, woman and child. As such, Allah becomes the source of evil, the perpetrator of evil, and therefore an embodiment of evil totally unlike the God of the Bible.
See the quotes here from the Qur'an and go to this page to see many more, and many of the Hadiths which affirm this position. While I've only references one web page here, this is a common (the most commonly held) belief among Muslims. Just research it yourself to see that I'm not misrepresenting this theological position.
Each of us wrestles at one time or another this doubt, this question: Is God the source of evil? Like some of you, I've studied all the major religions of the world. I've read their original texts (not just commentaries on them). And, perhaps unlike most, I've been blessed to travel and have done much of my studies and interactions with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others (yes, including atheists, too) in their countries, in their cafes and in their homes. I've always found it a delightful, relational process. Yet I've always been brought back around to this: The Bible has the best and most satisfying answer to these perplexing questions. Does that mean I understand everything? No. Does that mean all my questions are answered? No. But it does mean that through my faith in Jesus, brought by knowledge of Him through the Bible, I've always found rest for my heart, mind and soul. It is my prayer for you that you do, too.