The Problem of Evil

by Dr. Tommy Davis

There is an unavoidable dilemma that the world has had to contend with since the beginning of humanity.  It is clearly defined and noticeable, but there is little consensus as to its purposeful origin.  No suitable explanation of the origin of evil has ever been formulated.   The problem of evil is a reality that affects every segment of our society.  Natural evil concerns the devastation, suffering and loss caused by tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, disease, famine, to name some; moral evils that reflects the underlying philosophy of the culture; and social evils, which deals with ethical relationships between humans.    As a metaphysical entity, evil is entirely opposed to good in nature and function.  Perhaps it is necessary to point out the person behind all the forces of evil.

One of the most misunderstood characters in the history of the world is Satan himself.  There are many assumptions concerning him.  Some people believe that he does not exist, and some believe him to be a powerless personality; and some people go to the far extremes and place the devil everywhere which gives him the status of omnipresence.  We will examine the Scriptures to see how the Bible describes the devil.  It is crucial that this subject matter be analyzed from a biblical perspective to dismiss the false assumptions and portray the reality of this spiritual being.

One need only to look around at the calamitous events that takes place daily in the world to notice that some form of adversary exists.  Hopefully we can conclude that all contributions of evil are a result of Satan’s fall from heaven.  It should also be noted that Satan does not desire to be identified as the culprit.  While he seeks to hide his identity, God rather exposes him!  Satan exists because God created him and later determined (as opposed to being good) that Satan was evil.

In the book of Ezekiel, Satan is described as being the most beautiful of angels.  The prophet wrote:  “ You were the anointed cherub who covers;  I established you; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire, thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:14-15 KJV).  Again, it is important to establish that only God can determine the nature of a thing.  During the week of creation, it was God who said that it “was good” (Genesis 1).  God alone reserves the right to determine all things (see Isaiah 45:7).

Satan, which means adversary, is mentioned quite often in the Bible.  He is referred to by every New Testament writer and cited at least 13 times by Christ Himself in the New Testament.  Satan has many names in Scripture.  He is called Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24), the deceiver (Rev. 20:10), the dragon (Rev. 12:7), a liar (Jn. 8:44), the accuser (Rev. 12:10), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the ruler of darkness (Eph. 6:12), the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), and Belial (2 Cor. 6:15).  What did Satan do that God would find iniquity in him? Most scholars agree that the prophet Isaiah records the fall of Lucifer.  He writes,

“How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How you are cut to the ground, You who weakened the nations!  For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14 NKJV).

Lucifer was so beautiful and powerful that he wanted to usurp God’s authority.  Therefore, his chief sin was pride.  It is evil because God said it was.  The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Thus, as we see, Satan has characteristics that identifies with rationality and deceit.  Such actions are emulated by humans.  Our ignorance and rejection of the truth is contradictory to God’s standard.

Various perspectives have been formulated in an attempt to identify the origin of evil.  Dr. Norman Geisler wrote:

“Although every worldview has had to deal with the problem of evil, it is an especially acute problem for theism.  Of the three major worldviews, Atheism affirms the reality of evil and denies the reality of God.  Pantheism affirms the reality of God but denies the reality of evil.  Theism affirms the reality of both God and evil.  Herein is the problem; how can an absolutely good Being (God) be compatible with evil, the opposite of good?”[1]

In respect to Dr. Geisler’s quote, the major worldviews at least allows for the word “evil” to exist in their vocabulary.  Thus, those who would actually deny that evil exists still incorporate the term as a concept.  To be more clear, if the skeptics, who deny evil, really believe it does not exist, then they would not even indicate the term!  The moral wickedness that humanity experiences involve sickness, misery, self-centeredness, folly, and crime in revolt against God.  People who deny that evil exist often have complaints when they are offended!  Take for example, social evils, which can be identified as corrupt politics, drunkenness, cheating, and racial discrimination.  Do we redefine these problems, or call it what is— vice?

God is omnipotent (all powerful); omniscient (all knowing); and omnipresent (everywhere).  Since God is all powerful, evil can only exist at His pronouncement.  At some point in time when evil was brought forth, it had already taken its toll before mankind was created.  In Genesis 1:4-31, God had proclaimed at least seven times that what He created was “good.”   Why do the Scriptures record this?  There had to be an opposing idea—-something contrasting with good.   Since God is all knowing, He was aware of evil or there would have been little reason (logic) to make pronouncements by calling His creation good.  God is not subject to rules and regulations because he is God.  Therefore, even if God created evil, He would still be a just God.  This is a prerogative that we fail to attribute to an all-powerful God. He writes ALL the rules!  He is NOT subject to them!

When God created man, He gave him direct instructions and said to him: “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….” (Genesis 2:16-17a).  In his sinless position before God, Adam obeyed naturally.  Perhaps he asked himself what good and evil was.  One cannot be recognized apart from the other.  At this point, evil was a nonrepresentational perception.  Adam would only know “good” after the Fall.  Only God was aware of the distinction.  After the Fall, evil became a problem for mankind because the consequences was now physical (see Genesis 2:17b).  The aftermaths of sin now saturated the thoughts of humanity which influenced our desires.  The only antidote to such evil is the cleansing work of Christ.

In Ephesians chapter six, the Apostle Paul gives vivid illustration how we can guard against and overcome satanic influences.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he encouraged them to put on the whole armor of God;  not some of it, but all of the armor of God.  Paul wrote,  “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10).

It is significant to note how we go about doing this.  First we have to recognize that we are fighting a spiritual enemy.  After taking up the whole armor of God we have to resist Satan by taking a stand against him and receive the truth of God’s Word (v. 14).  Then, believers are instructed to “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14).  This tells us that we have to be sure we believe in the righteousness that only comes through Christ alone.  We are justified and made righteous by grace through faith.  It is God’s Word that matters—not our presuppositions.

Believers are also instructed to have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (v. 15).  Thus, we have to be ready at all times to present the Gospel. We have to make sure that we are feasting on the Word of God and be quipped to preach the Gospel.  Also, the shield of faith (v. 16) protects us from the satanic influences like doubt, discouragement, and the zodiac (false prophecies).  These are things that CANNOT penetrate our armor, but we will not lift our armor if we don’t recognize this as an attack (opposing ideas).  Wayne Grudem wrote, “In thinking about God using evil to fulfill His purposes, we should remember that there are things that are right for God to do but wrong for us to do: He requires others to worship Him, and He accepts worship from them.  He seeks glory for Himself.”[2]

Evil is real; and the effects of it will surround us whether we acknowledge it or deny it.  Since God is ALL powerful (omnipotent), ALL knowing (omniscient), and present everywhere (omnipresent), it is impossible for Him to be unrighteous because He is the One who wrote ALL the rules!  Whatever God says—GOES!  Good and evil exists because God defined the terms.

[1] Norman Geisler,  Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 219

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 329

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