If God is Good, Why is there Evil?
The existence of evil and the problem brought by it to human society brought questions to people – including the church. There lies the question, “If God is good, why is there evil?” This issue of philosophy that relates God’s goodness and justice to the existence of evil and sufferings is identified as theodicy – a branch of theology. To polytheistic religions, this is explained by their teaching that evil things on earth are the results of conflicting desires of deities. To the monotheistic and the atheist, this issue takes God’s sovereignty into criticism. There are two confusing conclusions taken into account. First, due to the presence of evil, it is argued that God is good but He is not sovereign – for He cannot prevent evil. Second, others argue that God is sovereign but He is not good – for His sovereignty includes the creation of evil. However, reformed confessions refute both conclusions. Looking at Scriptures and the reality of human life, it is concluded that the all-knowing and perfect God permits evil in society as the result of men’s sin yet also graciously provides the means of redemption.
One of the extraordinary evils in human history is the Holocaust. It was the mass murder of the Jews under the regime of the German Nazis dating from 1941 to 1945. It is the event that made Hitler wicked in the sight of the whole world and in history. Jews were mercilessly killed. Millions of men, women, and children were murdered. In fact, people those days knew that it was a plan to eliminate the Jewish people. Concerning this event, people wondered why God allowed such thing to happen to the Jews. Besides, this people are those whom God claimed to be His own – as revealed in the Scripture.
That God permits evil in the lives of His people often becomes an obstacle for people to accept the Christian faith. It must be understood, however, that God’s sovereignty was still evident even in the Holocaust. The Jewish people were not eliminated; God still intervened and granted a remnant. In fact, this dreadful event was simply a repetition of another event in the Jewish history. During the time of Esther and Mordecai, a man, Haman, devised a plot to destroy the Jews (Esther 3) within King Ahasuerus’s provinces. Haman even had the favor of the king at first, and has already started the plan. In the end, Haman failed and the Jews were delivered from the hands of their oppressors.
Both accounts, the Holocaust and the plot of Haman, clearly show that God is still under control even in the midst of evil and suffering. The evil plans and actions were devised by wicked men, for God cannot devise evil or anything contrary to His nature (cf. James 1:13; Titus 1:2). Nevertheless, in His sovereignty, God knows that these things will happen and has already ordained His intercession for men – which He promised in His word and is evident even in the Holocaust. Even sin itself was present on account of men, but God, in His sovereignty and goodness, has provided salvation through Christ.
The study of theodicy is essential for the knowledge of truth. In fact, it is one branch of theology that makes Christianity different from other religions – particularly those that are polytheistic. Compared to polytheistic groups, Christianity and other monotheistic religion hold that there is only one deity, and that this divine being is responsible for the entire universe. It is, therefore, necessary to understand the nature of this divine being. The goodness and sovereignty of God is very relevant to humanity, for if God would be evil and not sovereign, then faith in Him becomes problematic and inappropriate. This essential truth about God is the anchor of the monotheistic belief. On the other hand, the polytheistic belief claims to have solved the problem already.
As aforementioned, it holds that evil and suffering are results of conflict between gods. This is commonly seen in Greek mythology where certain gods quarrel with one another and humanity suffers by its consequences. However, this principle does not support reasonable faith. If there are conflicting deities, then universal life is at risk and is uncertain. Unlike monotheistic belief, this principle implies that man simply cannot take hold of any hope or promise of goodness in life. For people cannot have confidence throughout a day if those in control of the universe are confused themselves. It is still reasonable to believe that there is only one God who, by His own nature and character, governs all things.
The problem of defending God’s goodness and justice in relation to evil is solved by understanding God’s work and the morality of mankind. Evil and suffering are results of man’s fall into sin – as first realized by Adam and Eve (Gen. 3).
Life is moral, and every action has its own consequences. In His sovereignty, God permits evil around the world in order to let mankind realize the effects of sin. God’s justice does not only refer to goodness in everything. Justice also makes sin and error punishable. Thus, it is just appropriate for mankind to experience evil, and that God directly preventing evil as a consequence of man’s sin will be a forfeiture of His own justice. In the same time, God’s sovereignty and goodness is manifested in His redemptive plan for mankind. By His own will, He graciously provided a way of reconciliation and hope for people who are suffering from sin and evil. Thus, the problem of evil is answered by the Gospel of salvation offered to mankind. In this way, life is certain and hopeful for God Himself is sovereign and good.