|Posted on 21 May, 2015 at 0:50|
Throughout Christian history, the problem of evil has always been used as an argument against the existence of God. The dilemma is presented like this: If God is both powerful and good, how can there be evil in the world? Or, since evil exists, God cannot be both good and powerful. The perceived problem is that the Bible presents God as both powerful and good. Certainly this dilemma holds some weight and should be answered. However, it struck me the other day that there is a greater dilemma present, one that poses an even greater challenge to the existence of God. This is the problem of good.
This came to me as I was cycling home from the church the other day. It was a day in which I was very aware of my own sin. We all have those days in which we are reminded that we are not yet fully Christ-like and this was one of those days. Yet as I cycled home, I smelled the glorious aroma of spring and summer. There was the smell of fresh grass clippings and the smell of tree blossoms. I breathed it in deeply and it soothed by soul. And then it hit me. If I am now enjoying these wonderful blessings from God yet I know that my sins deserve only death, how can the God of the Bible exist? After all, the God in the Bible is absolutely holy. He will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7). How can this God exist in a world where sinners receive blessings and pleasures?
The problem of evil and the problem of good are in a sense the same problem, and in another sense, they are one another’s answer. The problem of evil asks how God can allow wickedness if he is good. The problem of good asks how God can withhold judgment from sinners if he is holy. To withhold immediate judgment from sinners is to allow evil to go on in the world. It’s the same problem. Yet it is also the solution. The fact that evil is not immediately judged by God is precisely an act of his goodness. Paul writes that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). The fact that he allows evil to continue to ravage the earth is a sign of his patience with us (2 Pet. 3:9).
God wants us to be bothered by the presence of evil. How can God be good if evil persists? God also wants us to be bothered by the presence of good. How can God be holy when he continues to give good gifts to sinners?
The solution to this tension is found in the cross. At the cross, the goodness of God was put on full display as he gave his Son to die as an act of love toward his people. In Christ, God condemned evil and will one day bring his victory over evil to a full conclusion (Rev. 19:20). At the cross, the holiness of God was also put on full display when he judged our sin in the body of his Son (Rom. 3:21-26). When we see evil continue, we can know that Christ has already delivered it the decisive blow. When we see God’s blessing in the midst of our sin, we can know that the blessings we receive from God are based on the merits of Christ alone.
May we ever worship the God that is God both in evil and in good!