An Interview with Norman Geisler on the Problem of Evil

By: Staff; ©2005
Dr. Norman Geisler answers questions on the Problem of Evil.

The Problem of Evil

If there is a God, and if He is good, how could He have created evil?

Dr. Norman Geisler: Well, I think that was answered in 400 by St. Augustine when he struggled with the same problem. “If God is the author of everything, and evil is something, then it would seem like God is the author or evil.” But the fallacy is the second statement. Evil is not a thing. God created only good things. Evil is a privation or a lack.

Then if God created everything, how did evil originate?

Dr. G: The lack originated by one of the good things God created—free will. I have never yet seen anyone march, “Down with freedom, back to bondage, I want to do everything my mother tells me!” It’s good to be free. It is self-defeating to say, “I freely express that freedom is not a good thing.” All you have to do is ask the person, “Do you think it was good that you had the freedom to express that?” And if he says, “Yes,” then you see, it’s good to be free, isn’t it?

But how do we have something bad come out of something good?

Dr. G: Because freedom means you can choose good, or you can choose evil. A good God made a good creature and gave it a good thing called free will. Evil comes as a consequence of a choice by a good creature who had a good power that he misused. God is responsible for giving us the freedom. We are respon­sible for what we do with it. And you can’t blame God for creating creatures who are free with what we do with that freedom. We are responsible for what we do with it.

A lot of people think Christian theology is saying that because Adam did something I am hung with it. I can’t help it. Is that fair?

Dr. G: St. Augustine put it very succinctly; “We are born with the necessity to die and the propensity [or inclination] to sin.” Romans 5 says something is wrong with us. We are born with this inclination to sin as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Now that would be unfair if nothing had been done about it and it weren’t revers­ible. But something has been done about it—the cross of Christ. And it is revers­ible. All we have to do is receive by faith the power of God to overcome it.

But what would you say to the objection, “Well, I didn’t have the choice then. I was just hung with it. The only thing left is to choose to get out of this.”

Dr. G: I would say he’s got it exactly right. Adam was our representative. Romans 5:12 says all men sin “in Adam”. We were potentially, seminally, present in Adam. As our representative he made the choice for us; and we prove that we would have done the same thing because we make the same choices ourselves. It would be eminently unfair if Adam were not our representative and we had no way to escape from the dilemma.

If God knows everything, He knew it would happen before I did, and if the consequences are as real as you are making them out to be—a real Hell, real pain and suffering coming as a result of this choice—then if God is loving, why did He ever let man start the ball game?

Dr. G: ‘“It’s better to have loved and to have lost than not to have loved at all.” I think it’s more magnanimous on God’s part to offer something, knowing it’s going to be refused, than not to offer it at all. Anybody can give to people who are going to praise them. But God gave to people He knew were going to curse Him.

The problem is the price to the people that turn Him down—Hell forever, everlasting punishment.

Dr. G: Of course, there is a way to solve all those problems: create no free creatures—don’t give anybody any freedom. But then what would they say about that kind of God? “That’s not fair, that’s not loving. He’s manipulating me!” No; God is so loving that He’ll allow people to curse Him.

C. S. Lewis put it, “There really are only two kinds of people in the universe. One says to God, ‘Thy will be done in my life.’ The other one—God looks at them and says, ‘Thy will be done. Have it your way.’” And in a free universe that’s all you can have.

But some people want God, if He is all-loving, to help now. “I’m hurting right now. And if you are all powerful and you’re really God, what are you waiting for!”

Dr. G: Well, putting a time limit on it shows that the atheist or objector to God is really assuming to be God. The assumption is also wrong that He hasn’t done anything yet today. God has done something about evil. Christ came and died for our sins. He officially defeated evil at the cross.

Okay, Jesus died on the cross but how does that help me now?

Dr. G: Paul Harvey said a number of years ago “I don’t believe the divine Architect of the universe ever builds a staircase that leads to nowhere.” All of the evidence that we have goes into assuring us that there is a solution to the prob­lem. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Job is a classic example that unless we know behind the scene and beyond the scene we can’t explain what is going on on the scene.

And that’s the answer to the big question that people ask. They assume that God’s never going to do something because He doesn’t seem to be doing something now. Yet He has given us proof through Jesus Christ.

Dr. G: And we know why we don’t know why. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but unto us and our children are the things that are revealed.” And if I know God is all good, I know He has a good purpose for it and if He is all powerful I know He will win in the end. For now, without tribulation, no patience; without sin, no forgiveness. It’s good to have some evil in the world provided that we have our foot on its neck. But the only guarantee there’s a foot on the neck of the devil is there is a God who is more powerful than the devil—that all powerful God.

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