Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist/Part 10
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2002|
|In this final installment of the series, Dr. Geisler answers the question, “if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, why isn’t He doing something about evil now? Is it because He can’t, or, assuming He can, that he won’t do anything about it?|
Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist?—Part Ten
Dr. John Ankerberg: Norman, if God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, why isn’t He doing something about evil NOW?
Dr. Norman Geisler: I think putting a time limit on it is shows that the atheist or objector to God is really assuming to be God. The argument goes like this: if God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil. If He is all-good, He would defeat evil, but evil is not yet defeated. Now the assumption of the objection is that it never will be; that because God hasn’t defeated it yet (as of today), He never will do anything in the future.
But the only way he could know that is if he were omniscient, in other words if he could say, I know that since evil has not yet been totally defeated as of now, that it never will be in the future because I know everything in the future. Well, if he knows everything, then he is omniscient. If he is omniscient, then he is God. So he has to play God in order to defeat God. He is arguing, as C. S. Lewis said, in a big circle.
As a matter of fact 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. He is going to return and officially destroy evil.
Ankerberg: What would you say to somebody who is in the hospital. Everything was going great, but now because he was struck down with a stroke or a heart attack, his family is in jeopardy, he might loose his job, he doesn’t know what the future holds. He is saying, “Why?” Or, how about something worse. I can’t think of anything worse than having a little child you love, and all of a sudden he gets run over by a truck or has some other kind of accident or disease, and he dies. They say, “God, why? It hurts too much.” What would you say to these people who are feeling this pain? They would say, “Okay, Jesus died on the cross, but how does that help me now?”
Geisler: I would say what I heard Paul Harvey say a number of years ago. He went to visit a young man in the hospital dying of cancer. Paul Harvey wondered, “What can I say to encourage this young man?” He said, “When I came away from that hospital, I was encouraged because this young man who was dying looked at me and said, Paul, I don’t believe that the divine architect of the universe ever builds a staircase that leads to nowhere.”
And I would say that all of the evidence that we have that God exists, all of the scientific, philosophical, historical evidence for the existence of God goes into assuring us that there is a solution to the problem. Let’s look at this argument a little differently: If God is all-good, that means He wants to do something about it; if God is all-powerful, He can do something about it; if He hasn’t yet done anything about it, what is the only conclusion that follows from those premises? He will do something about it. Because an all-good God wants to and an all-powerful God can. So if He hasn’t yet explained it, or if He hasn’t yet performed his ultimate good, just hang in there, God is going to do something. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right,” Abraham was told in Genesis. And Job was 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.
Ankerberg: That is the answer to the big question that people ask. They assume that God is never going to do something because He doesn’t seem to be doing something now, and yet He has given us proof through Jesus Christ that something is coming right up ahead.
Geisler: And we know why we don’t know why. You see there is a difference in not knowing why and not knowing why you don’t know why. I know why I don’t know why to all the questions: because there is a sovereign God who knows everything and I don’t know everything. Deuteronomy 29:29 says “the secret things belong unto the LORD our God. But unto us and to our children are the things that are revealed.” If I know that God is all-good, I know He has a good purpose for it. If He is all-powerful I know He will win in the end.
Williams James who formally taught at Harvard University, Father of Pragmatism, said “the world is better for having the devil in it—personification of evil—providing we have our foot on his neck.” What he meant was, it is good to have the occasioning presence of evil because you can perform greater heroic acts of good. Without tribulation, no patience; without sin, no forgiveness; without situations of evil, you couldn’t have courage and magnanimous love develop.
Well, it is good to have some evil in the world provided we have our foot on his neck. But the only guarantee there is a foot on the neck of the devil is there is a God who is more powerful than the devil, that all-powerful God.
Ankerberg: If God is the great creator, are you telling me that He didn’t create the best of all worlds?
Geisler: I am saying that God created this world, which was perfect to begin with. And one of the things He created was freedom. Free will brought evil. This world as it is now—as a result of Adam’s sin—is not the best of all possible worlds. I could improve it; you could. One less crime tomorrow would improve the world, one less rape, one less war.
But while this world is not the best of all possible worlds—God forbid—it is the best way to get to the best one, namely a free choice where everybody makes up their mind—do I want to serve God or do I not want to? To say either that thy will be done, as Lewis said, or have God say to you, “thy will be done.” And then as 2 Peter puts it, “the LORD is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish,” give everybody a chance, make it fair, everybody decide which way he wants to go. And when he chooses, then solidify his choice in accordance with his free will and say, have it your way.
Ankerberg: What is going to happen up in heaven? Why is this a stepping-stone to the next world?
Geisler: It is a stepping-stone to the next world in the way that engagement is a stepping-stone to marriage. When you make that decision and permanentize that relationship, we are freely choosing who we are going to be married to or divorced from forever. That is why C. S. Lewis called the title of his book on heaven and hell, The Great Divorce. It is not going to be a great marriage of people who don’t want to get married. There will be no shotgun weddings in heaven. God never puts the gun to somebody’s head and say, “love me or else,” because forced love isn’t love. Forced love is rape and God is not a divine rapist. The reason there is a hell is because God is so loving that He won’t force people against their will to go to heaven.
Ankerberg: Now talking about hell, isn’t hell a serious case of overkill? Why doesn’t God just annihilate people?
Geisler: I think the reason He doesn’t annihilate people, is that would be unloving. If I said to my son, I want you to grow up and be a doctor and he grew up and became a plumber, and I say, “okay, bang, I shoot you,” how loving a father am I? I have to be able to handle his free choice and love him even if he chooses to do something I don’t want. God doesn’t force people against their will. He doesn’t say, if you don’t go my way, I’ll take you out of existence.
In fact one of the most famous atheists who ever lived was Friedrich Nietzsche. (He was the one who said “God is dead, signed Nietzsche,” and somebody wrote under it “Nietzsche is dead, signed God.”) Well Nietzsche wrote a book called, The Genealogy of Morals. In the last paragraph he answers this question, basically. If he were to stand before God and God would say to Nietzsche, “I give you three choices: bow down and worship me and repent of everything you ever said, or go on thinking and willing the way you want to think and will or I’ll snuff you out of existence,” which one do you think Nietzsche would have chosen? I think he would have chosen the one that says I’ll go on thinking and willing the way I want because here is what he said, “I would rather will nothingness than not to will at all.” It is not fair to a free creature to say, “I’ll let you have your freedom as long as you do what I want.” Well, then they are not really free. God is so loving to people He says, “I’ll let you have your freedom even if you reject me, forever. Do your own thing.”
Ankerberg: What about natural evil in the world? We’re talking about people choosing, but if a hurricane or an earthquake comes along, I didn’t choose that, and if God’s in charge of nature, what’s He doing? I mean, are you telling me that these people all had enough time to choose? Little babies, adults, cut down in the prime of life?
Geisler: When God takes direct charge of nature again, there aren’t going to be those things, and those things came only because we messed it up. In Romans 5 and Romans 12 it says Adam’s sin brought death and sickness and even nature, in its turmoil, is a result of the fall. So free will is the cause of the natural catastrophes, and God is going to restore this earth again. The paradise lost is going to be the paradise regained, and there are not going to be those kinds of catastrophes. That’s a reminder of sin. That’s a reminder that we brought that on ourselves and that God is using that as a great warning. As Lewis put in his book The Problem of Pain, God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks in our conscience, but He shouts in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a morally deaf world. And that’s a constant reminder this is a morally fallen world and we are morally rebellious creatures and should turn to God.
Ankerberg: The last question would come right in there and that is this: what about those that haven’t heard? What about those that have the earthquake happen to them that haven’t heard? What’s so good about that? What’s loving about that? That’s not even fair!
Geisler: Second Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is long suffering, not willing that any should perish.” It’s not a question of there are people willing and haven’t heard. It’s a question of there are people who have heard and aren’t willing. Romans 1:19 makes it very clear that men hold down the truth they have, they suppress it, and that’s how darkness comes. Acts 10:35 says, “In every nation he that feareth God and works righteousness is accepted.” And the context of that is Cornelius, who was seeking the truth. God sent him a missionary. God will send an angel, a missionary, drop him a Bible. I was in Eastern Europe, working with the underground church, and there was a Communist girl who wanted to become a Christian, didn’t have a Bible, was seeking. And a Bible fell out of a building on her foot. She picked it up, read it, and became a Christian. God will drop a Bible out of the sky! He’s more interested in people becoming believers than they are. “Seek and ye shall find.” Hebrews 11:6 says that, “he that comes unto God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”
Ankerberg: So in a sense there are no people that have not heard.
Geisler: There are no people who haven’t at least seen the light of nature or had the light of conscience, Romans says, and if they seek that, God will give them more light.