Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist/Part 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001
Among other questions, Drs. Ankerberg and Geisler tackle the question: if even mass murderers occasionally get a parole-review, how come hell is not appealable?

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Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist?—Part Two

Dr. John Ankerberg: We are trying to answer some of the questions many people have about why God allows evil to exist in this world. We are using as a basis for our dis­cussion some questions Phil Donahue raised in his autobiography a few years ago. Norman, here is the next question. “If sex is so beautiful, why did God circumvent it to bring his only begotten son into the world.”

Dr. Norman Geisler: I think he is right in saying that sex is beautiful, in fact it’s good. God said that He created male and female, that’s sex, and He pronounced everything that He created good. Secondly, I think he is wrong in assuming that God circumvented sex. As a matter of fact, there was a bloodline of the Messiah that can be traced from Adam and Eve right down through the centuries through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, right on up to the time of Christ. And Jesus’ ancestors, each one, came into the world through an act of sex, so that He has in him the very blood of his ancestors. They all came about through marriage.

Now if, when we came to Christ himself, there were an act of sex involved, then there would not be anything unusual about it. So for that very time, God circumvented the act of sex so as to do something supernatural to draw attention to the fact that this is not a nor­mal child. This is an unusual—in fact, it is the divine—Son of God. So God didn’t circum­vent it at every particular link of the chain, but for the last link in the chain, He had to do it in order for the miracle of the virgin birth to draw attention to the deity of Jesus Christ.

Ankerberg: Phil Donahue has another question here: “If mass murderers occasionally get a parole-review, how come hell is not appealable? Is God less forgiving than we are?”

Geisler: I think the assumption is that God is less forgiving than we are, and of course, that’s a very radical assumption of the question. God is more forgiving than we are. But at the same time, God gives men a period of probation. It is called life. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment.” There are life sentences. There is such a thing as a capital crime and there are capital punishments for capital crimes. So what the Bible is saying is that a man has a lifetime to make a lifetime decision. And if, in that period of probation called life, he isn’t willing to reform, then God says, since you are incorrigible, unrepentant, and there is no way you are going to change your mind—and God being omniscient, he knows that he will never change his mind—then that person is consigned to eternal hell according to his own choice, not against his will, but according to his own will. And God will say to him, “Your will be done.”

Ankerberg: Seems like in back of this question, though, it is the fact that the reality of God is not there enough now so that they would change their mind. He has got the idea that once they get to hell, they’ll change their mind. What would you say about that?

Geisler: Well, we have an example in the Bible in Luke chapter 16 of someone who was in hell. There is no indication he had changed his mind. There is no indication that he didn’t deserve to be there. There is no indication that he didn’t will to be there. All we are told is that he didn’t want to be there; that it was uncomfortable, it was miserable, it was a place of torment. I’m sure that when somebody jumps off a cliff, that on the way down they might say, “Oops!” But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t will to hit the bottom, because when they jumped the cliff, they willed to hit the bottom whether they wanted to or not. Hell is an undesirable place, they don’t want to be there, but they will to be there. As C. S. Lewis put it, the door of hell is locked on the inside by man’s free will and rebellion against God.

Ankerberg: Is there anything philosophically or morally wrong with the fact that God would allow such horrendous decisions to be left to man, namely that he could make a decision that would put him in a place called heaven or hell for all eternity?

Geisler: From the human standpoint, that is part of the risk of freedom. It’s good to have freedom. You don’t find people going around with signs, “Down with Freedom, Back to Bondage”, “I always want to do what people tell me to do.” It is good to be free. But one of the risks of freedom is that you have to make choices, and you have to live with the consequences of those choices. So this is a risky universe. Love is a very risky thing, because you may not be loved in return. Freedom is a risky thing. God created it and man may praise him with it or he may blaspheme him with it. But that is part of the very nature of the good of freedom.

Ankerberg: He concludes that “the Church is not irreverent, it is destructive. It is unnecessarily destructive. It is a hurdle not worthy of my energy.”

Geisler: Well, perhaps some churches are, I can’t speak for all churches. But I can speak for the church of Jesus Christ, which down through the centuries has been built on the foundation of Christ and has believed the Bible. It has been the most loving, the most dynamic, and the most constructive force in society. Even William James, the famous psychologist who made perhaps the most profound analysis of religious experience ever made in his book, Varieties of Religious Experiences. He has two chapters on saintliness in which he says in essence, the saint, the true believer, has been the most dynamic force in society. Nietzsche was wrong. The saint is not weak; he is not destructive; the saint is the positive constructive force because nothing has ever really been accomplished in this world that was not really set on fire from some other world. That is the believer. He is not destructive. The force of love is the most constructive force in the universe.

Ankerberg: Norm, some of the folks out there are hurting, and they are saying I’d sure like to believe in God. Before we even talk about this problem of evil, let’s start of with who is God? Give an orthodox-historic Christian definition of God.

Geisler: God is all-powerful. God is all-loving. God is all-knowing. God is free. God is an infinite, eternal spirit behind this universe who made the universe for His glory and our good.

Ankerberg: Okay, now, where did you pull those definitions out of?

Geisler: Those are just a summary of the things the Bible teaches about God. John 4 says, “God is Spirit and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Ankerberg: Backtracking one step further. Why did you take the Bible as authority?

Geisler: Because it seems to me that the Bible is a revelation from God. Ankerberg: How do you know it was a revelation from God?

Geisler: First of all it claims to be the word of God, so that narrows down the books I have to read. Not very many books claim to be the word of God. Secondly, it proves to be the word of God. There is substantial historic evidence to support that claim.

Ankerberg: Okay, historical evidence. What is the historical evidence that is the key­stone?

Geisler: I would say the keystone is that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He proved to be the Son of God by fulfilling prophecies, living a sinless, miraculous life, resurrecting from the dead. He said the Old Testament is the word of God. In Matthew 5:17 he said, “I came not to destroy but to fulfill. Not a jot or a tittle will be taken away until all is fulfilled.” Heaven and earth will pass away.” He said, “Thy word is truth,” in John 17. In John 10 He said, “The scriptures cannot be broken.” He promised the same for the New Testament by giving to the apostles the “Holy Spirit who would lead them into all truth.” So He guaran­teed the Old Testament was the word of God and promised the New Testament.

So my faith really rests upon the authenticity of Christ. If the Bible is not the word of God, then Jesus is not the Son of God. If Jesus is not the Son of God, then I feel like Peter, “then to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Who else lived a sinless, perfect life, fulfilled prophecy, and resurrected from the dead?

Ankerberg: Okay, so the evidence supporting Jesus establishes his claim and then his claim, He puts his stamp of authority on the Scriptures, and from the Scriptures, we get the definition of God that you gave us?

Geisler: Right.

Ankerberg: Okay. With that definition of God, then, next time we want to start with the question: “If God is all-loving, presumably then He should do away with evil. If He is all-powerful, and has the ability to destroy evil, then He ought to do it. But evil still is here. So what is going on? That’s next time.

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