Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist/Part 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001
“If God is all-good, He would destroy evil; if He is all-powerful, He could destroy evil. Evil is not destroyed; therefore, there is no such God.” Drs. Ankerberg and Geisler explain the flaw in that “logic.”

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Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist?—Part Three

Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, Norman, here is the question, “If God, the God of the Bible, is an all knowing God and could have prevented an evil world; He knew it in ad­vanced. And if He is all loving, and presumably because He loves us, He should want to do away with anything that would want to hurt us with evil. And if He is all powerful and actu­ally has the ability to destroy evil, then why do we have all this evil in this world?” What would an orthodox historic Christian say to this question?

Dr. Norman Geisler: The key word in that particular argument against the existence of the God of the Bible is the word “destroy:” “If God is all good, He would destroy it; if He is all power­ful He could destroy it; but He hasn’t destroyed it, therefore there is not such a God.”

Sure God could destroy all the evil of the world, but in destroying it, He would destroy good. Because one of the good things God made was freedom. God could destroy all evil, by destroying all freedom, but He would be working against the good He has made.

For example, I am often told by atheists, “if God is all good, why doesn’t He intervene and intercept all this evil in the universe?” I say to them, “Do you really want God to destroy all evil? Then every time you opened your atheist mouth, God should cram it full of cotton. That would destroy a lot of evil. Every time you think an atheist thought, God could give you an Excedrin headache. Every time you pick up your atheist fountain pen to write your atheist books, He could cause it to explode in your hand. But then you would say, that’s not fair, that’s not loving, He is not giving me my freedom, is He?” So they don’t really want God to destroy evil, they want the permission of their freedom.

And I think if we look at the question another way, the key isn’t destroy, the key is defeat. Now let me rephrase the question and show how God is going to defeat evil. He is not going to destroy it, because He would have to destroy our freedom to do it. But He is going to defeat it.

What the atheist who gives that argument fails to recognize is the third statement in that argument. He would have to be God in order to know it was true. “If God is all-good, he would defeat evil.” “If he is all powerful, He could defeat evil.” Now notice the third state­ment. “Evil is not defeated, therefore there is no such God.”

What he forgets is the third statement should read, “evil is not yet defeated, and never will be, therefore, there is no God.” But how could he know that? How could he know that evil will never be defeated because it is not defeated yet? It’s like stopping God in the middle of a sentence and saying, “that doesn’t make sense,” or throwing a book away after the first chapter and say, “this could never come out right.”

The atheist is assuming that, because God hasn’t defeated evil yet, that he never will. But as Christians we believe that it was officially defeated on the cross and Jesus will return and will actually defeat it at his second coming. So we just say to him, “Hold on, pal, it’s coming. God’s going to defeat evil.”

Ankerberg: So there is a time line on it. In other words the question of time comes in to this thing.

Geisler: The only way he can press his argument is to assume omniscience [means all knowing], because if the atheist were all knowing, he could say, “I know God hasn’t yet defeated it and He never will.” But how could he know He never will if he didn’t know every­thing? So in order to disprove God, the atheist would have to be God, namely, all knowing.

Ankerberg: But the guy is coming from his position and saying, “Looking back over the past, you have a pretty good track record of saying that evil is here and it hasn’t gone. What is to give me the proof that it is going to be gone?

Geisler: Well, I’d say he hasn’t looked at the past carefully enough, because one of the things that has happened in the past was the fulfillment of all these prophecies about God’s son that is going to come and die for evil; about this unusual sinless person who is going to die on a cross, and who had that unusual resurrection and reversed the order of mortality.

If he’d look back at that event, it would give him confidence to believe that what that Jesus said about the future is also true. So God has entered history, this is the visited planet, and He has proven himself already and that gives us confidence to believe that He is going to accomplish the rest of his plan.

Ankerberg: In looking at yourself, would you say to people who are listening in, boy, that’s awfully tough, when you balance what you just said with the amount of suffering that a guy is going through, say in a hospital bed, or say to someone who has just lost a loved one. You are asking me to take that as the go-ahead sign that is going to take me through all of this?

Geisler: Let me show you how this will work.

I remember once Paul Harvey saying that he visited a young man who was terminally ill, whose life and career was being nipped in the bud, and he went in to encourage him. Instead he away encouraged because the young man looked at him and he said, “Paul, I do not believe that the divine architect of the universe ever builds a staircase that leads to nowhere.”

You see if you know there is a divine architect, you know He is infinitely wise and infi­nitely good, then you have a guarantee of your answer.

Let’s change the argument. If God is all-good, He will do something about it; if He is all-powerful, He can. Now let’s change the third premise: He hasn’t yet done anything. You know what follows from that logically? He will someday do it. And the guarantee that it will be done is the very nature of that God.

William James once said, “The universe is better for having the devil in it, providing we have our foot on his neck.” But the only one who has a strangle hold on the forces of evil is an infinite God: an all-loving, all-powerful, all-good God. So the guarantee that something is going to be done is we have a divine architect of the universe and He doesn’t build stair­cases to nowhere.

Ankerberg: So in a sense you are turning the whole thing around and saying it is good news?

Geisler: It’s very good news.

Ankerberg: The very problem brings up the fact that there is good news. Geisler: That is exactly right.

Ankerberg: What would you say, Norm, because we are going to get into the other areas of this next week. What would you say to a guy then, who is on his hospital bed, or is in the throes of suffering of some kind, or has lost a child, or is in the throes of divorce, or something like that? What is the good news that you could give to them about this which is coming to him?

Geisler: I would say the outlook is dark, but the up look is bright. I would say if you look around at your circumstances you are going to be discouraged. But if you look up the God who created this universe and to the nature of a God who cannot fail and who is absolutely perfect, you are going to be encouraged that He will bring about the greatest good in the long run.

Read Part 4

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