Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist/Part 6

By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2002
Where does the evil that is in this world come from? Dr. Geisler suggests that the source of much of the evil we experience is our freedom to make choices—even the choice to do evil.

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Why Does God Permit Evil to Exist?—Part Six

Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, Norm, where did the evil come from that is in this world? Just give a straight answer on that.

Dr. Norman Geisler: According to the Bible, God is absolutely good and He made an absolutely good world. Everything He made, He said it is good. Every creature of God is good,” I Timothy 4. One of the good things that he gave some of those good creatures was free will. It is good to be free. Hardly anyone would say freedom was bad because, if they did it would be at least self-defeating because they are exercising their freedom, which they enjoy as a good, in order to say freedom is bad. So freedom is undeniably good. Freedom is the source of evil. Because if you are really free to love God, you are also free not to love Him, because forced love is a contradiction in terms. If you are free to worship him, you are free to blaspheme him. So evil arose from free will. Freedom is a good. God created the good of freedom. Man performs the acts of evil by misusing his freedom.

Ankerberg: What is the motivation for a man that is free at the start to choose the evil?

Geisler: First of all if you mean by motivation what was the cause, or you could mean what was the purpose. If you mean cause, what caused man to sin, it was his own free­dom. And if his freedom is the first cause, it is meaningless to ask, what caused his free­dom, because that is like asking, “Who made God?”

Ankerberg: In other words that is like a starting point.

Geisler: That is the starting point. The first cause is the first cause and you can’t ask what caused the first cause. If freedom is the first cause of evil, then you can’t ask what caused freedom. But if you mean what motivated man literally, what was his purpose, it was to affirm his own freedom, himself over against God. For example, Isaiah chapter 14 talks about this being that said, “I will become like the most high.” Satan said to Adam and Eve, “Ye shall become as God.” So apparently the motivation was to affirm oneself autono­mously or as a self over against God and to make the universe center around myself rather than center around God. So freedom is the act by which I say, “I am God and God is not God.”

Ankerberg: Okay, take the next step and I’ll lead you down the garden road here on this. The next step, the non-Christian would say, is what are the results then, of that free choice?

Geisler: Well, the results of that free choice according to the Bible is that it brought sepa­ration between God and man, because God cannot allow man to live in the illusion that he is God because he is not God. And so man is automatically separated. There is alienation between God and man, which is called sin. “As a result of Adam’s sin, death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

Ankerberg: The consequences become eternal. I think that is what the non-Christian is really sweating out there; the fact that you are not just talking about a mistake. You are talking about something that is really going to affect him eternally.

Geisler: Well, there are some irreversible consequences in life. If you jump off a cliff, I take it that is irreversible. You can say, “Oops” all the way down but still you haven’t re­versed that decision. There are one-way commitments. Life is a one-way commitment. God is giving everyone a chance to decide, “will you go my way or your way?” C. S. Lewis put it very beautifully in his book, The Great Divorce. The title of that shows something about the nature of heaven and hell. There must ultimately come a divorce. He said there are two kinds of people in the world. One says to God, “Thy will be done.” They are be­lievers. The other one God says to him, “Thy will be done.” They are unbelievers. But since God is loving and man is free, everyone must be separated according to his freedom. If he wants to go God’s way—heaven. If he wants to go his way—hell.

Ankerberg: If God is so loving, and realizing that some men would actually take Him up on their freedom and make the choice against him, knowing the amount of suffering, eter­nally, that they would go through, why did God create in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been better for those guys never to have been born?

Geisler: There are several ways to answer that question. First of all, it is really better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. It is better for God to create him, give him his freedom, give him the ability to choose one way or the other and then say, “Thy will be done” rather than not giving him his will. The proof of this comes from two atheist, Jean-Paul Sartre, who is a French atheist who died not too many years ago, wrote a play entitled No Exit. Think of the profound insight into hell this atheist had. Three people are in hell. In the middle of the play, the door opens up and they are given a chance to leave. No one leaves. “Why?” says Sartre the atheist? Man is condemned to his own freedom. C. S. Lewis adds this comment; “the door of hell is locked on the inside.” So it is better to give him his freedom than to take it away. Furthermore, Nietzsche, perhaps the most famous atheist of all time, said, “God is dead and all values died with him.” In the last line of his book, Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche answers the question that we might want to ask, “What would an atheist want: for God to snuff him out of existence; to let him continue to live forever; or to force him to go to heaven?” Those are the only three choices. Either God forces people to go to heaven—forced love is not love; forced love is rape and God is not a divine rapist: He won’t force anyone into heaven—or snuff him out of existence, or let him go on willing forever. Nietzsche says this, “I would rather will nothingness than not to will at all. Give me my freedom.” And God says, “Have it your way.”

Ankerberg: However, it seems to me there are some people that are still going to say, that might have been great for Nietzsche, and it might have been great for the guy that said, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” but it depends on who is getting loved and not loved. If it is the person that is actually going to be the one that suffers eternally, how many people are actually clear in that decision? How many people are actually clear in their commitment to God or their non-commitment to God and end up in the position of eternal punishment? If the Bible is really true and talking about a hell that lasts forever, isn’t that a serious case of overkill?

Geisler: First of all, let’s get back to the fundamental question. The fundamental question behind that is, “Is God fair; is God just; does He really provide everyone with an opportu­nity; does everyone have some light? And according to Romans 1:19 and Romans 2:12, there is no one anywhere that God doesn’t reveal himself to. Now if you were lost in a jungle and you saw that it was really dark—you could slice the darkness—and you saw one speck of light, what would you do? Go for it. If you go for the light, it gets bigger. But what if you turn your back and go the other way and you find yourself in total darkness, whose fault is it? The Bible says “men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” Now if they haven’t responded to the light they have, God is not responsible, indeed it wouldn’t even be loving, to give them more light. If you don’t want a little flashlight in your eye, how would you like big bright lights shining in you eye? So if men loved darkness, God in His love says, “Okay, so be it.” “He that is filthy,” Revelation says, “Let him be filthy still. He that is righteous, let him be righteous still.”

Read Part 7

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