Friday, March 30, 2012

The Problem with Evil; a New Perspective - by Dr. Stan Murrell

In his excellent work, A Baptist Catechism, Dr. W. R. Downing addresses the problem of evil:

“The possible answers, according to human reasoning, are:

“first, if evil exists [and it does as a sad and awful reality], then there is no omnipotent [all–powerful], benevolent God—the argument of the atheist.

“Second, evil exists and therefore, if God exists, he must be either limited in his power or arbitrary in his moral character—the argument of those who espouse a non–biblical [pagan] concept of God.

“Third, evil exists, therefore there is more than one God or there are equal dualistic forces [good and evil] in conflict. This is the non–biblical [pagan] argument of those who would posit a dualism (a “good god” and “bad god” or opposing good and evil forces or principles) in conflict for control of the universe.

“Fourth, evil does not exist, except as an illusion in our human thinking. This is the non–biblical view of some western cults and Eastern religions (e.g., Christian Science, Buddhism). This would make any ultimate distinction between good and evil arbitrary, and thus deny the moral self–consistency of the Divine character.

“Fifth, evil exists as a mystery, independent of God, who remains to a given [limited] degree powerful and benevolent, necessarily operating in a utilitarian sense. This is the inconsistent argument of some (including Pelagians and Arminians) who attempt to deliver God from the charge of being the “author of sin” and so unscripturally limit his power in order to retain his goodness.

“Finally, evil exists in the universe of an omnipotent, benevolent God, who is completely sovereign over it and uses it for his own glory and the highest good—the argument of the biblical Christian [consistent Calvinist].

“This final assertion is the only view that can be consistently aligned to the teaching of Scripture (e.g., Gen. 50:20; Judg. 2:15; 9:23; 1 Sam. 16:14; 2 Kgs. 22:16; Psa. 76:10; Isa. 10:5–15; 45:7; Amos 3:6; Acts 4:27–28; Rom. 8:28; 9:11–21). Every other view, deriving from sinful humanistic reasoning, and so calling God and his actions into question (Rom. 9:19–21), seeks to point out an incoherence [inconsistency] in the Scriptures and the Christian system. These views either deny God and his power over evil, or limit God and seek to bring him down to the finite level (Rom. 1:21–25) and destroy his sovereignty and moral self–consistency—and thus any sufficient or consistent basis for Divine coherence.”

While this concise overview of the problem of evil is logical, biblical, and perceptive, the fundamental question as to why God has allowed (decreed) evil in the universe is still problematic. Must it always remain a mystery and without an answer? Perhaps not.

Perhaps Christians simply need a new perspective so that we see that the highest good in creation—including the presence of evil—is not our happiness; it is not even our holiness; it is the manifestation of God’s attributes. Could the love of God, His marvelous grace and infinite saving mercy be fully displayed apart from the black backdrop of sin? If the answer is no, then perhaps the mystery of evil finds purpose, definition, and meaning.


Anonymous said...

"While this concise overview of the problem of evil is logical, biblical, and perceptive, the fundamental question as to why God has allowed (decreed) evil in the universe is still problematic. "

Its no longer problematic if you understand that when the Biblical authors speak of God as able to do anything, 'almighty', etc. they only mean it in a comparative sense: God is so much more powerful than us that as far as we're concerned he is all powerful. Yet literally, he isn't. The same with statements like 'You know everything Lord' -- the speakers only mean he knows infinitely more than themselves, but not literally that he exhaustively knows the future. Once we realize this, we will realize that evil is simply part of existence. The only way for God to eradicate it is to eradicate existence entirely. And realizing this you will make peace with God in a way that is not possible within supposed 'orthodox' Christianity with its overly literal interpretations of omnipotence and omniscience.

Mark said...

No, they actually mean God does know everything. "Orthodox" Christianity is not based upon subjective notions. The god you describe is as old as Gnosticism. Evil isn’t existence, it’s a parasite to Truth.