How Can Evil And A Loving God Coexist?

How Can Evil And A Loving God Coexist?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Note: This is not going to be a quick read. Any answer to the question addressed is going to require some theological/philosophical consideration. 

Stephen Fry is a well-known actor, activist, humanist, and athiest. When asked what he would say to God in a face-to-face, he replied, “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? … How dare you create a world where there is such misery that is not our fault?” There’s more to the quote, but this sums it up. 

“How can evil and a loving God coexist?” At some point, we have to confront this question in our own faith. Some can accept the problem of evil as being a byproduct of a fallen world. Others – especially those who have experienced evil firsthand – have a hard time justifying the two. 

Most answers offered sound something like this: “The creation groans with the pains of childbirth up to now. Man, as a free moral agent, transgressed God’s law and brought the consequences of sin upon humanity. God cannot look upon evil, and certainly does not cause it. Every good thing and every perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” 

While the principles in this explanation are correct, it fails to address the question on at least two levels. One, it does not answer how God could allow evil to affect humans. We exist, technically, against our will. Two, it utilizes jargon. It’s easier to say religious-sounding things to answer difficult questions, but anyone struggling with this problem knows how frustrating this answer can be. It doesn’t address the question, and sometimes comes across as avoiding it altogether. 

The following is based on personal study, as I’d wrestled with this problem, too. To be very clear: God loves us, and the existence of evil does not change that at all. This question was answered for me through an unrelated study that put a few things into perspective. Here’s the condensed version: 

God created reality, and it was flawless (Gen 1.31). In fact, Jesus described heaven as being a return to this flawlessness (Matt 19.28). The code of reality was intact. God didn’t force us to love him, he gave us freedom to choose for ourselves. According to Romans eight, nature was fundamentally affected by the choice we made. This choice essentially introduced a bug into the code of reality. God didn’t create evil, we did. 

Even though our choice has consistently been rejection – and we’re solely responsible for messing everything up – he still gave up everything to give us a second chance. Yes, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross. This was extremely selfless and loving in itself. But this was NOT the only sacrifice he made. 

Jesus – the one who designed and built reality (John 1) – permanently demoted himself for humans. He gave up his status to die for us (Heb 2.7). He’s in the father’s chair right now, but will step back down after the end of time (Heb 1.14; 2.8-9). He is still God, but permanently lower because he’s still human, too (I Tim 2.5; I Cor 11.3; I Jn 3.1-3; Heb 2.11-18). 

So, how can evil and a loving God coexist? We’re stuck with the way reality is now, but he fundamentally changed himself to give us a second chance. He works full-time to get his family home (Rom 8.27; I Tim 2.5; I Jn 2.1-2). We changed the terms, but he changed the consequences. The most powerful entity in the universe stepped down – forever – knowing most of us would ignore it. When we look at it that way, it puts our own culpability into perspective and demonstrates God’s infinite capacity to love. 

Photo Credit Of Stephen Fry (Flickr)
God Revealed (poem)

God Revealed (poem)

Neal Pollard

The mighty arm of creation, brooding or building
The hand that tipped the canopy, drowning sinners
The finger that stirred the languages, babblers yielding
The heart that made the heirs of Abram winners

The Majesty presented in a bush, resilient though burning
The Master who through plagues made Pharaoh submit
The Merciful One who longed for Israel’s returning
The Measuring Rod whose justice sin did not acquit.

The everlasting to everlasting, whose word’s a holy knife
Inhabitant of the heavens, swaddling Incarnate babe
Kindling Spirit, Father, Son, the way, truth and life
Perfect in character, with power the obedient to save.

Gatekeeper of heaven, consigner of the wicked to hell
Served by angels, ruler of the living and the dead
Spirit, love and light, divinest nature not one part frail
Eyes all-seeing, mind all-knowing, power unlimited.

Hope of the hopeless, joy for the tearful mourner
Source of strength for the heavy-laden soul
Lifter of the penitent fallen, all-glory adorner
Author of salvation who one day will call the judgment roll.

Since He is and is rewarder, let not one refuse His order!
If Satan’s power you’d have repealed, obey the God the word’s revealed!

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The Holocaust: What Can Be In Men’s Hearts

The Holocaust: What Can Be In Men’s Hearts

Neal Pollard

Though mankind can construct a fantasy to explain our origin and propagate it in places like The Natural History Museum, we have a harder time skirting around our moral outrage at the atrocities committed by the Nazis from 1933 to 1945.  I made my third ever visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and, more than ever, I was dumbfounded at how anyone could perpetrate torture and treatment like the European Jews received at their hands.  Words like “wrong,” “immoral,” “evil,” “wicked,” and “barbaric” flow freely from the mouths of the visitors who see pictures or watch videos of the organized pogroms and the aftermath of the death cities they called concentration camps. Witnessing such depravity makes it easier to understand how men could take an innocent man like Jesus and be hardened enough to have Him crucified.  It also helps us appreciate how necessary that sacrifice was.

Hitler, if he worshipped anything, worshipped the occult.  He seemed not to truly acknowledge the existence of God, using His name only as a shield to defend his dictatorial policies.  His regime is an extreme example of what men, apart from God, are capable of doing.  With no sovereign standard to submit to and no transcendent truth to believe in, men become their own gods and write their own laws.  They so often do so without regard for the welfare and lives of other people.  They do as they please and what pleases them so often destroys them but also others.

Jesus warned of such a mindset in Luke 16, speaking to the Pharisees, saying, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (15).  He warned on another occasion that “what comes out of a man defiles a man” (Mark 7:20), including “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, [and] foolishness” (21-22).  When men try to negate the nature of God and escape the existence of God, it leads to the perishing of people and the harm of humanity.  The answer is simple, if demanding: “‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).  Either way, it’s a matter of the heart! May our hearts get right and stay right.

“Go To The Ant, You…DARPA?”

“Go To The Ant, You…DARPA?”

Neal Pollard

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was formed in 1958 for technological advancements and has been responsible for so many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today. They use a variety of means to “both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research” (darpa.mil). SRI International, one of the agencies DARPA partners with, “has taken inspiration from the giant mound of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits” (Michael Trei, dvice.com). The military has given thought to using these robots to rebuild and repair, even in the midst of battle.  Who can foresee where this technology may show up in our daily lives?

People can be incredibly brilliant and innovative.  There is no limit to our imagination and invention.  Yet, this (and many other examples) points up to God in at least two ways.  First, our intelligence points to an intelligent designer. Moses informs us that we are made in the very image of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-27).  Second, our brightest developments and designs are drawn from what God’s created world.  Solomon once admonished, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.  How ironic that in a world growing more unbelieving, mankind keeps paying tribute to the wisdom and power of the One who made it all.