God in Action

(The concept of Evil)

There is an age old question in theology, philosophy, and a sub-category of theology called theodicy regarding the origin and reasons for evil. The definition of theodicy is “a vindication of the justice of God in permitting evil to exist.” This question is actually addressed in Revelation when the third angel pours out the bowl of wrath:

“The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: `You are just in these judgments, O Holy One, you who are and who were; for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’ And I heard the altar respond: `Yes, Lord God Almighty; true and just are your judgments.’” (Revelation 16: 4 – 7 NIV)

Theodicy questions are asked by students or scholars in college, university, and seminary settings who generally believe these are important questions that they have the right and ability to answer. I have taken sat in such settings and joined in such discussions and agreed with the concept, at one time, that I had the right, authority, and ability to discuss these issues and come to proper conclusions. I do not, and I might add, we do not. One of the reasons I say this is that the Scriptures as a whole do not, generally, address the issue of why God, who is good, has allowed evil to exist.

I have concluded, however, that the problem we have created, and the question we have posed often seems to be approached from a viewpoint that will never lend itself to a solution. The viewpoint I am referring to is the consideration of good or evil as forces or concepts that have existence in and of themselves.

The concept expressed in Scripture is of a good God who is opposed by evil beings. The development of thought throughout the Biblical record is that God has a plan and purpose from the beginning of creation that is opposed by those who have evil intent. As the Biblical record unfolds the opposition is more and more revealed as the devil who is credited with being the “father of lies:” “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8: 44 NIV)

In this scripture passage Jesus goes on to lay down the basic truth that answers all problems of theodicy: “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8: 45 – 47 NIV)

So our concept of good and evil must eventually resolve itself into the existence of good and evil persons rather than good and evil forces. Jesus did not come into the world to overcome a force of evil but He came into the world to overcome an evil person, the devil. Jesus fulfilled the plan of God and overcame the evil deeds of an evil person by doing good deeds, or works, according to the will of God, the good person. We walk and live in the power demonstrated in Jesus and proven by the resurrection. We now have the power and authority to follow in the life and example of Jesus by believing in His name.