Both Good and Evil
The Patience of Job
“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” –Job 2:9
Why do bad things happen? The humanist thinks he has the Christian over a barrel when he asks that question. The trap is phrased something like this:
Do you believe that God is good?
Do you believe that God is all-powerful?
Do you believe that God is able to keep bad things from happening?
When the Christian answers “yes” to these questions, the humanist springs the trap: If God is all powerful, and good, why does He let things happen that are horrid?
A Humanist Solution
At this point, Christians who are infected with humanism try a feeble response that goes something like this. “But God wants us to love Him freely. Therefore, He has given us free will, so that we can love Him freely. He therefore lets us do what we want, hoping that we will love Him freely, letting us fall into sin if we want to. Our sin is our own.”
There are several things wrong with this answer, or answers like it, and they are listed in no particular order of importance:
1. The answer is unbiblical, as we see from our text above.
2. The answer is small comfort to those who have experienced what appears to be senseless tragedies. For instance, it is small comfort to a mother whose baby has been killed by a drunk driver to tell her that God allowed the drunk to do it. “Why didn’t God save my baby?” is the only question that is in her mind. Neither will the answer bring relief to a tormented kid in school whose life is unbearable by the cruelty and sadistic treatment he receives from his classmates.
3. The answer comes from practical atheism, and declares God to be dead in the events that matter most to us. Job had lost everything. His flocks were stolen, his servants murdered, his children had been slain. If he had been a modern humanist, he would have cursed his “luck,” or cursed those who acted in “free will.” He did neither. When his wife advised him to curse God and die, he refused to sin with his lips but traced both good things and bad things up to their true source, the will and power of God.
Quibbling Doesn’t Help
How do we escape the dilemma that evil brings to a moral universe. The answer cannot be in “free will.” The idea of such freedom eventually assaults the very attributes and being of God himself. Some have done this unashamedly. Could God prevent evil? In order to avoid answering the question “yes,” they resort to claiming that God does not know the future, or that He willingly limits Himself, or that He is learning along with the human race, or that He is not the source of all power and being. All of these “solutions” attack the very doctrine of God in Scripture, the Creator of all, and place Him in our time and space, making the Incarnation vain and unnecessary.
Some do this by assaulting their own rationality: “We don’t understand, we just believe,” as if understanding is a bad thing. Pr 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
There is no power but of God, and in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He gives life and breath to all living things. (Acts 17:25) Men cannot even curse the Lord without using the breath that God gave them. They cannot lift their hands to do an evil thing without the energy that God gives them. Neither can they digest their food or receive warmth from the sun. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights (James 1).
God’s Gifts Offered to Baal.
In fact, men have nothing even to offer to a false god. Israel had to use the corn and wine that God had given them in order to prepare a sacrifice for Baal (Hos. 2:8).
The devil has nothing of his own; he even has to borrow from God’s truth in order to deceive, transforming himself into an angel of light (II Cor. 1:14). If he followed his own rebellious principles, his kingdom would not last (Matt. 12:25). Even the intelligence of the devil and his strength and power are given and sustained by God. For this reason, Christians are commanded to give thanks to God for “every thing.” “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thess. 5:18) We are to trace every thing that happens up to our Heavenly Father, for without His will, no thing can take place on the earth. Why does this not make God the author of sin? How could Job say that God had taken away his flocks and herds, when his herds were stolen, and his servants murdered? Because Job knew that God is both good in all His ways, and upright in all His deeds, and brings all things to pass after the counsel of His Own will (Eph. 1).
Both Good and Evil in a Single Act
Job had learned that there is a difference between the act and the evil of the act. He knew that every creature of God is good (I Tim. 4:4), for all has come from the hand of God. Even in the monstrous act of the crucifixion of Christ, Pilate and Herod and the people intended it for evil, but God intended it for good. (See also Genesis 50:20)
The Cross of Jesus Christ is both the horror of the world, and the glory of God. It is the horror of the world because wicked hands of men laid their hands on the Son of God and sacrificed Him to their pride, ambition, and hatred. It is the glory of God for nowhere in history is the love of God for his people more wonderfully displayed than in that Cross, where His soul was made a sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53), so that all who believe might have eternal life.
Dealing with God
Those who do not see that all things come to them from the hand of God, even if through the agency of the devil, will not be able to cope with the evil that arises. Why pray to God if the evil event is only from the devil, and there is no good in it from God? Why give thanks for all things, if some of those things are from the devil only. Why not be bitter against evil people, if their actions are not designed by God for our good? Why not define your Christianity by your reaction against evil and wickedness, instead of by faith in Jesus Christ? How can the peace of God rule our hearts and minds (Col. 3:15 and Phil. 4:6,7) if all things are not designed by God for the good of those called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
We must conduct our spiritual business with God: Hebrews 4:13 “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Very often disasters come for the very purpose of calling us to faith and trust in the God who made us, away from the sin that will destroy us. They may have nothing to do with transgressions of the individuals involved. On the contrary, in the midst of tragedy, great expressions of Christian love and faith may come forth, as there was at the Columbine tragedy. Jesus explained it to us in Luke 13:1-5, that disasters often come, not because of particular sins on the part of the victims, but as a call to repentance to those who are left behind.