November 22, 2017

Contemplating the Mystery of Evil

We’ll never understand it. But do we have to?

Joel Arnold

Two explosions, 12 seconds apart. People running to get away from one, only to find themselves in front of the second. Cheering instantly transformed into cries of terror, with a bomb blast punctuating the difference. And a nation reeling to understand, process, punish what just happened.

It’s at these times that hard questions about evil come to the forefront of our minds.

None of these are new questions. It can take the form of three propositions, all with clear biblical support:

  • God is all-powerful (capable of averting evil).
  • God is good (never desiring unnecessary evil or suffering).
  • Evil exists.

Unbelieving philosophers and rhetoricians have attacked Christianity with these questions from nearly the beginning. In fact, evil turns out to be one of the most troubling problems, faced not just by intellectuals but by all of us. An accident, an unexpected diagnosis, or a series of bomb blasts in the news, and these questions immediately rise to the surface of our consciousness.

And at the end of the day, there aren’t any simple, formulaic answers. Certainly nothing that could be taken care of in a blog post. After all the explanations and arguments have been made, the hard truth is that there aren’t any easy answers to the question “why.”

But neither does that mean there’s nothing to say or that Christianity doesn’t have answers. More than any other worldview, Christianity dignifies human suffering because God Himself entered into it.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (Isa. 53:4; 1 Pet. 3:18).

The suffering before you today may be real and overwhelming. But remember that you aren’t the first to face it, and you aren’t alone. If suffering and death came as a result of sin, Jesus carried on Him an entire planet’s worth. If your pain is crushing, Jesus was truly crushed under the weight of all the world’s sin. The deepest horror of the cross wasn’t the scourging, the nails, or the slow suffocation. It was the horror of so much sin carried in one person at one time. And as a result, Jesus Christ joins with His people in their suffering.

That doesn’t take the pain away, but it does help to refocus and reinterpret it. And that is, in fact, the only sufficient response to evil, whatever your worldview. Philosophical explanations won’t help in those moments. You need a Person—a Person who completely empathizes with your sorrow and cares for you infinitely.

My one year-old son experiences the problem of evil. It happened yesterday when I wouldn’t let him play in the road or when I took away the pair of scissors he found. For him, it was real pain—deep disappointment complete with tears and a very audible expression. There will be a day when as an adult, he’ll thank me for protecting him. But for the time being he doesn’t understand—he can’t understand, and the only answer for him now is to trust.

That’s all of us. In the big picture of life, reality, or even just human history, we’re only children. How impossible, that we would question or challenge the maker and sustainer of the universe?

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great? (Job 38:4-5,16-17,19,21)

And so in the face of questions we can’t answer or pain that overwhelms, we turn our eyes to the only One who understands—the only Person who has been tempted in every point like we are and the only person who ever tasted the full dregs of human suffering. Run today! Run to the throne of grace. Find mercy and grace in your time of need!

There are no nice, pat answers to the problem of evil. But there is a person. A person who transcends our understanding and who has experienced our pain. It’s only with your head bowed in His presence that you’ll find your answer.

Joel Arnold is an appointee with Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. He is raising funds for future ministry in the Philippines.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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