Suffering – What is evil?

Suffering – What is evil?

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:16-17

I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.Isaiah 45:5-7

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?Amos 3:3-6

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?Habakkuk 1:13

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:James 1:13

The Scripture is very clear. God created evil and brings it about. This clear rendering of Scripture bothers most Christians. However, the Scripture is also clear that God does not sin and does not tempt others to sin. How can these things be?

The answer is found in the definition of evil. Sin and evil are closely related, but they are two separate things. Sin is to not believe God and disregard His character and commandments. Evil is simply the privation of good, or anything less than God’s perfect goodness. God “creates” darkness. However, darkness is not a thing; darkness is the absence of a thing, the absence of light. Evil is not a thing; it is the absence of a thing, namely God’s perfect goodness. When God withdraws Himself and His perfect goodness He “creates” evil. Therefore, all sin is evil, all evil is the result of sin, but not all evil is sin. These three statements will help us understand the problem of evil.

All sin is evil. All sin is falling short of God’s perfect goodness, and because good is absent from sin, sin is by its very definition evil.

All evil is the result of sin. Sin causes God to withdraw Himself and His goodness. The end result then must be evil.

Not all evil is sin. As God withdraws His perfect goodness because of sin, He creates evil. This creation of evil is in itself good. God cannot be present where sin exists. Therefore, the withdrawing of God’s goodness which creates evil is in itself an overflow of God’s perfect goodness, not sin. Therefore, it follows that there will be things that happen as a result of God withdrawing Himself not necessarily because of a particular sin. For example, animals kill and eat each other because our sin has caused God to withdraw Himself. A lion killing a zebra is not necessarily the result of a particular lie a man told last week.

In light of this we can conclude that because of sin God has withdrawn Himself leaving behind the absence of perfect goodness, which is by definition evil. Because of God’s withdrawn goodness we can expect evil to exist all around us. It then follows that the only solution to the problem of evil is the removal of sin so that the perfect goodness of God might return. We will look at the redemption of creation from evil in the weeks to come.

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