If God is good, why is there evil? There is no simple answer to this question which itself is an argument that some atheists use to deny the existence of God. Conversely, Christians argue that Adam’s sin brought evil into the world. The serpent who was in the Garden bringing temptation to do wrong was evil.
When Milton wrote Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to men”, he depicted the scene in heaven where Lucifer was expelled. But evil preceded that seminal event. We get an insight into that from Ezekiel. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). Here we see that sin was found to be in him some time prior to his being cast out of heaven.
What is undeniable is that evil exists. It exists in various forms. We have natural disasters where nature seems to be evil. Storms can have an ugly face, indiscriminately destroying whatever lies in their path. Wild animals can seem evil as they pursue helpless victims, as did two lions in India that were responsible for as many as 140 victims, according to the hunter who eventually killed them (see The Man-Eaters of Tsovo, J.H. Patterson). Yet these kinds of evil are different than the evil of men. Nature is “red in tooth and claw,” as one stated, but we expect better of people. Why? The answer is found in the Bible. Jesus is “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). People know right from wrong. However, when that light is rejected people become incredibly evil.
Atheists sometimes argue that it is not necessary to be religious to have morality. Yet they are borrowing a theistic concept to make any statement regarding what is right and wrong. To say that morals evolved from nothing is an irrational statement. Morals are not nothing. We intuitively know right from wrong. People the world over know that it is wrong to kill innocents, or to rape little girls. Yet evil people deny what is obvious. Tyrants and totalitarians use evil to promote their selfish goal. They deny what they intuitively know and then pursue evil for their own ends.
If morals simply evolved then who is to say what is moral and what is evil? Herman Goering, at the Nuremburg trials after WW2, said that if the Germans had won the war they would be conducting the trials. In that case, war crimes would have included harboring Jews from those who were trying to kill them. In their view, the moral thing was to purify the human race by eradicating the undesirables. The world rejected his argument, holding that there was a standard above mere governmental edicts. That is where the theistic concept comes in. If there is a higher law, then there must be a higher law giver.
Goering exemplified the evolutionary concept of “survival of the fittest” or “might makes right.” But worse, he was an embodiment of those who Jesus described as succumbing to a monstrous darkness. “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23b). That kind of darkness is worse than ugly storms on land, angry billows on the sea, or predatory animals. When people commit atrocities, we hear statements like, “It’s inhuman” or “That person was just beastly.” Yet nothing in the animal kingdom approximates the evil that humans have promoted. Slaughter, mayhem, and slavery are part and parcel of the human experience from our earliest records of history until now. Instead of being beastly, these kinds of atrocities are distinctly human.
An old retired physician once said to me, “Man is a killer.” I had trouble accepting what he said. But he was right. Solomon warned his son of sinners who “lay wait for blood” and lurk in secret places for the innocent (Pr. 1:11). If the Apostle John noted that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19) how much more do we see it now, since “evil men and seducers [are becoming] worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13)? The days of the early church were difficult, but could they have imagined a century like the Twentieth, which saw tyrants responsible for the killing of over 200 million people? Add to that the killing of unborn innocents. According to Mosher and Mason (Lifenews.com, April 21, 2011) abortion has killed between 1-2 billion people worldwide in the last fifty years. Man is a killer, and there is nothing in nature that even comes close.
So where is God in all this? Does He care? Or is He powerless in the face of evil?
The fact is that “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc. 7:29). What God created as good, right, pure, and without evil, man has devised to turn to bad, wrong, filthy, and defiled. Man is responsible and the results of his choices from the time in the Garden until now are real and devastating. The inventions have had grave consequences in nature so that “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom. 8:22). But worse is the trouble in the heart of man, which “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).
Man’s heart is exceedingly deceitful. A lawyer friend told me that he was rather disheartened by the justice system. The defendant lies, the accuser lies, the police lie, and the lawyers lie. Who do you believe? Making matters worse is that people lie to themselves. Of the heart, the scripture asks, “Who can know it?” People lie to themselves and then do not know what the truth is. But God knows and intervenes. “Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins” (Ps.7: 9). God examines the hearts. It is not the atheist who will call God to account for the evil in the world. It is God who judges. The deceitful, wicked hearts of men are judged by the God of truth. The people of the world stand condemned by their own wickedness. Evil will not win out nor will the unbelieving skeptics.
God further intervened in the world by sending His own Son. Jesus said that He came “not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).
Not all of the Germans at Nuremburg maintained their unbending skepticism as did Goering. Several repented and took communion before they were executed. Evil did not win. The Christ of the cross defeated even unspeakable evil. Hallelujah, what a Savior!