Adapted from The Truth Project
Whether or not faith in God is relevant for somebody, the question of why there is evil in the world is an interesting thing to attempt to explain. This question is clearly answered in the Bible and is not only an adequate explanation, but it fits with what we experience about evil in our own lives and see in the world at large. So the question of evil is not as much a question for Christians to answer as it is for non-christian people to answer.
Why does evil exist in the world? Outside of a view of God in the world, the answer for this comes up pretty empty, as i’ll explain as we go.
When we (the world; culture; people) cut ourselves off from God, we are then cut off from the most important answers to some off the most important and applicable questions that we run into on a daily basis. If I were not a follower of Jesus, two of the most relevant questions in my opinion would be “What is evil,” and “What is the origin of evil?”
Much like the battle that exists between sin versus the Spirit of God, exists the truth and lies pertaining to the question of “Who is man?”
Galations 5:16-17 says
“Live by the Spirit, and you will not live by the sinful nature. The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other and you do not do what you want to do.”
From the beginning of time there has been this internal conflict of man wanting to do the will of God and also fighting against ourselves and our own free will. Since the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world, our will and God’s will do not always line up and the world lives in that tension. In order to dissect this, lets talk about Who Man Is by assessing our a) essence, b) moral state, and c) what his need is.
What is God’s perspective of man?
The First State of Man was Creation. Man was innocent, and was made “In His own Image, in the image of God He created Him.” (Genesis account of creation).
The Second State of man was The Fall which changed the state of man from innocent to “fallen,” meaning that the man asserted his will above the will and instruction of God in the garden. Thus sin entered the world by way of the free will given to the man who decided in essence that they knew better than God what they needed and what was actually good for them. As a result of sin, death then came to all men because all men sin. The Genesis account is fascinating because it reveals a God who will not force His will or His love on us, but instead offers us a free will to choose for ourselves. Either direction of that choice offers a different outcome: Eternity with God, or eternity in separation from God.
The idea is that man was no longer in the innocent state where he was in total unity and harmony with God. Because God is the standard of holy, He cannot be part of sin. More than that, now that sin had entered the world there was NO WAY to get back to the original state of oneness with God for all of eternity. Now man can actually die, in this state, and if he is in this state of separation from God, he goes to hell.
As harsh as it sounds, the concept is that if you decide that God’s way is not going to be your way, you remove yourself out from under his protection and the shadow of his wings, leaving you vulnerable to the hell on earth that comes from a life lived outside of the wholeness and the perfect will of God. That’s not even close to politically correct for our culture to swallow, but that’s because the stakes are remarkably higher than simply offending someone. The stakes are life and death, and the one who is offended is a holy God who loves His creation who chooses to despise Him.
The third state of man is Redemption where Christ put to death, death.Based on Christ’s death on the cross, as God, His sacrifice made a way for men to come back into a perfect union with God regardless of their decisions and lives previously, all because God wants us back in communion and wholeness with Him.
Our free will to choose Him, in harmony with His gift of eternal life through His son Jesus on the cross, is the recipe for wholeness in this life and for eternal life for the future.
This is the original gift to mankind which was the gift of wholeness and abundant life lived in harmony with God, when He called His work in creating man “Good.”
Redemption is a love gift of right-standing given on no merit of our own.
Redemption changes the above fallen state and puts us into another state that is otherwise unattainable outside of Christ entering them world, fully God and fully man, in order to pay our debt and offer a sacrifice sufficient enough to cover us even in our rebellion.
He gave us a way to live with God again, through grace. However we still carry forward from our fallen nature our same sinful desires and flesh. The difference now, however, is that we have the opportunity that if we believe in our hearts and accept the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and His resurrection, that we inherit His power over death (sin). This happens in that His Holy Spirit inside of us breathes into us the exact same power that Jesus had to conquer the cross. It’s God’s power in us to overcome our own fallen nature and over our eternal destiny, if we choose to accept the price that He paid for us to inherit that freedom.
We bear the image of God as His creation, even as fallen creatures. But redemption covers all of our fallen state, and paved the way for grace and for love that has nothing to do with our own good behavior or our own good works or efforts. Jesus did the work, and offered a way to set us free from the bondage that sin otherwise reaps in our lives.
In the redeemed state, we still bear image of God, but we ALSO carry and bear the sinful nature. Free will is still our design and our gift, because love would be in chains if it were not free to choose for ourselves how we will live. As followers of Jesus, we are called to deny ourselves, (our sinful nature), pick up our cross and follow in the way of Jesus. The irony and the best part of denying ourselves is that the purest and most tangible wholeness comes from the letting go! It’s like a decision of the heart to drop the self-focused freedom we use and abuse and instead choose to be an apprentice of Jesus, is met by God’s power to transform the way that we think about our freedom. The wholeness is ushered in and the healing begins in the moment we stop clinging to ourselves and our rights and our privilege and simply allow the engineer of our souls to lead us down the path of life to the fullest. Here we find that real freedom is not doing whatever we want to do, but instead doing what we ought to do; what wewe ought to do is lock eyes with the one who ransomed us and let it change us from the inside out. The Bible says that He calls us by our name, and invites us into a deeper journey with Him.
Our “fallen” nature is essentially our deeply rooted HEART to push God out of our lives. It’s that simple, and we do it all the time even though as followers of Jesus we want to do God’s will in the world and in our own lives.
In Romans 7:15, 18-20, Paul has this to say about that conflict:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do; but what I hate I do.”
This is not a scriptural basis to absolve us from the responsibility of our own choices. However, it testifies to the internal conflict that is present since sin entered the world, and has been active within our bodies and minds at the very same time we want to do the will of God. But life in Christ is a life with power over those aspects of our hearts and minds that can hurt us and others.
The Fourth State of Man is death; glorified
“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”
“If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[a]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[b] bear the image of the heavenly man.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-49
Man in his Essence, is made in the image of God meaning that he is dualistic in that he is both flesh and spirit, and upon his death, he will be raised to life again because of the Holy Spirit within him. This is God’s view of man, and the wholeness of what it means to be a man or a woman who is made in His image and set apart by faith. This is also why there is such a huge dignity and honor in the sanctity of human life from the perspective of Christians and the Bible, because humans bear the stamp of the creator of the universe as the height of his creation and adoration.
What is the counter-argument to God’s view of Man?
The world’s view of man.
What does the world say about who man is?
“The non reality of the supernatural means on the human level, that men do not possess supernatural immortal souls.” Carl Sagan
The implication is that men are just material beasts, and have nothing beyond evolutionary cosmic particles who maintain no specific purpose for their existence. Man or life can’t have a purpose or meaning in order to stay consistent in the evolutionary biological stance where there are only cause and effect machines. No free will, no gods or purposive forces.
This is interesting stuff to think about when it comes to issues of free will,and the problem of evil and its origin, for example. If we are without free will, are we merely just responding to stimuli and that is our sad and sorry state? Did I just intend to say that by my own free will, or am I responding to stimuli to say that?
I would assert that the most pernicious lie existing today across the board in many of the major disciplines that directly effects every area of our lives is the lie that you and I are nothing more than cosmic accidents. This predominant view claims that there is no special human meaning and purpose, and that man is not a special product of creation.
What a low view of the human experience. It is for this reason almost above all others that I so deeply appreciate Christianity, because there is no other religion the world that puts SO much emphasis, dignity and honor on the human being.
However this is a perfect example above of when you remove God from the possibility of the reason for existence and for creation, men are left with their only source of truth which ends up being science while attempting to explain a philosophical question of Who Is man. The answers science delivers are insufficient explanations of such a philosophical-natured and truth-bound question.
The Biblical mandate is that man is to be the “gardener” of creation, and that man is to be the steward over all of creation. But if man is no different than the insect as far as our purpose or meaning is concerned, then that drastically changes our reason(s) for living and effects all that we do or do not do; and how much we care. The only practical option that makes sense then is to live for yourself, or you may as well end it because you have nothing to lose anyway. Frankly, that is how plenty of people live without proper bearings on their value and purpose in life. Frankly, I don’t blame them if there isn’t a clear reason to live beyond pleasing ourselves.
The Scopes Trial radically changed everything in America in regards to the overarching precedent set about how we culturally are choosing to view human life, our essence, and view of creation. Evolution, now, essentially implies that when it is all said and done that the purpose of man is to wiggle as far as he can until death takes him. I’m oversimplifying of course, but when the precepts are broken down that is the essence of the whole. Where the Bible claims that we as humans are made of both material and spirit, the world claims that we are straw men.
How can we turn away from or be so unaware of the reality of the consequences of that? Evil is everywhere! What else do we call rape, violence, oppression of nations, war, incest, molestation, pornography, addiction, pedophilia, and hate? If evil is not a part of human nature and we are merely evolutionary bi products, and because we ‘have no free will’ according to this view, then where does evil come from?
Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is a super intriguing attempt at offering a plausible response to the question of the purpose of life, without God. He claims that Self Actualization is the first objective of life. The goal is to follow your heart, and that life is essentially all about you; about esteem and self respect. He says, “Since this inner nature is good or neutral rather than bad, it is best to bring it out and to encourage it rather than to suppress is. If it is permitted to guide our life, we grow healthy, fruitful, and happy.”- Maslow.
This doesn’t sound half bad, right? It sounds really good, actually. It’s “feely” and soft. But what it doesn’t take into account is that if we essentially claim that we are good, and our instincts are good, and that moral restraint is a form of suppression, the question still begs then, “where does evil come from?”
If the whole world simply followed our own inner desires, the consequences of everyone self-actualizing are huge. Christianity is viewed as what stands in opposition to self-actualization because moral restraint is seen as an obstacle, meaning that essentially the one we follow (God) and His truths are the problem. Like, if I make you feel guilty about your inner desire, then I am in the way for you. I get totally understand how it can feel that way for lots of people, but it doesn’t necessarily make the position false on the other hand.
Whereas the Bible claims that the hearts of men are not trustworthy, that we need divine grace, and that our minds need regeneration as a result of the fall, the world claims self-oriented pursuits and claims ‘the self’ as the all in all. The whole world just wants to follow their hearts, but we do not hear the cries of others to God. What I mean by that is that is one man’s version of following their heart can have ravaging effects on another man’s life. The reality of the effect of others living in and through the desires of their heart is not always good. All you have to do is watch the news for 5 minutes before you see the REAL effect of what a man or woman who acted upon their hearts desires meant at the expense of another life. Our own self-actualization cannot be the standard for life or the purpose.
In the Genesis account of when Cain killed his brother Abel, God speaks to Cain saying “The blood of your brother cries out to me…” The idea is that although Cain acted upon his own will (which was rational in his eyes) and he pursued his own desires, his desires led him to kill his own brother. And God heard the cries of the blood from his brother whom he killed.
Outside of the feel-good sounds of self-pursuit, when left to our own standards and natures, people hurt people. That is a fact, and that is also why it’s really hard to claim that the whole point of life is self-actualization as a hierarchy of needs, because the consequences for humanity are disastrous.
Rousseau speaks to this question as well. He says that “man was born free but everywhere he is in chains.” He is referring to Christianity as the chains. To him and plenty of others, freedom is desirable so that we can do what we want to do and follow our inner desires. The artificialities of that in society is the concept that if man returns to his natural state that we would be inherently good. And to be our true self, means doing what you like. But what about if what someone ‘likes’ is hurting others? What’s the answer for evil, then?
Carl Rogers is an example of someone who does not find evil in the world inherent in human nature. He claims that there is no basis for calling anything good or evil because it just is. But what we know from experience is that sick people are made by sick people. Put otherwise, hurt people hurt people. And who makes up the culture? People do. This is a call for the world to give a proper explanation to the problem of evil outside of the Biblical explanation. There is something else that brings evil.
In a world that claims the survival of the fittest, shouldn’t evil have been selected out by now if it were not a condition of the heart or of human nature? Guys, in order to remain consistent in the philosophical and theoretical realms, this is how it would work out in the process of evolution. So why has it not happened yet? If we are all just products of the dog eat dog world, the mighty don’t care about the weak. The best explanations people can offer for evil (cut off from God), is that humans by nature are good and that mental health and happiness come through self actualization. That essentially leaves the social institutions responsible for the bad. The authority structures, or the oppressive authorities are the causes of evil in many people’s minds, and people want that destroyed. The problem with that is if institutions are the root of the problem, the consequence of that worldview is that it would require destroying people and the culture as the only viable options in order to combat the perceived cause of evil.
Is that really the best explanation we have?
What I see in all of this is a crisis of proper explanation for something that we experience in reality on a daily basis, and a poor attempt at explaining it when God is removed from the human story. Evil has a name in the Bible, and has a precise origin. We have a free will and humans use that free will to do anything that they want to- but that is not always a positive picture. Pain and suffering and heartbreak and addictions and all of the other pathologies are not simply to be blamed on institutions, because what then is the sample for those pathologies in history when the institutions were nonexistent.
People have been hurting people since the beginning of time, and that evil comes from within the desires of the heart. Only God and a humble look at ourselves can help us to see the failings and untrustworthiness of our own hearts- and our need for a savior God to give us power over those ugly areas of our lives. If we look within ourselves in order find ultimate fulfillment and meaning, and left to our own whims and nature, the consequences of life removed from God are disastrous upon society. We have removed God from our society, and from our personal lives, and we reap the consequences of this daily. The blood of our brothers and sisters cries out. Even if we don’t hear, or won’t hear, God does.