What Is This World Coming To?
Why God Permits Evil
Justifiably, the question arises as to why God has permitted man to suffer for thousands of years, and then, only when Christ returns and establishes his Kingdom is all changed. The question of suffering and evil has always been an enigma to man. Philosophers, of all times and ages, have pondered the question to no avail. But the Scriptures provide a logic to this question which leaves one in awe.
Webster defines evil as "that which produces unhappiness; anything which either directly or remotely causes suffering of any kind."
God desires mankind to live in peace, harmony and happiness. He knows this will only happen as each practices the principles of righteousness and love. Otherwise evil will result with its consequences of suffering and unhappiness. Here we are faced with what can be referred to as the "dilemma of God"-the planetary systems move in mechanical obedience; the animal creation is driven mainly by instinct; but God desired the human race to have a free will and to " worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). God could have programmed the ideal man and utopia would have been inevitable but man would be no better than a robot, nor would he be happy. Further, it is impossible to worship only "in truth," that is, to obey truth and righteousness for what you can get out of it without having the "spirit" or appreciation of righteousness.
Out of sheer appreciation of the principles of righteousness-worshipping in spirit-God desired man to live in harmony with both his Creator and fellow man. God knows it is only as man is fully motivated by the principles of righteousness, that he can really attain happiness for himself and be in that attitude of cheerful concern for the happiness of his fellows.
The problems of free will have a built-in dilemma. Man can rebel against his Creator. The Lord was willing to bestow free will fully cognizant that it would cost Him dearly before man became fully responsible to this freedom. And what an awesome power! Man can stand in stiff-necked rebellion against his Creator. He can refuse to submit to His authority. He can refuse to accept His favor. He can choose to avert the mercy of God and adamantly stand upon his decision against God. For by free will, man is man, created in the image of God and neither an animal nor a machine.
Put yourself in God's place to appreciate this dilemma. A parent will tell his baby not to touch the stove because it is hot. But, what does a baby know about being burned? The anxious parent knows the inevitability of the baby touching the stove before learning the consequence of heat. A wise parent will create a controlled experience with heat-lightly and quickly touching the child's hand where the heat is not too severe. And all through life parents will admonish their children, knowing that they will only learn certain lessons the "hard way"-by experience.
As our Father, God knew man would not comprehend His warning about sin, disobedience and its dire consequences. So He formulated a plan whereby man, by his own choice, might first experience evil and then righteousness (in God's kingdom). This contrasting experience will manifest, as no other process could, the beauty and righteousness of God's law and the dire consequence of its violation.
The process of recovery from sin is called redemption in the Bible. Redemption simply means the release from sin and death through the payment of a price. The thought is similar to the release of a person from prison when a benefactor pays the fine the prisoner couldn't afford. This release through the death of Jesus is generally considered as an afterthought of God to salvage some of the human race. But the depth of God's wisdom is shown in the foresight of God to devise a plan that provides for man's free choice and experience with evil, redemption through Christ and ultimate eternal happiness. Thus Isaiah 46:9-10 speaks of God knowing and declaring the end from the beginning.
Eden: Actual History
The third chapter of Genesis is the divinely provided history of man's free will choice. God instructed man that if he practiced righteousness, he would live forever. If he disobeyed, then "dying he would die." Death would be a process of sorrow and suffering culminating with the grave. Note well that death, not eternal torment, is the penalty for sin (Genesis 2:17; Psalms 146:4). Like the child and heat, man did not know what suffering and death were. He disobeyed. God is now giving man a controlled experience with evil. Thus we read in Ecclesiastes 1:13 and 3:10, "This sore travail has God given to man to be exercised therewith." Man's travail with evil is for a purpose, that he might be exercised or taught certain lessons by it.
Some will say, "Don't tell me you still believe in original sin! Just because Adam and Eve were disobedient, the whole human race are sinners?" In I Timothy 2:13,14; I Corinthians 15:21,22; Romans 5:14; and John 8:44, both Jesus and the apostles refer to this event in Eden as a real time-space situation. What better proof can we have that the Genesis account of Eden was actual history? Unfortunately, the logic of this concept has been obscured by Dark Age superstitions that have been attached to it, such as "hell fire," with a vindictive God who must be placated. Modern man is rightly repelled by the superstitions contained in some church theology, but these superstitions are not taught in the Bible. Shorn of Dark Age theology, there is no better explanation of man's miserable plight than the Scriptural teaching of original sin.
Another Look at Sin
Not too long ago, sin was treated lightly. It was called "ignorance," only a growing pain of the human race. Give man a bit more education, let him become a little more civilized and he will evolve out of his sin, leaving evil behind him. But now we are not so sure. The heinous events of World War II (12 million murders, leveled cities, gas chambers), followed by the continuing senseless acceleration of war, crime and violence (old people killed for kicks, 70-year-old women molested) and other immoralities have forced man to take a second look at the problem of evil.
A fresh look at sin is pointedly reflected in the words of Dr. Cyril E. M. Joad, who was a noted Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of London, and listed by the editor of The American Weekly as one of the world's great scientists. load said:
As Dr. Joad, society is taking another look at evil. It can no longer be considered a growing pain. It is too deadly a disease to be explained away by environment.
Speaking collectively of the human race, the Psalmist said, "In sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalms 51:5) The Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12 says, "By one man sin entered the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Since father Adam sinned, justice required that he die. Before he died, Adam had children who were born in sin; they inherited Adam's imperfections. Thus, the whole human race is born dying. This is how it is learning the consequences of evil. But the permission of evil is a brief controlled experience when compared with eternity. And what are some of the grim lessons? God permits evil to demonstrate that man without God results in:
God permits evil to prove that man without God can only result in man's inhumanity to man. What is this world coming to? An understanding of what results when man is separated from God.
The Problem of Communication
In our era of permissiveness, the justice of God seems to be an offense to the rationalist. But perhaps the problem is one of communication, which can be shown in the simple illustration of an argument. All of us at sometime have been engaged in an argument in which we really never objectively listened to the other party. We were too busy thinking up our answers to hear their logic. The rationalist is carrying on a debate with God. If he would only stop and listen to what God has explained in the historic account of Eden (Genesis 3), he would catch a glimpse of the wisdom and justice of God that becomes man's guarantee of an eternity of happiness.
Is God's Justice Severe?
Some question the severity of God's justice in the death penalty. Could not some other penalty than death have been a just recompense for Adam's disobedience? No doubt some other penalty would have been just; however, God chose this penalty because it best suited His overall plan for mankind. Once Adam was informed that death was the penalty for disobedience, then the penalty was fair.
A basic fact to always remember is that God in His foreknowledge knew that Adam would disobey, therefore, long before the creation of Adam, God's wisdom devised a plan of recovery and ultimate happiness for the human race that would require the death of His only begotten Son. Thus I Peter 1:19-20 and Ephesians 1:4-7 speak of the blood of Christ as foreordained before the world began for the redemption of mankind. The Creator used the time-space situation in Eden to demonstrate the dependability of His justice. It is vital that man knows that "justice and judgment [just decisions] are the habitation of your [God's] throne"-Psalms 89:14. Justice is the foundation of the government of the universe, the basis of all God's dealings. Judgment is also spoken of as part of this foundation. The Hebrew here means "a just decision." We can take comfort in the realization that throughout eternity all of God's decisions will be just.
Man was placed in the Edenic paradise to thoroughly enjoy the love of God. Suppose that after Adam and Eve had lived obediently for a while, God changed His mind and chased them out of the garden condition into the thorns and thistles of the unfinished earth. His love would be worthless, whimsical, because it was not based on justice. It would be changeable.
Another hypothetical situation: If when Adam disobeyed, God said, "Oh, I will overlook your disobedience this time, I will not punish you as I promised to do." Adam might say, "Wonderful! I am surely glad God is more loving than just."
Wonderful? No! This would be whimsical, capricious, arbitrary. The Creator and Ruler of the whole universe could never be trusted throughout eternity, At any time, in any place, with any order of intelligent creatures, God might at the slightest whim change His mind and turn on His creatures. Eden proved the unchangeableness of God's justice. Thus God declares in Malachi 3:6, "I am Jehovah, I change not." And James 1:17 states, "The Father of lights in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
How unchangeable is God's justice? So unyeilding that God's court of justice required the payment of the costliest fine ever stipulated in a court of law. What judge has been willing to give up his own innocent son to death in order to cancel the debt of crime of the defendant?
Another Problem of Communication
Our Creator wants us to know the depths of His love, that He is the most loving Being in the universe. But how can God communicate this to our finite minds? In human relationships words of love can be quite meaningless. Actions speak louder than words. And how did God show His love? With tender Fatherly emotions of sorrow, God took the dearest treasure of His heart, His only Begotten Son, and sent Him to earth to suffer and die at the hands of man. At great cost to Himself the wisdom of God formulated a plan which reveals that He is both just (unyielding justice) and the justifier (benefactor) of mankind. Romans 3:25-26.
The simple events of Eden and Calvary tell so much about our God. Calvary is the greatest manifestation of love and mercy in the history of the universe. The combination of Eden and Calvary stand as a pledge throughout eternity that there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning in God's justice.
The world is, therefore, by experience coming to an understanding of God's ways.