Thursday, October 06, 2011

Why did God allow evil?

Pastor John MacArthur speculates:

Now the question then comes up...why would God allow sin?  Come on now, I...I...I can only speculate.  There's no specific statement but I think you can make a fairly reasonable speculation beyond which I cannot go and don't find any value in tempting to go.  And it is this, what did sin...what did sin coming into the world bring about?  Well it brought about, I would say, three things.  And these are the three reasons why I believe God allowed evil.

Number one, it brought about the salvation of sinners, right?  God had to allow sin, God had to decree sin in the plan though never the author of it, in order that He might save sinners. 
Well why did God want to save sinners?  To put on display attributes that otherwise never would have been manifest, right?

How is God going to show grace if there aren't any sinners?  How is God going to show mercy if there aren't any sinners?  That was a part of God's nature that God wanted to display for His own glory throughout all eternity.  So God provided a means by which He could demonstrate grace, demonstrate mercy.  He also wanted to show love, love that is so far reaching that it can reach even His own enemies who hate Him. How is He going to show that if He doesn't have any enemies?

So God allows evil in order that He might demonstrate grace and mercy and forgiveness and salvation.  Secondly, He allows evil in order that He might display His order that He might put His wrath on display, His anger on display, His judgment on display.  How would God ever reveal that part of His true and eternal nature if there were not an opportunity to judge sinners?  And so, all you can do is look at redemptive history and you see the salvation of sinners and the damnation of sinners and that is what goes on and you see ultimately a place prepared for those who are damned and a place prepared for those who are saved and you must conclude then that the eternal purpose of God was to save some and judge some in order that He might demonstrate both His grace and His wrath.

And then I like to throw a third thought in there.  I believe that God allowed sin in order that He might forever destroy it.  As long as His creatures have any measure of freedom, as long as His creatures have intelligence, that is they can know and reason, that is they can process that knowledge toward behavior, and choice, that is they can choose what to do, as long as they have that capacity there is a potential for them to fall short of the standard.  Right?  To make the wrong choice.  Well it didn't take long for them to do it.  We don't know how long it was before Lucifer made the wrong choice before God.  We don't know how long it was even in the Garden before Adam and Eve made the wrong choice, but it was certainly before they had any children.  They had their children probably around the age of a hundred or a little more. 

So there is choice and the potential of a wrong choice is there.  A measure of freedom is given to the creatures by which they can choose to honor God, by which they can choose to dishonor.  As long as that is there, then the reality, the potential reality of evil exists when the wrong choice is made. And I believe that once the wrong choice is made, then God goes into action and one, He can demonstrate His grace and salvation; two, He can demonstrate His wrath in judgment; and three, He can then finally destroy evil.  It's almost as if God wanted evil to come to the surface so that He could excise it.  That's what's going to happen when the whole of redemptive history is complete, when all the saved are saved and all the lost are cast into the lake of fire, then death and hell are thrown into the lake of fire. What does that mean?  No more death and no more hell and no more judgment.  Why?  Because there won't be anymore sin.  And when you go to heaven, there's nothing there that smacks of a sinful world, right?   There's no more sorrow, no more sadness, no more sin, no more dying, no more death.

From his 2000 sermon - "The Origin of Evil"


Sara said...

God had to allow sin because he allowed for man's free will.

Isn't the rest just a by-product?

Isn't this kind of like saying, that a perfect Adam and Eve would only *know* God in an incomplete way?
Even though God walked with them in the garden, and sin was the disruption and ruination of that relationship?

What about heaven? Will we cease to learn more about God because there will be no sin there?

I think God is so sovereign He didn't need to allow sin to accomplish any of the things John MacArthur mentioned.

Allowing free will, is vastly different than the implication here that God needed sin to show something.

Matt and Carrie Proctor said...

I love to hear from you. Thanks for posting.
I think MacArthur is answering a different question than what "free will" allows for as an answer. Free will explains how sin entered the world or what allowed for sin's entrance. But MacArthur is asking for what good purpose (since everything God ordains is good, Romans 8:28) does evil's presence have?
To answer a 2nd question, I do think Adam and Eve would have known God in an "incomplete" way. I say this because no person knows God fully (1 Cor. 13:12 is often translated poorly on this issue; we will know Him as He is to be known, but not fully). Adam and Eve knew God truly. So too upon resurrection, we will know God truly (1 John 3:2). But one major joy in heaven is our ever-increasing comprehension of His glory; this would have been the same for Adam and Eve--to grow from sinless innocence into sinless maturity (but not divine fullness). So, I think MacArthur is onto something that we can now and forever contemplate the character of God even more fully because a God of wrath and grace has been on display (neither of which would have been displayed without evil in the world, for Adam, Eve, or us). I think this reasoning makes sense in light of 1 Peter 1:12, where the angels long to dwell on the Gospel. They will never understand God's grace as well as fallen man can.
In addition, I believe this is the best of all possible worlds. That is, I believe God's design (even with human sin) is perfect. Otherwise, I would be able to question if the God we have is truly God (that is, if another deity could have created a more perfect world, then it/he would be the true god). As such, I believe God needed (in the sense that God wants/needs, not in a fatalistic sense, to do right at all times) to ordain the world as we have it. He is not guilty of sin, but in His good plan it has been allowed.
And one final remark in light of your final remark: God does not "need" to do anything. But it is in His character and for our good that He chooses to reveal His glory. The arrival of sin, the atonement for sin, and the final eradication of sin display the Glory of God for His good and ours.
Don’t get me wrong; free will certainly applies (and some of his other work mentions free will with regard to the Fall), but MacArthur is trying to make a defense for a good, wise and powerful God allowing for (and knowing full well the outcome of) a fallen world.

These dialogs are sharpening endeavors (Pr. 27:17); I'm blessed by you. Be encouraged today toward love and good deeds for we serve a God of grace and justice!

Bless you sister,

Sara said...

Hmm...thanks for responding. I'm still not sure I can agree with ALL of that. Some of it.
I agree that God "allowed" sin, but not that he *wanted* it.

Can God redeem any and everything and make it glorious and show his divine mercy, love, and grace in the process? Sure. But that doesn't mean he wanted murder, rape, deception and all kinds of evil. That's a very discouraging thing to believe.

Doesn't it take something away from God to assume that He is somehow unable to show his redeeming, perfecting power, if the Fall hadn't happened?

Matt and Carrie Proctor said...

Good questions. I guess I don't see God ordaining something the same as "wanting." Willing to use it for His glory, yes. Wanting sin, as in taking pleasure in it, no. Similarly on the flipside, God does not want any to perish, and yet He does allow that some do not experience salvation.

One possible area of difference that I see is that I'm comfortable seeing the ideas of God allowing, ordaining, and willing as interconnected/interchangeable concepts. Willing/allowing/ordaining does not equal wanting, but they do show that God is not surprised or caught off guard by the decisions of others. It's all part of His plan before the foundation of the earth, Ephesians 1.

But I think this is why there will be differences of opinion, because understanding God's mysterious, unfolding plan is always difficult. Each of us are trying to tie various verses and aspects of God's character together to answer deep, profound questions. This is not an excuse to not ask the questions and think deeply. We need to love God with our mind and have an answer for those who ask, but I'm glad as siblings in Christ we can rest in the One who does have the answers.

Feel free to post more, but I probably won't get to it in a few days; I'm signing off for the weekend as much as possible.

Enjoy your weekend.