Why does evil exist?

Why does evil exist?

No other questions in history have generated more debate, anger, curiosity, and confusion than the questions, “Why does evil exist?” and “Why doesn’t God stop evil?” That’s why so many varying opinions exist.

Some think God created evil, so He is to blame.  But evil is not a substance, it is merely the absence of good, just like darkness is the absence of light.  Others believe that God doesn’t even exist; or if He does exist, He is powerless—somehow handcuffed—to halt the parade of evil in our world.

How does God respond in His number one best selling autobiography, the Bible?

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:9-10

Our God, who is the altogether sovereign and powerful ruler of the universe, does whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases, however he pleases, for his greatest glory.

So why doesn’t God stop evil?

Paul E. Little, who spoke at more than 180 college campuses throughout America, Europe, and Latin America, wrote this:

“If God were to stamp out evil today, He would do a complete job… His action would be complete and would have to include our lies and personal impurities, our lack of love, and our failure to do good. Suppose God were to decree that at midnight tonight all evil would be removed from the universe—who of us would still be here after midnight?” [1]

We should be exceedingly grateful that God doesn’t stamp out all evil in our world.  If we could see life from a divine perspective we would better understand just how much our sins of pride, selfishness, hate, and deceit pain our Creator’s heart.  We’d also better understand that the evil in our world originates in our hearts, thereby removing any blame from God.

A big clue as to why God permits evil is found in God’s Word.  Pharaoh, one of the most evil characters described in the Bible, was used to showcase the Almighty’s justice and power.  God says regarding Pharaoh:

“I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

If there was no evil in the world, it would be a great world all right, but it wouldn’t be the best world from God’s perspective.   Because evil exists, God can display to a much greater degree all of His perfections, including His amazing grace, His awe-inspiring love, His mind-boggling mercy, His meticulous justice, His matchless wisdom, and His phenomenal power.

In the end, it’s all about God.

The reason why the question of evil remains such a stumbling block to most of the world is because most of God’s creation cannot remove themselves from the center of the universe to allow the King of Kings to take his rightful position on the throne as the altogether sovereign ruler of mankind.  Only by surrendering one’s life to God, repenting of one’s sins, and accepting by faith Christ’s death on the cross as payment for those sins, can a person have eternal life in heaven and begin to understand God on the tough questions of life.

[1] Little, Paul E., Know Why You Believe (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, 1967), 74.

10 comments have been left.

  • bsbs left comment on December 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

    BSBS Response: Joe, Bible is a diverse collection of writings from about 40 main contributors—30 in the Old Testament and 10 in the New Testament. Some books are actually collections of writings from several authors, not just one. For example, while many people think of David when they think of the book of Psalms, there are individual psalms attributed to Moses, Asaph, a man named Ethan, and the sons of Korah. All these books were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    The principle that most people cannot comprehend is that the Bible and God are inseparable. At the very beginning of the Gospel of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-3

    If you are interested in understanding how the Bible came to be and more explicitly about how it was ‘authored by God’ I encourage you to read A Book to Die For by William McRae. It is a short and fascinating read.

  • Joe McBloggs left comment on November 15, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Just a little question. Since when was the Bible written by God? I mean, really? ‘Autobiography’?

  • Alex left comment on March 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    In summary: “We should be exceedingly grateful that God doesn’t stamp out all evil in our world.”

    Tell that to terminally ill children, the malnourished, the disabled and anyone else who’s not on your privileged pedestal.

    BSBS response:
    1. Why is it that there are terminally ill children? Who messed up paradise? Man or God?
    2. Why are there malnourished children? You could feed them – so could lots of other people. Why blame God when you have it in your power to change things?
    3. We have disabled children for the same reasons we have terminally ill children. What are you doing to help them? Society’s way of dealing with the problem is to abort them or euthanize them. 90% of Down Syndrome children are killed in the womb. And, yes, God is very angry about this.

    It is man (everyone) who causes evil [degree is irrelevant]. If God were to stamp out all the evil in the world there would not be a single human left. But God has provided a ‘fix’.

  • Randy left comment on December 4, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    What is Evil (Part 1)

    Evil, where did it come from? Why is it in the world? This question is often directed at the Christian, but it should really be thrown upon the world. It is a difficult question to answer and seldom is it answered correctly. Dr. Tackett examines this question in Focus on the Family’s Truth Project No. 3). Responses that he received from people for the question “what is evil” included: “a bad feeling”; “evil is creepy”; “doing something bad and feeling good about it”; “what causes harm”; “what is morally wrong”; “a hungry child, not the child but why he is hungry”; “those who make fun of good”; “mass killings”; “men like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein”; “what is not seen as good by other people”; “people who sin”; “doing that which is natural to our nature”; and finally “Satan’s way which is the wrong way.” These are all interesting answers to a difficult question. Most everyone acknowledges that evil exists. The devil is very smart for he has made that which is evil very exciting. Some say it is necessary. Its ultimate origin is puzzling. The Christian has been given the answer to “why there is evil,” but the more fundamental question is, “Why is there evil at all?”

    Who is Man? – To help answer the question, “Why is there evil at all,” Dr. Tackett looks to anthropology to first answer the question, “Who is man?” The next question that follows is, “Who is God?” From this we can understand our world view and the world view of everyone else. Remember the quote from Carl Sagan, “the cosmos is all there is, or was or ever will be.” This is his world view, and therefore everything must be answered within his cosmic cube world view idea. In Sagan’s view, there is no room for God or anything spiritual and does not address the battle that rages on within us. Sagan’s world view is very limited what we clearly know exists. Who is man with this moral conscience who hungers for relationships, yet is capable of unspeakable evil? Of all knowledge that we can obtain, the knowledge of ourselves and of God are the most important. Galatians 5:16-17 summarizes the cosmic battle within man:

    16 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”(Gal. 5:16-17)

    The sinful nature and the Spirit within man are the two things identified here that are in conflict with each other. The sinful nature exists so that you do not do what you want. You desire to do good, but your sinful nature prevents you from doing it. Your battle is not with those around you, but is the struggle within yourself and with the spiritual forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Do you believe this? Ask yourself, “Do you do what you do not want to do? At best, you must answer at least, “sometimes” with the rest answering more times than I care to remember. Verse 17 above confirms, “You do not do what you want,” or said another way, “You do not do what the Spirit wants.” Ask yourself, “What do you do most of the time?” The answer, “What you want to do.” Paul stated, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Rom. 7:21).

    If you are either for God or against Him, you are either following the Spirit or following your own way (Phil. 3:2). If the Bible is reality and defines what is true (Ps. 51:6; 86:11), then we understand the conflict within us. It is a battle that goes on between truth and lies. The truth is reality and the lie is an illusion.
    Man’s Moral State – So what is the real essence of man? What is man’s moral state and his need? The states or modes of man are real, sort of like the different modes of a computer – active, standby or off. There are three states that we can identify clearly: (1) state of innocence; (2) fallen state; and (3) redeemed state.

    1. State of Innocence – God created man in His image, in a state of innocence. God also gave man a woman and they were united as one. This first union was a sacred institution. God’s only instruction was to be fruitful and multiply, and not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17).

    2. Fallen State – when man did not follow God’s instruction, his soul was quickened as he fell from grace and entered into spiritual death through disobedience. He was no longer innocent. Satan’s statement to Eve became fulfilled that if she ate of the fruit, her eyes would be opened and she would know good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). Though disobedience sin entered the world and man transferred into a different self-serving mode referred to as the fallen state: …”sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
    The fallen state had become so predominant during Noah’s time: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).
    Man in his fallen state could not go back in time, and as a result all future generations would be born into original sin. How many times have we done something we wish we could take back? Man was now changed permanently, and not for the better for he now carried with him the sinful nature. But, despite his fallen state he still bore the image of God. However, the consequences of mans fallen nature included descriptions such as: wicked, evil , dead, blind, deaf, lost, rebellious, without hope, haters of God, desperately wicked, children of the devil.
    Regarding human nature Charles Spurgeon once said, “You cannot slander human nature, it is worse than you can paint it.” The point is that man was ejected from the Garden of Eden and a close relationship from God as a result of his sinful nature. Without restoration he is now destined to eternal torment in hell. To believe anything else is to be deceived just as Adam and Eve were (2 Cor. 11:3). Ultimately, your name must be in the Book of life to enter the kingdom:
    “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

    Remember, eternal life is a free gift that is your choice as to where you will spend it. You can blame no one else for your choice, or lack thereof: “… man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebr. 9:27). This is directly in contradiction to returning again and again until you get it right.

    3. Redeemed State – the third state of man is the redeemed state. Beyond the fallen state there are only two things that can occur: death and transformation from the fallen state to the redeemed state. The ancient meaning of the word comes from the thought of preserving property (Lev. 25:25-26; Ruth 4:4). When property was lost, it was the responsibility of the closest of kin to buy the property back to keep it in the family. The word “redemption” came into existence as a result and meant a sense of deliverance. God is the Redeemer of Israel in the sense He is the Deliverer of Israel (Deut. 9:26; 2 Sam. 7:23; Is. 52:3). He delivered them from Egypt to the land during the Exodus; He protected them in their land, and brought it back to their land in 1948.

    The full revelation of this transformation to a redeemed state was ultimately made available through the blood sacrifice of God’s Son. The debt for our sins was purchased and paid in full at Calvary:

    “…with Your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9).

    The new man in the redeemed state would be referred to as: saint, priest, children of God, sons of God, beloved, those wearing white robes and those born from above. This is an incredible contrast to fallen man. What a glorious contrast to the old man (2 Cor. 5:17). To those who are redeemed God places his seal and His Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17). This does not say that you always do what you do not want; it means there is a great conflict within, bearing the make or Adam.
    Application: So what does this mean to you? Is it obvious that there is good and evil in this world? You do know what you are capable of, and therefore understand you nature or mode, and the need to be transformed. Are you ready to hang your hat on the opinion that you have done enough good deeds, more than many others, and therefore are deserving of entrance to heaven having access to God for all eternity? Is that all that transformation is? Do you have any idea who God is and how great He is? Do you believe you need Him?

    Prayer: Father, help us to be transformed by the “renewing of our mind” that we would know the things of God and your plan for us. We realize how often we have been taken captive and how many times we have fallen short. We look around and see unspeakable evils and also know what we are capable of. May you fill us with compassion for one another and that we would not turn our ear away from you. Give us strength to believe the things we do not understand, and to lift up the name of Jesus this Christmas season. Amen

  • Richard Potts left comment on May 12, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    “If there was no evil in the world, it would be a great world all right, but it wouldn’t be the best world from God’s perspective. Because evil exists, God can display to a much greater degree all of His perfections, including His amazing grace, His awe-inspiring love, His mind-boggling mercy, His meticulous justice, His matchless wisdom, and His phenomenal power.

    In the end, it’s all about God.”

    This behaviour is bafflingly selfish and has made it impossible for me to give myself over to God. Existence is suffering, but God refuses to end it because he likes our sycophantic boot-licking? I would gladly be smeared out of reality if it would confer a complete elimination of all evil in the universe. Anyone who says otherwise is a cowardly fool.

    BSBS Comment: Bus Stop Bible Studies is NOT inferring that God created evil, nor that He has not dealt with evil. Prophetically speaking, God has ended evil but, as the apostle Peter proclaimed, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God is certainly not desirous of “sycophantic boot-licking”; in fact God, in the person of Jesus Christ, was the one who did the foot-washing! God does not ‘need’ evil to display his amazing grace and mercy, rather, it is all the more evident because He does not treat us as our sins (evil ways) deserve. Complete elimination of evil would require that all of humankind, as you say, “be smeared out of reality”.

    Jesus said, “God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whom ever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. If this is not the antithesis of selfishness – what is? Surely, a God that loves YOU this much is worthy of your love and devotion in return.

  • iwonder left comment on May 11, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I’m not trying to upset anyone just taking a different approach at the topic

    I honestly love to think there is a God and a nice place to go after I die with everyone waiting for me but I haven’t seen no godlike actions either God is heartless and doesn’t care about anyone or he doesn’t exist..They way I see it is someone made up religions to control crowds of people and benefit from it at the same time churches make a lot of money…

    I don’t think god has anything to do with evil. a logical answer for evil and why people do the things they do is government..they got us working all day to pay them more money, and you get those people that are in hard times and have to do evil to do good for them and there loved ones is that really that evil? If your kids had no place to live, no food, nothing I’m sure you would reach a point where you say enough is enough and do something “evil”. I’m sure if we didn’t have governments that were consumed by greed and looking out for themselves we would be just fine. We the people have raised what like 1-billion dollars just for Haiti alone and I’m sure we have raised way more for cancer and other disease and yes I’m 100% positive we have a cure for cancer but cancer makes money so if they cure it they lose a big chunk of money. Speaking of Haiti did it ever cross someones mind that it could have been man made? Nikola Tesla made a earthquake machine sometime in the 1800s that was along time ago you cant even imagine what they have now…We have already seen government blow up there own buildings what do you think is next..to me when the people that you think are protecting you are a threat, thats true evil… If we stopped being puppets and took control of are own lives and put the real evil people in there place then evil might no longer exist, but that wont happen cause to many people see them as good people…. everyone who took the time to read my opinion very sloppy and all over the place but then again I’m no professional writer as you can tell just a man speaking his thoughts. And if you want to get more info on reality and whats really going on around you I suggest you watch Zeitgeist and If you enjoy life the way it is right now DO NOT watch Zeitgeist. Thank yea for your time =D

    -Government tells people what to do I wonder who is telling the government what to do =S

    BSBS Comment: Be cautious about buying into too many conspiracy theories. In Canada we live in a supposedly democratic society but, because many of us to not take our personal responsibilities seriously [e.g. voting, running for elected office, etc.], we will have no one to blame but ourselves when our democratic freedoms are lost.

    If you for one minute think that the Haitian earthquake was man-made we strongly urge you to go for a visit and see for yourself.

    You suggest that, “If we stopped being puppets and took control of are own lives and put the real evil people in there place then evil might no longer exist.” The problem with this statement is that you are putting evil on a sliding scale – who, apart from God, has the moral authority to judge who is or isn’t evil? In fact the Bible teaches us that no one is without sin so counting on our own abilities to ‘do good’ doesn’t sound like a very good idea.

    In answer to your first comment, yes, there “is a God and a nice place to go after I die…” The question you need to ask is, “Will God accept me or reject me?” Do not seek ‘organized religion’ – seek God.

  • Joe Norris Bigliogo left comment on April 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve noticed this banner posted on TTC buses in T.O. It seems Christian groups have taken the bold step in selling their belief system publicly (via the TTC). Normally I would regard any such action as provocative and unproductive, but if Christian groups can do it then it now justifies atheist organizations to do likewise to counter the Christian action and to level the playing field so to speak.

    I don’t believe the BSBS are actually interested in the question at hand. The sole purpose of such ads are to bring more sheep into the flock—just like missionary work. It’s not unlike the sales pitch of the popular Alpha courses with it’s initial posing of philosophical questions but with a final agenda of Christian indoctrination.

    Well, you have your work cut out for you. So much of modern, evolving civilization (particularly our youth) is no longer buying into biblical doctrines drawn from the bucket of bronze age ignorance. The 21st century information age has generated massive exposure to a diverse variety of cross-cultural ideas and ideologies. Christianity no longer shelters and dominates the populations as it once did. Added to this a new found respect for science, reason and critical thinking, our youth are rejecting religious dogma at an unprecedented rate. The growing popularity of atheist books and organizations that expose the chinks in Christianity’s tarnishing armour testify to this.

    My personal experience with Christianity was having it force fed down my throat as a youth. Were it not for my propensity for independent thinking and reverence for science and reason, I might have fallen prey to the Christian dogma. Even as a child something about it did not smell right to me factually, philosophically and morally. Today I see more and more kids like myself except they now (boldly and thoughtfully) proclaim their atheism or agnosticism. If this trend continues, I foresee an eventual decline and final evisceration of Christianity and religion in general.

    The day this happens, I for one, will be celebrating—it will be the dawning of a new age of enlightenment and the triumph of reason and critical thinking over faith and superstition.

    BSBS Comment: Joe, thank your for taking the time to articulate your views. It is surprising that you seem unaware of the Atheist Bus Campaign (which Bus Stop Bible Studies publicly supported from the viewpoint of freedom of speech and public dialogue) which hit the headlines last year.

    Do we care about the question, “Why does evil exist?” Absolutely! It is only through research and reasoned argument that one’s faith is emotionally, intellectually and experientially sound. The same philosophy applies to all the questions asked on this site.

    ‘Indoctrination’ is to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view. To say this about Bus Stop Bible Studies couldn’t be further from the truth. From personal experience we know that God exists and that He is knowable; ‘critical thinking’, on your or anyone else’s part, in no way changes this fact. That is why we challenge people to investigate and pursue a personal relationship with God. We happen to acknowledge that this is only possible through the person of Jesus, as we have each discovered through personal experience.

    As to the ‘eventual decline and final evisceration of Christianity and religion in general’ you are partially correct. In fact the Bible clearly prophesies concerning this matter. Carefeully consider what it says.

  • Jerry left comment on April 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Hi Jenny,
    You said, “trust that if there is a God, and that God is good, then He will show His purpose and all this evil and consequential suffering won’t be for nought.” Are you asking us to accept that God is using all the suffering victims have experienced as a MEANS to some END (whatever the end may be)? Does that mean, the only difference between a good God and an evil God is what they do in the afterlife?

    You said, “God is perfectly holy which means that no sin, even the one who stole a pencil, cannot come into His presence.. God’s love for you was displayed on the cross of Calvary when God, in human form, bore your sin and my sin (in fact the sin of all mankind)”. According to the gospels, Sin HAS come into God’s presence on earth through Jesus – not only through his sacrifice on Calvary, but also throughout his 30+ years of interacting with human beings. So, if God was able to tolerate sin through the life of Jesus, why is He seemingly unwilling to do so now?

    You said, “God does not, and because of His absolute holiness cannot, have a sliding scale like we do when it comes to judging sin. So, if God were to intervene today, who would be left standing? It is His hand of grace that He does not intervene as we sometime wish He would.” All I’m asking is that God put a protective barrier (supernatural or natural) around would-be victims so that they are free from being hurt by others’ evil acts. I’m not talking about God making any judgments here. God assuming “the righteous punishment of ‘the criminal’ on our behalf!” is not the subject matter I’m addressing. The truly important issue that needs a compassionate response is the suffering God didn’t protect criminals’ victims from.

  • Jenny left comment on April 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Um. “the evil in our world originates in our hearts”- Where does Satan fit in all this? Do we just pretend he’s nonexistent just to satisfy your shallow argument?

    You know, it is ok to say, “I don’t know.”

    Why doesn’t God get rid of evil? I don’t know. I can’t presume to know what God intends for every facet of our existence in this world. But trust that if there is a God, and that God is good, then He will show His purpose and all this evil and consequential suffering won’t be for nought.

    BSBS Comment: You raise a good point and this subject may be worthy of its own page. Satan certainly does exist but we cannot blame him for the evil that originates in our own hearts – especially that of the believer. Satan is the fallen angel, cast out of Heaven for his pride, and his primary focus seems to be to attack the Kingdom of God by tempting, attacking and discouraging active followers of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

  • Jerry left comment on April 6, 2010 at 10:14 am

    “We’d also better understand that the evil in our world originates in our hearts, thereby removing any blame from God.”

    I understand the value of having a battle of evil and good in our hearts (or minds). It gives us the opportunity to decide which one we’d prefer to act on. But why would a good God let another be a victim of our bad choices?

    As a society, we make every effort to protect our citizens through law enforcement, but it’s not enough. We could use some supernatural help. If God protected people from becoming victims, who would he be hurting? It certainly wouldn’t be the criminals’ freewill, because our society already made the benevolent choice to limit itself in this protective manner.

    So many victims of horrible suffering could ask you, “Where was God? Is His love just a proclamation, and not an action?”

    BSBS Comment: You have highlighted one of the most profound questions that have ever been asked about God. The simple, but seemingly inadequate, answer is that God has determined that the penalty for sin is death. God is perfectly holy which means that no sin, even the one who stole a pencil, cannot come into His presence. God does not, and because of His absolute holiness cannot, have a sliding scale like we do when it comes to judging sin. So, if God were to intervene today, who would be left standing? It is His hand of grace that He does not intervene as we sometime wish He would.

    You ask, “Where was God? Is His love just a proclamation, and not an action?” God’s love for you was displayed on the cross of Calvary when God, in human form, bore your sin and my sin (in fact the sin of all mankind) so that our sin could be atoned for. God assumed the righteous punishment of ‘the criminal’ on our behalf!

    See also http://www.busstopbiblestudies.com/find/searching.php

View RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave your comments

* Fields marked with an asterisk are required.
Note: Comments will be moderated first before posting.