Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Does God Do Evil?

In yesterday's post I started talking about natural evil, or bad things (like disasters) that happen in the world through purely natural means. These events, like Hurricane Katrina, come about through non-conscious means; storms don't act maliciously or willfully. They just "are."

However, near the end of the post, I posed the question about God's involvement. This is a natural follow up since as a Christian I fully acknowledge that God is sovereign over nature. The Bible is quite clear that God is in control of His creation at all times.

Does this mean God is evil, therefore, since He causes hurricanes and tsunamis? Absolutely not. The Bible is equally clear that God is good. There is no sin in Him at all. Both the NT and the OT agree: God is good!

But how can we say and believe God is good if He brings about natural evil according to scripture? By noting the difference between natural evil and moral evil.

In light of this, it may be easier to look at these events as not evil, but rather as acts of judgement or of good. Counter-intuitive? Let's take these one at a time, in reverse order, to see what I mean.

First, natural evil may be in reality good. That is, what we perceive to be evil may benefit humankind much more than if the event had not occurred. This is difficult to swallow. We rarely see past the devestation of natural evil; when we do, even that perspective is usually limited to the point where we wonder whether the good outweighs the bad. Hurricane Katrina hits - we see millions giving of time and money, we see new buildings replacing old (or we will, soon), and we see changes in society that will help protect us "the next time." These are all good things that wouldn't have taken place had the hurricane not hit - but that is little solace to those who've lost everything they own even to their own lives. How, we ask, can the good outweigh the deaths and injuries? How can we believe it is better that Hurricane Katrina happened than had it not? Difficult, that. By faith is the only way I can do it. By believing that God is working all things for good, even those things that cause us pain. It doesn't make sense, but then again God's ways are on a completely different level from ours. The ultimate good is increased by events like hurricane Katrina, even though we don't see that from our perspective.

An example of this is found in John 9. A man, Jesus says, was blind from birth not due to sin but so that a greater good - the glory of God - may be revealed. The man was saved from a lifetime of suffering natural evil - would have have believed in Jesus had he been able to see all his life? From our perspective, blindness sucks. From Jesus' perspective, blindness allowed the greater good of one man's salvation to the glory of the Father. I think there's a man in Heaven right now very glad for the natural evil of his blindness.

Second, natural evil is used mercifully as judgment to bring us to a greater realization of our sins. This is a controversial statement, and I want to be clear that I am NOT saying that everyone who died in Hurricane Katrina, or the tsunami of last year, were killed by God as judgment for their sins. I don't see these things as specific judgments enforced by God for specific sins. I'm not saying New Orleans was devestated because of the sin in that city.

However, in a general sense, we should take a warning from Katrina. The earth is cursed because of our sin; natural disasters happen because our sin brought creation out of its good state and into a flawed state. God has used disasters to remind us that sin is unacceptable. We all deserve death, and it is by God's mercy that those of us who haven't died yet are still alive. Did the residents of New Orleans deserve death? Yes - but no more so than do I. Or you. They didn't deserve a hurricane and more than I did - but they didn't deserve the hurricane any less either. God is loving, and God is merciful - but God is just. Judging sin is good. Letting sin thrive without judgment is evil. Did God judge the U.S. with Katrina, or Indonesia with the tsunami? I don't know and I'm not going to claim that He did. But it is possible. Even if these were "acts of blindness" used to bring about a greater good, it would be foolish not to consider our sin against God's holiness.

This brings us to the issue of moral evil, with which I'll continue the series. Please, oh please let me know if you think I'm off-base here. Again, I'm thinking through things, and am very curious about your thoughts too.

God bless!

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