Why does God allow sin and suffering?

by jimmyakin

in Apologetics, Philosophy

Why does God allow evil to exist? Why is there sin and suffering in the world? And, what's love got to do with it?

The most perplexing problem in apologetics is the problem of evil: Why would an all-good, all-powerful God allow evil to exist?

There is a real mystery here, and we can only give partial answers.

Here are some of mine . . .


Two Kinds of Evil

We need to recognize that there is more than one kind of evil.

When we use the word “evil,” we often mean moral evil (sin), but historically it was frequently used for other things, such as suffering.

These two forms of evil are linked: It is a sin to cause needless suffering, for example.

This brings us to an important question . . .


Could God Stop These Evils?

Yes. God is omnipotent. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

Without his action, the universe would never have come into existence, and without his continued action, it would cease to exist or go “to nothing” (Latin, ad nihilum–where we get “annihilate”).

God could have prevented all sin and suffering by not creating the universe.

And he could end all sin and suffering simply by allowing the universe to cease to exist.

You might call this “the Annihilation Solution.”

So what doesn’t he?


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{ 1 comment }

Mark30339 January 15, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Fortunately for us in the 21st century A.D., this question of evil and suffering comes to us with important context.  For example the Book of Job acknowledges the apparent unfairness and leaves us with a man who stays in relationship with his Creator while bearing the tension of this question for which a satisfactory answer is refused.  The scripture displays how we crave the satisfaction of knowing, and how God prefers for us to carry on without knowing.  Similarly in chapter 6 of John, most of Jesus’s followers disperse after the discourse on eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  The twelve choose to stay in relationship with Jesus and carry the tension of not having any satisfactory understanding of what was proclaimed.
Of course the greatest context is the Son of God being condemned, tortured and killed by civil authorities — with Jesus calling for them to be forgiven.  By human standards, how can we respect a Creator God who would abandon his beloved Son to such a tragic death?  But in this monumental suffering and death, Jesus absorbs the full extent of human wickedness and miraculously transforms it into resurrected life.    
We have only anecdotal notions on how tenderly God embraces us on the other side of death, but for the people who were returned to this existence, they seem convinced of the Creator’s abiding love and seem ready for the suffering endured and yet to be endured (see the Biography Channel’s many episodes of I Survived Beyond and Back, for example).  It is not correct to assume that the victims of evil and suffering are somehow mistreated by God.
It seems to me that the opportunities we have in this life to experience the absence of love and the existence of evil matures us from being emotional infants constantly dependent on receiving love; it gives us perspective on how powerful our capacity for giving love is.  If we take Jesus’s example (after all, he instructs us to FOLLOW him), then the accumulated evils of the world are healed in our absorbing them, one after another. If and when suffering is visited upon us, we can use it to aid the redemption of the world, and pray for it to transform us into the Body of Christ.

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