In the second episode of this three-part series, pastors Derek and Cliff examine what Scripture says about the problem of evil.
Derek: Welcome to With All Wisdom, where we are applying biblical truth to everyday life. My name is Derek Brown and I am here today with Cliff McManis. We are both pastors and elders at Creekside Bible Church in Cupertino, California. And we also have the privilege to serve as professors of theology at the Cornerstone Bible College and Seminary in Vallejo, California. And today we are working on part two of our series on the Problem of Evil. So we would encourage you to go back into listen to part one, and you can do that at WithAllWisdom.org. And you can find our podcasts archive there. But you can also find all kinds of articles on various topics, social issues, theological issues, personal issues. We try to provide a variety of articles and resources there for you in your walk with the Lord. And we seek to root them all in Scripture, because we believe Scripture is sufficient for living a life that is pleasing to God. And it’s where we’re going to find the wisdom we need to walk with the Lord and to grow and to answer all the various problems and issues that are facing us today. So we encourage you to check out WithAllWisdom.org.
In part one of our discussion on this problem of evil, we stated the problem and then we talked about some proposed solutions to the problem. And we landed on some solutions that fall within the Christian tradition and we labeled that the “free will defense,” where the will is conceived of a part in a particular way. And we talked about why it was that God preserved our freedom in the view of the free will defense and why he did that and how evil came about out of that desire to protect man’s free will. And so now, we’re going to actually answer some of those proposals and hopefully give a more biblically robust and biblically accurate answer to this problem of evil.
First, we need to say that evil cannot be defined apart from a perfect creator and law giver. So just to back up a little bit to talk about the atheistic worldview: evil, if you hold an atheist to consistency at this point, is not a problem because evil, as the opposite of good, [is something that you can’t] ground or define because there’s no God in existence who creates a problem of evil. See, in the Christian worldview, we can ground evil because we know that there is a God who is the standard of all that is good. And any deviation from that standard from God—from his very nature—is evil. But if you’re an atheist, there’s no transcendent way to define or ground evil because you don’t have a transcendent standard.
All you have are things that you don’t like and things that you like. And same with the person next to you, and same with the person next to that person. And so you really have no way of grounding evil as such or defining it, really. And so in that sense, that proposal of a solution is just to simply take God out of the equation. Well, you’ve got a lot of problems with that, but one of the main things is you can’t even actually define evil. And I haven’t met many atheists who are willing to concede so far as they recognize that there is absolutely no evil that ever happens, ever. And especially when you start to push back and say, well, consider this particular evil happening to you. And then they start to hedge a little bit because they recognize that no, you do need to be able to define evil and you do need to recognize that there is evil. But without a God, how do you do that? The presence of evil within a Christian worldview is a so-called problem you could say, because it brings into question God’s goodness and sovereignty, or at least that’s the way it’s been proposed. And so obviously Scripture is clear that God does exist and that he is good. And so the attempt to solve the problem through atheism doesn’t work. Any thoughts on that point about the inadequacy of atheism to solve the problem of evil?
Cliff: Just to back up what you’re saying, it’s so important. Because, let’s see, two of the most famous atheists today who are very articulate and educated and persuasive would be Richard Dawkins and the comedian and political commentator Bill Maher. You ever watched that guy?
Cliff: They’re very aggressive atheists and they like to use this argument—the problem of evil. And so imagine Bill Maher sitting here with us, Derek, and he throws out this silly little syllogism at us. If God is all-good and God is all-powerful, he would want to get rid of and he would be able to get rid of evil, but evil exists, so your God doesn’t exist. Gotcha.
Cliff: And then I think one thing that Christians should do that they don’t do enough. For sure, the noted, expert, Christian apologists don’t do this. They hear the criticism and they just accept it as is, and they just take it on and try to argue it. What I’m saying is, well, why don’t we do what Jesus does when a critic or somebody with an illegitimate question confronts him to try to undermine his faith, i.e., the Pharisees or whatever? And you if go through the gospels and every time they asked him a question like this, which was really a trap or a smoke screen for something greater, they’re trying to hide or run from God and get away from his accountability. They hate God. That’s what the Bible says. Jesus says that in John chapter seven.
So they’re driven by other motives. The problem is not the problem of evil. There’s something driving this and that just needs to be stripped away. So I don’t think we should accept their syllogism. I think we need to attack and destroy their syllogism the way you’re doing. It’s like—so Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins is talking about evil. It’s like, wait, Bill, aren’t you an atheist? Oh yeah. So you believe in Darwinian evolution, right? Right. So at one time there was nothing that exploded and became everything, right? And everything’s evolving upward. And so it’s survival of the fittest, right? So that which kills the inferior—that’s a good thing, because that’s progress. I mean that’s his worldview, right? Like you said, there’s no transcendent anchor by which to determine and define an objective, universal, binding standard of right and wrong.
There’s no way a Darwinian atheist can define evil or believe in right and wrong. It’s impossible. So the fact that they’re arguing their debate about evil is absurd. They can’t define evil. They cannot define good. They can’t even define God. And yet they’re defining God to me. They’re saying, “I don’t believe in your Christian God.” Well, what is my Christian God? Well, he’s two things. He’s good and he’s all powerful and that’s it. I’m thinking, no, that’s not my God. That’s a fabricated false idol. I don’t believe in that God, either. Let me tell you about the God I believe in with his innumerable attributes, most of which you’ve completely neglected, including his holiness, his glory, his wrath, his justice—all of these attributes of God that are just as important and vital as the fact that God is good.
So they’re arguing their case. So that’s what I mean by attacking their syllogism. They have no foundation whatsoever. They can’t even define evil. Even the standard definition that they give for evil, which you mentioned. Well, you’ve got to understand there’s natural evil, and they give examples like earthquakes and tsunamis and fleas and plagues. And I’m thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. Why is every earthquake evil? Why? What makes you the king?” Aren’t there earthquakes that are good, like the one in Numbers chapter 16, where God created an earthquake and killed 250 Levites in the rebellion against Moses? So that’s startling. If you read Numbers 16, where God called Moses and the rebels, there were 250 men that were opposing Moses and Aaron, and they wanted to take over. And God said, Okay, line ’em up. Moses and Aaron, you’re on that side and these 250 clowns, you’re on that side. And God opened up the earth and created an earthquake, and fire from heaven consumed those 250 guys that were rebelling against Moses. And it says it also consumed their wives, their sons and their young children and all of their oxen and possessions—all in one fell swoop. That was an earthquake. It was not evil. God did it. So when they say that all these floods are evil—no, not all of them. God destroyed the entire world in a flood in Genesis chapter seven. And God took credit for it. God was not apologetic for it. He said, I did this, I’m going to do it. I did do it. I was in complete control. Only eight people were preserved, which means every other person, which could have been millions of people at the time, God killed through a flood. And that was good. It was deserved. It was just; it was righteous. That included women, infants and babies, and all animals. And so if you take the Bible literally at face value as true history, most people are horrified by that. And see, that’s why you have the Armenian defense. Because you’re embarrassed by the Bible and this God who seems capricious and which compounds the problem of evil, where they attack the Bible. And they say, not only is this evil in the world unexplainable, if there is a God, your God of the Bible is evil. Look at all this stuff. He does kill babies. He kills women.
So you’ve got this God of the Bible that seems evil and mean and capricious and killing people, and on and on it goes. So the atheist is in no position to define the word evil, which is exactly what you’re saying. God has to define evil. And Paul made it clear that God is the only one that defines evil because God defines what sin is. That’s Roman 7. Paul said, I would not know what a sin was unless God defined it in his law. So this whole thing when we’re talking about the problem of evil, and we’re talking with an unbeliever about it, we are engaged in a debate.
And I used to be my daughter’s debate coach in high school, and I was trained how to be a debate coach. I had to train her how to debate. And one of the starting points when you’re engaged in a debate on a topic is you’ve got to, number one, clearly give definitions—define your terms. That’s the first challenge. Define your terms. And the harder second step is you’ve got to agree on those definitions, otherwise you can’t have a debate. And I think that’s the problem here. We’re arguing with an atheist like Richard Dawkins who has a definition of evil that we can’t even agree with. He has a definition of good that we don’t agree with, and he has a definition of God that we don’t even agree with. How can you have a debate?
Derek: So you can’t engage the debate on their level, on their premises, because it’s not going to go anywhere.
Cliff: It’s on their terms. They’re telling you, here’s my home court. I want home court advantage and I want to wrestle you on my home court. It’s like, well, why do I have to?
Derek: Exactly. One thing we’ll mention here in a moment that ties number one into what you were talking about—about defining who God is. Scripture’s not only emphatic that God exists, but that God is good and he stands apart from all evil. Evil does not proceed from God’s essence. And we’ll talk about why that’s so important as just a foundational point and starting point for our discussion of the problem of evil. And really, if that’s not clear in your mind, you’re going to be hazy from the get-go.
The free will defense we mentioned assumes libertarian free will—both Armenian and theist—assume libertarian free will. And we mentioned, we talked about this in the last episode and so we don’t need to retrace it here, but the basic idea within the free will defense is that libertarian freedom, or that people possess libertarian freedom, and they have the ability to choose something, or it’s contrary without any internal or external compulsion or influence. And, Cliff, you really did a great job last episode to demonstrate that that’s folly. That doesn’t exist. There are so many limiting factors in our finite existence and influences that tie into us making our decisions that you can’t hold to this idea of libertarian freedom. And we believe that God is sovereign over all of those factors. And so he is able to control all events and all people at all times for his good purposes. So that’s why when you first talk about the free will defense, you have to step back again, define terms, and I would reject that definition of libertarian freedom. And if you reject that idea or that definition of the freedom of the will and say, I don’t believe that Scripture teaches libertarian freedom, then you’ve really put a halt to the free will defense. There really is no place to go from that point.
Cliff: It’s ironic, Derek, on this whole idea of the Armenian pushing human libertarian freedom or it’s really kind of a sovereign, ultimate complete freedom that they want us to have.
Derek: That’s right.
Cliff: And it’s completely backwards because God’s the only one that has that kind of freedom.
Derek: If you boil it down, and I don’t think I’m being unfair here. If you boil it all down—Arminianism and open theism—the most autonomous being in the universe is not God. It’s the human will. Because not even God has rights over it.
Derek: He can’t. So it is incredibly ironic. One of the things that you mentioned last episode, too, that I wanted to just bring up again, is this idea of heaven. You mentioned that reason why this free will defense is given is to protect this idea of people making meaningful choices and making a meaningful choice to choose God. And if they don’t have libertarian freedom, then their choosing God is robotic. It’s not genuine, it’s not real. So they must be able to either choose God or evil, good or evil, and always be able to, at any moment, choose that—otherwise, they’re not free. And it’s been brought up by some clearheaded theologians, and you brought it up last episode, that this just doesn’t work, because you have heaven to contend with. Libertarian freedom comes to a crashing end with the doctrine of heaven. So I wouldn’t want to go to heaven if there was a possibility that I could sin. That’s what heaven is. It’s a place of a pure righteousness where you will not be able to choose evil. So then the question is, if that’s the case, you can’t therefore then say, Well, our decisions aren’t meaningful. That would be blasphemous. That would be wrong to impugn God with creating a heaven where our choices are no longer meaningful and our worship is robotic. So you have to let go, I think, of the idea of libertarian freedom.
Cliff: Well, and you could just apply that reasoning to God, who’s the most independent being in existence and who has complete freedom and ability. And if, I mean, God is a completely free being, doesn’t that mean that he has to have the freedom and the ability to choose to do evil? And the answer is no.
Derek: No, please, no.
Cliff: Even though he’s completely uninhibited with respect to his volition, it’s impossible for him to choose evil, impossible for him to lie.
Derek: As Hebrews says, there are certain things it’s impossible for God to do, but he is the most free being in the universe, like you said. That’s a great point. Just a few points. You were talking about books and you were mentioning that, in terms of those who are Christians who are making this free will defense, the best ones are Norman Geisler. Who did you mention? You mentioned Alvin Plantinga.
Derek: Here’s, here’s a book I’d like to actually recommend on the other side. It’s actually a newer book and it’s a long one. It’s several hundred pages. It’s quite thick, but it’s by Scott Christensen and it’s called What About Evil? Let me actually pull it out here and get it in front of me here. What About Evil? A Defense of God’s Sovereign Glory. It is an excellent book. And he is just basically laying out the biblical vision of God’s plan for the world and his glory and how that is driving everything. And I just want to run through these very quickly. These are in this book. These are the problems that he notes with libertarian free will. Number one, it lacks biblical support. Number two, it denies meticulous sovereignty, meaning that God is meticulously sovereign over every particle in the universe. It undermines the doctrine of total depravity, meaning that we believe that sin has infected every aspect of who we are, including our wills, and that we only choose evil in our natural state. And to assume that someone out of their own free will can choose God is to undermine total depravity. It renders decision making arbitrary because you’re saying that you’re able to choose based on nothing. I’m only free if I’m able to choose with no internal or external compulsion that makes decision making utterly arbitrary. I think that’s a great point. It’s contrary to God’s nature, which is something you just actually articulated. I thought that was great. I cannot adequately square with exhaustive foreknowledge, meaning that God knows all things exhaustively—all the free actions of his creatures. And that’s why I believe Arminianism must eventually logically move to open theism, because they would say that they do believe in an exhaustive foreknowledge, and yet they believe in libertarian freedom. And I just don’t understand how God could know the future free actions of his creatures if they in fact are the prime mover unmoved. And that is exactly what open theism is. So I just think it’s the logical conclusion.
Cliff: Just a word on that. So Clark Pinnock was one of the most well-known evangelicals who was an open theism proponent. He actually believed that God didn’t know the future ever because God is always growing and improving. That was Clark Pinnock, sadly. And then William Lane Craig, who’s down at Biola and very famous. He holds somewhat of a similar view. It’s Armenian, but it’s middle knowledge. God doesn’t know, necessarily, the future, but he knows all possible contingencies. Which is just fancy gibberish for saying the same thing.
Derek: Yeah, that’s a helpful reminder. So there are real problems with this free will defense. And so I wanted to run through those quickly. I thought those were helpful, and I’d take a chance to commend Scott Christensen’s book on this issue. Well, why don’t we dive into the biblical answer to the problem of evil? How does that sound, Cliff?
Cliff: That’s great. All right.
Derek: And we need to start with the character of God. And you’re made a really good point several times already. You’ve pressed this a few times, Cliff—this idea that you can’t conceive of God as just being of one attribute or that one attribute kind of dominates the others. And you mentioned thinking of God in all of his glory, which actually takes into account all of his attributes. And there’s not one attribute that works against the other. They all work in perfect harmony. And so we do need to consider the character of God and what we have to say, and this has to be utterly—can I use this word?—utterly dogmatic at this point.
Cliff: Dogmatic. Yes, that’s appropriate. There are times you should be dogmatic.
Derek: I think so. And this is one of them. And the first point is to say that evil cannot flow from God’s essence.
Derek: And I’ll just give you a few verses for this. Psalm 5:4: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness.” Evil may not dwell with you. Psalm 11:5: “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Verse 7: “For the Lord is righteous. He loves righteous deeds. The upright shall behold his face.” Psalm 92:15: “The Lord is upright. He is my rock, and there’s no unrighteousness in him.” Those are pretty conclusive.
Cliff: They are clear.
Derek: Psalm 100:5: “For the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations.” The Lord is good. Then finally, 1 John 1:5. This is the message you have. “We have heard from him and proclaimed to you that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.”
Cliff: And darkness is referring to sin. There is no sin whatsoever that has anything to do with his nature. And you could probably summarize all those with Isaiah 6, that the Lord is holy, holy, holy. So the antithesis of wickedness, of sin, of evil.
Derek: And can I just comment briefly on that issue of holiness? It’s been proposed quite strongly of late that holiness primarily means uniqueness and set apartness when you read it in the Old Testament, and I agree that it does mean those things. But I think you even said this a few podcasts ago, that when you’re talking about God’s holiness, you’re talking about a purity—a moral purity. And I think we have to contend that when you talk about God’s holiness, you can never leave out that idea of moral purity. And the reason we know that is because when you turn to Isaiah 6, the angels are crying, holy, holy, holy. And Isaiah’s seeing all this, and he’s seeing God in his unveiled holiness and he’s devastated over the fact that God is unique and set apart. Well, that’s part of it. But the reason he was devastated is because of his sin, because God is so pure. And so I just wanted to address that.
Cliff: Those were some of the things that were confessed in light of God’s holiness, because there was a moral component to it that he was a man of evil lips. I mean, Peter did the same thing when he saw the holiness of Jesus. Fell down on his face over his sin.
Derek: Yeah. Depart from me. I’m a sinful man. So evil cannot flow from God’s essence and God is not tempted, nor can he tempt with evil. That’s what James 1:13 says. He is not tempted by evil, nor can he tempt with evil.
Cliff: Can we say that God hates evil?
Derek: Yes, we can. Yep. God hates evil with a perfect hatred and as we’ll see, he’s dealt evil a decisive blow. Anything else you want to say about the character of God? I just wanted to hit that point really firmly—that evil cannot flow from God.
Cliff: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think this is the foundation of the biblical answer—the character of God—and the Bible’s clear about that. And we don’t compromise. We don’t have to be ashamed of the portrait of God, which is consistent all throughout the Bible. He’s completely sovereign. Psalm 115:3: “Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever he pleases.” Right? In Ephesians 1:11, he basically ordains all things that exist after the counsel of his will. In Isaiah 46:9, he declares the beginning from the end. All of history—he lays it out. Everything that is going to happen. His purposes will be accomplished. And all of that includes evil in how that will be incorporated in his plans.
Derek: And so that was actually perfect, because then I was going to go from the character of God to the providence of God, and that’s exactly what you were talking about—the sovereignty of God and the providence of God. Just a few texts on that. You’ve already mentioned some, but I’ll mention just a couple more. God has full control over evil, yet it doesn’t flow over his or flow from his essence. He has control over it, but it does not flow from his essence. Why? Because he is meticulously sovereign over all things. Every particle of the universe, as those verses that you’ve mentioned teach in every element of evil that currently exists, God is not unaware of it. He is aware of it. God is not lacking control over it. He does. He has full control over it. Yet we do need to recognize that there is an indirect or an asymmetrical way that God relates to evil than the way he relates to good. He doesn’t relate to good in the same way that he relates to evil, because good flows from his essence. And evil does not. So in managing and using evil, he is never culpable for the evil, and yet he’s in full control of it.
Just a few more verses to add to that stack that you just gave, Cliff. Job, after he was humbled by the Lord, because he was starting in his suffering to sound like he was saying God was a little unrighteous for what he had done. He was kind of getting to that point where he is implying that or even saying that, and he gets humbled by the Lord, and he ends up with this answer as he’s repented in dust and ashes. He says, “I know you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” After he had some theological clarity after being humbled, that’s what he said. You mentioned Psalm 115 verse three: “Our God is in the heavens. He does all that he pleases.” Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” And then Ephesians 1:11: “In him, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
Cliff: All things—and all things means all things, including bad and evil things.
Derek: Yeah, that’s right. But one thing we want to draw out of this is we want to say a couple of things. It can therefore be said that God uses that which he hates, namely evil and suffering, in order to bring about something that he loves—forgiveness, redemption, the exaltation and worship of his son, his glorification. He can do those things and that is what he is doing. I mean, that is kind of the answer to the problem of evil—that God is using things that he hates to bring about that which he ultimately loves and cherishes. And just step back for a moment. We know we’re coming up on Good Friday here and people talk about the problem of evil and God’s goodness and so on. And it really is at the cross that you see the intersection of this very thing that I just mentioned. What’s the worst evil event that happened in the history of mankind, Cliff?
Cliff: It was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Derek: I mean, just that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, demonstrates to us how God in his meticulous sovereignty and in his glory brings about something that he hates to bring about an incredible redemption of sinners and future glory. We could go on and on about all the things that result from the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, but it was together at the same time with the most evil event that ever took place was the greatest event that ever took place in order to bring about this good end. And so I think that helps us to see what God is doing in the world.
Cliff: And that’s the epitome example of Romans 8:28, that God works all things together for good. You could put evil in there. God works all evil in the world together for good. And the epitome of that is the evil of Judas and Pilate and the hateful Jewish leadership and the Roman soldiers and sinners who put Jesus on the cross, the innocent Savior. The greatest, most heinous evil act in the history of the world accomplished God’s greatest saving act for every believing soul that would trust in him for salvation for all eternity. And if so, God uses the greatest evil of humanity ever to accomplish his greatest good. That means that God will use every other act of evil in human history for a purpose.
Derek: That’s a great point. He’s in control of all of it, so therefore there’s no gratuitous evil.
Cliff: Right? Yeah.
Derek: So let me ask this, though. One could say, okay, so how does God hold people accountable for their own sin, or will he? Does he, because he was meticulously sovereign over it? The Scripture is clear at this point. The answer to the question, will God or can God or does God hold sinners accountable for the wickedness that they do? The answer is absolutely. God is never culpable for man’s evil, and though he is meticulously sovereign over it, he will punish man for his sin because man acted from the evil of his own heart and from the wicked freedom of his own will.
Cliff: And that’s the issue. The nature of man’s evil actions are a result of what’s in his heart.
Derek: I wanted to go to quickly to a passage that demonstrates this in the book of Isaiah. So in Isaiah, a lot of Isaiah’s about Israel’s judgment and discipline for forsaking the law and so on and pursuing idolatry. And the Lord is going to use Assyria to judge Israel, and he’s going to do it in a way that carries out his purposes. And he says in verse five of Isaiah 10, “Whoa to Assyria, the rot of my anger. The staff in their hands is my fury against a godless nation. I send them and against the people of my wrath, I command him to take spoil and cease plunder.” So he is sending Assyria to discipline his people, to take spoil and cease plunder and to tread them down.
But it’s done in a way that they are acting out of their own evil. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know. But Assyria is all of a sudden thinking like, we’re big, we’re powerful. Let’s go take out Israel. Let’s go take out this nation next to us. Because verse seven says, he does not so intend and his heart does not so think, but it isn’t his heart to destroy and to cut off nations. Not a few. So I take verse seven to mean he does not so intend, his heart does not think, meaning he’s not thinking I’m carrying out the one true God’s purpose against Israel. What is driving him? It says in the next part of that verse, it’s in his heart to destroy and to cut off nations. Not a few. That’s just who he is. That’s just who this nation is. That’s who this king is. And so that’s going to happen and it’s going to be devastating for Israel. Scroll down here a little bit when the Lord, in verse 12, has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant—the heart of the king of Assyria. And the boastful look in his eyes for, he says, by my strength of my hand, I have done it. And by my wisdom and I have understanding. I remove boundaries of people and plundered their treasuries like a bull. I bring down those who sit on thrones. And so God is actually going to punish Assyria for disciplining or for overtaking Israel, even though God used Assyria to discipline his people. So Assyria acted wickedly, they acted out of the wickedness of their own heart. In God’s meticulous sovereignty, he used that to judge his people, to discipline them, to punish them.
And then he is going to turn around and in his justice and his perfect righteousness, judge the king of Assyria for their wickedness. It’s just remarkable. So God is going to, and does, hold sinners accountable for their sin, even though he is using that evil for his good ends. Those who crucified the Lord Jesus and didn’t recognize who he was prior to their death will be facing an eternity of judgment for the evil that they did, even though God in his foreknowledge brought about that very event, because they acted out of the wickedness of their own heart.
Cliff: That’s the amazing sovereignty of God. He ordains the means by which he’s accomplished his will. He ordains even the second causes by which they’ll happen. And the second cause can be a nation or a king, and they’re still accountable.
Derek: Well, Cliff, did you have anything more to say on this part here, this biblical answer to the problem of evil? I mean, there are more things that we will say. We’re going to come back and talk about some pastoral implications of all of this, but any last words, Cliff?
Cliff: Yeah, just keeping with—you’re saying that God uses evil, he has authority over evil. You quoted from Job, which was great, and the lesson that Job learned. I just think it’s a good reminder for Christians to remember that—that God is fully aware of the problem of evil. He’s not afraid of it. It’s not really a problem for him. It shouldn’t be a problem for us as Christians. I don’t know if it was ever a problem for you as a young Christian or as an unbeliever. I don’t ever remember that being a problem when I wasn’t saved. And as an early Christian, it wasn’t a problem. Just trusting God and his word at face value. But the Book of Job has forty-two chapters on this issue of the problem of evil. That’s one of God’s most specific answers. I think that’s why he put it in the Bible.
Derek: That’s a great point.
Cliff: But do you remember—this was more of a personal question. I do remember the first time I was confronted with the problem of evil, formally stated in college as a dilemma or logical challenge to the Christian faith. And I remember the day where I was just enlightened and so encouraged from truth of the Scripture, and it was a sermon by John MacArthur out of Romans. But I just remember it so vividly. Was there ever a time in your Christian life where you just kind of, the light went on [regarding] the problem of evil, and here’s the biblical answer? Or was it progressive, or was it a moment in time?
Derek: I would say for me, it’s probably been progressive. I’ve never felt like it was a personal problem where I was befuddled and couldn’t get a grip on it and wondered—that was never an issue. I think for me it was progressive—being introduced to the arguments over time, and then seeing the biblical answers to those. College, for me, was a formative time in terms of just deepening theology and coming to understand the sovereignty of God. That was big. So I don’t know if I would say there’s ever been an “aha” moment—more of just a natural progression.
Cliff: Yeah. For me, it was never a big problem or stumbling block, and I don’t want to dismiss it or minimize it. I think there are bigger, more complicated problems that I still am wrestling through. How does that work? When I get to heaven, maybe he’ll explain this one to me. Maybe I’ll never understand it, but I just don’t think that the problem of evil is the most practical problem that Christians have to be confronted with.
Derek: Yeah. And we’ll talk about this in the next episode, part three. Neither of us are saying that evil is not evil. There are some horrific evils in the world, and we’re definitely not lessening those evils. In fact, we would say that a Christian worldview actually enables people to weep with those who weep. When we see utter tragedy and horror and evil, we can call it what it is. It’s evil. God says it’s evil; God hates it. And then we can weep with those who weep. So when we come back, we’ll talk about some pastoral implications, and we’ll talk about that very issue. So thank you very much for listening to this part two of The Problem of Evil. We encourage you to go back and listen to part one if you haven’t already. And until next time, keep seeking the Lord and his Word.