Volume 11, Issue 4: Doctrine 101
Impotent or Evil
Children murdered by classmates in the government schools, fighting in the Balkans, crop blight in Florida, earthquakes, train wrecks, hurricanes, and plane crashes. Itís not a nice world out there. But how do Christians explain all of this evil? Either God is good, but is powerless to help, or else God is all powerful, but a sadistic tyrant.
Several years back when someone of prominence in the news suggested that AIDS was a judgment from God on homosexuals and drug users, a great hue and cry arose from the evangelical church as well as the liberal church in our country that AIDS was not from the God of love. Woe be to anyone who would seek to besmirch the holy character of God!
Iím sure that most Christians have a high estimation and exalted view of the character of God, and well they should. The Bible has a plethora of references attesting to the holy nature of the Creator. He is the Holy One (Psa. 78:41), each Person of the Godhead is holy (John 17:11; Luke 1:35; Psa. 51:11), Godís name is holy (Lev. 22:32), His word is holy (Rom. 7:12), Godís habitation is holy (Exod. 15:13), God claims to be holy (Lev. 11:44), the four living creatures around His heavenly throne acclaim Him thrice holy (Rev. 4:8), He is acclaimed to be holy by His people (Psa. 22:3), pagans have acknowledged Godís holiness (Dan. 4:9), demons acknowledge Godís holiness (Mark 1:24), and as a consequence of His holy nature, God commands His people to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15,16).
God defines holiness. Apart from God there is no absolute standard by which we can understand this word. He is the very essence of all that is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, praiseworthy, and righteous. But does exalting the truth of Godís holiness force us to suppress those portions of the Scriptures with which we are uncomfortable or embarrassed? Some might prefer that such verses werenít even in the Bible. But all of Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). We canít pick and choose the parts we like. In fact, by so doing, modern evangelicals are flirting with idolatry by trying to create a god other than the God of the Bible. Many, like the children of Israel, want another god to worship. They donít feel comfortable with or seem to even like a God who sends calamities. No, they want a kinder, gentler god. They want a god whoís more like them: constantly overwhelmed by all the wickedness in the world, wringing his hands, wishing he could just do something to fix it all, but canít because he is just too weak and impotent.
Is this modern evangelical paradigm of God valid? Is it consistent with the whole of the Scriptures? Look at just a few of the verses that describe the Sovereign Creator God, the Holy and Just One: ďI form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these thingsĒ (Is. 45:7). ďShall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?Ē (Amos 3:6). God doesnít mince words; He takes full responsibility for controlling all of the evil in the world. For many of us, such an idea of God offends our Christian sensitivities. Yet in maintaining such an attitude, arenít we seeking to be more holy than God?
But some will vehemently challenge, ďDoesnít this make God the Author of sin?Ē Absolutely not! God created man sinless in the Garden of Eden. Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and spread to all men (Rom. 5:12). God hates sin (Zech. 8:17). He also hates the source of that sin: unregenerate man (Psa. 5:5,6), all who are not in Christ. Wasnít it God who sealed up the door of the ark in the days of Noah and destroyed the world with the flood (Gen. 7:4,16)? Wasnít it God who brought all the plagues on the Egyptians and caused Pharaoh and his army to be drowned in the Red Sea (Exod. 7:17- 12:29; 14:27-30)? Wasnít it God who had His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, unjustly murdered at the hands of godless men (Acts 2:23,24)? And doesnít God promise to judge those who reject Him and His holy word (Jer. 6:19; Is. 40:22-26)?
Why does the Holy God do these things? Remember that God is the Judge over all the earth. It is we who are accountable to Him, not the other way around. God is holy and just in all that He does and He need not give an account of His actions to us. However, He has indicated in the Scriptures that all He does is for His own glory (Is. 60:21; Ezek. 28:22; John 11:4; 1 Pet. 4:11), including calamity (Rom. 9:17). One aspect of Godís calamity is judgment, another is to lead men to seek His mercy. God is glorified in both His holy judgment of the wicked and through His tender mercy in Christ toward undeserving sinners (Rom. 9:22, 23).
The major problem today with evil is not that it exists, but that Godís people refuse to acknowledge that God is sovereign over it. God works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), including evil. To refuse to acknowledge Godís sovereignty over calamities is to side with those who reject God. They donít want to acknowledge ďacts of GodĒ either, because they donít want to acknowledge God. We donít need a golden calf to practice idolatry. By rejecting the sovereignty of God over evil, weíve already taken the first step. God is either sovereign, impotent, or evil. Which God do you serve?