Tag Archives: evil

God Is Good

God is Good: A Mini Theodicy

Theodicy: An explanation of why a good, omniscient, omnipotent God permits evil.

The task of any theodicy is to show that the existence of evil is not contradictory to a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and morally good. This article does not attempt a full-orbed theodicy. Instead I assert that God permitting evil and God’s judgment of evil are not contradictory to the actions of a good and loving God.

A common explanation for the coronavirus is that it is a natural evil resulting from the Fall. The Scriptures show that goodness is the essence of God while evil is revolt against God (Psalms 25:7-8; 100:5; 118:1; Matthew 19:17). Scripture also affirms that God’s creation was good and later subjected to futility as the result of sin. God’s original creation contained no coronavirus. It contained neither disease nor infirmity. It contained no evil. It was good (Genesis 1:31).

But knowing the source of evil and why it exists doesn’t explain why God permits it. It doesn’t give any hint as to the purpose of suffering. We need the Bible to tell us that too.

Satan Did It

Some Christians, who believe correctly that “God is love,” can’t seem to imagine how God would in any way be involved in bringing calamity upon people even when faced with Scriptures that indicate that He is involved during times of judgment (Amos 3:6). For them, the “go-to” option that remains to explain something like coronavirus is that it comes from Satan. But to come to this conclusion without considering the possibility that a disaster might be judgment from God, one must ignore God’s other attributes such as justice, mercy and holiness. This is the “let God off the hook” argument I mentioned in my last article.1

This “Satan did it” line of reasoning aligns perfectly with the skeptic’s contention that God is either indifferent or unable to stop evil. If God is not Judge, he is not in control. Christians affirm that God is in control, so how can we acknowledge that Satan seeks to do harm to people without attributing to him more power than he actually possesses?

God Is Not the Author of Evil

God is not the author of evil. Scripture is clear on this matter (1 John 1:5b; James 1:13; 1 Peter 3:12). But Scripture also consistently asserts that God is sovereign over his creation (Job 38:8, 11; Psalm 89:8-9; Luke 8:24). Evil is on a leash, restrained by the hand of the Almighty. God is in control (Job 2:6).

In an article entitled “How to Contemplate Calamity,” John Piper notes that both the author of the book of Job and Job regard God as the decisive cause of Job’s misery (Job 1:21; 42:11; 2:10). Satan certainly was involved in Job’s misery (Job 1:12; 2:6) but he had not the decisive hand. Piper points out that Job’s misery was not punishment, but purifying (Job 42:6) but that the death of his children may have been judgment (but we simply don’t know for sure). His point is that suffering and death can be judgment and mercy at the same time (1 Peter 2:24).2

This dual application of judgment and mercy can be true for any calamity that is a result of the Fall, including the coronavirus.

Evil Brothers and an Evil King

Let’s look at two examples from Scripture, one familiar and one not so familiar, in which God permitted evil to accomplish his purpose. In the first God used evil to bring about good. In the second he used evil to punish evil.

The story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers is well known, as is his amazing declaration after he reunited with his brothers many years later, forgiving them:

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. —Genesis 50:19-20

Without the Fall, there would be no coronavirus. Without the Fall, Joseph’s brothers would not have acted wickedly and sold him into slavery. Without the Fall, Joseph would not have suffered so much at the hands of other men. But without God orchestrating events, there would have been no food in Egypt and many would have died of starvation.

In a perhaps less familiar example, the Assyrians, a particularly cruel people, were the instrument by which the Northern Kingdom of Israel’s destruction came about. God made clear through his prophets (Hosea, Amos, Isaiah) that this destruction was a judgment from God.

Without the Fall, there would have been no wicked King of Assyria who boasted of his military might:

When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. For he says:

“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
As one reaches into a nest,
so my hand reached for the wealth of the nations;
as people gather abandoned eggs,
so I gathered all the countries;
not one flapped a wing,
or opened its mouth to chirp.’” —Isaiah 10:12-14

God used this wicked nation to judge another wicked nation, Israel. Assyria was merely an axe in the hand of God. It was God who swung the axe:

Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up,
or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
Therefore, the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.—Isaiah 10:15-16

God’s Judgments Are Righteous

It is not evil for God to judge his creatures (Romans 2:4-5). If it were, then there would be no hell for a good God of love. This idea that all humans will eventually be reconciled to God (so no need for an eternal hell), of course, is the conclusion that Universalists have come to, and it’s based upon a false conception of God. It can only come about when humans impose their idea of good upon God. We say God is good and then define good as something or someone who does not allow evil rather than using the biblical definition that says that good is God’s character and actions, which are both exclusive of evil.

Where Does God Draw the Line?

Why does God allow you or me to sin? When we think about evil, our minds go to unusually wicked actions of people like Hitler, child predators, human traffickers or to natural disasters, or to creatures like Satan who continually act in an evil and cruel manner.

If God did what so many of us would like him to (namely, not allow great evil), there would have been no Hitler or other despots. However, if God didn’t allow them into the world, we would then see those who did a little less evil than Hitler and Stalin as people God shouldn’t allow. We would still not be satisfied and we would eventually demand that God not allow whoever’s evil we detest into the world. Then surely God would draw the line between good and evil before he got to us.


This is where God draws the line:

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.—Luke 18:19

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! —Matthew 7:11

In short, ordinary people, indeed, all people, are evil and deserve death and hell. If only God is good, where does that leave us?

A Perfect Solution to the Problem of Evil

Creatures brought sin into the world. Our sin, no matter how insignificant it seems to us, separates us from God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God—Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death—Romans 6:23a

A good, loving God provides a way out of the predicament that sinful humans find themselves in.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 6:23

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It means to trust in and depend on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross as penalty for your sin and acknowledge that you can do nothing to earn salvation.

If you are reading this and you have yet to believe that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, you need to know this—that those who trust in Jesus are imputed his righteousness and are no longer separated from God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.—2 Corinthians 5:21

Those who have not believed in Jesus when they die will spend eternity in hell, but those who believed will have eternal life with God.

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”—Matthew 25:46

The Bible says we must decide now in this life because it is appointed to men to die once and then be judged (Hebrews 9:27). There is no second chance after you die.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near—Isaiah 55:6

If you trust in Jesus now, he will lead you into his Kingdom.

God’s Is Just and He Is Good

At the cross God brought the greatest good out of the greatest evil. Evil men murdered the perfect Son of God. He was crucified for our sins and paid the penalty for them on our behalf.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.—Isaiah 53:5

There will be a final judgment. At that time all who have believed in the name of Jesus will enter eternal bliss because their sins were judged at the cross. Those who reject Jesus will get what they want, an eternity without God telling them what to do. Those who rejected the Light of the World (John 8:12) will be in eternal darkness. They will be in eternal agony separated from everything good. They will be forever separated from God.



  1. God can’t actually be let off the hook, because that would imply he was “on the hook” for doing something wrong. God’s ways are perfect, so it is only our arrogance and misunderstanding of God’s character that demand that God act in a way that suits our definition of good.
  2. John Piper, “How to Contemplate Calamity,” Desiring God, December 26, 2012, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-contemplate-calamity.

A Comfort Beyond Measure

My times are in God’s hand.  I find great comfort in this fact particularly because of three things that are true about God – he is good, he is omniscient and he is omnipotent.  If he is not good, I have every reason to fear his sovereign power.  If he is not omniscient, then his plans might be misguided or have unintended consequences.  If he is not omnipotent, then he is unable to do all that he has promised and my times are not really in his hands.

Evil and God’s Will

This is especially important when confronted with trials or threatened by evil.  God’s providential care is a rock that believers have anchored their faith to for centuries.  However, God’s providential care is in jeopardy if sinful creatures’ actions are outside of his will.

But this is exactly what I have heard some Christians say.  Attempting to defend God’s goodness and armed with the knowledge that God is not the author of sin, they say that it is not God’s will when evil befalls us.  Not only does this contradict Scripture, but I don’t see how it is comforting to diminish the power of the One we are counting on to deliver us from evil.

In fairness to those who make such a statement, most are probably not trying to imply that our freedom to choose is on a par with God’s sovereignty, but it might sound that way to the seeker or to a new believer.  If human freedom holds such power, then all that goes on around us in this fallen world is a threat to us.  On the contrary, according to the Bible, God’s sovereign control of his creation is not threatened by the free will choices of his creatures.

I think the problem arises when we try to define a good God as one who does not allow evil that he has the power to prevent.  This is not the definition used in the Bible which proclaims repeatedly that God is good despite the fact that he allows evil as part of his will.  We need look no farther than the book of Job or Jesus’ crucifixion to see that God’s plan and his will include suffering and evil that he could prevent if he wanted to.  How else could Jesus say of his impending crucifixion – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”?

God is not the Author of Evil

Certainly God is not the author of evil.  Just as certainly, though, God is not wringing his hands wondering what to do when it occurs.  An inclination to defend God’s goodness may stem from a misconception of all that omnipotence entails.  Consider this from Millard Erickson:

We must recognize here the amazing nature of divine omnipotence.  If God were great and powerful, but not all-powerful, he would have to originate everything directly, or he would lose control of the situation and be unable to accomplish his ultimate purposes.  But our omnipotent God is able to allow evil men to do their very worst, and still he accomplishes his purposes. (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, Copyright 1983, 1984, 1985, Baker Book House Company, p 400)

So, when we claim anything is not part of God’s will, especially evil, we are actually making the point we are trying to avoid – that we cannot know with certainty that God can protect us (should he so choose) from the evil free will choices of his creatures.  We have placed a limit on his omnipotence, one that is not warranted by Scripture.

Our Comfort Requires God’s Total Sovereignty

But you might protest and say that God is able to turn the evil intent of sinners into something good as he did with Joseph (Genesis 50:20) and certainly with Jesus (Acts 2:36).  There is a problem with this idea that God’s sovereignty as it relates to evil is reactive rather than proactive:

“… some will simply say that all Romans 8:28 means is that God will turn this evil thing, a thing that he could not help from happening, into some sort of good for us.  They present a God suddenly sovereign enough to reverse the situation, a situation he wasn’t sovereign enough to stop in the first place.” (Dave Zuleger, Desiring God, Can a Good God Bring Pain)

I don’t find much comfort in the providential care of a God who is a part-time, semi-sovereign deity.  There is no guarantee that the creation will not spin out of control with evil getting the upper hand creating a situation too dire for God to fix.

God’s plan is not an afterthought or a work in progress.  When I am in the midst of a trial I don’t find comfort in the fact that God is smart enough to come up with a plan B that just might work.  I find comfort in the fact that God has been working all things together for good – from the beginning of time.

Everlasting arms that do not grow weary of holding me, hands from which no one can snatch me, a love that endures forever, goodness that leads me to repentance and a mind that knows the end from the beginning are good enough for me. They all come together in a wondrous providence that is a comfort beyond measure.

The Love of Many Will Grow Cold

cold winter scene

I feel it sometimes. Cold, heartless evil.  It’s all around. It’s dark and ugly. It’s chill penetrates to the bone.  I felt the cold when I heard of the murder of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I feel it when I read about ISIS beheading and crucifying Christians. The darkness draws close with countless other events reported on the nightly news.

We all feel the cold.  Most of us will never experience it like the parents of those twenty children killed at Sandy Hook. Nor will we feel it like young children caught in the nefarious web of sex trafficking.  But it is palpable nonetheless.

If we aren’t careful, this cold will penetrate our own hearts and disable our love.  Perhaps it already has.  I am not suggesting we will commit some horrible, evil act.  But, as lawlessness increases, we can easily let fear reduce our compassion and acts of kindness to a level that is almost undetectable.

It is prudent to avoid dangerous situations, but our fear might cause us to choose our ministry based on risk level rather than on what God is prompting us to do.  We choose something safe. When we do, it may be that our love has already started to grow cold.

When the aids crisis was at its peak, many of us, myself included, were afraid to minister to those afflicted.  The thought of being a part of an inner city or prison ministry is terrifying to many Christians.  Now, with muslim refugees among us, many will be afraid to reach out to them.

Years ago I sat in the Latin American Missions guest house in San Jose, Costa Rica with ten career missionaries listening to stories and discussing various topics.  One man asked this question – who has been robbed at gunpoint in San Jose?  I (the sole member of the group who wasn’t a career missionary) and a young missionary who had been in San Jose for just a few months were the only ones in the room who hadn’t.  What if these missionaries and thousands like them had let fear of real danger cause their love to grow cold?

What if the apostle Paul, for whom seemingly nowhere was safe (2 Cor. 11:23-33), had let his love grow cold?

I have noticed a recurring theme whenever I feel afraid of the evil that is around me.  I have usually forgotten God, his promises and his providential care.

It’s not that evil will never harm us if we are God’s children; the Bible affirms that God allows suffering in our lives.  But God and Satan have different goals in suffering.  God wants to strengthen our faith.  Satan wants to destroy it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:7-11

Fear and love are incompatible.  Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:15) So what gives?  How is it that we are fearless one moment, resting in God’s love, and in the next full of dread and worry?  Perhaps it is because somehow we equate suffering with a failure of God to keep his part of a bargain we imagine he has made with us.

What is the proper response of the Christian to the evil around us?  Yes, we must protect ourselves and loved ones from evil as best we can.  Among the wolves we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  (Mt. 10:16) But we should not succumb to fearing what evil men do.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:28-33

What if we simply took Jesus at his word and chose to obey him?  What if we stopped worrying about the evil in the world and instead found God’s peace through prayer and by thinking about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable (Philippians 4) resisting the devil’s attempts to convince us to do otherwise?

We would lessen the risk of our love growing cold.  We would be freer to store up treasure in heaven instead of treasure on earth.  We would be freer to love our fellow Christians, spread the gospel, love our enemies, go the extra mile and help the man beaten and robbed lying on the side of the road.

In times of tribulation, there are two kinds of people.  There are those whose love grows cold and those who stand firm in their faith.  Those who persevere in their faith will be eternally saved. (Mt. 24:12-13) God intends for his elect to persevere. He who began a good work in you will complete it. (Phil. 1:6)  Be encouraged by this truth.

As lawlessness and persecution increase and as we see the Day approaching, let us hold fast to our faith and spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  (Hebrews 10:23-25)