One of the questions we Christians are very often asked is “Why does evil exist? If God is so great, why does he allow so many terrible things to happen?” Whenever I personally get asked such a question, the very first thing I do is to run away. Oh, sure, people follow you for a while, but they peter out pretty fast. Most people’s desire to learn the answer to a question like that is not as strong as my desire to avoid answering a question like that. So I’m usually at home enjoying a pizza, while they’re still out there huffing and puffing on the street somewhere, going, “That’s it. I’m joining a cult.”
But I jest. (God, if you’re reading this: Please think I’m funny. Because, you know … I get heat rashes.)
No, but here’s the answer I Actually Use for that question: The reason God allows evil to exist is because he allows people to exist--and people do evil, not God.
Then I bolt.
No, but that’s the key: It’s people who do evil, not God. What people almost always mean when they ask, “Why does God allow evil to exist?” is “Why doesn’t God stop evil from happening?”--which, in practical terms, inevitably translates into, “Why doesn’t God stop people from doing evil things?”
And a fine question that is! Totally legitimate! And it’s one for which we Christians better have a clear, rational answer.
We do, and it’s this: The reason God doesn’t stop any person from ever doing anything they want to do is because doing so would necessarily mean violating that person’s free will. And that’s not something God is going to do--and it’s definitely not something we'd like him to do. Our free will is what makes us human. It’s God’s ultimate gift to us; it is the quality that finally defines us as truly free, independent beings. Our free will is the proof that God loves us. It means he loves us so much he’s endowed us with the ability to completely ignore or deny him if we want to. That’s love. God would have to hate us to start violating our free will.
It’s an extremely safe bet that if God ever decided to stop people from doing evil--which of course would mean stopping people from thinking about doing evil, which would mean stopping people from ever having the negative thoughts that proceed evil actions, which would have to amount to full mind control--not a person on this planet wouldn’t yearn for the days when they were free to do whatever they wanted, evil or not. Not that any of us would be able to have such a thought, since God determining that we can’t think about or do anything he doesn’t want us to would have turned us all all Zombified Automatons.
What a nightmare that would be.
So remember: God doesn’t do evil; people do evil. And God doesn’t stop people from doing evil because that would mean violating their free will, which God won’t do out of his deep and abiding love for us.
Bottom line: That evil exists doesn’t prove that God is not benevolent. It proves just how benevolent he is.
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