Devastating storms, killer earthquakes, record-setting fires and horrific acts of evil dominate recent news headlines. Why would an all-loving, all-powerful God allow these things to happen? Is God just unable to stop this kind of evil? If so, why call Him all-powerful? Is God unwilling to stop this kind of evil? Then why call Him all-loving? Some non-believers offer the existence of evil as proof that God doesn’t exist. What should we tell our kids when they observe (or even experience) evil?
Our conversations will certainly look (and sound) differently depending on the age and maturity of our kids, but in all the years that I have been discussing the “problem of evil” with students (either at conferences or as a youth pastor), several key issues continue to dominate my discussions. When explaining why an all-loving, all-powerful God would allow natural disasters (or human evil), consider incorporating the following truths:
1. Remind Your Kids That Eternity Can Helps Us Cope with Evil
All of us hope to live a long life without free from pain or hardship. What if we knew, in advance, we were going to live forever and experience a pain-free existence for all eternity? Would we view pain and suffering in our temporal life differently (even if it lasted for many years) if we knew we would eventually experience bliss forever? Remind your kids that God offers us life beyond the limits of our short, material existence; we are eternal creatures. All experiences of evil must be considered in light of eternity
2. Remind Your Kids That God Loves Us Enough to Allow Us Free-Agency
A loving God would create a world in which love is possible, right? Love requires each of us to act freely, because true love cannot be coerced. God didn’t create us as robots; instead, He gave us free will so our expressions of love would be genuine. But, this also means we have the freedom to ignore God’s commandments and behave badly. Remind your kids that much of the evil we experience in the world is the result of humans who freely choose to disobey. God may allow some evil because free agency is required for love to exist in our world.
3. Remind Your Kids That Some Suffering Can Actually Develop Our Character
As a parent, you’re probably more concerned with your kids’ character than their comfort, and character is far more likely to be developed through adversity than advantage. Hard times can bring out the best in all of us, providing us with opportunities to help those in need, rise to the occasion, and come to the rescue. Remind your kids that God may allow us to suffer discomfort because He knows it will develop our character, especially since we are eternal creatures. God cares more about our eternal character than current comfort.
4. Remind Your Kids That God Can Use Some Evil to Call Us to Himself
Many of us ignore God until something happens to get our attention. Tragedy has a way of redirecting our thoughts and pointing us to a life beyond our current struggle. If God has designed us to be with Him in eternity, He might use hardship to refocus those of us who haven’t been paying attention. Remind your kids that some forms of evil may simply be part of God’s loving effort to point us in the right direction.
5. Remind Your Kids That Some Evil Is Hard to Explain Because We Aren’t God
God’s knowledge is vastly greater than ours, and His eternal plan may be beyond our comprehension. Remind your kids that if we understood God’s larger plans, we might understand the role of evil in our lives. French Dominican priest, Jacques-Marie-Louis Monsabré once said, “If God would concede me His omnipotence for twenty-four hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”
6. Remind Your Kids That True Evil Requires God As A Standard of True Righteousness
While the existence of evil might at first appear to be a strong evidence against the existence of God, it may actually be the best evidence for God’s existence. C.S. Lewis, the novelist, poet, and Christian apologist, once wrote:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? (from Mere Christianity, page 38)
Unless, as Lewis suggested, we are prepared to dismiss evil as nothing more than whatever fails to please our “private fancies,” we need a transcendent “straight line” so we can recognize the “crookedness” of evil. Remind your kids that true evil does exist, and it’s more than simply a matter of opinion (if this was the case, we could eliminate evil by simply changing our mind). God’s holy standard of “rightness” helps us recognize true evil when we see it. Evil demonstrates the existence of God.
It’s never too early to start talking with your kids about the “problem of evil.” Take the time to master these six explanations, then reword them as appropriate for your children. My wife, Susie, and I wrote about nature and challenge of evil in one chapter of our book, God’s Crime Scene for Kids. You can help your children understand this important issue as they make the case for God at www.CaseMakersAcademy.com. They’ll solve an intriguing mystery along the way, and they’ll also earn a Certificate of Graduation after completing our free academy for kids. Help your children defend what they believe so they can worship God with their hearts, souls, and minds.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Apologetics at Biola University, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.