“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
How can we reconcile horrific evil in the world with the existence of a good, all powerful God who would allow it? If you think that’s a knotty problem, this one is even bigger: How could a good, all powerful God command His people in the Old Testament to wipe out entire pagan populations?
Let’s start with this – we don’t know.
Our understanding of evil is entirely subjective. We are trapped in the nightmare, often unable to see a way out and worse, our own sinful choices make us complicit in the world’s brokenness. Only God sits above it all, seeing it in its entirety, unbound by time, limitations or even His own sinful nature.
Begin with the obvious – we are not God. It is only through His revelation of Himself to us that we even know the difference between good and evil. It is only by contrast with His holiness that we see the depths of hell.
Having the whole story helps us, even when our choices are difficult. Many people avoid going to the doctor because they don’t want to hear bad news, but that doesn’t change the truth. Angelina Jolie made news two years ago when she chose to have a double mastectomy. She made this difficult decision because, having lost her mother to ovarian cancer, she discovered she carries a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene – which put her at very high risk of getting both forms of the disease. She later had her ovaries removed as well. In doing this she joined the ranks of “previviors” but these hard decisions are never simple. Her measure of foreknowledge was compelling but incomplete. What if she didn’t get the disease or what if a cure is found later?
God’s foreknowledge is complete.
As Mark Coppenger wrote
When God effects prophylaxis in his dealings with men, he knows precisely what the eventualities would have been had he not acted. But from our human standpoint, we’re often like primitives having no knowledge whatsoever of DNA, yet passing judgment on medical procedures based on genetic testing. But if we’ve seen the same surgeon save our life and the lives of others, we may reasonably assume that he’s up to good things when we see him use a shocking new procedure. So, too, are we inclined to trust that God was honorable in his battle orders to Joshua as the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
The real problem of our moral confusion is not God but us. Rather than trust a God beyond our understanding we decide that if we can’t understand it, it must be wrong.
Ah, yes. Sin.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”