Research Paper: Final Submission
Submitted to Dr. John McGinn, in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the completion of the course:
SEMI 500-B02 LUO
Introduction to Seminary Studies
Jeffrey Michael Davis
September 25, 2014
How & Why Evil Entered This World…………………………………………………..…2
How God Uses Our Pain and Suffering…………………………………………….………5
Many argue that God must not exist since there is so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world. After all, if He is omnipotent and has the power to do all things, then why does He not stop all the evil that exists? First, this paper will discuss whether pain and suffering serves a purpose outside of the torment they cause and will challenge the reader to view trials and circumstances and the pain and suffering they cause through a different lens. Secondly, this paper will also show while God can act and while nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish, it is has always been humanity’s free will which allows evil, pain, and suffering to exist.
While evil opened the door for pain and suffering to enter the world, history actually shows that pain and suffering contributes to strengthening relationships toward God, so perhaps it serves a greater purpose in God’s overall plan. Over time, Satan has discovered he can be more effective using pleasure instead of pain to separate people from God. If pain and suffering were always bad, then a loving, omnipotent, and omniscient God would stop them. Since God does not stop them, they must serve a greater purpose.
Pain and suffering are a two-edged sword and finding the pleasure in pain is a peculiar and seductive dance, one in which your partner means to destroy you. C.S. Lewis proposed, “Pain insists upon being attended to and God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” So why is there so much evil in the world, why do bad things continually happen to good people, and what purpose could they possibly serve? That purpose is to bring God’s children back to Him and to keep them righteous and pure in His eyes. However, the question still remains: if God truly loves His children, why does He allow evil to exist and why does He allow pain and suffering in His creation? If God is truly omnipotent and omniscient, why does He not act when His children are being persecuted and are being slaughtered in His name?
How & Why Evil Entered This World
To answer this question, one must first recognize the difference between a just God and a loving God. One must then understand the paradox Ravi Zacharias illuminates, “if God is just, He must punish sin. But if He is loving, He would forgive sin.” Only then can you comprehend why there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Only then can you answer the question if God is unwilling or unable to prevent evil. Zacharias goes on further explaining how humanity associates suffering with sin: “the conventional wisdom, that suffering is the result of sin, is, therefore untrue.”
Satan learned a valuable lesson when God allowed him to persecute Job and take everything, but his life. It was during his persecution, Job only drew closer to the Lord, despite his great pain and suffering. While Satan still persecutes and inflicts pain and suffering today, his tactics have changed by what he observed in Job’s trial. Satan now chooses to entice culture with the very things which bring people pleasure. In the end, what brings humanity pleasure winds up being the very things keeping them apart from God; essentially people are being imprisoned by the very things they love.
While pain and suffering entered this world in the Garden of Eden during the Fall of man, it has remained by the choices people make and by the things they place in their lives before God. Humanity’s free will opened the door to sin and created separation from God. By loving themselves more than God, peoples’ lack of gratitude opened the door to idolatry whether they knew it or not.
God does not lack goodness or power; “if you choose to say God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it, then you have not succeeded in saying anything about God.” It is during times of great need and persecution people turn back to God. Sin leads to oppression, which leads to repentance where a deliverer is found. Yet, when people are being blessed and have no needs or wants, they turn away from God. Pain and suffering, even in its horror, has the potential to draw people closer to God more than being blessed by Him does.
Pain and suffering can actually be a blessing in disguise, especially for Christians, when it illuminates their lack of self-sufficiency and turns the individual or nation back to God. Human suffering is not always a punishment if it brings someone back into communion with God. However, there is a vast difference between reading about God’s mercy and grace during times of pain and suffering versus experiencing them personally. In such an enticing culture, “one of the greatest tricks the devil has ever played was convincing the world he did not exist” and he would have everyone believe evil is nothing more than an illusion, but simply denying something’s existence does not make it any less real. Choices have consequences: some good and some bad, but all of them have the opportunity to lead back to God.
Although, in the Genesis account; “we are also told that, though the first human beings lived in a state of contentment, they disobeyed God and were punished by being placed in a world of pain.” The story of man begins with a simple act of disobedience, but it has created a common perception which still exists today. It claims if you are blessed by God, there is no sin in your life, but if you are afflicted by pain and suffering, it is because you did something to displease God or you have sin in your life. This was the council Job’s friends gave him telling him he must repent so God would forgive him. His reply to their poor advice was simply, “Shall we accept the good from God, but not the bad?”
Noah Webster defined evil in its purest form as, “anything which produces pain, distress, loss or calamity, or which in anyway disturbs the peace, impairs the happiness, or destroys the perfection of natural beings.” However, to establish what is considered evil one must have a baseline on what is considered to be good. While pain is, “the great torturer of all living things, and serves nevertheless as the preserver of life, and we could not do without it. It must therefore be regarded as a benefactor to all living things. Pain is one of those protective arrangements which exist in all organisms, and gives the alarm in times of danger,” yet its sting is unmistakable. Pain has the potential to stop more pain and even death if you identify the source and deal with it.
God is the opposite of evil and He is the only reference point which points true north towards being morally good all the time, yet many claim evil proves God does not exist, but Zacharias theorizes, “the reality of evil actually requires the existence of God rather than disproves it.” According to Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good;” so evil, pain, and suffering was not present in the beginning. Today however, one would be hard pressed not to find evil, pain, and suffering around every corner.
To give someone a choice and free will creates the opportunity to make a wrong decision and God gives everyone an opportunity to choose as Norman Geisler eloquently states, “forced love is rape; and God is not a divine rapist.” Living in a fallen world where free will exists opens the door to potentially disastrous wrong choices. Geisler also proposes, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.” Some argue if God simply removed all evil life would be easier, but “suppose God were to decree that at midnight tonight all evil would be removed from the universe—who of us would still be here after midnight?” God allowed evil to enter this world, so He has a plan one day to totally defeat it. Evil, pain, and suffering attempt to shroud the light of God and while they can cause people to be broken; it is through a broken vessel God has the greatest opportunity to shine through.
How God Uses Our Pain and Suffering
The search of how God uses pain and suffering is often associated with Job who was a good person in the eyes of God. In this story, the angels are presenting themselves to God, but the interesting part of this narrative was Satan was also present. During this encounter, God tells Satan about Job’s morally good and outstanding character. It is during this dialogue, Satan proposes the only reason Job is loyal and morally good is because the Lord had blessed him with all he had. After Satan finishes his attempt to justify why Job was good, God gives Satan permission to test Job. In the end, Job, despite his friends’ bad suggestions and even worse recommendations remains faithful to God and all that was lost was restored to him. “Job was such a trusted friend of God that when God needed someone to step onto the witness stand of the universe to say what is right about God, Job was there.” It is from this account, “not only is the notion that God causes pain and suffering explicitly affirmed in Scripture, but there are additional moral reasons to embrace the idea.”
If anyone knew of suffering it was Jesus. George MacDonald once said, “The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.” In the midst of pain and suffering, people begin to question why and how God could allow His children to endure such atrocities. During these times, one’s faith is truly tested and in the end their faith is either strengthened, built up, perfected, or it is lost. The last of these is the most tragic because in every situation God’s children walk through God can either deliver them from it, through it, or by it, but it is when people turn their back on God, they close the door to receiving His mercy and grace even in the worst of circumstances. Receiving God’s mercy is not getting what you deserve: the wrath of God, while receiving God’s grace is getting what you do not deserve: salvation and redemption.
God calls His followers to trust Him in all things. As they do, not only will they discover a new side of God’s character, but they also may become aware of a far greater circumstance He may be trying to warn them about. Pain is the body’s natural response to get your attention. It’s when you don’t listen to the warning signs; you are headed for a potential disaster. “Sometimes the ‘good’ that God brings out of our suffering involves drawing us closer to him.”
No pain no gain may sound a little cliché, but God wastes nothing; not one ounce of pain and not one tear His children shed are wasted when God is the first priority in their lives. “Pain plants the flag of truth within a rebel fortress.” Sometimes the pain you endure is used for someone else’s benefit. Joseph would be a great example for this. His brothers hated him. Just as John was the disciple whom Jesus loved most, Joseph was the son Jacob loved most and this created massive family dysfunction. His brothers plotted to kill him, but settled on selling him into slavery, but in Genesis 50:20 the true purpose is revealed: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s pain and suffering was used by God to save an entire nation. It can be real easy in the midst of tragedy to become engrossed with your own problems, but God can always make a way where there seems to be none. The apostle Paul put it best in his letter to the Romans, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” God can use any pain and suffering you have endured to better your life and to advance His kingdom.
Faith in the midst of pain and suffering is the real issue. Trusting God has you in the palm of His hand even though it feels like He is crushing you by your trials and circumstances; it is here where you are in prime position to receive His limitless blessings. He is the master potter and you are the clay. He forms you into a masterpiece and when you fall from grace or when you become a victim of circumstance, He simply folds you over and begins again. Even when you are shattered into a million pieces, He uses the brokenness and pain in your life to bring restoration and wholeness. Your pain and suffering is one of God’s greatest gifts and in their midst it is terrifying to feel helpless, but God allows you to go through certain trials in order to bring about a greater good. Without the crucifixion there could be no resurrection. “God’s aim, through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and suffering. This is why Jesus came to die.”
Christians are called to be Christ-like and are to consider it pure joy as assaults of evil present themselves in various forms. Daily life is a battlefield where a war between good and evil is being raged. James urges his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to persevere and have endurance through any trial or circumstance; he says these words out of compassion for them. The word joy here does not mean pleasure; it means something far greater. It means once you have stood firm, once you have shown your integrity, and once you emerge on the other side victoriously your faith is proved like gold in the fire. Fiery trials should only burn the imperfections away in your life. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace, but because they kept their trust in God, it kept their destiny in reach and when they emerged from the pit they did not even smell like smoke; all that was burned was the rope used to bind their arms.
One must never forget God knows the end from the beginning and has a plan in all things. Lewis, being an atheist most of his early life learned, “the hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compassion is our liberation.” Perseverance and endurance are traits which are acquired over time and are built upon by each new trial faced. “Suffering always changes us, but it does not necessarily change us for the better.” Pain and suffering can leave a void inside which if not filled by the Holy Spirit will consume you from the inside out. Pain always requires a response, tests must be taken, and circumstances must be walked out. Your trial has the potential to transform you, it has the potential to empower you, and it has the potential to bring you closer to God more than any blessing or miracle ever could. “When the pain is over, it is over, and the natural sequel is joy.”
God allows evil to exist, but He does not delight in His children enduring pain or suffering, but He allows them because His creation has free will. Satan attempts to counterfeit or destroy everything God stands for and if inflicting pain and suffering does not turn humanity away from God he uses pleasure instead of pain to separate people from God. If pain and suffering were always bad, then a loving, omnipotent, and omniscient God would stop them, but since God does not stop them, they serve a greater purpose. Some will never know why they had to endure pain and suffering, but in the end, regardless if it is on this side or the next, God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away and new life has come. Pain is temporary, but your salvation is eternal and whatever draws one closer to God should be cherished, even if it is pain and suffering.
Davies, Brian. The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil. London: Continuum, 2006. eBook Collection, EBSCOhost. Accessed August 31, 2014.
Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton: Victor, 1990.
Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. Basingstoke, Hampshire, GBR: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Accessed August 31, 2014. ProQuest ebrary.
Hyman, Frieda Clark. “Job, Or the Suffering of God.” Judaism 42, no. 2 (Spring, 1993): 218, http://search.proquest.com/docview/200388648?accountid=12085.
Jennings, Timothy R.. God-Shaped Brain : How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 31 August 2014.
Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. New York: Hancourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.
Lewis, C.S. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.
Little, Paul E. Know Why You Believe. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975.
McQuarrie, Christopher, The Usual Suspects, DVD, Directed by Bryan Singer. Los Angeles: Sundance, 1995.
Meister, Chad V, Dew, James K. Jr. God and evil: The case for god in a world filled with pain. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2013.
Ortberg, John. The Life You’ve Always Wanted. Michigan: Zondervan, 1997.
Piper, John. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Illinois: Crossway Books, 2006.
Webster, Noah. 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. California:G. & C.Merriam Company, 1995.
Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? Michigan: Zondervan, 2003.