“If God created the devil and put the tree in the garden to tempt man, isn’t God responsible for the evil in the world? Furthermore, if God can stop all the evil and doesn’t, isn’t He then doubly responsible for it?”
Sounds like a pretty open and shut case against God. This is a tough issue for a short answer but let’s see what we can discover God is guilty of.
When God made man he was faced with a choice. If He made man incapable of rejecting God, incapable of choosing evil, then man would also be incapable of truly loving God or others. Love can never be forced. Love demands options. For man to be capable of truly loving it was essential that man also be able to truly not love and even hate. Of course, God knew man would choose this selfish route and it would bring great evil into the world. Then why did God go ahead and make man knowing the problems He would cause?
IT IS NOT ABOUT MAN
This world is not primarily about man, rather all creation is about bringing glory to God. How much does it demonstrate God’s love to love only the lovable? Not much. God instead chose to demonstrate His great love and mercy by loving a creature totally unworthy of His love.
Furthermore, to demonstrate His unfathomable love God chose to humbly suffer the anguish, the pain, the grief, the loss of being rejected by His own creation. He chose to suffer the sacrifice of His own Son. He chose to give man liberty to destroy Himself and destroy with sin all of God’s glorious creation. He did this to demonstrate His love for us without regard to our response to that love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 What a God!
UNLOVING OR IMPOTENT
Critics would say the existence of evil proves God is either unloving or impotent. How can He be loving and allow so much injustice when He could stop it with a single word? If He cannot stop it then He is impotent and no real God at all. But we see that, far from proving the non-existence of God, evil exists in the world precisely because God is good. Goodness and Love demanded man be created with the option to invite evil into the world. And because God is all-powerful He runs no risk of evil ultimately triumphing.
Furthermore, we must remember that God also chose to share in this suffering that man’s poor decisions would create. He did not approach this world of pain as a pristine visitor to a concentration camp who stands aloof and observes the wretched victims from a safe distance. He dove in, clothed Himself in flesh and drank deeply of the same agonies, rejections and grief known only to the most miserable among us. He voluntarily embraced more suffering than most of us will ever have nightmares about enduring. He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3)
A QUESTION OF DEGREES
But why doesn’t God stop men such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, these evil mass murders? Ultimately He does and ultimately they pay the price for their crimes against God and humanity. None of those men are still on a rampage today though new villains regularly take the place of fallen ones. But to criticize God for injustice in these situations is like reading half way through a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the conflict. Until the last page of Time’s novel is completed, we dare not cast accusations as to what justice or injustice has been done.
Furthermore, if God did choose to intervene and stop such evil, where would we, in our wisdom, be content with Him drawing the line? Should he strike down every murderer or only after they have killed a set number? Who among us would be all-knowing enough to determine that number? The number would likely be “one” if the victim is a person we know and love.
What about rapists and child molesters, drug dealers and modern day slave traders? Would it be just to allow them to continue in their evil when he stops murderers? If He stops them, then is He to allow thieves and liars to continue hurting people? And if He is to stop all thieves and liars, where would that leave each of us. I don’t believe there would be one of us who could say, “I have never told even a tiny, ‘white’ lie nor taken anything, no matter how small, that did not belong to me.” If we are not content with where God has chosen to draw the line and with His timetable of justice, then who among us is wise enough to instruct Him as to where He should draw the line?
PUNISHMENT BASED ON FOREKNOWLEDGE?
Furthermore, should he punish man based upon what God knows a man is going to do? “I know Hitler will slaughter 6 million Jews and Mao will kill more than Hitler and Stalin combined (some estimates say 70 million Chinese) so to prevent that I will bring them to justice before they harm anyone? And can that be called justice, to punish before an offense? Obviously not. Justice demands each person be allowed to fill their cup of iniquity so when they stand before God they have no grounds to declare Him unfair or unjust in His judgment.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, it is God’s goodness and God’s justice that demand evil have a period of free reign on earth. It is precisely because God is good that there is evil on earth. Yes, God is guilty. Guilty of love in the first degree.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-8
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.