Friday, May 04, 2012

The Problem of Evil in the Godly Life

I have been reading in Job this week and found no answers as to why evil exists. Recently I read of a pastor whose son had a horrible climbing accident. This poor pastor, according to what I have read, is going around teaching saints that God killed his son. I empathize strongly with a father losing his son, yet I must ask what gives man the right to ascribe God evil? I know the pastor probably means it for good, but nowhere in my Scripture can I find evil coming from my God. This poor soul needs to reflect strongly on the love and goodness of God, and, I think, reformulate his teachings. Yes, God uses the evil to bring His good purposes about, and yes, in the sense that God created it all, He is the originator of everything, including evil. I think what I read in Job gives no answers as to why. Consider Job:
1) God raises the argument of the righteousness of Job to Satan (Job 1:8)
2) Satan reacts to God and asks permission of God to bring evil (Job 1:9)
3) God grants Satan his request (Job 1:12)
4) Again God raises the righteousness of Job to Satan (Job 2:3)
5) Again Satan asks permission to strike Job (Job 2:4)
6) Again God grants Satan his request (Job 2:6)

Job, at the end of the book, gives all glory to God: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. . . surely I spoke of things I did not understand” Job admits he does not understand; at the end of his discourse with God Himself, he still does not understand. I would suggest that it is not given for us to understand the mystery of evil and how it comes to our lives. Elihu, the young friend of Job, and the one who was more right in his understanding, said of Job: “Job says, I am innocent, but God denies me justice.” (Job 34:5) But after God answers Job, Job can but reply that he spoke of things he “did not understand”, and repents in ashes.
My point? Job never knows why. He is not allowed to ask why. From that nugget, I can say that, though evil come into my life, I cannot ask why and expect any understanding. Job’s question to his wife rings throughout generations: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” We see and suffer much evil in our lives, but are not to attribute such to coming from God. Rather it may indeed come from Satan, as in Job, or it may be an argument started by God, but still it remains more of mystery to us, something that we have deep trouble understanding. Indeed, we are not to understand, we are to have faith in our Redeemer.

The Psalmest tells us about God: “You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil.” (Psalm 5:4) Paul tells us that “God chose the weak thing of the world to shame the strong. . . He chose them to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” (1 Cor. 27 & 28) Indeed Paul tells us of an evil affliction that he has (we are not told what the affliction is, but in some letters Paul complains of poor eyesight). In 2 Corinthians 12:7, we are told: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” Paul, in conscious imitation of Job I know not, nevertheless tells us of a similar pattern. It is Satan, or a messenger from Satan, who brings this unnamed evil into the life. Paul tells us in the next verse that he prayed thrice that the Lord would remove it. Instead the Lord replies that His grace is sufficient for you, and His power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore Paul exalts (v. 9) that he will boast about his weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on him.

Be very slow to ascribe evil to God; Jonathan Edwards suggests to us that God is the best of all possible goodness, and that He Himself is defined by goodness. I understand and love my brothers who do not take the time to see this nuance—like the pastor ascribing God to killing his son—but in this lifetime we are not given to know the why. We are given to know God, and knowing Him should be sufficient for us in all things and in all times. We are the clay; He is the Potter. Shall the clay say to the Potter, why have You made me thus? A question not to be answered in this lifetime. Perhaps in the lifetime to come we will understand as the song says, “in the sweet bye and bye”.