Faith & Doubt - Why Does God Allow Evil?
John D. Telgren

Why did she have to get cancer? Why did he have die in that horrible wreck? Of all people, why did that stray bullet hit my baby?

Wrestling with the presence of evil and suffering is perhaps the greatest and only "serious" challenge that can topple a believer's faith.

There are really two sides to this challenge, the rational and the emotional. The rational is easier to deal with than the emotional because it deals with reason in light of scripture. However, coming to a satisfactory and logical conclusion may do little to help with the emotional side of the challenge. This is a difficult issue, so I cannot deal with it effectively in an article. The emotional side needs more than paper and ink. It needs a human touch.

However, I can offer some minute help by way of the rational side of the issue here. How can you reconcile the existence of such great evil in the world with the existence of our God who is all-good, loving, powerful, and knowing? As we approach September 11, this question may become even more acute.

One common explanation is that God gave humans free will which came with an unavoidable price tag. That price tag is evil. This is perhaps the most common explanation for the problem of evil and suffering, but I believe it is inadequate.

This assumes that God could not avoid the entrance of evil and suffering into the world when he gave humans free will. Is this true? Was he really between a rock and a hard place on this? If it is true that God could not avoid evil, then it appears God was not completely in control, and that is a scary thought.

I do not believe that evil and suffering was an unavoidable consequence of free will. You can avoid evil by limiting choices and circumstances that lead to evil. As parents, we do this with our small children. We don't place sharp knives, poisonous chemicals, and other dangers than can kill them close to the floor and then tell them to stay out of it. Instead, we put them out of reach.

Did God put the tree of knowledge of good and evil out of reach? No, the text tells us it was in the "middle of the garden (Gen 3:3)." Was evil unavoidable? God could have chosen not to put the tree in the garden. He could have kept the serpent out of the garden, but he didn't. God intentionally allowed all of this to happen. It was not out of his control. The same is true in the case of Job. God allowed Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:12). There is no question that God could have chosen to prevent the calamity that came on Job and his family. It is also clear that what happened to Job was not because Job was evil or wicked. Job didn't choose the way of wickedness then pay the price for it. The text describes his as "blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (Job 1:1)."

So why did God allow evil in the world? The Bible gives a partial answer to this question. I hate to end on a question, but I have run out of room, so we will continue next week with this question.