Sovereignty and Evil

October 14, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | 2 Comments

I was asked recently, by a person suffering the consequences of past sin, why God would allow sin at all.  “Why doesn’t he just make us obey him?”  It’s a part of the age-old question of why evil exists at all.  The answer is found in the mind and plans of God, and though we may not completely understand it, it has to do with God’s glory.  Everything in the universe, everything he created and everything he allows, is all for his glory.  In the Bible, the most direct answer to this question is found in Romans 9:18-24.  In part it says, “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy?”

This morning I saw another example of God using bad to bring himself glory in John 9 – the story of the man born blind.  The disciples asked why he was blind (thinking it was due to his own sin of that of his parents), and Jesus answered that it was for God’s glory that he was born blind, “this happened that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Jesus healed the man, and the religious authorities were infuriated by it.  It proved that there was a power and glory in play much greater than theirs and that their teachings about Jesus were wrong.  This story proves that, though our problems may be a result of evil in the world, they are not necessarily a direct result of our evil, but God allows them in order that he may be glorified in them.  Most North American Christians, and the prosperity gospel teachers, would have us pray that such problems be removed from us.  Maybe we should pray instead that God be glorified through them.

On a related note, I went to the library yesterday to have a reading day, something I don’t do as often as I would like.  I had forgotten to take the book I was reading, so I picked a small volume that caught my attention out of the religion section of the used book sale rack.  It turned out to be a good and thought-provoking read.  Dorothy Sayers, “Creed or Chaos,” written in England during the WWII bombings of London.  Sayers, who was more famous for her spy novels, also wrote theological essays; this book is a compilation of some of those essays.  She argues for the need of fundamental dogma in a few of them, and she addresses the problem of evil in one.  Here is a quote to give you a taste of her approach to the matter.  Speaking of Hitler:

“If,” we say readily, “God is holy and omnipotent, He would interfere and stop all this kind of thing.”

“Why doesn’t God smite this dictator dead?” is a question a little remote from us.  Why, madam, did He not strike you dumb and imbecile before you uttered that baseless and unkind slander the day before yesterday?  Or me, before I behaved with such cruel lack of consideration to that well-meaning friend?

You did not quite mean that?  But why not?  Your misdeeds and mine are none the less repellent because our opportunities for doing damage are less spectacular than those of some other people.  Do you suggest that your doings and mine are too trivial for God to bother about?  That cuts both ways; for, in that case, it would make precious little difference to His creation if He wiped us both out to-morrow.

And later in the same essay:

Looking at Christ, what do we find God “doing about” this business of sin and evil?  Here, the Church is clear enough.  We find God continually at work turning evil into good. Not, as a rule, by irrelevant miracles and theatrically effective judgments – Christ was seldom very encouraging to those who demanded signs, or lightnings from Heaven, and God is too subtle and too economical a craftsman to make very much use of those methods.  But He takes our sins and errors and turns them into victories, as He made the crime of the crucifixion to be the salvation of the world.


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  1. Here is a wonderful example of someone glorifying God in their weakness: – Be sure and watch the video – Peters gave the full length version of his seminar at my church and comes highly recommended by my pastor, Dr. John MacArthur.

  2. Thanks for your input Caron! I appreciate you reading.

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