When evil goes public as it did in Las Vegas last week—brazenly, tragically, and fatally—many Christians feel they need to do for God something God doesn’t feel the need to do for Himself.

They become His Perry Mason’s. They make Him their client and seek to defend Him in the court of human opinion. That court’s charge is in the indictment question, “How can a good God allow evil?”

A Good God in a World with Evil

The technical name for this defense is Theodicy. The fact is it never works. It never sways the jury. Like a sentence in a kangaroo court, the verdict’s always “Guilty as charged.” And the sentence is swift as God is hung on the gallows of a denial of His existence for the crime of not being big enough or loving enough to keep evil out of the world.

Funny thing is, God doesn’t put any of His people on a retainer. He never asks us to defend Him. Ever.

More importantly, He doesn’t feel the need to defend Himself either. You can read the Bible from cover to cover and you won’t find the Lord telling you how He can be good yet allow evil in this world. He’s seen fit to keep the mechanics a mystery.

But God’s silence doesn’t mean Scripture’s pages are blank as an amnesiac’s memory on the subject of His relationship to evil. Just the opposite.

The Bible is R-rated graphic about human evils like selfishness, sensuality, and savagery and the horrors they cause. Just think, for example, of Cain’s Soprano’s-like premeditated homicide of Abel (Genesis 4); Joseph’s thirteen years of heartache caused by his dysfunctional brothers’ envy and Mrs. Potiphar’s rejected woman, hell-hath-no-fury, anger (Genesis 37-50); Job’s personal holocaust (Job 1 & 2); Paul’s second-only-to-Jesus’ sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:22-29); and, worst of all, Jesus’ incomparable, evil-driven “man of sorrows” agonies climaxing in the evilest evil in history, the cross (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

And the Bible doesn’t shy away from talking about the realities of demonic evil (Satan and the real “Hell’s Angels” who followed him in rebelling against God) and nature’s evils (e.g., floods, fires, and famines) either.

So, no, God isn’t as hesitant to talk openly about evil as Baby Boomers’ parents were to talk about sex with their children. And what He says about evil and His relationship to it is both surprising and strengthening for every Christian who’ll believe Him.

Surprising, because God tells us in His word—sharply, bluntly, insistently, and repeatedly—that His goodness and the presence of evil in this world are no more incompatible than Heaven and happiness.

Strengthening, because what God says gives us reason to stay optimistic about Him even in the presence of Hitler-like horrors and Las Vegas-like atrocities. His words declaw anxiety, milk fear’s venom, and inspire martyr-like courage when we walk through the valley of the shadow.

What’s He say? He affirms that evil has a starring role in His story (and ours!) because He’s chosen to give it one. And He explains why He’s chosen to do this and what it means for us as we struggle with, sorrow over, and suffer from evil—whether our own or others’.

Biblical Truth in the Face of Evil

Here’s a summary of the Bible’s optimism-fueling teaching on God and evil that we’ll consider piece by piece in the next few weeks: God ordains and controls evil and uses it for His glory and His peoples’ good.

This truth keeps the kite of optimism about God flying high no matter how strong evil’s winds blow.

Lord willing, we’ll look in the next few weeks at how God’s relationship to evil gives us reason to be optimistic about Him and what this optimism involves.

But start with this: evil doesn’t surprise God like an ambush, hinder Him like sabotage, or overwhelm Him like pancreatic cancer does modern oncology.

Like everything else, evil is in God’s plan. So, like everything else, evil is in God’s hands.

Doesn’t that give you reason to be optimistic?

 

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