The Tough Questions: Why Does God Allow Evil?
This is by far the most common question I am asked by people of all religious
backgrounds and it is one which causes many people to doubt God's existence.
The most interesting thing about this question is that everyone, regardless of beliefs, seems to have an inherent sense that this world is not as it should be and that God, if he exists, should set it right. Where does this inherent sense come from? How is it that we can imagine a better life? Why do we know that creation is flawed? Since we have all experienced both love, joy and peace as well as hate, sadness and pain we can confidently say that we want more of the prior and less of the later. We can imagine a better life. This lines up precisely with the teachings of the Bible which says that the earth was at first created perfectly, without evil. A perfectly loving world. If then we were at first created for a perfect existence, it makes sense that this imperfect existence is far from satisfactory.
So where did it go wrong?
Clearly the earth is no longer a perfectly loving, peaceful place. People perform all manner of evil acts against one another and even the earth itself kills and destroys through natural disasters. As I said before, the earth was originally created perfectly. So what changed? For those of you familiar with the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, you will know how it tells of the first evil (sin) which was performed by humans. This was to be the first of many sins and from that point on, creation was no longer perfect. This flaw permeates all of life and creation. Nothing is as it should be. Whether you agree with the Genesis account or not, you can agree that the earth is far from perfect.
The next natural question is why? Why would God allow people to sin? Why not create a world where there is no option to commit evil? Before this can be answered I would like to pose the question: What is love (baby don't hurt me...). A simple Google search for "Bible verses about love" will direct you towards some of our societies most famous definitions and descriptions of love which are used in weddings and other celebrations of love, both Christian and non-Christian, all around the world. In fact, the Bible contains over 700 verses regarding love. One of the most central aspects of love is choice. Love is not love if it is forced. Many aspects of love can be forced out of someone but love itself cannot be forced because then it would no longer be love but rather obligation, duty or simply self preservation. As with many of life's tough questions, I find it valuable to relate this to one's own human experience. If you were to discover that your wife or girlfriend had been forced or paid to spend time with you then your whole relationship would fall into question. It is one of the stereotypical crisis's in chick-flicks. Love therefore must be a free-will choice.
It is in that free-will choice where the problem lies. The problem that causes us to have to live in an imperfect world where evil is allowed to continue. God is love and thus God is choice. God desires that everyone would have the opportunity to freely choose to love Him and to love each other. However, in order for there to be a choice, there must by definition be an alternative. The alternative is to hate rather than to love; to be evil rather then good. In order for there to be love there must then be hate.The only other option is a world where we are forcibly submitted to God's will, which as I have shown, is not love. God is love and so as much as it must pain him everyday to witness, God gave us choice. Evil is the result of people having choice.
Will it ever end?
Yes! From the beginning God had a plan, knowing that choice would result in an imperfect world full of evil. Bruxy Cavey, in his series "My God Why?" (available at www.themeetinghouse.ca), calls this world "The best of all possible ways, to get to the best of all possible worlds." We can all imagine a better world because such a world will one day exist. This world is a world of choice and thus a world filled with both evil and good. But it must exist in order for the perfect world, one of nothing but freely chosen love, to exist. Like a husband, when married, chooses to remove his options in favor of his bride, so too when we enter this perfect world we will have freely chosen to give up our free will in favor of a world of only love. However, as with the marriage, the options must exist first in order for true love to be freely chosen.
God allows evil because God is love and desires that no one be forced into His will but chooses of their own free will to:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Jesus Christ