Why is there evil in the universe? Is it because there is no God? Is it because God created evil? Is it because God is not powerful enough to eradicate evil? Or, is there another explanation? Philosophers and religious apologists have struggled and argued these questions for thousands of years, and I would be a fool to think I can solve the issue with a simple blog post, but since you have found your way here, please consider these Bible truths on the subject.
The dichotomy of good and evil
Just as in almost all literature, music, art, and even sporting events, there must be a protagonist and an antagonist in life. For all human endeavor there must be a struggle. Another record to break. A higher mountain to climb.
- Late 17th century: from Greek prōtagōnistēs, from prōtos ‘first in importance’ + agōnistēs ‘actor’
1. The leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film, novel, etc.
1.1 The main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a situation.
2. An advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea.–English Oxford Living Dictionaries
- Late 16th century: from French antagoniste or late Latin antagonista, from Greek antagōnistēs, from antagōnizesthai ‘struggle against’
1. A person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.
2. A substance which interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another.
3. A muscle whose action counteracts that of another specified muscle.–English Oxford Living Dictionaries
The superlative of the protagonist and the antagonist is the concept of a moral compass, which seems to be an integral part of human nature. There have to be things that are inherently good to contrast with things that are inherently evil. A movie, novel, song, or sporting event with just a protagonist, but no antagonist, no struggle, and no evil, would be lifeless and boring. People even ridicule the common concept of heaven as just angels and harps and rainbows and kittens and teddybears and daisies. If something is too bright and too idyllic and too optimistic and too perfect, it is disturbing because it is too naive and imaginary. If something is too dark and too dystopian and too apocalyptic and too evil, it is disturbing because it is too desperate and hopeless.
On the positive side, we wouldn’t know love without hate, heroism without villainism, altruism without selfishness, joy without sorrow, comfort without pain, peace without war, summer without winter, light without shadow, fullness without emptiness, and on and on; therefore, we wouldn’t know good without evil. And, as the Apostle Paul points out, we wouldn’t know evil without good.
So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard [at work] throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body? I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me! So I am obedient to God’s standards with my mind, but I am obedient to sin’s standards with my corrupt nature. (Romans 7:21-25 GWT)
The goodness of God
On the purely good side of the moral compass is God. He is the only true good. And, he is only good. The Apostle John (the revelator) was shown amazing prophecies of the future involving heaven and hell. He wrote 5 books of the Bible: the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3rd John, and Revelation. He was probably given more revelation than any other New Testament author. And, as a result of his understanding, John described the goodness of God more than any other. He is good and loving beyond description. Even in fiction, there is no equal to God. Please read 1 John for a beautiful description of the goodness and love of God.
This is the message we heard from Christ and are reporting to you: God is light, and there isn’t any darkness in him. If we say, “We have a relationship with God” and yet live in the dark, we’re lying. We aren’t being truthful. But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. If we say, “We aren’t sinful” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong. If we say, “We have never sinned,” we turn God into a liar and his Word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. (Mark 10:18)
The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)
He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11)
The evil of Satan
On the purely evil side of the moral compass is Satan. He is/was the most powerful creature in the universe. He had free-will to obey or disobey, to submit or rebel, to help or hinder, and he chose the later. We are not given much information about Satan except in a few prophetic poems that describe his power and beauty, which were corrupted by his pride. The real Satan of the Bible is unlike any literary or cartoon depiction. He is beautiful and powerful beyond description. He is the model on which all the truly great villains are modeled. He is worse than Joker, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Lord Voldemort, and Freddy Krueger. He is worse than Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Pol Pot, or Mao Zedong. He is literally evil incarnate. All bad people are only compared to him.
How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
to the depths of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12-15)
“ ‘You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden,
the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you:
carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper,
lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.
Your settings and mountings were made of gold;
on the day you were created they were prepared.
You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created
till wickedness was found in you.
Through your widespread trade
you were filled with violence,
and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God,
and I expelled you, guardian cherub,
from among the fiery stones.
Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom
because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth;
I made a spectacle of you before kings.
By your many sins and dishonest trade
you have desecrated your sanctuaries.
So I made a fire come out from you,
and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground
in the sight of all who were watching.
All the nations who knew you
are appalled at you;
you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more.’ ” (Ezekiel 28:12-19)
The fall of mankind by evil
In the beginning, God made a perfect creation, with a perfect earth, perfect weather, perfect animals, perfect plants, and perfect people. Everything was perfect. And, God walked among his creation and visited with his people. But, Satan! This rebel questioned God and caused Adam and Eve to doubt their creator (which is reason #1 I don’t believe in predestination). Immediately, they both realized they had sinned, so they hid from God, and lied about it, and blamed one another. What a fall.
Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned. Sin was in the world before there were any laws. But no record of sin can be kept when there are no laws. Yet, death ruled from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin in the same way Adam did when he disobeyed. Adam is an image of the one who would come. (Romans 5:12-14)
The purity of God requires justice
It’s almost impossible to think of God-like concepts: omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternity, and forever. Our finite minds fumble for words and images to describe them This is sad because it also clouds our understanding of absolute purity and absolute justice. We end up with silly cartoon versions of the reality. Here are a few divinely recorded scenes that roll back the curtain and give us a momentary glimpse of God. He really is this amazing. He really deserves this worship. And, therefore, he really requires absolute justice.
It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies!
The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.
Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
which was, and is, and is to come.
And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Thou art worthy, O Lord,
to receive glory and honour and power:
for thou hast created all things,
and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:5-11)
The love of God overcomes evil
Our frail human minds cannot conceive of the pain and suffering Jesus Christ endured in his atoning sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty of the sins of mankind. Read Isaiah 53 for prophecies of his suffering. About all we can comprehend is that he did it. And, because he did it for us, we should live in goodness for him.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:16-21)
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
The redemption from evil
The consistent theme of the entire Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 21 is the love and redemption of mankind from evil.
We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. (Hebrews 2:16-18)
And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:23-28)
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4)
Living in a world with evil
Redemption is unique and individual. But, it doesn’t take very many changed people to make a difference in the earth. If enough people are changed, the effect can be common and universal, but it doesn’t seem to last very long before it is corrupted by evil influences.
After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people. It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world. At the same time we can expect what we hope for-the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things. (Titus 2:11-14)
But you know all about my teachings, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. You also know about the kind of persecutions and sufferings which happened to me in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. I endured those persecutions, and the Lord rescued me from all of them. Those who try to live a godly life because they believe in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil people and phony preachers will go from bad to worse as they mislead people and are themselves misled. However, continue in what you have learned and found to be true. You know who your teachers were. From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures. They have the power to give you wisdom so that you can be saved through faith in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval. They equip God’s servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things. (2 Timothy 3:10-17)
If a person thinks that he is religious but can’t control his tongue, he is fooling himself. That person’s religion is worthless. Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world. (James 1:26-27)
Evil is getting worse
It doesn’t take a genius to listen to the radio, or watch TV, or read the Internet, to know that there is evil in the world. Sometimes, it seems like it is going to consume everything in every way. But, cheer up, it could be worse…
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Matthew 24:36-41)
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:5-7)
Evil will get much worse
In fact, it will get worse. It will get worse for Christians. And, it will get worse for everyone. The earth is like an old-fashioned watch, it has been wound up and it is slowly winding down. Almost everything is decaying and getting worse. When all hope is gone, look to God.
Then the kings of the earth, the important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and all the slaves and free people hid themselves in caves and among the rocks in the mountains. They said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the anger of the lamb, because the frightening day of their anger has come, and who is able to endure it?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
Therefore, dear friends, with this to look forward to, make every effort to have him find you at peace, without [spiritual] stains or blemishes. Think of our Lord’s patience as an opportunity [for us] to be saved. This is what our dear brother Paul wrote to you about, using the wisdom God gave him. He talks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in his letters are hard to understand. Ignorant people and people who aren’t sure of what they believe distort what Paul says in his letters the same way they distort the rest of the Scriptures. These people will be destroyed. Dear friends, you already know these things. So be on your guard not to be carried away by the deception of people who have no principles. Then you won’t fall from your firm position. But grow in the good will and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to him now and for that eternal day! Amen. (2 Peter 3:14-18)
For deeper study:
- The controversy of the Bible
- The controversy of sin
- What is the gospel?
- The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart
- They will hate you because they first hated me