As promised, we turn now to examine a few problems with “the problem of evil” (moral evil, for our purposes), the claim that says if God has infinite power and can easily eliminate evil, and if He is perfectly good He would always want to eliminate evil. But since evil exists, God must be less than infinitely powerful or less than perfectly good, or both. 
From a narrow human perspective, evil poses a logical puzzle and raises difficult theological questions. The difficulties vanish, however, if God is reduced to less than perfectly powerful and good, if the meaning of “good” is altered, or if “evil” is redefined as less than absolute wickedness or as a necessary means to greater good. Such “solutions,” however, avoid the essential problem. Moreover, attempts to defend belief in God by compromising biblical truth dishonor God and Scripture, affirm the unsound assumptions behind atheistic arguments, and are entirely unnecessary.
We can agree that “attempts to sidestep the problem” are deficient. For instance, evil as the necessary flipside of good or as necessary to produce greater good both contradict Scripture. God is not only independent of all things, He remains the source and definition of good and has no need of evil for anything. Moral evil began in the will of created beings and exists nowhere else. It will be banished, while perfect goodness will remain forever. Moreover, a speck of corruption would ruin heaven, while every life would improve by one less sin. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds.
Compromising God’s attributes, such as limiting His knowledge of the future, may appear to solve logical riddles, but denies God’s perfect excellence. Such “answers” merely affirm the claim that the God of perfect power, goodness, and knowledge cannot exist, a self-defeating defense. God knows everything always, even the free and future acts of angels and people. And though philosophers may cry “impossible,” God can do whatever He wants, regardless of what we deduce from created reality. Deep thinkers would do well to admit their limitations and refrain from imposing them on God.
God, however, can bring good from evil and sometimes uses our sinful choices (for which we are blamable) to accomplish His will. But dependence on evil would destroy God’s glory, while doing evil that good may result is unrighteous. God brought infinite good from infinite evil in the crucifixion and can turn Satan’s worst schemes for good. Indeed, God conceived, planned, and orchestrated Christ’s voluntary death. Yet His murderers bear the blame for their willing and unforced sin. (The sovereign control of God and responsibility for our sin present another theological difficulty. But, as we will see concerning evil, it poses no ultimate problem for the believer. For an in-depth discussion of theological mysteries, see God the Reason.) God’s infinite wisdom and power can bring good from evil and remain righteous. And He needs nothing to accomplish His will, least of all evil. 
Variations of this proposed solution include the good of human freedom to choose evil outweighing the risk of its potentially terrible results. Or, a truly free will requires the choice between evil and good. But while such explanations place responsibility for evil in the will of created beings, where it belongs, they distort true freedom. “If…the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36 NAS), speaks of a new freedom, including the freedom to choose good, not the old “freedom” to choose evil. Indeed, we will be most free in heaven without evil, while God is perfectly free and forever lacks the inclination or option to choose it. And as dining cannot be enhanced by adding poison or steamed Okra to the menu, true freedom is not improved by the option to choose evil. That said, God could have created a universe of free people without the possibility of evil, but He chose not to and did not ask for our opinion in the matter (Job 38:4, Isa. 40:13-14).
The same faulty assumptions behind other atheistic arguments are displayed here. For instance, could God have allowed evil for reasons we cannot fully comprehend? Yes. Do we lack complete understanding of an infinite God and His ways? Yes, again. But for the atheist appealing to evil to deny God’s existence, the answer appears to be no. They say, in effect, what we cannot understand cannot exist or be true, making their reasoning the highest authority in and beyond the universe. God’s ways, however, are infinitely above us (Isaiah 55:8-9), and mysteries must abound. We do know that God will eliminate evil forever, but in His perfect timing, known only to Him.
We are tiny before God. Indeed, “the nations are like a drop from a bucket…a speck of dust on the scales…. All the nations are as nothing before Him” and “regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless” (Isa. 40:15, 17 NAS). How can people of five senses and three or four dimensions know what an infinite God would do apart from what He reveals to us? Are atheists reasonable making their limited perspective the ultimate standard of what can exist in and beyond the universe? Are things impossible just because we cannot understand them? Such irrational leaps of blind faith reflect the atheists’ refusal to acknowledge mystery and their own smallness, even as they presume for themselves a kind of omniscience. Apart from God’s revelation, none can know what defines ultimate good or know that a perfectly good God would never allow people the freedom to choose evil. God, alone, determines such things. We only know by what He has revealed in Scripture and has actually done in the world.
Consider a small sample of logical arguments:
- To know an infinite God does not exist requires knowledge of everything in the universe and beyond.
- People do not know the contents of their neighbor’s garage without having a look.
- People cannot possibly know that God does not exist.
- To know that a good God would not allow evil requires knowing every possible reason why He would or would not do so.
- We have trouble remembering where we put the car keys and lack the infinite knowledge required to know every possible reason God might allow evil.
- Finite human beings cannot possibly know that God is impossible because they do not understand why He would allow evil.
The author denies rational support for belief in God, yet one looks in vain for rational support for limited people speaking with authority about ultimate and transcendent realities. God’s existence is obvious, regardless of the deductive arguments people devise to explain Him away. (See my previous article for an explanation of the nature of the unbeliever’s knowledge of God’s existence.)
Most atheists readily admit blame for their choices, even as they enjoy God’s blessings and assert their freedom to choose what they please—good or evil. Yet, in order to explain God away, they assume a good God could not create people with the ability to choose between good and evil. Convenient. In any event, blame for moral evil lies with the evildoer. But, thankfully, God has remedied evil at infinite cost to Himself, providing the escape from condemnation and the way to eternal life. This He accomplished through Christ’s perfect obedience to satisfy His standard of righteousness and by His death to pay the penalty for our sin. Thus, in the infinite excellence of God displayed in the person and work of Christ we have every reason to love and trust Him in the face of great mysteries. As the “secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Dt. 29:29), so belongs the complete answer why God created us when He knew we would sin.
In the end, denying God’s existence denies the obvious reality that our limited human perspective cannot form the ultimate standard of truth and possibility in and beyond the universe. And as long as we lack the vantage point and knowledge of God to speak of such things, the “problem of evil” says little more than we are not God. Therefore, “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22 NAS).
 J. L. Mackie, “The Problem of Evil” in The Impossibility of God, Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier, eds. (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2003), 78-81.
 Ibid, 75.
Scriptures marked NAS are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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