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Question Box









References are to the NIV, British edition


Q If God is righteous, why is there evil in the world?

A From the standpoint of Godís plan of salvation, the opposite principles of good and evil exist so that humanity, made in Godís likeness, may learn by experience to choose one over the other. Simply put, there are four ways to learn.


††††††††††††††††††††††† 1. Intuition

††††††††††††††††††††††† 2. Observation

††††††††††††††††††††††† 3. Information

††††††††††††††††††††††† 4. Experience


Each method plays a part in oneís cumulative understanding, but Ďhands-oní experience is the most thorough. Adam already had a knowledge of evil by information, but it was insufficient to restrain him from trying the opposite experiment. Adam and Eve both knew God as their Creator, and the only one who had the sovereign right to direct them.


God had said of the forbidden tree, Ď[Y]ou must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely dieí (Gen. 2: 17). They had a theoretical awareness of evil, though they had never observed nor experienced its effects up to that point. Hence, they did not appreciate their Creatorís loving authority and beneficent law, nor the dangers from which He wished to shield them. They yielded to the temptation which God allowed, the ultimate value of which His wisdom had anticipated.


In the Garden

The Scriptures tell the simple story of how the woman was deceived, and thus became a transgressor. Her own experience and acquaintance with God were even more limited than Adamís. He was created first and God had directly communicated to him the knowledge of the penalty of sin. Eve probably received her information from Adam. In 1 Tim. 2: 14 we read:


Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

When Eve took the fruit she evidently did not realize the fatal nature of her transgression, though possibly she had misgivings and apprehensions that all was not well. Nonetheless, the Apostle Paul says she was a transgressor but not so culpable because she had been deceived. Adam sinned with a fuller realization of what he was doing and with the penalty in view. Perhaps we can understand the temptation which impelled Adam to be reckless and incur the death sentence.

Bearing in mind that he was perfect and made in the mental and moral likeness of God, we may reasonably speculate that he possessed a high degree of love for his wife, the perfect woman. Realizing her sin would bring death upon her and that he might lose this beloved companion, he decided to share her penalty and so ate the fruit she offered. Thus, both Adam and Eve were guilty, and jointly they passed on the penalty and effects of sin to their offspring the entire human family. Habitual familiarity with sin further impaired the raceís moral nature, and evil frequently proved more agreeable and desirable than the good.

Nevertheless, God permitted evil to persist, knowing in advance the remedy He would provide release from the curse of death. He knew the final result would be to lead the human race to a better understanding of the catastrophic effects of sin. Thus humanity would in the course of time come to appreciate the matchless brilliancy of virtue rightness in contrast with sin, and learn to love and honour the Creator, the Source and Fountain of all goodness. The final result will be greater love for God and hatred of all that is opposed to His will and righteousness.


Godís allowing versus causing evil

One needs to make a distinction between Godís permitting evil, and the assertion by agnostics and atheists that God is the instigator of it. God seeks the worship and love of only such as approach Him in spirit and in truth. To this end He has given the human race sufficient liberty of will to exercise the power of choice in this regard.

Choice led to Adamís fall from Divine fellowship into death. To the end that the human family might have free will and yet be enabled to profit by the first failure in its misuse, God provided Jesus Christ, a ransom from the curse of sin and death, the basis for repentance and faith to those who believe. This means of reconciliation is open to all and will be understood by everyone at the appropriate time (1 Tim. 2: 3-6):

This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

The present life, which from the cradle to the tomb is a process of dying is, for most, still a favour, even if there were no hereafter. Some think that Godís punishment for Adamís sin is eternal torture. But the text says nothing like this. Adam was told Ďyou will surely dieí. The ultimate blessing of God to His obedient children, in Christís coming Kingdom on earth, will be eternal life, free from pain, sickness and every other element of decay and death. Righteousness will be the order of the day, freely chosen and delighted in by those adjudged worthy.

For further study on this topic, see the ĎThe Creation of Evilí, in the Q&Aís.



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