I was asked just this week my thoughts on the heinous act of evil perpetrated at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Where was God in the midst of such evil? That question has been asked time and again over the ages. Recent events return our attention to the problem of evil. The problem of evil itself is relatively simple to state, but has been profoundly difficult to answer. David Hume, following Epicurus, suggested that if God was not able to destroy evil, then he was impotent; that if God was not willing to destroy evil, then he was malevolent; and that if he was both able and willing, then why was there evil? Succinctly, Hume displayed the three main tenets that form the problem of evil: (1) God’s omnipotence, (2) God’s goodness and (3) the reality of evil. The problem of evil is an important question for the Christian worldview, but every worldview must provide an answer.
I freely admit that answering the problem of evil is difficult. We are forced to live with the tension between what the Bible teaches—God’s omnipotence and goodness—and the evil we see and experience. The Bible simply does not answer the question, “Why evil?” But it does provide an explanation for evil. In Genesis 3, we discover that God provided Adam and Eve moral choice. They were not robots or automatons. Rather, they were free beings who had a choice. They chose poorly. They sinned. And as a result, evil and suffering entered the world. Sin, evil, and suffering evidently play a role in the sovereign plan of God. Sin and evil reflect the reality of man’s moral choices. Sin, evil and suffering also reveal the vast depth, wonder and glory of God’s gracious love. Not only does God love man in spite of our sin, but God sent his Son to suffer because of our sin. God shows his love and grace through the passion and suffering of Christ that we may experience God’s forgiveness and goodness.
These tensions are real. Regardless of our biblical beliefs and Christian worldview, we must still cope with acts of murder, abuse and heinous evil. We ask, “What would possess Nikolas Cruz to murder so many people?” We could ask this same question of all the school shooters or acts of mass violence in recent memory. We could ask the same question concerning acts of abuse, war crimes, the Nazi killing machine or any number of other historical events of villainy. Even answers that reflect satanic evil and the sinful human heart seem somehow insufficient.
Maybe we could ask a different question, “What would possess assistant coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Aaron Feis, to shield students with his body to protect them? Why do we consider his sacrifice heroic?” It is clear that we as humans identify with acts of heroic sacrifice. Feis’ ultimate sacrifice was not some act of altruism, but it was genuinely good. If we are going to ask the question “Why evil?” we must also ask the question, “Why good?” Feis’ sacrifice, along with the sacrifice of other teachers at the school, touches us deeply. Could it be that their sacrifice is somehow representative of a greater sacrifice?
While the Christian worldview may not possess a complete answer for the problem of evil, it does provide something to give humanity hope. Prior to man’s fall into sin, God created mankind in his image. During the 6 days of creation, God called all that he saw, “Good.” His purpose in creation is good. Paul connected these themes in Romans 8 when he wrote,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the create was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” – Romans 8:18-21
In other words, the evil we see and experience today is not ultimate. The Bible declares to us there is hope. Jesus came because of our sin to redeem us from our evil. And ultimately evil will be defeated and the goodness of God through Christ will reign forever. Even if all our questions are not answered today, we do not have to remain hopeless. Look to Christ who defeated evil on the cross. There is coming a day when evil will forever be vanquished and the glory and goodness of God will rule.