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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Problem of Evil > The Illusive Answer 


Some thinkers have asserted that the most profound question is as follows: Why is there something rather than nothing? If that question is accepted as the basis question, then perhaps the second most demanding  question is as follows: Why does evil exist?

Humanists, secularists, and evolutionists proffer answers that have one thing in common:  all of the answers arise from within the musings of man. But for the believer, that very point invalidates each of the answers, for Truth is not of man. Truth is from without; it does not originate from within man but comes to man from outside of man, from God (see: Foundations, Significance of Truth, Starting Point, and Perverted Thinking).

If the presuppositions of God and the Scriptures are accepted, then they dictate that the answer regarding evil must be sought in terms of God, meaning the matter relates to Biblical Theism. Other options are excluded by the mere fact that they are from below rather than from above, from the human level rather than the Divine level.

For the believer whose starting point is God the answer, if there is one, must be sought in His Revelation. If no definitive answer is found in the Scriptures, then perhaps Truth can be found in them that will provide some insight into the problem.

To place God at the center of the discussion requires one to accept the overwhelming Truth related to His Sovereignty that is taught in the Scriptures (see: God is Sovereign, All Things, Theistic Determinism, and Scriptural Support for Sovereignty). Scripture speaks of numerous areas where God exercises His Sovereignty, His rule as King; a few will be considered:

    God is Sovereign over the universe

Ps. 147:4  “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (see: Isa. 40:26); God made them; He knows them; He controls them.

Dan. 4:35  God “does according to His will” in the “armies of heaven”; there is no place where God is not Sovereign.

    God is Sovereign over nature

Ps. 135:5-7  “Whatever Yahweh pleases He does in heaven and in earth”; He “causes the vapors to ascend,” “makes lightning for the rain” and “brings the wind out of His treasuries”; with these forces in nature, He does what He pleases.

Ps. 147:15-18  God sends the “snow,” “frost,” and “hail”; and at His word these “melt”; in addition, “He causes His wind to blow, and the waters to flow”; note that the “wind” is spoken of as “His wind.” Of Jesus it is said: “For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him” (Lu. 8:25). An acceptance of the historicity of the Flood establishes God’s control over the forces of nature.

    God is Sovereign over the animals

I Ki. 17:4  “I have commanded the ravens to feed you there”; God commanded the ravens to feed Elijah by the brook; the birds obey His will; if the birds, then surely all the creatures God made conform to His direction.

Matt. 10:29  “And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will”; the death of the sparrow is according to God’s will.

    God is Sovereign over the nations

Job 12:23  “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and guides them”; the destiny of nations is determined by God.

Dan. 2:20-23  God “removes kings and raises up kings”; those who rule nations have been placed there by God, and those who lose their positions have been removed by God.

Prov. 21:1  “The king’s heart is in the hand of Yahweh” and Yahweh “turns it wherever He wishes”; God has his way with all kings and rulers (see: Ezra 1:1; 6:22; Ps. 33:14-15).

    God is Sovereign over the trivial

Prov. 16:1, 33  God is in control of the “tongue”; and when the lot is cast “its every decision is from Yahweh”; even seemingly accidental happenings are according to His plan; there is no chance or luck in the universe.

Matt. 10:30  “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”; as strands of hair come out every day, the number is still known.

    God is Sovereign over His Word

Ps. 147:19-20  God declared “His word to Jacob” and “His statues and judgments to Israel”; the Hebrew people were blessed with God’s Revelation. But then it is added: “He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them”; God selectively revealed His Word.

Mk. 4:11  “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables”; comprehension was given to the apostles but not to the multitude.

    God is Sovereign over the individual

Acts 17:24-26  “determined their preappointed times” and “the boundaries of their dwellings”; God determines when you live – “times”; and God determines where you live – “boundaries”; see: Prov. 16:9; Jer. 10:23.

Gal. 1:15-16  “separated me from my mother’s womb” (Jer. 1:5); Paul, like Jeremiah, affirmed that he was chosen before he was born.

    God is Sovereign over birth, life, and death

I Sam. 2:6  “Yahweh kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.”

Job 1:21  “Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.”

Ps. 139:13-14  “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Ps. 139:15  “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret.”

Ps. 139:16  “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

Gal. 1:15  “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb” (Jer. 1:5).

Heb. 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once.”

    God is Sovereign over salvation

Ps. 65:4  “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.”

Jo. 1:13  “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”; salvation is not dependent upon the will of man but the will of God—a bitter pill for a culture set on individual freedom to accept.

Jo. 6:37  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.”

Jo. 17:6  “have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.”

Acts 5:31  “to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 13:48  “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”; individuals must believe in order to be saved, but those who believe have been appointed to belief.

Rom. 9:13  “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated”; a problem passage for those who accept the popular interpretation of the word, "world," in Jo. 3:16.

Rom. 9:16  “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy”; salvation is not dependent on the will of man but on the mercy of God who in mercy wills to save.

Rom. 9:18  “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”

Eph. 1:4  “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”

Phil. 1:29  “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

    God is Sovereign over the wicked

Ps. 11:6  “Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.”

Ps. 147:6  “Yahweh lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground.”

Prov.16:4  “Yahweh has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”

Rom. 9:18 “whom He wills He hardens.”

The above topics are more than enough to establish the fact that the Scriptures assert God’s Sovereignty in every area of life. There is no autonomous event, place, or person; all are under His reign and rule. “He is a great King over all the earth” (Ps. 47:2).

And it is from this perspective that an answer must be considered. All things are from God’s determination, and all things accomplish His purpose. Therefore, on the one hand, God cannot be made the author of evil (He is not the initiator of sin), but, on the other hand, it must be affirmed that evil is consistent with His eternal and inscrutable will (He does concur with the existence and the practice of sin).

But the question remains and constantly aggravates the thinking man: Why was it God’s will for evil to exist?

The reason why God ordained sin is beyond man’s knowledge. Observations can be made and certain truths affirmed but the definitive answer is illusive, man cannot attain to the precise reason why the holy God allows/permits/ordains/determines sin to exist. To press the search for an answer is to seek to explain the unexplainable, to attempt to understand the incomprehensible—it is for the finite to seek to know the fullness of the Infinite.

The answer is in the hidden will of God. Some things God has revealed to us, but some things remain concealed—many of the “why” questions must be left at this point. To press the question is to infringe on the prerogatives of Deity, a grievous sin.


Sin is consistent with God’s eternal purpose, whereby He is not the author of sin, but simultaneous determines that there will be sin.

Evil serves the purpose of God. He is powerful and could destroy sin; He is good and would destroy sin if it did not serve His purpose.

If, for the believer, the present existence of sin does not bring fault to God then His past will for it to exist does not bring fault to God.

Apart from human reasoning that causes some to question God’s goodness because of the existence of evil, the Scriptures affirm that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

The problem of evil is not a problem in the Scriptures; it is a problem in the mind of man. And the problem reveals the inclination of man to bring God into his court and cause Him to give an account of Himself and His doings.

If the issue is rested on the point that God permitted sin, or allowed sin through His permissive will, then the question regarding God is merely moved in the discussion one step. For then the question must be the following: Why did God permit or allow sin?

Whether the word is “ordained” or “permitted,” the point is that evil exists because God was willing and is willing for it to exist. God is—He exists—and sin is—sin exists, so God must be willing for it to exist.

What we deem evil may be part of a larger good.

But in the final analysis, the answer is illusive.

See: Providence and Evil

Return to: The Problem of Evil; Next Article: View's of Man's Will

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