God and Evil, by Mike Thompson

 Written for the News Herald, November, 2006

The God of the Bible is the living God and He controls all things.  This is fundamental to Christianity and, on the surface, accepted by all who call themselves Christians.  But in the face of horrendous evil, many "Bible believers" compromise this truth.  And whether they realize it or not, they do so to their own peril.  9/11 is still fresh in our hearts.  As we mourn the evils of that day we rightfully condemn the actions of the terrorists.  We also are justified in taking the necessary precautions to seek to prevent another such attack.  But human responsibility does not in any way lessen God's absolute control over such horrendous evils.  To be sure, just exactly how God controls the evil actions of men is mysterious.  But the fact is this, he does indeed control them.

The biblical story of Joseph illustrates this.  As a youth his brothers sell him into slavery resulting in his undergoing a tumultuous life in Egypt.  Eventually, he is led through his suffering to be made second in command to the Pharaoh.  After his father dies, his brothers are fearful that Joseph will take revenge upon them for the great evils which they had done to him.  In Genesis 50:19-20, Joseph responds to their fears by saying, "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  Joseph grasps the fullness of God's sovereignty.  He understands that God did not merely allow the evil actions of the brothers, as if he were merely passive.  God was actively working through those wicked actions.  God was using the wicked actions of the brothers for His good purposes.  Joseph had no need to lash out in bitterness because he understood that evil men have no power to overthrow God's good purposes for him.  He also knew that no man will escape God's bar of jutsice.  The brothers will have to give account of their actions.

God's control of all things is demonstrated again and again throughout the pages of the Bible.  Indeed, the very meaning of the death of Jesus Christ depends upon it.  Jesus was not overpowered by the forces of evil, nor was God somehow only passively involved in the events of the crucifixion.  In Acts 4:28, Peter explicitly states, "They (Herod, Pilate, Gentiles, and Israelites) did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."  The cross was God's plan.  Satan and wicked men served God's purposes, even in their rebellion.

The Bible is not nearly as afraid as we are to declare God's ultimate control of evil.  "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities (evil things) and good things come?" (Lam. 3:38)  Why are we so reticent to acknowledge this to be true?  We fear that God's control over evil may stain his character.  A God who controls evil may actually be evil or at least be its author.  Of course, the Bible flatly denies both of these.  God is good and always does right.  His goodness is definitively demonstrated through his willing and ultimate sacrifice on the cross for sinners. 

God's control of all things is the very basis of our hope in times of evil.  A God who can only sympathize with those who lost loved ones on 9/11, is not very helpful.  But a God who controls even evil events for the good of his people, is a God who brings purpose to suffering and the promise of redemption from all evil.  Not understanding his good purposes is often frustrating, but the peace that passes understanding comes from casting those frustrations upon His sovereignty and goodness.

So, the next time that someone tries to defend God by denying his contol over evil remind them that only an all-controlling God can be of true and lasting help.