Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?

F Permission Granted LogoThe reason God allows evil to exist is because he allows people to exist.

People do evil. Not God.

What people most often mean by the question, “Why does God allow evil to exist?” is “Why doesn’t God stop people from doing evil?”

The reason God doesn’t stop any given person from ever doing anything they want to do is because doing so would necessarily mean violating that person’s free will. And that’s something that God will not do. And it’s definitely not something we’d like God to do. Ever. Our free will is the irreducible quality that makes us human. It’s God’s ultimate gift to us; it’s what finally defines us as free and independent beings. The fact of our free will stands as the ultimate evidence of just how deeply God loves us. It means he loves us so much he’s endowed us with the ability to completely ignore or deny him if we want to.

That is love.

God would have to withdraw that love from us—he’d have to actually hate us—in order to violate our free will.

The only way for God to stop people from doing evil would be to stop people from ever thinking about doing evil. That would mean ceasing in all people all negative thoughts. That would mean exercising full mind control over everybody in the world. That would make for one big hideously boring zombified hell.

And that’s something no one wants.

Asking “Why doesn’t God stop evil?” is the same as asking “Why doesn’t God turn all humans into a mindless zombies?” Which … isn’t the brightest question in the world.

To summarize: God doesn’t do evil; people do. And God doesn’t stop people from doing evil, because doing so would mean violating their free will, which God won’t do out of his deep and abiding love for us.

God’s love for us means we’re free to do whatever we want, evil included.

That evil exists doesn’t prove that God is not benevolent. It proves just how benevolent he is.

Below is a little xtranormal.com video thing I made about this issue.

See also There’s Nothing Natural About “Natural” Evil.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Ray Searan

    Another good article here John. Like I said before keep using your gifts to challenge the Body of Christ. This article is soooooooooo relevant for the Kingdom of God today because it never ceases to amaze me at how many Christians have absolutely no idea why God allows evil to exist in the earth.

    Until He comes keep the Son in your eyes,

    Ray

  • nisperos

    Not only does creativity involve free-will, it also involves struggle, just as there is struggle and pain when a child is born. So, being like the creator allows us to witness power and experience pain and struggle.

    (Of course, we also have the creation story in Genesis where knowledge of good and evil is what results in pain and struggle. Basically, it seems you can't have one without the other one.)

    Pain and struggle are not in themselves evil. Evil is the misuse of creative powers which include free will. Evil is false pride (what made Satan fall) and greed and theft from others (what Jesus hated when He cleared the money changers out of the temple).

    We have Paul reminding us in 1 Tim 6: 9-10 of what, to this very day, remains an evil; the love of money. This is also one of the greatest heresies in some churches; the false gospel of financial prosperity. Those who value religion only as a means of personal gain are like the money changers in the temple.

    "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

  • http://360.yahoo.com/skerrib Kerri B

    “Penguins…” is on the way to my house at this very moment…I think I’ll have to stop reading your blog until it arrives, lest I spoil the whole thing!

    I’ll pray that God thinks you’re funny too, because if he does, then there’s hope for me.

    Great stuff, John.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thanks, Kerri; I appreciate these encouraging words. And don’t worry: my blogs DEFINITELY won’t wreck “Penguins” for you, if for no other reason than the whole opening of that book is a two-person PLAY, featuring God and the archangel (sp??) Michael. (It takes place in God’s workshop, the night before he’s going to introduce the first human–Adam–onto earth.) That whole mini-play is, I know, as good as anything I’ll ever write.

  • Ruth

    hey John…… given the way God found you in a supply closet… do you consider yourself radically saved-against your will-with your full consent? or do you think that God still would have let you walk away from that same closet? I search this out EVERYDAY and in the end I always come to: God will have His way. and the next day I am back at it….. what do I have to do with it-anything-something? nothing? predestined? on and on…… looking forward to the replies……. Peace IN !

  • Ruth

    http://www.apibs.org/chs/0182.htm

    food for thought……

  • http://blog.360.yahoo.com/skerrib Kerri B.

    Ahh, Ruth, you read my thoughts with the free will/predestination thing! I was wondering the same thing, John. And I say that in all kindness–not trying to 'catch' or 'zing' you on anything–just curious as to your viewpoint.

    My husband and I have had this debate for years. At first it was him for free will and me for predestination…and then one year I decided it was both, all at once, and he said that was a cop-out, and I decided to stop debating him on it. Hmmmm, this could lead to my own blog post, I'm thinking…

  • In love with Nature

    I stopped posting at “is there God ? There is God” but after reading this one i just can’t resist …

    Dear John, “Evil” is not only a harmful action of a human against another human. It is any event that makes a human suffer.

    Cancer is an evil thing. A Tsunami is an evil thing. Babies born without brains is an evil thing. You agree with me on that don’t you ? Why does your omnipotent, omnipresent God allow these

    things to happen ? Has he given Nature also a free will ? and viruses ? If yes than can u tell me if there is anything that God has under control ? Because then it looks like that he just created things and doesn’t really care. Thats not really loving is it ?

    But there is also another point. If God gave us free will didn’t he knew that some of us will misuse it ? I will not give my 2 year old son a knife to play with. Not because he is a bad boy but because he could use it in the wrong way … Am i really smarter

    than your all-seeing all-knowing God ? Or couldn’t he figure out that the nazis would use the free will he gave them to burn 6 million people ?

    (Most of them belonging to his beloved nation Israel)

    Somehow it all doesn’t really makes any sense at all if our starting point is that God is loving and almighty. Maybe he isn’t that at all or maybe he just is not.

    On the other hand if we say there is no god we are just intelligent animals but we still have strong animal instincts which our reason cannot always tame or control then everything is clear.

    Or would you say that a Wolf is evil because he eats a rabbit ?

  • Ruth

    hey John- perhaps you could expound a bit further on what happened in that supply closet…. being drawn to your knees and salvation is really hard to explain to someone that hasn’t been drawn….. it is so astoundingly amazing…

    ILWN – we don’t die on our own, God doesn’t cause us to forget anxiety, and fear of the Lord is not a one line answer……

  • evilqueen

    God let human have free will ??? BULLSHIT !!!! ….. if God really that superior …. he shouldn’t make out such ugly human with ugly behaviour … and god should actually destroy the devil and make the sin disappear …. the fact is … there is no such GOD in this world …. without human … where does GOD …. it is not GOD created human … it is human created the GOD …. BULLSHIT GOD !!!!

    • PolishLuvMaster

      Wow. You need to chill.

    • Debbie

      Then the humans have created a pretty weird kinda imaginary God…and yet they still do evil…back to square one.

      Take God out of the picture and explain why people do bad things to this creation, the earth and all that is in it, including each other. Has not any friend of yours who doesn’t believe in any kind of God done things that bring harm? Have you, the one with no God done harm to others?

  • John

    I have wondered about things along these lines. Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? What does it mean that God sent his evil spirit to Saul? What does Job tell us about God’s nature? What about people with mental problems that lead them to commit “evil” acts? I do not think that there are logical answers to these issues. Just like the free will vs. determinism debate we are not capable of understanding how these seemingly opposed positions can coexist with an omniscient being.

    • Debbie

      A new creation was birthed in Bethlehem and at The Cross the ‘labor pains’ grew louder…all of your questions are pictures of God dealing with a creation that is passing away, a creation that is dying…God promised to never ‘flood’ the earth again and He is keeping that promise…the new creation is coming like a slow birth…it is very cool actually. yet not so good for our instant gratification desires.

      If I keep going I could write a book. It is very good to plunge the depths of the old while we savour the firstfruits of the new wine.

      A logical God He is.

    • Tim

      God hardened Pharoah’s heart in a similar way to how my unfaithful wife hardened my heart. IOW, my wife didn’t set out to magically harden my heart toward her. I just found out about her plan to have sex with a co-worker during an upcoming lunch hour. Similarly, Pharoah became livid when he found out from Moses what God was planning to do if Pharoah didn’t let the Jews go. If my wife knew that I would find out, she might have even said, “I will harden my husband’s heart” because she would have foreknowledge that her intended actions would harden my heart. God is omniscient. He knew Pharoah’s heart better than Pharoah himself. God didn’t make Pharoah hate Moses and his God against his will. God simply knew how things would play out.

      Likewise, I believe that God didn’t make the devil bring calamity to Job. God didn’t make the evil spirit vex Saul. The devil and the evil spirit more than willingly subjected Job and Saul to torment. That was their thing. But as I understand it, God can and will limit the will of the devil and his dominion to suit His perfect plan. However, God will not limit the free will of a human.

      As for people that do evil as a result of mental problems or a chemical imbalance in their brain, I can only trust that God is just. If God is worth His salt, He knows when someone is culpable…He knows when they aren’t. As for free will vs. determinism…I think determinism is an illusion. Determinism says that God ordains everything mankind does. What i think God actually does, is that He permits everything mankind does, because free will is an inexorable attribute of mankind being made in God’s image.

  • Bruce

    (non-argumentary tone) What about the “free will” of those who suffer as victims of that evil?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Part of the evil men do is rob others of their free will. But that’s not God doing that. That’s man.

      • DR

        That is a profound statement.

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    There is one thing that bothers me about this. I’m a believer, so I’m not being hostile here, it’s just that when the “why does pain exist?” argument comes up, inevitably, things that are obviously *not* human-caused evil are brought up.

    Viruses. Earthquakes. Multiple Sclerosis. Progeria. Things like that.

    Now, I personally think that, sometimes, natural pain is necessary. If we were to design complex robots (more than just Roombas) for instance, we might have to program some kind of wiring/software for “unpleasantness” to keep them from destroying themselves. Without our bodies being wired for pain, we’d burn ourselves becasue fire wouldn’t be “hot,” we’d chew out our own tongues because we’d not know or care when we’ve bitten them, etc.

    Even things like predation, parasites and mass extinctions in nature serve purposes – control of animal populations, change inherent in land and climate to promote change and diversity in species…

    Yet, bring that up to someone who’s had a loved one die painfully of some genetic disorder, and you get called evil for believing in a God that’s apparently even (even if you try to bring up “just believing that something brutal *exists* doesn’t make a person evil, but whatever, people get absorbed in their own pain and inevitably look for someone to blame).

    Still, I wonder about some of those “natural evils” that *don’t* seem to have a rhyme, reason or purpose. Why progeria, for instance?

    The conclusion that I usually come up with is that these things are allowed in creation because God is incomprehnsible and, like the author of a novel, may put his characters/creations through things that they are incapable of understanding in order to bring about some kind of overreaching plot that will make sense in the end. Even if it doesn’t now.

    Of course, I try to express that to angry people and they just hate and call me evil for having an explaination that isn’t “I’ve stopped believing and become like you.”

    In the end, though, I’ve decided I’d rather not be a character in a story without a plot.

    • Tim

      Why progeria, for instance?

      I suppose spontaneous gene mutations like the point mutation that allows progeria, can’t be blamed directly on anything induced by a chemical spill or over-exposure to x-ray, ultra-violet, possibly caused by our depletion of the ozone layer, sloppy disposal of toxic waste or reckless use of cathode-ray tubes, sunlamps, or too many days at the beach. Point mutations are spontaneous diversions in gene replication that should’ve gone off without a hitch. But a hitch, nonetheless, occurs. It is just a hitch with consequences that are rare and tragic. My nephew wound up with an old man’s brain cancer at the age of 18 months. It was a random fluke. The first human on medical record to have this cancer before the age of 72. I cut my spiritual teeth on the event of watching my brother’s only son die at home over the course of three weeks. Shaking my fist at God, flipping off the Almighty, and shouting a few choice insults, I asked God WHY? After I was over my temper tantrum, I was putting my Bible away and I dropped it on the floor. You guessed it, it opened to Isaiah 57 and verses 1 and 2 seemed to float off the page and catch my eye.

      1 Good people pass away;

            the godly often die before their time.

            But no one seems to care or wonder why.

         No one seems to understand

            that God is protecting them from the evil to come.

       2 For those who follow godly paths

            will rest in peace when they die.

      Maybe not the “why” for everyone, but it suited me fine.

      • Debbie

        Very precious Tim.

      • http://reddysrhetoric@blogspot.com Jason

        tim….thank you for sharing this story


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