In the world of Christianity, there are so many things that remain confusing amidst Biblical teaching. God has given man the power of choice and whether one uses that power positively or not, depends on the choices one makes. Even the choice to follow God benefits only those who make that choice. The Bible teaches that God is good and pure and that everything He does is perfect. Yet the world is full of suffering even among those who are considered to be chosen by God. The question many people ask therefore is why God, despite the perception that he is pure and good, allows evil. Many responses can be given to this question. However, from a Christian perspective, God’s choices are still perfect and he allows people to make choices. It is the choices people make that lead to evil.
Why God allows Evil
God created the world and everything in it and felt that it was good. The ideal life that God wished for humans is that comprising of purity and an overwhelming desire to be closer to God. Therefore, anything that went contrary to the will of God would be considered as evil. There has been a lot of evil in the world in the recent years, and people have not come to the conclusion as to what causes evil. To understand this, it is important to understand what evil entails. The concept of evil can be described through different perspectives. According to Calder, evil can be categorized into the broad concept and the narrow concept. The broad concept of evil considers any bad state of affairs, character flaws and wrongful action as evil. This implies that aspects of life that would be considered normal such as sickness are considered to be evil.
The broad concept of evil is further broken down into natural and moral evil. Natural evils are those that do not result from moral agent intentions while moral evils are based on the negligence or intentions of moral agents and include aspects such as murder and/ or lying. Sickness would therefore fall under natural evils. The narrow concept on the other hand involves the moral condemnation ascribed to moral agents. Since human beings are moral agents, it is only humans that can perform evil. In this narrower sense everything described as ‘evil’ in the contemporary legal, political and moral contexts is captured. The narrow concept of evil can thus be described through the contexts in which wrong and badness are defined, with the argument that these factors clearly identify the moral agents with their actions. The relationship between evil and individual character can be further explored through the narrow perspective of evil, which also brings the perception of control over actions. While examining why God allows evil therefore, this paper will be founded on the broad concept of evil.
The nature of God is such that He has given both authority and freedom of choice to mankind. This being said, it means that every action is a result of conscious or unconscious choice. The first evil attributed to mankind was the violation of God’s instruction to desist from consuming the fruit of the knowledge of good and bad. It is from this evil that all evils to and among men resulted. Similarly, the first evil that happened to men was being sent away from the Garden of Eden where they had everything going for them. This evil can be classified under the natural evils in the broad concept of evil. Two lessons can be learnt from these first two evils and the nature of God and why he allows evil. The first is that God is still pure and thus does not want to be associated with the impure. This is drawn from the argument that during the first interaction between God and man, His instructions were explicit and would direct man towards his actions. The instructions given were to ensure that man remains in the ideal state of purity. By giving this instruction to man, God guided the man towards the choice to make and showed him the way to walk.
In the contemporary times, God still guides His people through different ways. This means that as much as evil still occurs in the world, it is a choice of man more than it is because God ordains it to be so. The first natural evil, the floods in Noah’s time, is an indication of God’s desire to save those who remain pure even in a world where people constantly make the choice to do evil. His subsequent promise to never send floods again is an evidence of the fact that God does not rejoice in seeing evil in the world, rather He at times has to allow evil to help steer men towards the right direction.
The power of choice that God gives to people in every circumstance can therefore be described as the cause of evil. In this regard, God directs and corrects people where necessary but still gives them the freedom to choose whether to accept correction or the direction given or not. This freedom is the cause of what is described as the moral evil, which is intentional and from the moral agents. The intentionality of moral evil implies that every wrong/ badness associated with mankind is a result of choice. As much as God gives directions to people, he does not have control over the choices they make per se, by virtue of his desire to let them be free. When they make wrong or evil decisions, they have to bear the consequences although some of the decisions may affect other people too. This is where the question as to why God allows evil comes in. His propensity to allow evil therefore, is not a function of his nature, but rather that of men’s choices. In men, evil is ascribed to various factors including links with the supernatural such as witchcraft, and explanatory powers which posit that evil is good. Each of these factors shows that man makes the choice to inadvertently engage in evil.
Various theories explain the concept of evil. For instance, Kant asserts that men are good if they choose to do good and evil if they choose to do evil. Similarly, another theory posits that the universe is a result of two coexisting and coeternal powers, God and the Prince of darkness. The two powers result in an eternal battle between good and evil, in which the choices people make determine the outcomes. The first theory ascribes evil fully to man’s choices, while the second theory accounts for both natural and moral evil. In both cases, God allows evil because of human choices and because of the impacts of the dark forces on human choices.
Evil as a concept is challenging to understand. It is all the more difficult to understand why a God who is considered good should allow evil. An examination of philosophical accounts of what constitutes evil, the nature of God as per Biblical teachings and the concept of evil in its entirety, shows that evil results from man’s choices. Since God has given man the freedom to choose his actions, He does not prevent the consequences of those decisions to fall back on man. Therefore, God cannot be blamed for allowing man to face evil, rather, man allows himself to face evils.
Calder, Todd. “The Concept of Evil.” The Stanford Encyclopedia. 26 November 2013. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/
Feinberg, John S. The Many Faces of Evil, Rev. ed. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004. Print.
Matusek, Edward. “The Problem of Evil in Augustine’s Confessions.” Graduate Theses and Dissertations, 2011. https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=4928&context=etd
Adams, Marilyn M., and Adams, Robert M. The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.
Meister, Chad. “Philosophy of Religion.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed 18 October 2018. https://www.iep.utm.edu/religion/
Todd Calder, “The Concept of Evil,” The Stanford Encyclopedia, 26 November 2013, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/
John S. Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, Rev. ed, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004).
Marilyn M. Adams and Robert M. Adams, The Problem of Evil, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).
Edward Matusek, “The Problem of Evil in Augustine’s Confessions,” Graduate Theses and Dissertations, 2011, https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=4928&context=etd
 Gen. 2:4-3:24.
 Gen. 5:32-10:1.
Chad Meister, “Philosophy of Religion,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Accessed 18 October 2018, https://www.iep.utm.edu/religion/
 Calder, par. 6.