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Why the Problem of Evil Should Drive us Toward, Not Away from, God

By Amy Davison

It’s an odd thought–that the problem of evil should drive us toward God–isn’t it? We can all pick a moment, a situation that strikes us weak with fear. That turned our stomachs in horror. That drove us to our knees. To think of those moments as motivation toward God can seem almost counter-intuitive. Aren’t they the prime reasons our atheist friends walked away from him to begin with? 

Of course. Some of us, too, have walked away from him at one time or another. But perhaps some of our struggles were caused by having the wrong perspective, by not understanding the reality of the world we live in. This is a reality made all too real (and I’m grateful for it) by Clay Jones’s incredible work Why Does God Allow Evil?

Fair warning, this is not meant to comfort those in the midst of the valley of shadows. Logic will never offer comfort when emotional wounds are fresh. This is meant to offer points of reflection on the reality of our nature and the brokenness of our world. 

I had too many ‘a-ha’ moments to count while reading Jones’s book. I even missed a few exits wrestling with what I read as I drove home. And while this article barely touches on Jones’s understanding, my hope is that it helps reorient you toward Christ, though the process might initially be painful.

We Are All Depraved

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie, The Usual Suspects. In it, Kevin Spacey’s character muses, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”[1] It’s brilliant. But there’s another lie that Satan has convinced the world, including many Christians: that we aren’t really all that bad. 

You see this peeking out in the testimonies following tragedies like mass murders or assaults. The person at fault is called a “monster” or an “animal,” as if committing acts of evil is the dividing line of one’s humanity. But it’s entirely backwards. As Jones reflects, “Those who do genocide [or any other wrong for that matter] are not inhuman monsters…They are precisely human.”[2] When we look at every act of evil and oppression, it’s men, women, and even children at the center. They proudly usher their neighbors into gas chambers or gleefully gun down their classmates. Yes, spiritual warfare is at play, but so is our humanity. And we’re all more than capable.

This is perhaps why crimes are so horrifying. Why shows like Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, where children are forced to hunt each other and religion is twisted to justify the trafficking of women, are as fascinating as they are shocking. Not because they are fantasy, but because of how easily they can, have, and will continue to become reality this side of heaven.  The people committing such evil acts are as ordinary as you and me. This has been the reality since the imputed sin of Adam and Eve that ushered in the brokenness of creation and degradation of our nature (Genesis 3).

We Aren’t Entitled to Anything…and That’s a Good Thing!

When we start to comprehend how depraved we are, an unsettling but much-needed realization begins to creep in: we aren’t entitled to anything.[3] When we recognize this, it does two incredible things: Most obviously, it makes us grateful for what we do have. A person’s life doesn’t have to be long to be precious. Food doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy to be a blessing. A home doesn’t have to be glamorous to nurture those around us. 

It also makes times of sorrow easier to bear because we recognize what we have is a gift rather than feeling cheated out of what we were never promised. It’s only when we suffer from entitlement syndrome that we allow the joy to be stolen from the gifts of God. But, when we understand how unworthy we are, the gifts of God shine more brightly. 

Second, and most importantly, God’s graciousness is renewed in all its humbling glory. We truly are unworthy to be in his presence, or in heaven. Yet while we were yet sinners, Christ loved us, so much so to die for us and bless us beyond measure  (Roman 5:8; Ephesians 3:19). When we reach for him, he picks us up out of our filth and brokenness and makes us new (Revelation 21:5). Not because of anything we did or could do, but because of his mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

We Are in Desperate Need of a Savior

Once we recognize our depravity and that we aren’t entitled to anything, we’re smacked headlong with the realization that we’re in desperate need of a savior. For one, as depraved broken people, we’re incapable of saving ourselves. As Jones points out, doing anything our worldly selves would call good apart from Christ is just us acting in our own self-interest., completely ego-centric.[4] We volunteer because it makes us feel good, not because it is good. We’re kind to our in-laws, not because it’s the right thing to do, but to avoid an argument on the drive home. Without Christ, the focus is self, not sanctification, so our actions only offer earthly comfort, not heavenly blessings.

Our fallen nature, imputed to us through the sin of Adam and Eve, also means that no fellow broken human being can fill the role of savior. Not Oprah, Gandhi, or your Sunday-School teaching Me-Maw. No amount of meditation, charitable donations, or volunteer work could earn us a glimpse of the pearly gates, let alone the ability to walk through them. Only a perfectly sinless savior’s sacrificial death could ever justify our sin. 

Why Earthly Evil Should Drive us toward God

WIA member Laura Powell said that for some, earth will be the closest they get to hell. For others, it will be the closest they get to heaven.[5] The reality of her words are sobering, yet so needed.

We humans are great at spotting injustice and evil. But oftentimes we make the mistake of allowing the hell we witness on earth to drive us from the only one who can give us heaven. This, Jones notes, usually stems from a misunderstanding of our own human nature and fallen creation.[6]  If we have allowed postmodern mantras to whitewash our sin into “messiness,” then we misunderstand the nature of our fallen world. When evil occurs, we blame the designer and forget who broke it in the first place (Proverbs 19:3). 

Worse, we can make the mistake of looking at the murderer and, like the wicked pharisee, say, “Thank you, God, for not making me like this man, a sinner!” (Luke 18:11). It shocks us perhaps because it exposes our own humanistic “I would never do such a thing” beliefs that need to be plucked like weeds from our Christian worldview.

To keep our eyes on Christ means that we sometimes need to be bold enough to see evil. Not to spiral us into depression, but to be refreshed with the reality of our lostness so that we are reminded of how good God is and how desperately we need him.

Footnotes:

  1. The Usual Suspects, directed by Bryan Singer (Polygram Film Entertainment, 1996), DVD (MGM Home Entertainment, 2002) 
  2. Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions (Eugene, OR: Harvest House,  2017), 46, Nook. Emphasis his. 
  3. This hit us full force in 2008 when we found out our 2nd baby was going to rest in Christ’s arms before our own. I spent three days praying through each contraction telling God how her divine delivery would be an amazing testimony to His grace. To our sadness, his answer was, “no.” 
  4. Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?, 46 and 61-63.
  5. Her 2022 WIA Conference session is available along with the other breakouts on the WIA shop page. https://womeninapologetics.com/shop/ 
  6. Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?, 46.

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