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Why God Permits Evil
Do you, as Job of old did, wonder why God permits evil? If so, we feel confident that you will find a comforting and satisfying answer to your question in what follows.
Perhaps no question has perplexed more honest-hearted persons than why God permits evil, injustice, wickedness and suffering. Atheists pounce upon that fact as proof that God does not exist. Thus Woolsey Teller, general secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, Inc., in an interview insisted that the prevalence of “terrible misery, stark poverty, plenty of pain,” proves that God does not exist. The interviewer, while professing belief in God, was unable to give him a satisfactory answer, but merely posed such questions as “But we don’t know God’s purposes, do we?” “Do we humans presume to know what is in the mind of God?”
Incidentally, let us note that many who use the existence of suffering in the world as a reason for not exercising faith in God would have Him perform continuous miracles in contravention of his own laws. Inconsistently they would blame God for the wretchedness that man continually brings upon himself because of his own selfish and foolish course.
Can we know God’s purpose in permitting evil? Yes, we can, if we are openminded and humble enough to be willing to heed his advice, “Come now, and let us reason together,” on what he has to say in his Word, the Bible. And is not that just what we should expect, that the Creator, who has so abundantly provided for all our material needs, would also make provision for satisfying our hunger and thirst for truth, for the whys and wherefores of such perplexing things as the permission of evil? Surely it is!—Isa. 1:18.
First of all let us note that “with God all things are possible,” for he is a God of “wisdom and might.” Further, we are assured that “God is love” and that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.” (Matt. 19:26; Job 12:13; 1 John 4:8; Ps. 97:2, AS) While to the atheist the permission of evil is a negation of God’s power and wisdom, as if he were unable to stop it, and of his justice and love, as if he were indifferent to evil, yet to those who really believe that God has these four attributes in a perfect and infinite degree the permission of evil merely raises the questions as to why God permits it and when he will put an end to it.
Briefly stated, God has permitted evil because one of his creatures raised the questions, Who is supreme? And, Can God put men on earth that will keep integrity in spite of pressure and temptation? When these questions have been fully answered, God will make an end to evil.
MAN’S CREATION AND DEFLECTION
At the beginning of man’s existence there was no evil. God had created man perfect, even as his Word assures us, “Perfect is his activity.” God created man in His likeness in that He gave man a measure of wisdom, justice, love and power. He also made man a free moral agent, free to choose to do right or wrong, reaping, of course, the consequences of his choice. He placed man in a beautiful garden, Paradise, and gave him a threefold mandate, to be fruitful, subdue the earth and have dominion over the lower animals, the carrying out of which would enable man to make the fullest possible use of his faculties and attributes.—Deut. 32:4, NW; Gen. 1:26-28.
With all this God placed man under but a single restriction: he must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree. This restriction did not work any hardship upon man, as he did not need its particular fruit to sustain life. Nor was compliance with this restriction a difficult thing to do. God, as Supreme Sovereign and Benefactor, had a perfect right to forbid man the privilege of eating this particular fruit, and he did so for several good reasons. This restriction instilled in man the fear of Jehovah, for it emphasized his dependence upon God for life; that God had given it to him and could take it away again. It also would show whether man appreciated all that God had done for him or not, and might even be said to have made man appreciate his blessings all the more, realizing that they could be lost. Further, it furnished the ideal test of man’s love for God, for ‘if we love God we shall keep his commandments.’—1 John 5:3.
Not only did God provide man with certain faculties and instructions on how to use them, but he also appointed for man a ‘covering cherub,’ a guardian angel, as it were, to guide, instruct and safeguard man. (Ezek. 28:14) This angelic deputy, however, allowed his appointment to give him an undue opinion of his own importance, awakening in him an ambition to be worshiped as Jehovah God was. To that end he set about to estrange man from his Maker, Benefactor and Friend by means of base slander. By sowing distrust in the mind of the woman this one succeeded in causing both her and her husband to disobey, thus manifesting a lack of love and appreciation. God, consistent with his word, sentenced them to return to the dust, and eventually they did.—Gen. 3:1-19; 5:5.
Because of his ambition and rebellion this one is subsequently referred to in the Scriptures as “the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan.” And that it was indeed his ambition to be worshiped like Jehovah God is apparent from Isaiah 14:12-14, where we read of his boast to match the Most High, and from Matthew 4:8-10, which records his offer to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would but bow down and do an act of worship before Satan.—Rev. 20:2, NW.
WHY EVIL PERMITTED
While the foregoing clearly shows that Satan, Adam and Eve, and not Jehovah, are responsible for the evil in the world, still the question remains, Why did God permit these three culprits to live? Why did he not at once destroy them and start all over again? Because, in that Satan caused our first parents to deflect, the question was raised as to who was to blame. Had God created them so that they could not withstand temptation and yet provided for a death penalty for their failure to do so? Had he at once put to death the three of them this point would have remained forever moot. Besides, Satan boasted that he could turn all human creatures away from God, thereby challenging both Jehovah’s supremacy and his ability as Creator.
Jehovah knew he had made no mistake in creating Adam and Eve, that his law to them was just and that human creatures could remain faithful under test. To demonstrate these points he permitted Adam and Eve to continue to live and to have offspring and he permitted Satan to continue and to try to turn others away from Jehovah God. The Scriptures show that from Abel clear down to our day Jehovah’s servants have maintained integrity in spite of all that the Devil could bring against them in the way of temptation or pressure, thereby vindicating Jehovah and proving the Devil a liar and a wicked slanderer. By their integrity-keeping course they have been ‘making the heart of Jehovah glad by furnishing him an answer to give to the Devil.’—Prov. 27:11.
How do we know that this is true and not merely a fanciful theory? Because of the record found at Job, chapters 1 and 2. There we learn that Satan boasted that he could force Job, the most outstanding servant of Jehovah on earth, to curse God. God accepted the challenge and gave Satan a free rein with Job even to the extent of depriving him of his possessions, family, friends and health. But Job kept his integrity; he did not curse God, nor did he confess to sins of which he was not guilty, as certain Americans did under Communist pressure.
Undoubtedly in this historical account of Job (yes, Job actually lived; see Ezekiel 14:14; James 5:11) we have an example of God’s permitting evil for the purpose of demonstrating his superiority over Satan and that he can have men on earth who will be faithful under test. And that this was the reason why Adam and Eve were permitted to live on and bear children is apparent from the fact that Jehovah first called Job’s integrity-keeping course to the attention of Satan, indicating that the question of man’s keeping integrity had been raised previously.
In permitting evil for the sake of settling the issue of supremacy Jehovah is not guilty of any injustice. He could have put Adam and Eve to death at once instead of mercifully allowing them to live many centuries. And even for their offspring, life with suffering is a blessing. Furthermore, God has provided that all integrity-keepers will be rewarded even more than Job was, by means of Christ’s ransom and the resurrection. God has permitted Satan to remain for the past 6,000 years only as Jehovah told Pharaoh, ‘to show you my power and to have my name proclaimed in all the earth.’ When that purpose has been fully served, then Jehovah will make an end of Satan and all those having his spirit, who are the ones responsible for the evil in the world, at Armageddon, even as he destroyed Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea.—Ex. 9:16; 14:27, 28.
Jehovah is loving and just and so is not in sympathy with evil. Being all-wise and all-powerful, he can and will make an end of it in his own due time. Then Jesus’ prayer for God’s will to “come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth,” will be fulfilled. Then there will be no more death, nor outcry, nor mourning, nor pain. (Matt. 6:10, NW; Rev. 21:4) Then all that live will love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and their neighbors as themselves. In view of the valuable purpose served, lovers of God and righteousness will not complain at God’s permitting evil but will be glad to maintain integrity even though it means suffering at the present time, looking forward to the glorious outcome of it all, the vindication of Jehovah’s name and endless life for themselves in his righteous new world.