The word “Theodicy” was created by Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz (1646-1716) from the Greek terms for “God” (theos) and “righteous.” (dikaiosune). It’s a school of thought that examines the problem of evil in the context of God’s omnipotence. How could evil exist if God is holy, righteous, and benevolent (as he is, Rom 7:12)?
The subject of Theodicy is posed succinctly by the Greek pagan philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE):
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
Strangely, Epicurus does not define evil in his puzzle. Furthermore, he attempts to deny God’s existence while assuming his presence as a personal entity that interacts with his Creation in some fashion—questioning His overall Theodicy.
The Van Til Train Ride
Similar but ultimately ineffective arguments are used by many who do not believe. If it helps, here’s an example.
On a train ride, Cornelius Van Til saw a parent with his child sitting on his lap. The boy allegedly smacked him across the face when the father requested his son to do something. What is the use case?
The child’s actions symbolize unbelievers who participate in God’s universe and enjoy God’s common grace despite their lack of faith (Psa. 24:1). They have a front-row seat on God’s lap and can slap him because of it. Thus, it is only because God allows it that atheists can express their contempt by attacking God’s existence (John 19:10-11).
Their rejection of God is an expression of their own affirmation. Although atheism is only feasible on the assumption of theism, it does not disprove it.
What exactly is evil? One definition of evil is “profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity.”
The Hebrew word ra’ means “bad or evil.” according to the Basic Hebrew Dictionary. According to Thayer, “troublesome” or “wicked.” are two of the meanings of the Greek adjective kakos.
In Psalms 5:4, the Bible explains God’s stance on evil, saying: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil (ra’) may not dwell with you.”
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil (kakos), and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:13-14)
God Created Good and Ordained Evil
The Bible declares that God is completely in charge and that he created both good and evil to reveal his glory (Rom 9:17, 22). His Theodicy is unquestionable, at this point.
The verse “The LORD works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster (ra’).” can be found in Proverbs 16:4.
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad (ra’) come?” (Lam 3:38).
Amos 3:6 declares: “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster (ra’) come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”
Isaiah 45:7 says, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster (ra’); I, the LORD, do all these things.”
Good and evil are under God’s sovereignty, according to Theodicy. According to WCF 5.4:
“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”
God Utilizes The Evil In The World
God is not the source of sin, evil, or anything else bad, but he did decide early on that bad things would be necessary. Here’s what we can pick up from the book of Genesis:
- God not only allowed Adam the potential of sin, (Gen. 3)
- He not only anticipated that Adam would fall into sin (see Isa 40:13-14; Job 21:22; Romans 11:33-34, etc.), but
- He also foreknew that Adam would disobey and bring sin into the world (Gen. 3; Rom 5:12-21).
As God knew that his Son would suffer and die before the world’s creation, we can rest assured that these things are true (Acts 2:23-24; 4:27-28; 1 Pet 1:19-20). This proves that God foreknew and sanctioned the existence of evil and its like. God knew the world would have a Fall (Genesis 3) and chose his people from it before existence was created (Eph 1:3-12).
This demonstrates that even before time began, God realized the gravity of sin and made plans to redeem his people. The devil, an angel who fell from heaven, was duped by the Cross because he did not comprehend God’s wonderful redemptive plan for God’s people (1 Cor 2:7-8). This was all a part of God’s master plan to one day demolish Satan’s machinations (1 John 3:8).
Why? What was God thinking? Why utilize evil? What was his goal?
To put it another way, Jesus had to “die” for God’s people so they could experience God’s unfathomable love, which is his very nature (1 John 4:7-8). John wrote, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). One reason God allowed sin into the world was so that he might show his people how great his love is. Sin’s introduction into the world made Christ’s death necessary.
Then the question becomes, why does evil exist? An all-powerful, all-holy, all-living, all-loving God ordained evil to serve his ultimate good. If there is a divine plan, what is it? To declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his magnificent light, he has redeemed for himself “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his special people, that [we] may proclaim the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). These are examples of the miraculous things and Theodicy our God has done for his special people.
The Response To Epicurus
Finally, to respond to Epicurus:
- God has the power to stop evil in its tracks, and he plans to do so in his redemptive plan through Jesus Christ.
- God’s willingness to prevent evil is evidenced by the fact that he sacrificed his Son at the time he chose.
- God has the ability and the will to eradicate evil, but his plan is redemptively progressive, bringing him glory at each stage.
Because God is holy, his plan will never fail. God’s Word explains for good what Epicurus intended for evil. This means that when we go to the Bible for guidance, we find Epicurus was completely wrong.
According to the Bible, God is all-knowing and all-powerful, God is good, and while God is not the cause of evil, God ordained evil; therefore, evil does now exist in some shape by God’s purpose—making His Theodicy pure. However, in “the already, but not yet,” God eventually defeated evil on the Cross, and evil will stop one day, but good will continue in eternity.
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