When considering Christianity, many question how evil occurs with a good and powerful God. Philosopher David Hume even used this issue in an attempt to prove that God could not exist. According to Hume, an all-good God would stop evil while an all-powerful one could stop it: “If God is perfectly benevolent and also omnipotent, or almighty, why is there any evil in the world? Why does he permit it?” This dilemma continues to be one of the hardest for Christians and non-Christians to accept.
Still, Catholic doctrine on evil does offer hope despite the difficulty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church triumphantly attests that “In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures” (312). In his book, God’s Greater Glory, theologian Bruce Ware states, “What comfort, joy, and strength believers receive from the truths of divine providence.”
God is indeed all-good and all-powerful; the church agrees with Hume on these points. However, the main point of divergence is that God would stop all evil. Instead, He permits or ordains suffering in order to bring about a greater purpose.
According to Mark Talbot, before the creation of the earth, God knew what exactly would happen at each moment which means that “God is the primary agent—the primary cause, the final and ultimate explanation—of everything that happens, yet the causal relationship between God and his creatures is such that his having foreordained everything takes nothing away from their creaturely power and efficacy.”1 Thus, humans have free will without taking away any of God’s knowledge or power.
Many Bible verse address the sovereignty of God over all events. Isaiah 45:6-7, for example, proclaims, “I am the LORD, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things.” According to the King Jame’s Bible Lexicon, “I…do” comes from the root “to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application.”
This broad sense of “make” can be taken to mean everything; there is not a single item that God does not have power over as this verse states. Numerous other verses show God’s sovereignty over all of creation.
Simply focusing on His authority, however, leaves out the element of love. God does not make evil happen, nor does He allow suffering without cause. Redemption will come in the end as each pain serves to reveal God’s glory and allow us to partake in that wonder.
First of all, the Bible once again addresses this. Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, and Matthew 10:29 are just a few of the numerous verses that declare that God will bring about good even from present evil. Secondly, historical evidence also portrays the Lord as good instead of a mixture of good and bad. The actions that He ordained are evil, but He does not hold responsibility for them; the creature who acted is still culpable.
Throughout history, Scripture and other religions even have beliefs that have, according to Stephen Law, “much textual and other historical evidence that might be marshaled to support belief in a good deity, but no corresponding evidence to support belief in an evil deity.”2 Miracles and continual mercy echo throughout the Bible as symbols of God’s goodness.
Although God is in complete control, He is not responsible for evil. Any deed could be thwarted by God if He so chose. However, bringing about a greater purpose, while allowing humans to freely pick wrong, is more important to God than having a robot world where nothing bad happens, but no one can form a relationship with the Father. By granting free will and bringing beauty through suffering, God’s glory is displayed and also shared with His creation.
This doctrine does not take away the present sting of evil but can help us to direct our focus toward a future with God who is goodness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this as well as our inability to fully answer the question of evil:
God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil. (309)
Thus, we need not stop caring about evil or trying to understand its presence. However, understanding that God is in control and all good is essential. Jesus conquered evil, although we still see it here in this world. Remembering to turn to God in times of suffering is sometimes all that we can do when the struggles of this life seem confusing and too heavy to bear. He is there to help us through each misery and infliction of evil.
1. “God’s Providence Over All,” modernReformation, Volume 11, Number 5 (September/October 2002), pp. 38-43.
2.STEPHEN LAW The evil-god challenge. Religious Studies, Available on doi:10.1017/S0034412509990369