Why has God Permitted Wickedness and Suffering
“God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world.”—William Lane Craig
That morally sufficient reason lies below.
“The significant issue that drove me to Agnosticism [Bible Scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is now an Agnostic] has to do not with the Bible, but with the pain and suffering in the world.” He writes, “I eventually found it impossible to explain the evil so rampant among us―whether in terms of genocides (which continue), unspeakable human cruelty, war, disease, hurricanes, tsunamis, mudslides, the starvation of millions of innocent children, you name it―if there was a good and loving God who was actively involved in this world.” Misquoting Jesus (p. 248)
As you will see below, Ehrman’s issue is simply a matter of starting with the wrong assumption. Point One: He starts with ‘if God is a God of love, who has the power to fix anything, how can there have been such horrific pain and suffering in imperfection over the last 6,000 years?’ Point Two: He also likely begins with the premise that ‘God is responsible for everything that happens.’ If one starts with the wrong assumption, there is no doubt that he will reach the wrong conclusion(s). Point One is dealt with below, but let it be said that Ehrman is looking through the binoculars from the opposite end, the big side through the small. When we do that, we get a narrow, focused outlook. God looks through the binoculars the correct way and can see the big picture. Ehrman can only see but a fraction and a moment of time, 70 – 80 years, while God has seen everything that has happened over these past 6,000 plus years in the greatest of detail, and can see what the outcome would be if he had handled things in a variety of ways.
Point Two is certainly one reason suffering and evil is often misunderstood. God is responsible for everything, but not always directly. If he started the human race, and we end up with what we now have, in essence, he is responsible. Just as parents, who have a child are similarly responsible for the child committing murder 21 years into his life because they procreated and gave birth to the child. The mother and father are indirectly responsible. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband Uriah killed to cover things up, and impregnates Bathsheba, but the adulterine child, who remains nameless, died. Is God responsible for the death of that child? We can answer yes and no to that question. He is responsible in two ways: (1) He created humankind so there would have been no affair, murder, adulterine child if he had not. (2) He did not step in and save the child when he had the power to do so. However, he is not directly responsible, because he did not make King David and Bathsheba commit the acts that led to the child being born, nor did he bring an illness on the adulterine child, he just did not move in to protect the child, in a time that had a high rate of infant deaths.
The reason people think that God does not care about us is the words of some religious leaders, which have made them, feel this way. When a tragedy strikes, what do some pastors and Bible scholars often say? When 9/11 took place, with thousands dying in the twin towers of New York, many ministers said: “It was God’s will. God must have had some good reason for doing this.” When religious leaders make such comments or similar ones, they are actually blaming God for the bad things that happened. Yet, the disciple James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) God never directly causes what is bad. Indeed, “far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.” Job 34:10.
The history of humans has been inundated with pain and suffering on an unprecedented scale, much of which they have brought on themselves. The problem/question that has plagued many persons is, ‘why if there is a loving God, would he allow it to start with, and worse still, why allow it to go on for over 6,000 years?’ Some apologist scholars have struggled to answer this question, because they are over analyzing, as opposed to just looking for the answer in God’s Word. Therefore, if we are to answer this question, we must go back to Adam and Eve at the time of the first sin. Many have read this account, but I will list the texts as a refresher.
Genesis 2:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Genesis 3:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, 3 but from the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God said, ‘You shall not eat from it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die’.” 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You shall not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” knowing good and evil.
Later Bible texts establish Satan the Devil as the one using a serpent as his mouthpiece like a ventriloquist would a dummy. Anyway, take note that Satan contradicts the clear statement made to Adam at Genesis 2:17, “you will not surely die.” Backing up a little, we see Satan asking an inferential question, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” First, he is overstating what he knows to be true, not “any tree,” just one tree. Second, Satan is inferring, ‘I can’t believe that God would say . . . how dare he say such.’ Notice too that Eve has been told so thoroughly about the tree that she even goes beyond what Adam told her, not just that you ‘do not eat from it,’ no, ‘you do not even touch it!’ Then, Satan out and out lied and slandered God as a liar, saying that ‘they would not die.’ To make matters much worse, he infers that God is withholding good from them, and by rebelling they would be better off, being like God, ‘knowing good and bad.’ This latter point is not knowledge of; it is the self-sovereignty of choosing good and bad for oneself and act of rebellion for created creatures. What was symbolized by the tree is well expressed in a footnote on Genesis 2:17, in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):
This knowledge is a privilege which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for the unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognize his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.
The Issues at Hand
(1) Satan called God a liar and said he was not to be trusted, as to the life or death issue.
(2) Satan’s challenge, therefore, took into question the right and legitimacy of God’s rightful place as the Universal Sovereign.
(3) Satan also suggested that people would remain obedient to God only as long as their submitting to God was to their benefit.
(4) Satan all but said that humankind was able to walk on his own, there being no need for dependence on God.
(5) Satan argued that man could be like God, choosing for himself what is right and wrong.
(6) Satan claimed that God’s way of ruling was not in the best interests of humans, and they could do better without God.
Job 1:6-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, and Satan also came among them. 7 Jehovah said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered Jehovah and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 8 Jehovah said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered Jehovah, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have you not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse you to your face.”
Job 2:4-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 Satan answered Jehovah and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, put forth your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse you to your face.”
This general reference to “a man,” as opposed to explicitly naming Job, is suggesting that all men [and women] will only obey God when things are good, but when the slightest difficulty arises, he will not obey. If you were put to the test, would you prove your love for your heavenly Father and show that you preferred His rule to that of any other?
God Settles the Issues
There is one thing that Satan did not challenge, namely, the power of God. Satan did not suggest that God was unable to destroy him as an opposer. However, he did challenge God’s way of ruling, not His right to rule. Therefore, a moral issue must be settled.
An illustration of how God chose to deal with the issue can be demonstrated in human terms. A neighbor down the street slandered a man, who had a son and daughter. The slanderer said that he was not a good father, i.e., he withheld good from his children and was so overbearing, to the point of being abusive. The slanderer stated that the children would be better off without their father. He further argued that the children had no real love for their father and only obeyed him because of the food and shelter. How should the father deal with these false, i.e., slanderous accusations? If he were to go down the road and pummel the slanderer, it would only validate the lies, making the neighbors believe the accuser is telling the truth.
The answer lies within his family as they can serve as his witnesses. (Pro 27:11; Isa 43:10) If the children stay obedient and grow to be successful adults, turning out to be loving, caring, honest people with spotless character, it proves the accusations false. If the children accept the lies and rebel and grow up to be despicable people, it just further validates that they would have been better off by staying with the father. This is how God chose to deal with the issues. The issues that were raised must be settled beyond all reasonable doubt.
If God had destroyed the rebellious three: Satan, Adam, and Eve; he would not have resolved the issues of
(1) Whether man could walk on his own,
(2) if he would be better off without his Creator,
(3) if God’s rulership were not best, and
(4) if God were hiding good from man.
(5) In addition, there was an audience of untold billions of angelic spirit creatures looking on.
If God destroyed without settling things, these spirit persons would be following God out of dreadful fear, not love, fear of displeasing God. Moreover, say He did kill them, and start over, and ten thousand years down the road (with billions of humans now on earth), the issues were raised again, He would have to destroy billions of people again, and again, and again all throughout time, until these issues were laid to rest.
What God has done is, allow time to pass, and the issues to be resolved. Man thought he was better off without God and could walk on his own. In addition, man has attempted every kind of rulership imaginable, and one must ask, ‘have they proven themselves better than rulership under the sovereignty of their Creator?’ (Proverbs 1:30-33; Isaiah 59:4, 8) Sadly, the issues must be taken up to the brink of destroying man (Rev 11:18), otherwise, the argument would be that if given enough time, they could have turned things around. If man goes up to the point of destroying himself and Armageddon comes at the last minute, it will have set a case law, solved the issue, and the Bible can serve as the example forever. If the issues of God’s sovereignty or the loyalty of His created creatures, angelic or human, is ever questioned again, we would have the Holy Bible that will serve as a law established based on previous verdicts of not guilty, please see below.
What Have the Results Been?
(1) God does not cause evil and suffering. Romans 9:14.
(2) The fact that God has allowed evil, pain, and suffering has shown that independence from God has not brought about a better world. Jeremiah 8:5, 6, 9.
(3) God’s permission of evil, pain, and suffering has also proved that Satan has not been able to turn all humans away from God. Exodus 9:16; 1 Samuel 12:22; Hebrews 12:1.
(4) The fact that God has permitted evil, pain, and suffering to continue has provided proof that only God, the Creator, has the capability and the right to rule over humankind for their eternal blessing and happiness. Ecclesiastes 8:9.
(5) Satan has been the god of this world since the sin in Eden (over 6,000 years), and how has that worked out for man, and what has been the result of man’s course of independence from God and his rule? Matthew 4:8-9; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 John 5:19; Psalm 127:1.
Satan’s impact on the earth’s activities has carried with it conflict, evil and death, and his rulership has been by means of deception, power and his own self-interest. He has demonstrated himself an unfit ruler of everything. Therefore, God is now completely vindicated in putting an end to this corrupted rebel along with all who have shared in his evil deeds.―Romans 16:20.
God has tolerated evil, sickness, pain, suffering, and death until our day in order to resolve all the issues raised by Satan. We are self-centered in thinking that this has only pained us. Imagine that you are holding a rope on a sinking ship that 20 other men, women and children are clinging to when your child loses her grip and falls into the ocean. You can either hold the rope, saving 20 people, or you can let go and attempt to rescue your daughter. God has been watching the suffering of billions from the day of Adam and Eve’s sin. Moreover, it has been His great love for us, which causes Him to cling to the rope of issues, saving us from a future of repeated issues. Nevertheless, he will not allow this evil to remain forever. He has set a fixed time when He will end this wicked system of Satan’s rule.
Daniel 11:27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
27 As for both kings, their heart will be inclined to do what is evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table; but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time.
Unlike what many people of the world may think (the world that lies in the hands of Satan), being obedient to God is not difficult. We simply must set our pride aside and accept that the wisdom of God is so far greater than our own, and accept that He has worked for the good of obedient humankind, as He loves each one of us.
Matthew 7:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
1 John 2:15-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God remains forever.
As Christians, there is a love we must not have. We must ‘not love the world or anything in it.’ Instead, we need to keep from becoming infected by the corruption of unrighteous human society that is alienated from God and must not breathe in its mental disposition or be moved by its sinful dominant attitude. (Ephesians 2:1, 2; James 1:27) If we were to have the views of those in the world that are in opposition to God, “the love of the Father” would not be in us. (James 4:4)
Was Satan Punished?
COMMON QUESTION: Why did God not destroy the Satan, Adam, and Eve right away?
I would follow up with what would have happened if God had chosen that path. Hundreds of billions of angels with free will were watching, and they knew of the issues raised. What would their love of God have been like if God did not address the issues raised? Was Satan right? Was God lying? Would free will creatures, spirit and humans, be better off? Will God just destroy us over anything? First, the spirit creatures would have followed God out of dreadful fear, rather than fear of displeasing the one they loved so much up to that point, like a child to a parent. Second, what happens if the issue is raised a hundred thousand years after a restart and there are 30 billion perfect humans on the planet? Would God simply destroy everyone again and start over. Do we think it wise that he does this reboot every time or was it not better that he settled the issue once and for all?
POINT: Satan raised Issues of sovereignty in the Garden of Eden.
POINT: Can humans walk on their own; do they really need their Creator? Are they better off without God?
POINT: Was God lying and withholding?
When a human teenage child becomes a rebel in our house, we have a choice: (1) severe punishment or (2) teach them an object lesson.
HUMANS AND ANGELS are a created product no different than a car coming off of an assembly line, i.e., (1) they owe their existence to their creator and (2) they were created to function based on the design of the creator. If we take a ford escort and treat it like a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive truck and go off roading (not what the car was designed to do), what will happen?
God wisely chose to teach both angels and humans an object lesson. Neither was designed to walk on their own. Both angel and human were given relative freedom (under the sovereignty of God), not absolute freedom. They were not designed to choose what is right and what is wrong on their own. They were given God’s moral standards by way of an internal conscience. How can we tell a rebel that we do not have absolute freedom, we are better off under the umbrella of our creator’s sovereignty, we cannot walk on our own? They will just reject it like a rebel teenager would.
OBJECT LESSON: We let them learn from their choice, no matter how painful it is, and hard love means that we do not step in until the lesson is fully learned. Humankind was essentially told, “Oh, you think you can walk on your own, well go ahead, we will see how that works out.” After six-thousand-years, God could actually use a common saying among young people today: “How is that absolute freedom working out for you?”
When will the lesson fully be learned? Humankind will walk right up to the very edge of the cliff of killing themselves, actually falling over, when God will step in and stop the object lesson. To stop it anytime before, will cause doubts. If it had been stopped a century ago, the argument would have been, God simply stepped in before we got to the scientific age because he knew we were going to find true peace and security, along with something to give us eternal life. However, if humanity has actually fallen over the edge of the cliff and the destruction of us is definite and God steps in, there is no argument that can be raised, the object lesson is learned.
Satan stayed in his realm, just as humans stayed in theirs. God changed nothing right away because he would have been accused of adjusting the pieces on the chessboard to get the desired outcome, i.e., cheating. When will Satan be kicked out of heaven? Satan and the Demons lost access to the person of God long ago, and they lost some of their powers, such as being able to materialize in human form, like they did when they took human women for themselves at the flood, producing the Nephilim.
Satan would be thrown to the earth very shortly before the end of his age of rulership, when “he knows that his time is short.” (Rev 12:9-12) This, then, means that Satan will be thrown from heaven likely sometime before the Great Tribulation and Christ’s return. Revelation 12:12 says, “‘Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath because he knows that his time is short!'”
Notice that it is at a time, when “Satan knows that his time is short!” What comes next for Satan? He will be abyssed, thrown into a super-maximum-security prison for a thousand years (for lack of a better way to explain it) while Jesus fixes all that Satan has done. After the thousand years, he will be let loose for a little while, and he will tempt perfect humans, and sadly some will fall away. In the end, Satan and those humans will be destroyed, and Jesus will hand the kingdom back over to the father.
Does God Foreknowing Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Predestine Him or coerce Him to act Against His Own Free Will?
 Lit eat from it
 Lit dying you [singular] shall die. Heb moth tamuth; the first reference to death in the Scriptures
 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5