How do we reconcile the issue of theodicy?
What is Theodicy?
The word Theodicy is a combination of two Greek words “Theos = God” and “dike = justice”. According to the CARM Dictionary of Theology, Theodicy is “The study of the problem of evil in the world. The issue is raised in light of the sovereignty of God. How could a holy and loving God who is in control of all things allow evil to exist?“
Is God Sovereign?
To say God is sovereign is to say that He does whatever He pleases and nothing outside of Himself can move Him to do otherwise. The Bible does teach that God is sovereign:
“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalms 115:3, NIV)
“…For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”” (Daniel 4:34-35)
“…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” (1 Timothy 6:15)
Is God in control of evil?
If God is sovereign, He must also be sovereign over evil or else He isn't sovereign and He isn't God. If there is anything that can happen outside of God's will, then He is no longer God. The Bible tells us however that God controls everything, from the smallest things to the highest (Matt. 10:29, Rom. 13:1). So yes, God is sovereign over evil.
Good things happen to good people
“Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered for it.” R.C. Sproul
Good things do happen to good people, but the problem is that no one is good (Mark 10:18, Rom. 3:10-12). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). We are all hell-deserving sinners and God is a just Judge (Psa. 7:11). C.J. Mahaney said that a great answer to the question ‘How are you?’ is: ‘Better than I deserve.’
Paul Washer wisely said that “the most terrifying truth of Scripture is that God is good.” That is a problem to fallen humanity like us since if God is good, He must punish sinners. Our question shouldn't be: How could a holy and loving God who is in control of all things allow evil to exist? but: How could a holy and loving God who is in control of all things allow any good thing to happen to evil people like us?
“The most perplexing theological question is not why there’s suffering in this world, but why God tolerates us in our sinfulness.” R. C. Sproul
How do you reconcile the issue of theodicy?
As we can see, the fact that any good thing happens to us is grace. In the end we must all say with the Psalmist: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;” (Psalms 103:10-11)
So why does God allow evil? To accomplish His will and get glory!
To accomplish His will
This can be seen in the story of Joseph (Gen. 37-50) who was sold to Egypt as a slave by his brothers. But in the end of the story Joseph utters these words to His brothers after reconciling with them: “…you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
The most evil act that the human race has ever committed is the crucifixion of the son of God. God allowed it to happen to accomplish redemption. God used sinful man
from their intended evil to bring something good (Salvation).
For His glory
One might be saying, the examples we've used so far are only about actions that men make not God. We will now examine examples were God was the primary agent.
“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-3)
We see here that sickness was allowed so that God's power might manifested and that He gets glory at the end.
What about natural disasters, does God use them to get glory from them also? For this we will look at the story of Job:
“Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house; and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided them and took them away-indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”” (Job 1:13-21)
In the end Job blessed the Lord.
The last one we will examine is that of sin and hell. How can an all loving God send people to hell forever? We have already argued that men are evil and God is good and just; and as a just Judge he must punish sin. God will get glory in sending sinners to hell:
“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,” (Romans 9:22-23)
“And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”” (Revelation 14:11)
Christians and suffering
The last objection we have now is why does God allow His children (Christians) to suffer? As we have seen, God uses suffering to accomplish His will and to receive glory from it. He also uses it to bring us closer to Him and to humble us (2 Cor. 12:7-10). We long for our redemption from our bodies of sin the more suffering we have in them. We become dependant on God in prayer the more needy we are. So in the end “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“How would we know God healed (John 9:1-3) if we didn't get sick? How would we know God provides (Matt. 6:25-34) if we were never needy? How would we know God comforts (2 Cor. 1:4) if we didn't suffer? How would we know God saves (1 Tim. 1:12-17) if there was no evil and to save from?” Rofhiwa Ramphabana
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” (Philippians 1:29)
“…”My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, ESV)
God is sovereign and good but man is evil and undeserving of any goodness from God. God allows evil to continue so that He can get glory at the end. Christians should seek God more when they suffer.
Soli Deo Gloria