Tag: Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world

The Problem of Evil in the World

The Problem of Evil in the World

The problem of evil in the world has always been the reason why many people doubt the existence of God. Whenever tragedy strikes, people through the ages have asked why something like this or that have to happen.

Just think about the pain the friends and relatives of the almost three thousand people who were killed in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, have wrestled with.

The problem of evil in the world

If God exists, why did He allow this tragedy to happen? Why do good people suffer? And what does it say about God that such things occur?

The Problem of Evil

Before answering the question, it’s important that we first lay out a few preliminary thoughts about evil. Please note that evil is not something that has existed all on its own; rather, it is a corruption of that which already exists.“Evil is the absence of something good.”

For example, tooth decay can exist only as long as the tooth exists. Rot can exist only as long as the tree exists. Evil exists as a corruption of something good; it does not have essence by itself. Norman Geisler says, “Evil is like a wound in an arm or moth-holes in a garment. It exists only in another but not in itself.”

This is not to say that evil is unreal. Evil may not be an actual substance or entity but it is a real corruption in an actual entity. Tooth decay, rotting trees, brain cancer, the death of a loved one, are all examples of how evil is a corruption of something good. Yes, evil is real; it’s not just an illusion.

The problem of evil in the world

The infinite reference point for distinguishing good from evil can be found only in the person of God, for God alone can exhaust the definition of absolutely good. God is good, God is all powerful, yet evil exists. How can evil exist in a world created by God?

Today we face the reality of both moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil is evil committed by free moral agents, involving such things as war, cruelty, crime, slavery, discrimination, suicide bombings and various injustices. Natural evil involve such things as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and the like.

The Origin of Evil

The original creation was “very good (Genesis 1:31).” There was no evil, no sin, no pain and no death. Yet today the world is permeated with evil, sin, pain and death. What brought these things about? The Bible tells us that it all started the moment Adam and Eve used their God-given free will to choose to disobey God (Genesis 3).

The problem of evil in the world

Couldn’t have God created humans in such a way that we would never sin, thus avoiding evil together? The fact is, such a scenario would mean that we were not truly human because we would not have the capacity to make choices and to freely love.

Love is voluntary. God could have made us like robots who would act only in programmed ways – like a chatty doll whose string you pull and it says, “I love you.” God apparently thought it worth the risk of creating us as we are.

The problem of evil in the world
Matthew 22:37

God wanted Adam and all humanity to show love by freely choosing obedience which is why God gave Adam and all other humans a free will. A free choice, however, leaves the possibility of a wrong choice. J.B. Phillips said, “Evil is inherent in the risky gift of free will.”

God’s plan had the potential for evil when He bestowed on humans the freedom of choice, but the actual origin of evil came as a result of a man who directed his will away from God and toward his own selfish desires.

Norman Geisler and Jeff Amanu note, “Whereas God created the fact of freedom, humans perform the acts of freedom. God made evil possible; creatures make it actual.”

And ever since Adam and Eve made evil actual on that first occasion in the Garden of Eden, a sin nature has been passed on to every man and human (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22), and it is out of the sin nature that we continue today to use our free will to make evil actual (Mark 7:20-23).

What is God’s Purpose in Allowing Evil?

If God is so good and all-powerful why does He allow evil to happen? Made in God’s image, man was given the freedom to decide how he will act and the ability to make moral choices. Every one of us is capable of making selfish, self-centered and even evil choices.

God could have eliminated all evil from our world by simply removing our ability to choose. But if God is to both preserve freedom and defeat evil, the best way to do it is to allow each person to make his own free choice to determine his destiny. And evil is overcome in that, once those who reject God are separated from others, the decisions of all are made permanent.

It did not take God by surprise when man used his God-given free choice to disobey God. C.S. Lewis suggests that God in His omniscience “saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out . . . a deeper happiness and fuller splendor than any world of automata would admit.”

Man sinned against God but God has not left us alone in this fallen world. God allowed evil and suffering in the world to bring His Son to the cross so that we might have the opportunity to obtain eternal life. God is working within the fallen world today to effect change and He uses fallen people to accomplish His will.

The problem of evil in the world

It’s also possible that God is letting evil occur so that on the day of judgment, the condemned will have no right to say that their sentence is unjust. God is not stopping people from exercising their free will.

God may have other reasons for allowing evil to exist that we simply cannot understand. But as Christians, we must have confidence in God knowing that His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).


Too often people fall into the trap of thinking that because God hasn’t dealt with evil yet, He is not dealing with it at all. The late Dr. Walter Martin used to say, “I’ve read the last chapter in the book and we win!”

The problem of evil in the world

Yes, evil will one day be done away with. Just because evil is not destroyed right now does not mean it will never be. One day in the future, Christ will return, strip away power from the wicked and hold all men and women accountable for the things they did during their time on earth (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15).

Justice will ultimately prevail and those who enter eternity without having trusted in Christ for salvation will understand just how effectively God has dealt with the problem of evil in the world.

Reference Material: Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith Edited by Ravi Zacharias & Normal Geisler

Recommended Resource:

If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think about the Question
By Norman L. Geisler

Why does God allow evil to exist? Good question, says Geisler. Addressing metaphysical, moral, and physical complexities, he surveys evil’s nature, origin, persistence, and purpose; offers a biblical discussion of why a loving God allows some people to experience hell; and shares personal stories of believers who found real-life solutions to the conundrum of pain and suffering. 176 pages, softcover from Bethany.