“How can you believe in a loving and merciful God who allows so much evil to happen?” I hear this question a lot. It seems man is unable to reconcile the problem of evil with a merciful God.
What strikes me about this question is the inquirer usually means quite a bit more than he says. What he often means is, “How can you believe in a loving and merciful God who allows so much evil to happen to me and those near to me?” The question is rarely asked as a philosophical abstraction. It’s a question that is close to home. As of late, people have asked why God would watch “helplessly” as a few evil men seized control of two airplanes and flew them into two towers and the Pentagon, killing 3,000 people. It is obvious a man who asks such a question believes that God, were He real and loving, should have intervened. He should have stopped those men from carrying out their evil deeds. As God, He is obliged to stop things like that from happening. If God is good, He ought to eliminate the bad.
It is strange that no sooner will such a man finish saying all of this, then he will go sleep with another man’s wife, conduct a dishonest business transaction and steal from his co-worker. The peculiar thing is his question is no longer in his mind. On the contrary, it is pushed far away. He will never ask, “Why is God allowing me to shatter a marriage, cheat a customer and steal from my colleague?” The divine intervention he just demanded as proof of the existence of a loving God he no longer demands, now that it applies to his own person and his actions. He neither expects nor wants God to intervene and prevent him from carrying out his deeds. In fact, the idea is suddenly foreign to him. “Why would God stop me from doing anything?” he asks. This man knows he has been given the privilege and responsibility of choice and no one, divine or human, is going to hinder those choices whether good or bad. They are his and his alone to make. This man will despise the idea that God should prevent him from doing what he wants to.
Herein lies the problem. Man will always ask why others are permitted to do evil towards me and those I love, but he will never ask why I am permitted to do evil towards others. He will say it is God’s fault one man is permitted to kill thousands of innocent people, but he will say it is the woman’s fault that because of his action of adultery he has destroyed her marriage. In short, it is always someone else’s fault. It has been this way since the Fall. Neither Adam nor Eve would admit their fault in eating the forbidden fruit. The blame fell to the serpent. It is important to note even though the serpent was cursed, Adam and Eve were not exempt from consequences. They had done wrong. They knew it too, but it was much easier to blame it on the snake. This is not good enough for God. He holds us responsible for the choices we make, whether good or evil.
Man tends to see evil as something out there, never as something in himself. His idea is that evil is something that happens to him, never something he makes happen to others. It seems we as humans have become experts at passing the moral buck. Seldom will a man accept responsibility for any of the world’s problems. He will pin them on whoever else he can – the government, children, his spouse, terrorists, murderers, liberals, conservatives, his employer, Republicans and Democrats. We treat problems like a hot potato — because we never accept them as ours, they are never fixed. They are tossed back and forth, from citizen to senator, senator to terrorist, terrorist to president and so forth. For the most part, man simply will not accept responsibility for his actions. He will push them off as long as he can, pinning them on others. He is, in his own mind, convinced that he is not evil, but “they” are.
If a man wants to know why God allows other people to do evil towards him, he must be willing to ask the other half of the question, and thereby get the answer. “Why does God allow me to commit evil towards people around me?” When this is asked, it becomes undeniably clear that it need not be asked. Why does God allow me to do evil? He allows me to do evil because I choose to. God allows others to do so for the exact same reason. His intervention and control of every choice would be robbing His children of free will. It seems he values our freedom of choice too much to take that away. Just like a parent gives a child freedom, so He gives it to us. “I have shown you what is good, and I have shown you what is bad. I have helped you discern which is which. Now you must do the one thing I cannot make you do. You must choose between the two.”