Evil and Free Will

Hi Pastor, 

I don’t know if you’ve watched the movie “God’s Not Dead” (and if you haven’t you seriously need to) but it’s got me thinking.  People ask, how can God let so much evil happen in the world?  And the typical answer is, free will.  I don’t really understand that.  Well, I do – but I don’t see how that’s an answer to the question.  Can you help? 


Hi Gavin, 

Good to hear from you. 
I was supposed to watch that movie last week – but we didn’t have time. 
It’s on the list! 

The problem of evil is a classic “problem” for Christians but I think it’s actually more of a problem if you are an atheist. Their answers all seem shallow!  If there is no God – there really is no evil, either. It’s all just the way it is.   

How do Christians deal with this problem? 

One of the ways  – the one you mention – is what’s called the “free will defense.”  (FWD) This says that there is evil because God created humans (and angels) with free will. He wanted us to love, for instance – and love can’t be forced. But we then used our free will for evil. 

The FWD says that the ability to choose is so important. God would or could never interfere with our will. 

I don’t find that super-satisfying. Sometimes we stop people from doing things. We push them out of the way of an on-coming car, for instance. Why didn’t God simply stop Adam and Eve from reaching out to that forbidden fruit? The FWD leaves you hanging with that question. 

I think more has to be said. 

The question about evil is really a question about God. How great do we think he is?  Can he make evil completely serve him and his good purposes?   Sometimes we think that’s impossible. But God is greater than the universe.  He sent his own Son to die for us. That tells us there is a God more powerful and more loving than we dare to imagine. Evil is really his problem, thankfully.  And he can deal with it. 

You like Tolkien, right? 

Well, read J.R.R. on the music of the Ainur – it’s in the Silmarillion. Tolkien gives this analogy (I’m being a bit free with it):  a piece of music can have some dissonant notes in it.  A good composer isn’t afraid of this.  In fact, he or she can use what seems to work against the music to produce greater music, something more wonderful than simple harmony. And what is “bad” isn’t bad in the end at all. 

Just look. 

Through our sin, God shows that his love is deeper than we can fathom. As he deals with devil, he shows the heights of his power. As he fixes broken lives, he shows the greatness of his compassion and wisdom. In fact, Christians believe that God’s answer to evil will bring creation to a state of glory even greater than it was (or could have been) at first. 

The Bible also tells us that God “stores all our tears in his bottle.”  (Psalm 56:8) He promises to wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who look to him. (Revelation 21:4) Some tears, it seems, just can’t be wiped away – at least, not by human hands.  But one day God himself promises to do what no person can. 

Ok – that is very, very brief! A ten cent answer to a million dollar question. But hope it helps! 

Pastor Marc 

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