I’m going to attempt another “Christian theology in 500-or-fewer words” post, and discuss “The Problem of Evil.” In 500 words. Well, we can cover the basics, at least.
The question is this: “If there is a God, and He is good, then why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people?” Here’s the Christian response that I think is most consistent with the Bible.
First, to ask this question, we assume there is an objective standard of good and bad, otherwise on what basis would one say “bad” things happen to “good” people? If your worldview does not accept the idea of moral absolutes, then the question is moot. For you, there are no good or bad things: things just happen.
If you recall my discussion of Justification, you’ll remember I made the point that no-one is blameless before God. We are all rebels, and worthy of His punishment. So a foundational principle is the fact that God owes us nothing. In His sight, none of us are good. Indeed, in light of our guilt, it might be better to ask, “Why do good things happen to us bad people?” The answer to that lies in the grace and mercy of God.
Christians believe God didn’t just create the world and leave us to get on with things. God has a plan that He’s working out. The details of that plan are a mystery to us, but that plan involves the salvation of some, and the condemnation of others. It also involves people doing bad things, and people doing good things. God Himself doesn’t commit any sin, He merely gives men over to doing the wicked deeds of their fallen hearts. But there is God’s good purpose behind these acts. We don’t see it from our vantage point, but God is working things out for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). A good God can never have evil intentions–He never acts maliciously. Therefore we must assume that the bad we see around us–even done to good people–has God’s good plan behind it.
This doesn’t justify the wicked acts of men. God foreordained Jesus’ crucifixion, but that doesn’t mean it was good (see Acts 4:27-28). Likewise, God’s decree was behind Joseph being sold into slavery (Genesis 50:20), the Assyrians conquering Israel, and the Babylonians sending Judah into exile. These were evil, punishable deeds, and the perpetrators needed no coercion from God to do them. But these acts were not in vain; God ordained them for a reason.
And there lies the Christian hope: we may not have all the answers, but we know that the One who orchestrates all things is good and loving, as well as just, and He does all things for the good of His people. God doesn’t owe us an answer, but He has graciously revealed to us His character, so we can trust that the One who defines goodness, is in control.