- Why is there evil and suffering in the world?
- The question implies that if a good God exists, then evil shouldn't because God, being all powerful, should stop it.
- We need to ask and answer two questions. First, what is evil? It is that which is against God. It is anything morally bad or wrong. It is injurious, depraved, wicked. Some acceptable examples might be murder, rape, stealing, lying, and cheating. Second, if we want God to stop evil, do we want Him to stop all evil, or just some of it? In other words, if just some of it, then why? If He were to stop only part of the evil, then we would still be asking the question, "Why is there evil in the world?"
Let's suppose that someone was about to commit murder. God would have to stop him, maybe whisper in his ear, or if that didn't work, do something a little more drastic, like have something fall on him, or stop his heart, or make his hands suddenly fall off. Anyway, God would have to do something.
What if somebody wanted to steal? God would have to stop him too, right? Undoubtedly, God's imagination would permit a more practical method than I have suggested, but the end results would be the same.
What about lying? If someone were to tell a lie, then to be consistent wouldn't you want God right there to stop that person from lying? After all, He couldn't let any evil occur, could He?
Let's take it a step further. Suppose someone thought something evil. Then, of course, God would have to step in and prevent him from thinking anything bad at all, right? The end result would be that God could not allow anyone to think freely. Since everyone thinks, and no one thinks only pure thoughts, God would be pretty busy, and we wouldn't be able to think. Anyway, at what point do we stop - at the murder level, stealing level, lying level, or thinking level? As your question implies, if you want God to stop evil, you would have to be consistent and want Him to do it everywhere all the time, not just pick and choose. It wouldn't work.
Evil is in this world partly because we give it its place but ultimately because God, in His sovereignty, permits it and keeps it under His control.
Then you might say, "Couldn't He just make us perfect and that way we wouldn't sin?" He already did that. He made a perfect angel, Satan, but he sinned. He made a perfect man, Adam, and he sinned. He made a perfect woman, Eve, and she sinned. God knows what He is doing. He made us the way we are for a purpose. We don't fully understand that purpose, but He does.
- God is sovereign; He has the right to do as He wishes. He has the right to permit evil for accomplishing His ultimate will. How can He do that? Simple, look at the Cross. It was by evil means that men lied and crucified Jesus. Yet God in His infinite wisdom used this evil for good. It was on the Cross that Jesus bore our sins in His body (1 Peter. 2:24) and it is because of the Cross that we have forgiveness of sins.
- Consider the biblical example of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. Though they meant it for evil, God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20). God is so great that nothing happens without His permission, and in that permission His ultimate plan unfolds. In His plan He is able to use for good what man intends for evil. God is in control.
- What makes Jesus so special?
- Because of Who He said He was; He said He was God. In John 8:58, Jesus said, "Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." When He said, "I AM," He was quoting from the Old Testament in Exodus 3:14. That is where Moses was talking to God, and asked Him His name. God answered and said, "I AM." When Jesus said "I AM," He was claiming the name of God for Himself, and thereby claiming to be God. Other great men of history point to a philosophy and teach good ideas. Only Jesus pointed to Himself, claimed to be God, and spoke with authority that matched His claim.
- Because of what He did; Jesus forgave sins (Luke 5:20). He rose from the dead (Luke 24; John 2:19-21), raised others from the dead (John 11:43-44), and He walked on water (John 6:19). No one on earth has ever done the things Jesus did. There is no way around it- Jesus is special; about that, there can be no doubt.
- Why did Jesus have to die in order for me to go to heaven?
- Because the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Though Jesus never sinned (1 Peter. 2:22), He bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter. 2:24), and died in our place. Instead of God making us pay for our sins, He did it Himself by becoming one of us.
- Two things happen when we sin: one to God and one to ourselves. When we sin, God is offended. Why? Because it is His Law that we are breaking. Also, when we sin, we are killed. We don't die right there on the spot, but we will face a death that is far more severe. Sin kills us (Rom. 6:23) by causing eternal separation from God (Isaiah 59:2). God hates sin (Hab. 1:13), and sin must be punished. Since we are unable to please God because we are all sinners, He made an offering that is pleasing to Himself. That offering was the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There was no other way. If there were, God would have done it.
- What makes you think the Bible is the word of God?
- Prophecy: The Old Testament was written before Jesus was ever born. The New Testament was written by the men who knew Jesus, who walked with Him, ate with Him, and learned from Him. In the O.T. there are prophecies concerning His birthplace (Micah 5:1-2), that He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that He would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3), that He would be betrayed by a close friend (Isaiah 41:9), that He would die by having His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16-18), and that He would rise from the dead (Psalm 16:10, 49:15). In the N.T. all these prophecies, and many more, are fulfilled by Jesus. Now, this is the question you must answer: "If the Bible is not inspired from God, then why does it have so many fulfilled prophecies?" How is that possible if the Bible were not from God?
- Wisdom: The Bible is full of the greatest truths about man and God, sin, and salvation. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) is beautiful in its wisdom, humility, and love. The Psalms are incredible poetry of great depth and beauty. The N.T. epistles are great descriptions of love, forgiveness, longsuffering, kindness, etc. (Even if you don't want to become a Christian, studying the truth God has revealed in the Bible will greatly help you in your life.) The aim is not to merely get the person to use the Bible as a guide to good living, but to encourage him to read it. This way, he will at least be reading the Word of God, and be that much closer to conversion, because God's Word will accomplish what He wants it to (Isaiah 55:11).
Only God knows the future, has power over it, and can look into it to tell us exactly what will happen. In the Bible we have the fingerprints of God: fulfilled prophecy!
- The Bible was written so that it would only look like Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
- Then what you are saying is that the New Testament writers lied about Jesus. He really didn't rise from the dead, and all those miracles about Him are really false, right?
- I could see your point, but there is just one problem. How do you account for the writers of the New Testament teaching about truth, love, honesty, giving, etc. all based on lies? Why would they suffer hardships like beatings, starvation, shipwreck, imprisonments, and finally execution for nothing but lies? What you are saying doesn't make sense, and raises more questions than it answers.
The only logical explanation is that the fulfilled prophecies really did happen. Jesus actually rose from the dead. He performed miracles, and He forgave sins. He forgave sins then, and He can still do it now. My sins are forgiven, are yours?
Please note that many cult members will die for their faith as well. But they die for something they believe in, not for something they have actually seen. Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses all die for their faith. But the New Testament believers died for what they saw and believed, not for what they believed only. That is a big difference. The N.T. writers died claiming that they had seen the risen Lord. The cult members die for what they believe, and we know that believing doesn't make it true.
- The Bible is full of contradictions.
- Really. Do you know of any? Could you quote me one or two?
- (Just in case someone actually does quote what he thinks is a contradiction, it is up to you to give a competent answer (1 Peter. 3:15). If you can't, don't worry. Simply tell him that you will research it and get back with him, and make sure you do.)
- There are areas of Scripture that are difficult to understand. This does not mean the Bible is untrustworthy. A very good book to have is the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer, Zondervan Publishing House, (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
- How do I know which religion is right?
- This is a difficult question to answer because it involves discussing some principles that the person you are witnessing to may or may not agree with. For example, does he or she agree with you that truth is knowable, that God would attempt to communicate with His people, or that only one religion may be right? Usually, I start by acknowledging the difficulty of coming to an easy answer. However, I tell them that I do have an answer; I am sure it is the right one, because it is an answer based on evidence. What kind of evidence? Prophecy and its fulfillment (see question # 34), Jesus and His miracles, the resurrection of Christ, etc. Then I ask that person if he or she knows of these things happening in other religions.(1) The answer is invariably, "No." Then I point out that they have only happened in Christianity. If any religion were true, Christianity fits the bill.
- Religion is whatever you feel is right.
- How do you know what you feel is right? Haven't your feelings ever turned out to be wrong? Are you are saying that what you feel determines truth? If so, then you are putting yourself in the place of God, and looking to yourself for what you "feel" is right.
- If religion is whatever you feel is right, then that could lead to chaos. What if some people had a religion where they felt stealing was acceptable? And what about lying and cheating? Would you trust someone who believed in a religion that felt it was all right to steal, lie, and cheat?
- Hitler felt killing Jews was right. He was wrong. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful and untrustworthy (Jer. 17:9). If you could come to know truth by what you felt, then the Bible, which is the revelation of God, didn't need to be written. But it has been written, and it has revealed that only God is the Source of truth, not your feelings.
- I've never known truth to contradict itself. What if someone felt that something was right, and another person felt it was wrong? Would they both be right? If your statement is true, then how could there be a contradiction like that, if feelings determined truth?
- All religions are different paths to the same place.
- If all religions are different paths to the same place, then why do the paths contradict each other? Does truth contradict itself? Let's review the teachings of just three religions:
- Buddhism is pantheistic and says there is no personal God and everyone can reach "godlikeness" on his own. Islam says that Jesus was just a prophet, and not the only way to God. Christianity says that there is a personal God, and that the only way to Him is through Jesus (John 14:6). If these three religions are, as you say, different paths to the same place, then why do they contradict each other? Does truth contradict itself?
- What about dinosaurs and evolution?
- See the section on Evolution.
- Recommended books to read
- Evolution - The Fossils Say No! by Duane T. Gish (Creation Life Publishers, San Diego).
- Man's Origin, Man's Destiny by A. E. Wilder-Smith. Bethany House Publishers, (Minneapolis, Minn.).
- Evolution: New developments in science are challenging orthodox darwinism, by Michael Denton.
- What Darkwin Didn't Know, by Geoffrey Simmons, M.D.
- Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? by Jonathan Wells
- Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, by Phillip E. Johnson
- Even if evolution were true (it isn't - but just for the sake of argument, let's assume it is), does that mean there is no God? How do you know God didn't use it to get us here? (I am not teaching that evolution is true, nor that God used it, which is called theistic evolution; I am simply reasoning with them.) If you believe in evolution, does that mean you aren't a sinner? God won't accept the excuse that you believed in evolution and not Him.
- Have you examined evolution to see if it is true? Evolution is not all that you are led to believe. There are all kinds of problems in the fossil record and there are lots of books that show this. New theories are being raised all the time to account for why there aren't any undisputed transitional forms found between any species of any kind, anywhere, anytime in all the fossil record. But you wouldn't know these things if you haven't studied the other side of the issue. You need to know the facts about evolution, and you need to know the facts about Jesus. So, have you read any anti-evolution books so you can see both sides? (See point B. above.)