Section 3a .. Barriers To Faith

003white Index To Barriers To Faith       >        The Problem of Evil


People talk much about God ‘eliminating’ evil, totally forgetting that should He do so He would have to eliminate each one of us too. See Section on Sin

Also See Natural Disasters


On This Page

Does Evil Exist?
Faulty Wiring?
Wrong Ideas?

Where Evil Stems From

The Holiness of God

Why Doesn't A Supposedly All-good & All-powerful God Do Something About Evil?

Does the Bible Say That God Created Evil?

The "Evil" God Will Rain Down on Our World


Does Evil Exist?
Many Christians believe that evil, as something in itself, does not exist. The argument goes something like this... Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is the the absence of heat, evil is the absence of goodness (or God).

Unfortunately, this is not only un-Biblical, it tends to reduce or diminish the fact of evil to (for want of a better expression) almost a default position.

It is true that if you remove the source of heat it gets colder, and if you take away the light source it get darker. However, taking away good can cause selfishness, meanness, and a host of other less than desirable traits, but not necessarily evil. Additionally, if evil is a lack of God then atheism becomes inherently evil.  As Matt Slick says

     Real evil, the kind that is demonic, has its own presence and its own pervasive malevolent intention. It can be experienced. It is a wickedness that can be felt. It is not just the absence of something. It is something. [01]

Modern science on the other hand, has its own hypotheses (no surprises here).

Faulty Wiring?

Ron Rosenbaum, American literary journalist, critic and novelist and self-confessed agnostic, wrote a very interesting article entitled The End of Evil, which brings up the fact that many neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing as evil. In fact, they seek to reduce evil to "a purely neurological glitch or malformation in the wiring of the physical brain" [02] thus eliminating free will, conscious choice, moral agency and personal responsibility. In other words, as the author goes on to ask -

    "Are those who commit acts of cruelty, murder, and torture just victims themselves - of a faulty part in the head that might fall under factory warranty if the brain were a car?" [03]


    "Does this "neuromitigation" excuse —"my brain made me do it," as critics of the tendency have called it - mean that no human being really wants to do ill to another? That we are all innocent, Rousseauian beings, some afflicted with defects - "brain bugs" as one new pop-neuroscience book calls them - that cause the behavior formerly known as evil?" [04]

One brain in the scientific community argues that "instead of calling someone evil we should say they have no empathy", which he attributes to an unhealthy "empathy circuit" in the brain. [05]

We know that when the human brain is scanned, specific regions of the brain light up when we feel empathy. A study was carried out on 21 inmates at a medium-security prison in the United States. While scanning their brains, the participants were shown images that depicted physical pain, and told to imagine the accidents happening to either themselves, or to someone else.

    When highly psychopathic individuals imagined the accidents happening to themselves, their brains lit up in the anterior insula, the anterior midcingulate cortex, the somatosensory cortex and the right amygdala — all areas involved in empathy... However, "when the highly psychopathic inmates imagined the accident happening to others, their brains failed to light up in the regions associated with empathy. In fact, an area involved in pleasure, the ventral striatum, lit up instead". [06]

However, correlation does not prove causation. In other words, we do not know whether certain regions of the brain cause empathy, or simply react to it.  While low empathy or the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, offers a potential for evil, it is not evil in itself. Unless they have severe mental problems, people know when they are being cruel and causing pain.

Wrong Ideas?
A 2014 Huffington post article by Richard Koch postulates that there is always an explanation, scientific or otherwise, for wickedness.  He points out the case of Adolf Eichmann who was responsible for the deaths of uncountable numbers of Jews.

     Hannah Arendt, who reported and reflected brilliantly on Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, showed that Eichmann was more a clown than a monster. She used the phrase "the banality of evil" to explain why he did terrible things - he was not very intelligent, followed orders mechanistically, liked to belong to the Nazi state machinery, and had no malice against the Jews. This does not excuse his actions, she said, but it does mean that he didn't need outside help to do his unbelievably terrible deeds. By extension, the problem was more that the Nazis had the wrong ideas, than that they were in some sense supernaturally evil.

He goes on to say that he finds this a "convincing explanation" because

    "all kinds of 'normal' and respected people in early twentieth century Britain and America - including H G Wells, Churchill, and George Bernard Shaw - held vehemently racist views that today we would all find utterly abhorrent". [07]

Except, of course, that while H G Wells, Churchill, and George Bernard Shaw might have (wrongly) held racist views, none of them attempted to murder individuals they didn't care for, much less did any one them attempt mass genocide.

However, since the word "supernatural" relates to existence outside the natural world, Richard Koch is probably right when he said the Nazis didn't need outside help to carry out their horrible mission.

Where Evil Stems From 
The phrase "evil incarnate" is often used to describe someone who has carried out some particularly heinous deeds. Unfortunately, because "incarnation" literally means embodied in flesh, "incarnate" is often taken to mean that some evil spirit has either taken human form or perhaps embodied itself in the person. The "devil made me do it" becomes a literal reason for evil. (In reality, the term simply means the person is the personification, or perfect example, of evil.)

Unfortunately, while this may be a valid 'excuse' in a few isolated cases, there is another source for evil and the Bible tells us what it is.

    The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB)

    You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. (Matthew 12:34-35 NASB)

    and He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man." (Mark 7:20-23 NASB)

In fact, numerous, and I mean numerous, Scriptural verses make it very clear that evil not only exists, but is a choice made by people.

    When you become the father of children and children's children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord your God so as to provoke Him to anger, (Deuteronomy 4:25 NASB)

    Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil,  (Isaiah 1:16 NASB)

    "For My people are foolish, They know Me not; They are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know." (Jeremiah 4:22 NASB)

    'Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the Lord." (Zechariah 8:17 NASB)

    Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15 NASB)

When it came to the Holocaust, the logistics were so complicated that the entire effort to eliminate an entire ethnic group (along with a few other 'undesirables') took meticulous planning. The Nazis, Adolf Eichmann included, chose to murder millions of people.

The Holiness of God
One of the primary attributes of God, is that He is holy. Isaiah, an ancient prophet of the Old Testament, had a vision of the "Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up" with His train filling the temple, which was accompanied by the cry of the seraphim.

    And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."  (Isaiah 6:3 NASB)

The first words out of Isaiah's mouth reflect an overwhelming conviction of his own unworthiness...

    Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5 NASB)

In the New Testament, Peter had a similar reaction when confronted with the power of the Christ. After a night of unsuccessful fishing, the disciples were instructed by Jesus to put their boats out again. When they did so, they caught so many fish that their nets were in danger of tearing. Peter's immediate  reaction to this miracle was to fall at Jesus' feet, with the words "leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man."

From cover to cover, numerous Scriptural verses reflect the fact that God is good. Here is a small sampling...

    For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them. (Deuteronomy 4:31 NASB)

    For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of Lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 NASB. Also see 2 Chronicles 19:7)

    Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:29 NASB)

    Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to do wrong. (Job 34:10 NASB)

    For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. (Psalms 5:4-6 NASB)

    Thus says the Lord, "What injustice did your fathers find in Me, That they went far from Me And walked after emptiness and became empty? (Jeremiah 2:5 NASB)

    Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  (Romans 2:4 NASB)

Which bring up another oft-asked question

Why Doesn't A Supposedly All-good & All-powerful God Do Something About Evil?
Many skeptics reject the idea that God exists at all but, if He does, He cannot be the "good" God portrayed by the Scriptures. In their opinion a good God would never allow evil to exist. If, as the Bible states and Christians believe, God is all good and all powerful, why doesn't He deal with the evil in the world?

There is absolutely no question that our all-powerful God is certainly in a position to obliterate all evil from this earth. However, there are two points to be considered here.

1) The first one is that eradicating all sin and evil from the earth means that God would not only have to do away with ISIS, slave traders, rapists and mass murderers, but would have to eliminate every one of us as well.

If pressed, possibly the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the 'not perfect' category, but a far cry from sinners or really bad people (usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world). An almost universal 'Santa Claus' mentality holds to the idea of rewards for those who's good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those bad deeds tip the scales. Even when many Christians think of sin, they simply think of a violation of the Ten Commandments.

The problem is that few know, or understand how the Bible defines sin.. Considering that the verdict is already in, i.e. because of our sins, all of us have already been condemned to death, perhaps it is wise not to trust in how bad we might think we are, but find out how the Bible defines sin. See Sin

2) When God created humans, He created them as genuinely free moral creatures, which means that from the get-go, there was the danger of them choosing wrong. It is impossible to create a morally free creature - one that has the liberty to choose right from wrong, without the possibility of that creature going bad. 

God's 'power' has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is whether this all-good and all-powerful God is going to do something about the sin and evil in the world. And that He is... which I will get to a little further down.

Does the Bible Say That God Created Evil?
Other skeptics go a step further claiming that since God is the Creator of everything, He must have created evil as well.

The problem being that evil is not really a thing that can be created. While you certainly know it when you come across it, evil isn't made up of matter or energy and doesn't occupy any space, which means it cannot be seen, smelled, heard, or touched. Regardless, skeptics commonly quote several verses in the Bible to "prove" their theory, including

    I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

    Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?  (Amos 3:6 KJV)

    Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? (Lamentations 3:38 NASB)

The problem is that all Bible verses, especially those that are difficult to understand, have to be considered...

) In Their Immediate Textual Context: No Biblical author simply strung together a number of sentences disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on stand alone verses.

2) In The Broader Context Of The Bible As A Whole: The Bible is an integrated whole, and from cover to cover represents the 'whole counsel of God', therefore does not contradict itself. When the Bible never stops speaking about the goodness of God and his hatred of evil, we need to closely examine the couple of passages that seem to point in the opposite direction.

 See Context is Crucial

Additionally, one has to consider the fact that many Hebrew words are have a broad range of meanings. In all three of the above examples, the Hebrew word translated 'evil' or 'ill' is a form of the word ra'. You may have noticed that two of the verse above are from the King James version. Skeptics and critics often prefer this version simply because the KJV translators did not distinguish between one form of evil and another. While ra' usually refers to moral evil, it can also mean distress and calamity.

For example, there is a clear contrast of opposites in Isaiah 45:7.... "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, (Heb. shâlôm) and create evil: I the Lord do all these things".

Shâlôm which means 'peace', is commonly used as salutation by Jews when they meet or part.  However, 'evil' is the opposite of good, not peace ... the English conflict, trouble; tumult, turmoil, unrest etc. are precise antonyms. 

Textual Context of Isaiah 45:7

This chapter had God addressing (through the prophet Isaiah) the Persian ruler Cyrus whom He had chosen to deliver his people from their captivity, and to restore them to their own land. God said He would subdue nations before Cyrus, shattering the doors of copper, breaking bars of iron and giving him treasure that had been concealed. All this so he, Cyrus, would know that the God of Israel was the one who called him by name. 

Myths Encyclopedia states, that "The driving forces of Persian mythology were two powerful gods, sometimes presented as twin brothers" [08] If this is true then it is no surprise that God emphasized to Cyrus that He alone was God. In His words...

    "I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord , and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. (Isaiah 45:5-7 NASB)

That ra' refers to trouble, tumult and turmoil is well illustrated by Amos 3:6... "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?"

The "evil" that strikes cities are floods, earthquakes, fires, foreign invasions etc. not something morally wrong or wicked.

In this case it was a foreign invasion. God raised up the prophet Amos, to call people who repeatedly disobeyed Him to repentance and to turn from their self-righteous sins and idolatry. And, if they did not, he warned that Israel would be destroyed. In other words, the evil that Amos spoke about was punishment for the iniquities of the nation.

    As a side note, trumpets played a very significant role in the Old Testament.  A trumpet was sounded at Mount Sinai when the law was given (Exodus 19:16), and blown over the nation's burnt offerings and peace offerings (Numbers 10:10). Trumpets heralded the return of the ark of the Lord to the city of David (2 Samuel 6:15), and played a big part in the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:4-5) and other wars. When enemies attacked, trumpets sounded an alarm (Numbers 10:9). As in Amos 3:6, trumpets announced a coming disaster in Ezekiel 33:2-4. and it will be no different at the end of the age, when the sounding of trumpets will herald the plagues that God will send on the earth - See The End Of The Age Part III... The Seventh Seal and The First Six Trumpets

Textual Context of Lamentations 3:38

The King James Version of Lamentations 3:38 ("Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?") seems to suggest that both moral evil as well as good come from the Lord. However, the preceding verses (Lamentations 3:34-36) and many, many others make it quite clear that the Lord does not approve of the cruelty inflicted by one man on another, depriving someone of justice or defrauding him in a lawsuit.

As the name implies, Lamentations was written as a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet", wrote Lamentations after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the people carried off into exile. However, the very next verse has Jeremiah asking

    Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? (Lamentations 3:39 NASB)

In other words, although he was grief stricken over what had happened to his city and his people, Jeremiah knew it was well deserved and the warnings of numerous prophets had been ignored. He also reminds us in verses 19-23, that God is good to those who wait for Him and to the person who seeks Him. He is also faithful and will restore and bring His promise regarding the exile to pass.

Which brings us to the broader context of the Bible.

Broader Context

Very early on in the Bible, just before the taking of the land of Canaan and the beginning of a settled life, Moses outlined the social, civil, and political laws which would have been superfluous while they were wandering the desert. He reminded them of the miracles that preceded their departure from Egypt and the fact that their clothes or sandals had not worn out in forty years in the wilderness. Plus the may battles that they had already won against various tribes.

Moses then exhorted the people to observe the Divine precepts and threatened those who violated them. His words

    "Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  (Deuteronomy 28:1 NASB)

Were followed by a list of blessings that they would enjoy if they kept the Lord's commandments. Deuteronomy 28:15 -68 lists the curses that would come upon them if they did not obey the Lord. Moses' summary...

     (15) "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;  (16)  in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (17) "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,  (18)  I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18 NASB)

And nothing changed throughout the history of Israel. When people shunned and ignored God's laws, He brought "evil" on them.

    "Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also. (Jeremiah 6:19 NASB)

    So I will choose their punishments and will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. and they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight."  (Isaiah 66:4 NASB)

    "I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them--but they did not listen."'" (Jeremiah 36:31 NASB)

    Woe to those who scheme iniquity, Who work out evil on their beds! When morning comes, they do it, For it is in the power of their hands. They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance. Therefore thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; and you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time. (Micah 2:1-3 NASB)

The kings were far from exempt

    Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, having done wickedly more than all the Amorites did who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols; therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle.  (2 Kings 21:11-12 NASB)

Nor was the pagan nation of Babylon that did not show any mercy to the captive Jews

    "You felt secure in your wickedness and said, 'No one sees me,' Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; for you have said in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me.' "But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; and disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone; and destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly. (Isaiah 47:10-11 NASB)

However, should a nation repent, even one as horrible as the Assyrians, God did not bring any calamities on them

    When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. and He did not do it.  (Jonah 3:10 NASB)

The "Evil" God Will Rain Down on Our World
Just before the great flood wiped out most of the human race, the Bible tells us

    Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  (Genesis 6:5 NASB)

Similarly, the catalogue of man's greed, ruthlessness, and inhumanity to his fellow man is one that has no end. Increasingly, modern society brazenly flaunts its sins without the slightest effort to conceal them, just like Sodom once did. But, as the prophet Isaiah said, "Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves" (3:9).

There is a day looming on the horizon when mankind's iniquity will exhaust the patience of God Himself, at which point in time He will pour out His wrath, or retributive justice, on the earth, punishing transgressors and ending all the injustice and suffering in this world. God's kingdom will be preceded by a devastating period of time such as man has never before seen. Many past periods have been labeled "the darkest time in human history" however, they will be a walk in the park compared to what is to come - when even the heavens and earth will tremble at His power and fury, the moon will turn to blood, and the sun will no longer gives out its light.

    Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. (Isaiah 13:11 NASB)

Not only does the imagery and symbolism of Revelation describe the horrendous conditions of the last days, but tells us in what order they will occur. See The End of The Age

Also See

The Message of The Bible
Also, all too many people, picking out a random phrase or two, think 'love' was Jesus' core message. Unfortunately, they are terribly wrong... the Kingdom of God, a phrase used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone, was at the heart of Jesus' ministry. But here is the interesting part, the Bible's description of this kingdom of God, also called heaven, matches the world most men and women would choose to live in, one of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, war, and above all... no death. In other words, Christianity, which appears to be outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, promises exactly the utopian world that mankind can only dream of. Now, you have to decide if you want to be there.

The Warning of The Bible
The message of the Bible is, initially, unbelievably good... we can all live in a perfect world here on earth, in bodies that will neither age nor deteriorate. In fact, the heart of Jesus' preaching was the good news that the kingdom of God was on its way, and that we could be part of it. It then throws a spanner into the works by saying that sinful people cannot get there. After which it hits rock bottom when it tells us that no matter how well we live, we cannot live up to God's standard of holiness (no sin period), and we are all sinners who are under the death penalty... God's decreed punishment for any sin. Luckily God's mercy and love changes this hopeless situation


End Notes
[01] Matt Slick. Is evil the absence of love or good? https://carm.org/is-evil-the-absence-of-love

[02] Ron Rosenbaum. The End of Evil?.

[03] ibid.

[04] ibid.

[05] ibid.

[06] Tanya Lewis. Blame the Brain: Why Psychopaths Lack Empathy. September 24, 2013 04:00pm ET

[07] Richard Koch. Do Good and Evil Exist? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-koch/do-good--evil-exist_b_5714409.html

[08] Myths Encyclopedia. Myths and Legends of the World. Persian Mythology


Barriers To Faith