What Went Wrong?

If God is perfectly good, and His creation is very good, why is there badness in the world?

This “problem of evil” inquiry has taken many forms. One common expression is: Why would a loving, all powerful, God allow evil in the world? The implication is that God is either not loving or not all powerful, which in either case, would seem to destroy the God portrayed in the Bible.

Of course, Genesis 3 gives us a clear picture of humanity’s rebellion against God which brought evil into the world. As humanity’s representatives, Adam and Eve used the free will God had graciously given them to rebel against Him. Paul wrote about that same rebellious nature in Romans 1:25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…”

Theologians have developed many responses to help us put this question into perspective, both scholarly and pastoral. I’ll share C.S. Lewis’s thoughts as one example:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.” C.S. Lewis

Lewis highlights a crucial point. Can you imagine what a world of only good would look like? Would it be a world of automatons that lacked the capacity to love and be loved? Would this world be capable to creating beautiful things? The Bible tells us that eternity with God in heaven is such a world. But it’s a world so different than our own broken world, that we’re incapable of truly imagining it. Why? Because we will be so different in our nature as will the other citizens of Heaven.

So, perhaps part of the answer is that our world must contain “badness” as well as “goodness” because that is what our earthly nature is bound produce.

But even with this, God has graciously given us hope in His many promises. To name just three:

  • A future in His eternal kingdom where goodness prevails (Revelation 21:4).
  • A present in this world where He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6), nor allow anything to separate us from His love (Romans 8:39).
  • His power enabling us to pursue a life of goodness, despite living in a world full of badness (Romans 12:1-2).