Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Good is Evil? A Quick Theodicy

This changed my life. A friend once said: "When evil is done, it creates a unique opportunity for good . . . an opportunity that could not otherwise exist."

You may want to read that again.

"When evil is done, it creates a unique opportunity for good . . . an opportunity that could not otherwise exist." My friend said this, and it changed my life.

Here are a couple of questions to consider:
Is forgiveness good?
Could there be forgiveness if there was never sin?

Evil is allowed to exist because it opens the way to a greater good. That's a theodicy any forgiven person will immediately understand.

Think of it! God has created a world in which every act of human evil carries with it the seeds of a potential new act of good. Evil is ultimately self-defeating, because no amount of sin or evil can possibly overcome God's great power of grace.

I know someone will respond, "If this is the case, then let us do evil so that good may result." Such an attitude can only betray the fact that the greater good has not yet been received and cherished. The heart has not changed. Paul's retort in Romans 3:8 is applicable here: their condemnation is just.

One who has faced the intensity of his own evil, and then received the beautiful and transformational light of God's forgiveness, can only thank God for allowing evil to come - and for wisely administrating its effects. Such a person hates evil for its inherently ungracious nature, though he loves the things God brings about when He uses it as a tool. God did not author evil, but He certainly foresaw it, created a world in which He knew it would exist, permitted it, and chose to use it for the best possible end. Reformed theologians call this permissive ordination.

We throw evil at God, He sends back twice as much good. Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, can not, and will not overcome it. Ever.

Romans 5:20-21 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
James 2:13 For judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.


  1. Thanks, Derek. That's simple and very helpful. I know you've probably read this, but Jonathan Edwards took a similar (though not nearly as simple) approach to the subject. Here's Edwards (as quoted by John Piper):

    It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . .

    Thus it is necessary, that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

    If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired. . . .

    So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.

  2. It reminds me of when Jesus said that it is the sick who need a physician. I really think in some way that those who have sinned "more" than others, truly understand grace.

    Mat 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of [his] father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

    Great post:)

  3. That's really an excellent point and well made; it helps answer at least one of those nagging questions that people have about the "why" of evil and "how" a loving God could allow it. It further demonstrates the triumphant power of God's grace. SDG!


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