2200320669_2824bf43b6

Why Did God Allow Evil?

Is it possible to force people to love? Powerful people may be able to force others to do just about anything. Through psychological or physical torture, they may succeed in forcing them to curse their own children to deny their faith. They may even succeed in forcing others to act and say loving things to them. But no one can force another person to actually love them.

But God created us, someone might respond, so he need not coerce us to love him. He could simply create us with an unquenchable desire to love him. In this case we would choose to love God simply by virtue of how we were created. I suggest that this supposition also conflicts with our experience.

Consider this analogy: Suppose I were able to invent a computer chip that could interact with a human brain in a deterministic fashion, causing the person who carries the chip to do exactly what the chip dictates without the person knowing this. Suppose further that I programmed the chip to produce “the perfect wife” and inserted it in my wife’s brain while she was sleeping. The next morning she would wake up as my idea of a perfect wife. She would feel, behave and speak in a perfectly loving fashion. Owing to the sophistication of the chip, she would believe that she was voluntarily choosing to love me in this fashion, though in truth she could not do otherwise.

Would my wife genuinely love me? I think not. Proof of this is that I (and hopefully all husbands) would eventually find this “love” unfulfilling. I would know that my wife was not experiencing these loving feelings or engaging in this loving behavior on her own. In reality, I would simply be acting and speaking to myself through this sophisticated computer chip. My wife’s behavior would not be chosen by her, so she would not really be loving me at all. She would become the equivalent of a puppet. If I want love from her, she must personally possess the capacity to choose not to love me.

If God desires a bride made up of people who genuinely love him (see Jn 17)—who do not just act lovingly toward him—he must create people who have the capacity to reject him. He must endow agents with self-determination. They, not he, must determine whether or not they will love him and each other. And this, I submit, explains why God created a world in which evil was possible. If love is the goal, it could not be otherwise. God chose to create a world in which evil is possible only in the sense that he chose to create a world in which love is possible. The possibility of evil is not a second decision God makes; it is implied in the single decision to have a world in which love is possible. It is, in effect, the metaphysical price God must pay if he wants to arrive at a bride who says yes to his triune love.

—Adapted from Satan and the Problem of Evil, pages 54-55

Image by RocPX via Flickr

Related Reading

Did the Father Suffer on the Cross?

When I argue that the cross is a Trinitarian event (See post), some may suspect that I am espousing Patripassionism, which was a second and third century teaching that held that God the Father suffered on the cross. While this view was often expressed as a form of heretical Modalism, and while the Patristic fathers…

Homosexuality and the Church: Finding a “Third Way”

Here is a word I a shared this last weekend with Woodland Hills Church (where I’m senior pastor) in response to numerous questions I’ve received over the last several months. People have asked me why the leadership of WHC refuses to jump on the bandwagon of evangelical churches in the Twin Cities who rally their…

Enduring an Evil-Infested World (6 Principles) —part two

In the previous post, I introduced the first three principles that will help you find peace and even a sense of victory in the midst of the evil we face in this world. Here are the final three. Principle #4: Let Go of the “Why” Question and Confront Evil In the midst of suffering, we…

How do you respond to Romans 8:29-30?

Question: Romans 8:29–30 says that everyone God foreknew he predestined. You deny both that God foreknows and predestines individual believers. So this verse seems to refute your open view. Answer: First, as many exegetes have noted, the sort of “knowing” Paul intends in this passage is not merely intellectual knowledge, but rather an intimate affection.…

Redefining Omnipotence

Traditional, classical theology has equated divine power with God causing and determining all things to exist. God supposedly acts on everything as their cause, but nothing in any way acts on him. Yet, these assumptions about how God causes things to exist starts in the wrong place. If we start with reason, it causes us…

The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday’s post briefly introduced the reality that we live in the midst of spiritual warfare. This is the reality of being a part of creation where Satan prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8-9). The Scriptures make it clear that all of creation is in need of redemption. While most Christians assume that the…