light2

Good From Evil

The Bible is very clear that God has nothing to do with evil. There is “no darkness” in God. (I Jn 1:5). Far from intentionally bringing about evil, God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Hab. 1:13). All evil, therefore, must be ultimately traced back to decisions made by free agents other than God. Some of these agents are human. Some of these agents are angelic. Either way, evil originates in their willing, not God’s.

This isn’t to say that God can’t bring good out of evil. Scripture teaches that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Rom 8:28). As I read this passage, the phrase “works for” (sunergēo) is all important. In the Greek, “sun” is a prefix meaning “with” or “alongside of.” “Ergēo” means to work to bring something about (we get the word “energy” from it). So the term literally means to work with or along side other things or other people to bring something about. So, it seems that in this passage God is promising to work with us and alongside the circumstances he finds us in to bring good out of evil.

But think about this in terms of how many conceive of God predetermining every circumstance of history. If “all things” were already an expression of God’s will, because God is supposedly behind everything, why would God have to work with us and alongside circumstances to bring good about? If all things are already an expression of God’s will, there’s nothing outside of God’s will for him to work with or along side of.

In this light, I suggest this passage is teaching us not that all things happen for a divine purpose, as though God wills all that comes to pass, but that all things happen with a divine purpose. Whatever comes to pass, however much against God’s will it may be, God works to brings a good purpose to it.

He is, after all, an infinitely intelligent God who is able to anticipate each and every possible event as if it were a certainty. Whatever comes to pass, therefore, God has an eternally prepared plan in place on how best to respond to it. I believe this is why the Bible depicts Gods’ providence not only as a rule of power, but even more so as a rule of wisdom. If God himself brought things about or faced an eternally pre-settled future, devoid of possibilities, he’d need no wisdom in steering the world toward his objectives.

Wherever you are today … whatever challenges you are facing … wherever you face evil … God is with you, working with you and alongside your circumstances to bring about good. God did not bring about that evil, but he is working to bring good out of it. Even as you read this, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see this reality.

Image by Justin Luebke via Unsplash

Related Reading

How do you respond to Mark 14:13–15?

In planning for the Passover meal, Jesus tells his disciples, “Go into the city and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’…

15 Reasons Open Theism is TRUE (a reply to Andrew Wilson)

Article by Dan Kent Recently, Andrew Wilson shared an impressive critique of open theism called: “Responding To Open Theism In Fourteen Words.” Andrew’s article didn’t persuade me, but it did challenge me (seriously!). Below I will respond to each of the words Andrew presents. But first I will add one word of my own (if…

Warfare Worldview: A Basic Definition

The warfare worldview is based on the conviction that our world is engaged in a cosmic war between a myriad of agents, both human and angelic, that have aligned themselves with either God or Satan. We believe this worldview best reflects the response to evil depicted throughout the Bible. For example, Jesus unequivocally opposed evils…

What is the significance of Exodus 32:14?

The Lord states his intention to destroy Israelites because of their wickedness: “Now let me alone,” he says to Moses, “so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (vs. 10). Moses “implored the Lord” (vs. 11) and, as a result, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that…

Topics:

Lighten Up: I’m Not Worried Frank

Well, my dear friend Frank Viola has been spouting off again about how my “logic will be shredded, excoriated, and turned into confetti before a watching world” when we host our debate on Open Theism this fall. I’m not too worried though, since Frank studied the art of debate in the clinic featured in the…

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 30:19?

After establishing the terms of the covenant he was entering into with Israel, the Lord says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” This passage represents the most fundamental motif…

Topics: