A non-Christian friend of mine was recently struggling with the amount of evil he saw in the world. He doesn’t believe in
God, but he seemed to see evil everywhere and admitted to believing Satan was behind it. I asked him to consider the implications of believing in Satan, but not in a God who can save us from him.
Another friend is into witchcraft and sorcery, where you can see some pretty freaky things. I told him (taken from the
Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis) that Satan often tips his hand. Satan doesn’t want us to know about him personally because if there’s personal force behind evil, there’s bound to be a personal force behind good (or at least there had better be!).
If you believe in evil, but not in good–in Satan, but not in God–you are in an unenviable spot! I’m currently reading the book Despite Doubt by Michael E. Wittmer and he hits a home run on this subject. This is taken from pages 57-59 of Despite Doubt; a book I highly highly highly recommend you read: (underlining mine)
Theism trumps atheism. It is logically impossible and psychologically devastating to believe in evil and not believe in God. It is logically impossible because the concept of evil is meaningless if God does not exist. If there is no God, the best I can say is that I dislike being robbed or getting cancer. I cannot say these events are evil, for what is bad for me might be good for someone else (whoever has my money or my job after I die). It is a bold move to declare “this is good” or “that is evil.” Anyone who makes such judgments is assuming they know what is best for the entire world. But such knowledge lies only with God, so only He can tell us what is good and what is evil.
It is psychologically devastating because of the horror of believing that evil exists but not God. Consider the terror of believing in evil but not a God who can protect you from it. You believe that evil is randomly pinging around our world? What prevents you from becoming one of its victims? If you truly believe that evil exists, then you also need the security that only God can provide. You need the comfort of knowing He is not surprised by your mugging (moral evil) or medical diagnosis (natural evil) and He remains powerful enough to help you.
You may have significant doubts about God. But if you left your house today, if you passed an oncoming car without flinching, take these as signs that deeps own you do believe there is a God who watches out for you. You don’t ultimately believe you’re subject to the whims of an irrational universe, but you live as if your life is kept in the hands of God. This is why, should tragedy strike, the first thing you’ll do is pray.
Christianity trumps other theisms. Only a God can grant us security in the face of evil, and only the Christian God goes further and also suffers with us. The problem of evil is not an abstract problem for the Christian God. Our God doesn’t ride above the fray, untouched by our fears and tears. He enters our world and joins our suffering to do something about it. We don’t know why God has allowed evil to enter our world, but we do know He has allowed evil to get to Him.
No one has suffered more from evil than God. The worst evil that has ever occurred happened on the cross, when the innocent Son bore the guilt of the world and cried out in despair, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). This moment was saturated with such unspeakable horror that even though Jesus knew it was coming and sweat blood as He braced himself for it, when the abandonment came it still crushed Him to hell. Few theologians have attempted to explain that awful moment, or even how it was possible. If the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (John 17:21), then it is unthinkable that anything could come between them. The best explanation I’ve heard comes from Graham Cole, who said that the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of love that unites the Father and Son, grabbed both and with arms fully extended strained with all His might to keep the Godhead from splitting up. For one terrible and eternal moment it looked as if this could go either way. And all because of our sin.
The cross absorbed and exhausted the powers of evil. Satan threw everything he had at Jesus, who allowed the devil to take Him down so He could take him out. Jesus dragged sin, death, and Satan down with Him into the grave, and when He arose He left them in the dust.
The cross doesn’t tell us why God allows all sorts of evil to enter His world, but it does assure us that we can trust Him with it. You and I know why Jesus died, which means we know the reason for the worst evil that has ever occurred. If we know the reason for the greatest evil, then surely we can trust God with the lesser, though significant, evils that happen to us. We don’t have to know why this or that even happened. We know that God was still God at the cross, and so we can believe that he remains God in whatever evil we face.
And what kind of God is He? He is high above us, and so He grants us security. He has defeated the forces of darkness, which guarantees that we will ultimately triumph over evil. He is also here with us, close enough to weep and suffer with our pain. Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” for He has endured whatever evil we will every experience (Hebrews 4:15). When we cry out in agony to God, we cry out to a God who gets it. There is no pain you can suffer that He hasn’t already felt, and more deeply. So “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Do you believe in evil? That’s the best reason I know to believe in Jesus. Only Jesus can supply the security, success, and sympathy that you know you need. No other religion even makes an offer.
Host of the Beyond the Battle Podcast
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