Can a Pandemic Glorify God?
At this current time, the world is experiencing a pandemic that is causing many to become ill (over 1 million), and many thousands to die. For logical reasons, people are worried about this current situation. What will the future hold? Will it get far worse, or will it ever stop? What about those that die from Covid-19? While I can point you to hope that is found in Jesus Christ, this article is addressing the existence of such things in the first place.
Can God Exist if Evil Exists?
In many people’s arguments against the existence of God, they state that He cannot exist for evil exists. In this view, they say that a loving, all-powerful God would not allow for such things, but is this a valid argument? First, we must identify that perfection only exists within God and that anything else is less than God, and thus, not perfect. For that reason, the creation of man can be expected to have faults, for man is not God. It is absurd to think man should be perfect like God, so evil is inherent when an imperfect being is given free-will.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”Genesis 1:26–27
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”Psalm 8:3–8
Is Creation Bad?
Even lower are the other things of God’s creation, so by this logic, we cannot expect them to be without faults as well. So does this mean that God’s creation is not good? We cannot say this for two reasons. First, we are not God, so we cannot usurp His authority to judge things good or evil. Although we might experience hardships, who are we to say those hardships are not good for us? Can good not come from those things simply because of some aspect of evil?
“Presumably thePaul Helm
general character of that reason must be that out of that evil a greater good would come, a good
that could not have come, or could not have been as great, if there had not been that evil.”
Secondly, we see that God already declared His creation good (Gen. 1). The only thing that was called not good was for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So if God calls the creation good, even though imperfect, then who are we to say it is bad?
“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”Romans 9:17–24
Could This World Exist Without Evil?
So perhaps the question becomes, could God have made this world without evil, yet remain the same? If we accept that the possibility of evil in this world is a necessity through imperfection, then the question may be asked, “Could God not have altered the natural processes of this world so that evil could not exist?” It must be recognized that any alteration to the natural processes may entail a greater existence of evil instead of less. It is absolutely within the realm of possibility that this world is the closest to perfection that an imperfect world with free will may obtain. All of the natural processes are dependent upon each other, as well as the lives of the creatures that live within it. As biologists would point out, a small alteration to an ecosystem can have dramatic effects on the entire system.
If we exclude that this may have been His desire for some reason with greater understanding than ours, then let us consider an ecosystem. Environmentalists found this to be the case in Yellowstone regarding the effects of the wolf population. When wolves were reintroduced to this environment, they noticed changes to a particular river. Without the wolves that had naturally existed for years, grazing animals destroyed the vegetation that reinforced the banks of the river. After the wolves were reintroduced, fewer animals that ate those plants existed, so the plants thrived as they had previously. As the banks became reinforced by the root systems and sediment was able to become trapped by the plants at the water’s edge, the direction of the river started to meander. With time, a diverse ecosystem was produced as the balance was restored by the reintroduction of an apex predator that was once thought to be harmful. Although the wolves killed some animals, the other populations were now able to have a fighting chance of survival themselves, significantly improving the overall health of the ecosystem. In a similar way, seemingly evil actions may bring about a greater good in this world.
The Best Possible World
If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and good, then it must be imagined that the world that was created must be the best possible scenario. While it may have been possible to create a world without moral evil, an omnipotent creator must have the foresight that there is a shortcoming contained within that world, or that world is inconsistent with the free will of the creatures. As to why free will is the chosen attribute of the creatures, it is plausible that through the free will, God
is glorified through the morally good choices by the creatures with the possibility of choosing evil. One might object to God’s omnipotence, taking the position that it was outside the power to create a world only containing moral good; however, this would contradict the orthodox Christian world view. Plantinga argues that it is not logically inconsistent to argue that it was
outside God’s ability to create a world without evil, so it is possible that it would be logically inconsistent to have a world without evil and creatures with free will. In such a world, God’s ability is not limited except in that He cannot invalidate logic and thus remain omnipotent.
Is All Evil the Same?
Not all evil is the same—some of it comes from natural processes such as hurricanes or volcanic eruptions, whilst other evils come from the actions by people. This distinction is not always necessary to be made, as in the “greater good” defense; however, for the “free will” defense, this is more important. Natural evils are those not caused by human decisions but from
natural processes such as weather, pathogens, ect. Moral evils are those as a result of human actions such as murder, stealing, or assault. Neither list is exhaustive; however, each provides common examples of the broader categories. Both types of evil cause suffering in the world, but they are not similar in all the effects that they cause. Natural evils can cause far greater destructive power, but as these are natural occurrences, the suffering cannot be attributed to a decision to cause evil. Moral evil can be very destructive, but it may be argued that its effect is more narrow, but more deeply penetrating. Because there is an entity that is directly the cause of the evil, feelings like betrayal and personal attack magnify the suffering. While a hurricane may cause great destruction and loss of life, one may be more greatly affected by their spouse committing adultery.
Can Good Come From Evil
In the story of Joseph, his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery. Despite the evil committed against Joseph, he rose to power in Egypt under the Pharoah. Wayne Grudem asserts this story depicts a combination of willful evil deeps by man and the superseding power of the Lord. In other words, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). There are numerous other stories in the scriptures that depict similar situations, but every instance is not necessary to show that God has the power to use evil human deeds as a means to bring about His desire.
Evil used as a punishment, a plausible explanation for some instances. This punitive evil may be permissible by God to bring justice for the actions of a person. One might argue that God should not allow evil to exist, and then punitive evil would not be necessary. If free will necessitates that evil to exist, and if creatures with free will bring greater glory to God, and thus such a world is the best world, then punitive evil is necessary for God to remain consistent as wholly good and wholly just.
We are already seeing massive increases in people looking toward Christianity during this pandemic. In Denmark, one of the least religious countries of Europe, Google searches are skyrocketing on “how to pray.” While death is not desirable, we shall not fear that can cause death of our body, but instead we shall fear the one that can both kill the body and soul (Matt. 10:28). If death from Covid-19 must be necessary to lead some to Jesus Christ, so that they repent and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, that they have gain eternal life, then perhaps it is justifiable. Otherwise, all that lacked faith were dead in their sins already. Let us pray for the unbelievers that they may find eternal life in Jesus Christ.
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