Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Many of you, like me, remember the day as if it were, well, yesterday.
As I ponder the events of that tragedy — the deaths, injuries, destroyed buildings and destroyed lives — it always raises a question for me: How can there be such atrocities when we believe in an all-powerful and loving God?
How can we proclaim divine goodness in the face of such darkness?
These questions touch on the issue of theodicy, or the problem of evil. Scores of books have been written on this topic, so forgive me for boiling my feeble answer to this enormous problem down to just a few sentences.
Is God the cause of evil? No. I believe God knows all things, but I do not believe God causes everything.
For example, James even says that God is not the author of evil (James 1:13). Even though God is not the author of evil or the bad done to us and/or the bad we do to others, I do believe He permits it to happen because He has created human beings as free agents.
We are free to do good or bad (whether or not the bad be intentional or unintentional).
However, given our sinful nature, our natural inclination is to commit sin against God and neighbor, but God allows us to do bad things because God chooses not to undermine our freedom.
Even though God is not the cause of evil, even though God allows evil to take place, I firmly believe that the evil humans perpetuate God transforms into the good that He uses for His redemptive purposes.
This truth does not take away the hurt and the pain of the evil act, but God, in His infinite wisdom, always finds a way to bring good from the sin and evil that we have committed.
I see this theological principle at work in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was handed over by the angry mob to be killed.
From a human point of view, this was an evil act. An innocent man was falsely accused (Luke 23:14, 15). Yet God transformed the death of Jesus, through the resurrection, into the ultimate means for our redemption.
The Joseph saga would be another example of God taking evil and using it for good: “what you meant for evil,” Joseph declares to his brothers, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Indeed, the evil of this world continues to wreak havoc, but I also believe that God is “making all things new” (Isaiah 43:18)
Rev. Will Wilson is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore.