On God and the Occurrence of Sin

Posted: June 4, 2011 in Theologababble

              So three weeks ago today I stepped on the scales and was frankly disgusted at what I saw. Stepping on the scale a few times to ensure that the glaring red “218.6” wasn’t simply a fluke, it dawned on me that I was now the heaviest that I had ever been in my life. When Sunday rolled around, I stepped on the scales again, hoping that Saturday’s weight was just the result of too much food the previous day. No such luck. The 218.6 continued to unflinchingly stare at me. Totally not cool.

 

            In the twenty one days since, I have increased my physical activity, I have decreased my food intake, and I have made huge cuts in the types of food I’ll eat. As a result, I am down 12.8 pounds, and if I keep this up I have no doubt that I’ll reach my target weight of 180 by the end of summer, Lord willing.

 

            I don’t like feeling hungry, and I’m not a fan of exercise. The physical pain that comes with hunger and exercise isn’t my friend. I don’t like it.

 

            So why in the world would I possibly do something that I don’t enjoy, when it’s in my power not to do it? Why would any sane person tolerate this type of discomfort when they didn’t have to? Yeah…in your head you’re thinking, “because it’s necessary to achieve your goal. Your plan is good, but to carry it out you’ll have to endure aspects that you do not like.”

 

            And you’re exactly right. The end result, the purpose of this discomfort, is well worth it. I don’t enjoy every part of accomplishing my goal, but I am pleased to do it because of the end result of it.

 

            I wrote a post a few days ago extolling the total and absolute sovereignty of our God, because the Bible makes it pretty clear that God is on the throne, and not mere men. It is impossible to derail God’s plan, and God does everything He wants to. Well, this raises the issue of evil’s existence, and this is a “problem” that atheists like to jump on. There’s even a term for it: theodicy. Their argument goes something like this:

 

  1. A loving and powerful God would desire to, and be able to, prevent sin/evil.
  2. Sin happens.
  3. God must not be (1) loving or (2) all powerful, or both.

 

            It’s a common argument used to justify their continued disbelief in God. Surprisingly, in response to the article I wrote the other day, I saw fellow Christians trying to explain the presence of evil by claiming that such presence was not part of God’s plan and not something that He wanted to happen in the first place. We can immediately reject this idea because Scripture is clear that God’s plan and purpose cannot be thwarted.

 

            So if God’s will is not being thwarted, then it would stand to reason that God’s plan was for evil to happen. Put in more personal terms, this would mean that God planned for the molestation of all the children that have suffered this evil.

 

            Yeeeep. Now you’re twitching a bit. To think that God would plan such evilness to occur is distasteful to the human ego. How dare God plan for such bad things to happen to good people! How dare God plan for sin to happen?!?

 

            But think about this: if God’s plan was for sin not to happen, than its occurrence demonstrates that God’s purpose can, and was, thwarted. If God’s plan was for sin not to happen, than God cannot do as He pleases, and He cannot have His will with His creation. So like it or not, the Biblical truth is that God’s plan is being carried out to fruition, and there is nothing happening on earth that God is not in control over.

 

            “So how, then, can God not be pleased with sin, if His plan was for the sin to happen in the first place?”

 

            This question was raised to me, and rightfully so. After all, if everything that happens, to include evil, is under God’s control and part of His plan, how could He both be happy to have it happen and yet angry and unhappy about it happening?

 

            And the answer to that question is simple. Remember my weight loss blurb? I don’t enjoy a lot of what I’ve done the last three weeks, but I did it because my desire was to accomplish my purpose, which was to lose weight. In that same manner, God has a plan for the human race that has an end goal in mind, and God is pleased to allow evil in the accomplishment of said plan. Remember when Joseph’s brothers beat him, threw him into a pit, and sold them into slavery? All of these actions were sinful and evil, yet Joseph himself recognized that they “meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How could that sin possible be good??

 

            This is how: “God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

 

            Get that? God’s plan to save His nation included the sins that Joseph’s brothers committed. Even in their rebellion against God, God was pleased to allow such rebellion because through it He would bring glory and honor to His name in the saving of His people.

 

            This one will fry your brain too: Not allow is God pleased to use “bad” ingredients to make a great cake, sometimes He causes the ingredient to go bad in the first place. Does this make God the author of sin? No. Does it mean that God makes people sin against their will? No. Does it mean that God actively tries to convince a person to sin? No. All of these concepts are unbiblical.

 

            How, then, does God cause sin to occur without His being responsible for it? How does all of this make sense in passages like Exodus fourteen where God says, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” Reread that, if you need to. God clearly says that it is He who will cause Pharaoh to continue to defy God and chase the Israelites, and in the end God killed Pharaoh to bring glory to Himself.

 

            But…over in Exodus 8:15 we see Pharaoh hardening his own heart, though chapters before we see God explaining that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Who hardened what first? How is God not sinful in causing Pharaoh’s sin?

 

            Well, it works like this. If I wanted to appear more muscular, how can I accomplish this? There are two answers: one, I can work out more. The more I lift, the bigger the muscles grow, therefore I will appear more muscular. There’s another way, though. I can lose the fat that is currently obscuring my pre-existing muscles. In losing the covering, I would indeed appear more muscular. So we see that I don’t have to add anything to appear stronger- all I need to do is pull back the covers, so to speak.

 

            It’s the same way with sin. As we all know, men are evil. It’s who we are. We’re born this way. The question is, why aren’t we all “as evil” as Hitler? What prevents us from enjoying total chaos as we seek total hedonism? God is why, and it’s only by His grace that we’re not all as evil-acting as we could be. God prevented Abimelech from sinning- I have no doubts that He quite often prevents other sins from occurring.

 

            But what if God had not intervened with Abimelech’s plan to sleep with Abraham’s wife Sarah, what would have occurred? The sin. The point that I’m driving circles around in getting to is this: all that is necessary for God to cause sin is to remove His grace from any given sinner and give them over to the desires of their own flesh. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the manner that He allowed Pharaoh’s evil heart to run its wicked course. He didn’t have to make Pharaoh rebel against Him- Pharaoh was going to do that of His own accord.

 

            Now here’s the kicker. God could have so flooded Pharaoh with grace so as to cause Pharaoh to love him and obey Him, but that was not God’s plan. God’s plan was to “get glory over Pharaoh and his host.” God’s plan included the willful rebellion of Pharoah, a willful rebellion brought about by God’s inactive hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Such sin served God’s purposes. Does this mean that God reveled in Pharaoh’s sin? No. But it does mean that God intended it to happen, willingly allowed it to happen, and rightfully enacted His wrath against Pharaoh for his willful disobedience.

 

            So why does God allow evil? Because in the greater scheme, it is best to work out this way. Why does God allow bad things to happen to His children? Because we know that all things work together for good to those that love God- to those who are called according to His purpose. Why does God allow sin? Because He works all things according to the purpose of His will. Why does God allow the rebellion of sinful beings? Because the Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

 

            What then do you prefer? A God who, though trying His best, is often foiled in His attempts to govern human action? A God who, try as He might, simply cannot obtain the end result He would like to? Or would you rather worship a God who in sovereign over all things, even those things which He hates, because everything that happens is happening because it is part of His master plan, a plan which no one can foil? I don’t know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that God is still in charge, that Jesus is still Lord over all creation. This is God we’re talking about.

 

            An internet search on theodicy would lead you to many resources, some good and some bad. There are far more brilliant writers than I who do a vastly better treatment of the subject than I do on this issue. I hope, though, that you can see now how God’s omnibenevolence, omniscience, and omnipotence is completely compatible with the existence and occurrence of sin in the world.

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