Thursday, November 17, 2011
Why Does God Allow Bad Things To Happen? Part 1: The Fallen World
At first, this topic was brought up to me by a friend of mine who suggested that I consider writing on it because it is one of those questions that stop you in your tracks when you try to answer it to someone who may be struggling with the concept of a loving God in a sinful world. If we don’t answer the question well enough then not only do we run the risk of not adequately representing God or correctly handling his Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) (one of my biggest cautions), but we may end up confusing someone even more! I have been there before and it is frustrating.
This is why I love questions like these because they force us to come to specific conclusions on our faith and on what we believe about God. It motivates and inspires us to get into the Word and find out what it says about stuff like this. Our life should be a continual growth in how we view God. This question helps get us there when we let the Holy Spirit speak through His Word about the sovereignty of God.
There are a handful of specific things that cannot be ignored when dealing with a question of this nature. Some will set the context of the question, like: “How do bad things start in the first place if the world was created by a perfect God?” Other instances will look at God Himself: “If God is omnipotent, then why do bad people get away with bad things?” or “If God is loving, then why do good families get killed by bad people, or by cancer?”
Let’s set the context for the world as we know it. It is true that God is perfect and created a perfect world. We see in Genesis that God called it “very good” when he was all said and done with it (1:31). It was on this literal sixth day of Creation when God also created the first-ever man, Adam. God said in 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Then in verse 27 it says, “So God created man in his own image […]”. Simple enough! What God wants, God does. That’s Theology 101, right there.
In this portion of the first chapter we have a summarized caption of the creation of man. It goes on to say in verse 27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
What was man to do now? In verse 26, again, it lists some things that God already determined for man to do: “[…] 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.” God gave Adam everything he could ever want or need and he was to rule over them. Already, Adam had a job and sun tanning while eating the choice fruit was not it, though he indeed enjoyed the Creation God gave him, no doubt.
Another aspect of man’s role on the earth was to have kids and expand the family. We see in verse 28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’ […]”. They were to be good stewards with the land and good stewards with their bodies, being fruitful in both. Please take note that in this verse it says that God blessed them. Adam and Eve were blessed and they were already given tasks. It is important to realize that they didn’t have a lazy life of no work. They were blessed in the work that they had.
Starting in 2:4 and going through the end of the chapter, we get a more detailed account of how Adam and Eve were created. God, as we have seen, has already created everything in the world and it is already set in motion within the complete cosmos and reality as we still know it today. At this point, however, nothing was really getting done in the way of cultivation, besides the natural ways that God had created for plants and animals to multiply. This was not a bad thing, nor was it an indication of God’s design lacking something. It is simply stated in verse 5 that “no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground.”
So, then, in verse 7, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
God wanted man to rule his creation, to be the steward of the whole place. We may not know God’s thoughts behind why, but God does what God wants. At this point we see where the garden aspect of Eden was set apart. Verse 8: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man that he had formed.”
It is before woman was created that Adam was given his one, and might I add only, prohibition in verse 17: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Herein lies many things that man is now faced with: a conscious choice between right and wrong; being obedient to God or being disobedient; temptation is now an issue.
Nonetheless, Adam is given a helpmate who is actually in correspondence to him, rather than the animals he has been busy naming, as indicated in the chapter. When he finally meets this woman he immediately recognizes her as being distinct from all the other animals in that she was a human like him, bone of his bones and the same flesh as his flesh (2:23).
Now exists Adam, with a divine instruction from God, and Eve, his suitable helper. Life is perfect.
Then, along comes Satan in the form of a serpent, or a snake. He does what he does best and twists God’s words into something that deceives Eve, which leads her to eat the forbidden fruit, who then gives it to Adam who also takes and eats (Gen. 3:6). This. Is. Huge.
They just deliberately disobeyed God, who gave them the specific command to not eat that particular fruit. The issue here is not the fruit, necessarily. The real issue is the disobedience. Adam and Eve are now no longer perfect and are now considered sinners, which explains the shame they felt when they realized their nakedness in a new way.
The standard for mankind has now been set. They are a fallen people and are born under that curse of the Fall. This Original Sin is something that we are all guilty of at birth. Anyone who has had kids knows how depraved a human can be. You don’t have to teach the kids how to be bad and disobedient and how to be unloving, disrespectful and sinful. They are naturally inclined to do that. In fact, left to themselves you will see a continual fostering of sinful patterns that will reap terrible consequences in that undisciplined life.
Humans are deeply and hopelessly depraved. We must understand this depravity in order to fully understand our need for a Savior and Lord who can live through us and in us. We must understand this depravity if we are to understand the consequences of unrepentant sin in eternity. We must understand this depravity if we are to rightly understand the world we live in and how much we are in need of God’s mercy and grace every single day. Understanding the Total Depravity of man is the best way to really understand the immense greatness and holiness of God. Do not ever let this escape your cognizant understanding of the Lord. This puts us in the proper place of humility and puts God in His proper place of exaltation and glorification. This is what helps us in our high view of God.
As Paul says in Romans 5:
“[…] Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned[…]” (v. 12).
He says it a couple different ways… “One trespass led to condemnation for all men” (v. 18), and “By the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (v. 19). The point is clear. Because of Adam, the whole human race is considered fallen, depraved, and sinful.
Keep in mind that God “begat” Adam and did so in a perfect way. Now that Adam sinned he could only beget sinful offspring, so of course everyone is born under the curse of his sin. It is impossible for a sinful human being to beget a perfectly sinless child. The only place where this would happen is when the Holy Spirit made Mary pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:35). Again, it had to be God doing the begetting, though. This is why the doctrine of the virgin birth is so important. If Jesus was born by natural relations between Joseph and Mary then he would not have been perfect. He would have been born a sinner. Only God can beget holiness.
So now, we have a fallen world where sin reigns and Satan continues to wreak havoc on whatever he can to keep people from seeing the truth in Scripture. However, even though Satan prowls around like a lion, he is still within the control of God. The first chapter of the Book of Job should tell us this much since Satan had to have express permission to do anything to Job in the first place. In fact, Satan was told not to kill Job, so Satan didn’t. This is always an extremely encouraging thing to remember. Even Satan himself is subject to God’s sovereignty.
Why go through this whole discourse on the beginning of Man and the fall of Man? To answer the generic question of “why do bad things happen?” I can confidently say it is because of the sin that entered the world, through Adam. This begs many questions though, I understand. We will get there in upcoming parts because it is important to understand all of this within the context of God’s will and sovereignty, which leads us to the bigger question: “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”
For now, I will say that just because God may seem to allow bad things to happen, does not mean he is not in control or does not care or is not merciful and loving. He is most definitely sovereign over everything that happens, yet He still holds us responsible for our sin and our rejection of God. When people reject God and sin in general, they are contributing to the fallenness of the world and only more sin will come out because of that.
Now that sin is in the world and has been since Adam, God sovereignly works his grace and mercy to draw people to repentance of their sins since they are enslaved to their sin (John 6:44) (Rom. 6:20). It is sometimes through the worst circumstances and moments in our life when God’s grace and mercy is made abundantly clear.
In the upcoming parts I will cover the following in more detail:
-The topic of free will vs. God’s sovereignty
-How the bad things can be used for good
-The eternal perspective on death, since an early death is usually considered a “bad” thing
-How bad times are sometimes needed in order to turn us to God
-How bad things will be inherently different in the eyes of a Christian vs. a non-believer
I don’t know how many parts I’ll break this into, but I just want to make sure that I cover everything thoroughly and appropriately. Let me know if something didn’t make sense or needs to be expanded on. Since we can see where sin started and how it has brought a curse on to the very ground we walk on (Gen 3:17-19), it will help us realize that the things we deal with nowadays are within the context of a fallen world as a result of Adam’s “original sin”.
In His Sovereign Grip,