If modern science at this point in time is revealing an Intelligent Designing Agent this precise in crafting the natural world, then if the main response to the evil and suffering in this world is to merely compose life-scripts and orchestrate journeys of faith that do not altogether remove evil and suffering, then this seemingly partial solution needs explaining.
If the response by the God of the Bible is to initiate research programs into the knowledge of good and evil as articulated in this book, now better understood through the lens of the modern scientific method, this produces the common complaint that if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere, why doesn’t He remove evil and suffering?
The argument that the presence of evil and suffering renders God weak and incapable of providing an entirely safe and optimized environment for humans, presupposes that there is not a more important reason for God allowing evil and suffering to exist on the earth.
For many years, I attributed most of the blame for the fall of some of the angels in heaven, to the charismatic appeal and outward appearing beauty of Satan (Mt. 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jud. 6), being similar in character in the Bible to the account of the very nearly successful revolt of Absalom against his father David the king (2 Sam. 15:1-6).
Some verses in the Bible imply that a third of the angels followed Satan in his revolt (Rev. 12:4), that there was war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-10), and that the kingdom of heaven suffered violence and was temporarily taken over by force (Mt. 11:12).
Ezekiel 28:12-15 gives us some background by telling us that Satan began as one of the covering cherubs “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty, until iniquity was found in him” (paraphrased by me).
Isaiah 14:12-17 and Luke 10:18 describe Satan’s fall from heaven.
If Satan and a few others were the only rebels engaged in this coup attempt and insurrection in heaven, then I suppose it would have been relatively straightforward to exile and ban them from heaven to some other distant region.
But if a third of the angels were susceptible to being drawn away through the enticing rhetoric of the liar Satan (Jn. 8:44), then God has a much larger problem on His hands.
The question can be asked here, if God is timeless, did He know in advance that Satan would rebel and take with him a third of the angels?
In the John 8:44 verse cited above, Jesus is recorded as saying that Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lying…of cleverly spinning the narrative away from and outside of truth.
Revelation 13:4 refers to the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, clearly meaning Jesus Christ.
Several places throughout the New Testament various verses say that believers will reign with Christ for ever and ever (Rev. 22:5).
These are all realities that are timeless, but we live in the four-dimensional reality of space and time.
Here in God’s response to evil and suffering we see the brilliance of the plan of redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Yahweh in the Old Testament (Rom. 4:1-8), and in Christ in the New Testament (Lk. 23:39-43), as opposed to autonomous self-salvation through self-performed good-works.
If the problem with one-third of the angels was their inability to discern the truth about the character and qualifications of God as the legitimate ruler of heaven, against the deceptive character assassination of a clever and charismatic liar, then one obvious solution would be to set-up a program through which His subjects could get to know Him intimately within the context of life experiences that reveal His true character.
The plan of redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ based upon a research program into the knowledge of good and evil that involves the four-wheel drive vehicle of our fallen yet redeemed moral natures, acknowledges ahead of time that God knows this requires the existence of a broken world containing evil and suffering.
One of the admirable characteristics of a good leader is that they will not ask other people to do something that they themselves would not do.
A captain or coronel who leads at the front of the cavalry brigade charge merits our respect and inspiration to follow them into battle.
The God of the Bible can hardly be said to be a distant and passive participant in this plan of redemptive salvation.
Through the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is telling us that He is standing foursquare with us in this current reality of a broken world, for the highest and best of reasons.
As the divine Son of God taking upon Himself the singular role of being the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sins, Jesus Christ is willingly placing Himself squarely in the middle of the evil and suffering dilemma of this broken world, by personally experiencing the hate-filled rejection and physical pain of execution by crucifixion (Isaiah 53).
At this point we can begin to understand the imaginative brilliance of the God of the Bible in formulating the program of redemptive salvation, while not removing the evil and suffering in this world.
If we are ever going to learn the real truth about the knowledge of good and evil, and to get to know God on a personal level that will stand the test of eternity, it is not by eating a piece of fruit.
In addition to the broad array of moral concepts, our human capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning, and the life-script of Jesus Christ all coming together in what must be human history, the fourth component of free-will choice comes into the mix.
Free-will choice is a central pillar in the eternal reality of God.
To have any meaning, humans must have the free-will choice to make mistakes.
Apparently, the evil and suffering generated by our inhumanity to man, and natural disasters thrown-in, is not enough to override the incredible strength of the power of individual self-autonomy that entices us to sit atop the thrones of our lives as self-sovereign junior gods.
Not only has God foreseen this broken world and allowed evil and suffering to exist, but He has also dialed-in the fine-tuned, delicate balance between belief and unbelief as the determining factor, excluding self-salvation through good-works (Isa. 64:6; Eph. 2:8-9).
The verse “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10) highlights the fact that everyone is equally equipped to enter into a research program into the knowledge of good and evil, by each person universally inhabiting an imperfect moral nature.
The verse “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1), highlights the fact that salvation is the free gift of God accessible to every person through faith (Eph. 2:8), but not through works.
How then does skeptical unbelief put people today in the same boat of condemnation with the angels who followed Satan in his failed coup attempt and violent insurrection.
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ, the person rejected and crucified as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin (rebellion) will be the main presiding judge on Judgment Day.
Jesus is recorded as saying: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32-33).
In other words, Jesus Christ will use His substitutionary atonement obtained through the cross and the resurrection to exonerate those people who have been willing to acknowledge their imperfect moral characters (repentance) and to accept the free gift of salvation by giving Him the benefit-of-the-doubt and confessing faith in Christ (Mt. 4:17).
For some people this leads to the last-minute “fox-hole” or death-bed confessions like that of the thief on the cross (Lk. 23:39-43), or to God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts beyond our wildest imaginations like that of the apostle Paul.
If Jesus Christ becomes incarnate in a human body, and as His mission-plan voluntarily takes upon Himself the full penalty for mankind’s sins by dying on a Roman cross of execution, then this justifiably enables Jesus Christ as judge to extend full and unconditional pardons to people based upon the criteria that He thereby is free to determine and establish.
But the galactic-sized insight in all of this, is that the point God is making here is so important that He is willing to come to earth in the person of the Son of God…Jesus Christ…to be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sins, to codify faith as the criteria to establish personal relationships, and to inaugurate research programs into the knowledge of good and evil that human beings can pursue through first-hand experiences with the impunity guaranteed through the blood shed by Jesus on the cross.
On January 6, 2021 in the United States the outgoing president engineered a coup attempt and a violent insurrection that threatened the existence of representative democracy in America.
The revolt by Satan and his fallen angels threatened the good order and peace of the entire known reality of the kingdom of God.
The stakes here are so enormous and eternally destabilizing that the current presence of evil and suffering in this world, is the only context within which to graphically demonstrate the end-points where skeptical unbelief eventually leads.
Jesus does not come for the last time into Jerusalem on Passover week with an army of Jewish soldiers to forcibly expel the Romans out of the city and to end the occupation of the country of Israel.
As evidenced by the history of Israel in the Old Testament, it is often a good thing to resist through military force foreign invaders having the evil intentions of plunder through conquest.
Throughout human history, despotic autocrats in power have been justifiably overthrown through rebellions and revolutions.
But the God of the Bible is brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and possesses divinely timeless foresight.
There is no justification for mounting a rebellion against the God of the Bible, other than through jealousy, envy, malice, and the raw lust for power.
Jesus says to Pilate in the Roman judgment hall: “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” (Jn.19:11).
Jesus says just before His death on the cross: “It is finished” (Jn.19:30), signifying that His mission-plan was complete and that all of the positive results accruing from His sacrifice were now codified forever in the cross.
Jesus Christ is the epitome of His statement: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13).
As humans we possess the capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning, the complimentary existence of the broad array of moral concepts, and the life-script of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament gospels.
But we also possess the free-will choice to accept Christ or to push Him away.
I would think that as part of his defense when Satan stands before Jesus Christ on the Judgment Day, he will point to the multitudes of people he was able to entice to follow him in rebelling against God to pursue our own way according to the tenets of self-sovereign autonomy, by saying: “See there, I was not the only one, and therefore you cannot be correct in condemning me. If this large a number of others freely chose to follow me instead of you, then who is to say that I am not the right choice to be God?”
This subtly brilliant defense will not hold-up to close scrutiny, because it is exactly this autonomous self-sovereignty apart from God that produces a part of the evil and suffering in this world.
This is evidenced empirically by those people who did not give meat to the hungry, water to the thirsty, housing to the stranger, clothing to the unclothed, or visited the sick and those in prison (Mt. 25:41-46).
Unlike the understandably naïve inability of Adam and Eve to discern truth from untruth in the perfect Garden of Eden, for people to be able to rule and to reign with Christ for ever and ever without a hiccup going forward, requires the savvy ability to individually parse the subtleties of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil.
But this also requires a personal relationship with God that relinquishes to Him the position in heaven that He alone is qualified to occupy (Jer. 31:34).
Finally, Jesus tells the disciples about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who will come after Jesus departs the earth and why:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (Jn. 16:7-8).
The greater love exhibited through a man laying down his life for his friends (Jn. 15:13), and the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), cannot happen in a perfect, idyllic world not having evil and suffering.