Thinking of a good God sitting on his throne and ruling over a good world poses no difficulties. But we live in a world where rape, murder, and terrorism takes place. So what exactly is the good God’s position on the evil that exists in the world that he created? Where is God in relation to evil? Does God stand behind evil in the same way he stands behind good?
God is not behind evil in the same way he’s behind good
- First, while God is sovereign over human history, he is also good. In the Bible, God is repeatedly labeled with the adjective good (1 Chr. 16:34; Ps. 25:8; 34:8), but calling God evil is blasphemy. Therefore, God’s character is fundamentally opposed to evil.
- Second, everything God originally created was good (Gen. 1:31). So good things flowed out of God’s good character. If God stands behind evil in the same way he stands behind good, he would have been making good things and evil things from the beginning.
- Third, God directly states that he is not the cause of certain evil deeds or words. Regarding the false prophets, the LORD says, “They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” and “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. 23:16, 21-22 ESV). In other words, “I’m not responsible for what they’re saying; they didn’t get their message from me.”
- Fourth, God grieves over human evil (Gen. 6:5-6; Lk. 19:41-42; Eph. 4:30). While God is pleased with our good deeds (Matt. 25:31-40; Heb. 13:16 ), he’s greatly displeased with our evil deeds. And he expresses his displeasure by repeatedly commanding people to repent or turn from their evil behavior. When people refuse to repent, God threatens to bring judgment on them (e.g., Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah).
- Finally, God’s threats turn into reality when people persist in practicing evil (2 Ki. 24-25; Rev. 6-19).
To summarize that list:
- God is not evil,
- he didn’t create evil in the beginning,
- he distances himself from evil,
- he expresses his displeasure with evil, and
- he judges evil.
Are there verses that convey God’s sovereignty (rule) over everything? Yes, but surely, these five pieces of data demonstrate, at the very least, that God is not responsible for evil in the same way that he’s responsible for good. While Christians should affirm God’s sovereignty, they should also be quick to add that God is not sovereign over everything in precisely the same way.
But how is God sovereign over the evil in this world? We can say that God allows evil to exist and in some way he uses it for his good purposes (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). And we should probably stop there, for now. But one day God will crush evil forever and then we’ll all know exactly where the good God stands in relation to evil (Rom. 16:20).