by George Sidney Hurd
Having determined in the previous blogs what evil is, and when it first entered into creation, we can now consider the most important question: Why did God allow evil to enter His creation? What good purpose does it serve?
The Scriptures reveal to us that God’s essential nature is love and that He is at the same time omniscient, omnipotent and infinite in wisdom (1Jn 4:8,16; Isa 46:10; Job 37:23; Rev 1:8). They also declare that all His works are known to Him from eternity and that He works all things according to the determinate counsel of His will (Acts 15:18; Eph 1:11).
All these things considered, it logically follows that He would not have created, knowing that evil would enter His good creation, resulting in so much suffering, unless the end result would be exceedingly and abundantly good, above and beyond what we can think or imagine, and that, when all is said and done, it will magnify His infinite wisdom and goodness in having permitted its existence (Eph 3:20-21). The end result will be such that all creation will be eternally grateful, spontaneously praising Him for His marvelous works (Psa 145:10; Rev 15:3-4; 5:13). The final outcome of God’s creation must be better than its commencement – otherwise He, in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, would have never commenced creation. What God begins He perfects.
In this blog I want to consider three primary reasons why it was necessary for God to allow for the entrance of evil in His good creation: 1) Freedom to choose is necessary for a meaningful relationship. 2) Evil is necessary in order to reveal God’s glory, and 3) Evil is necessary for our formation.
1. Freedom to choose is necessary for a meaningful relationship
We have already seen that there is no evil in God, but rather, evil was first conceived in the hearts and minds of God’s creatures whom He created as free moral beings, capable of choosing to either willfully subject themselves to Him, or act independently of Him.
Relational love is an impossibility without free-will. Since God created us in His own image and likeness in order that we might truly know Him and have a loving relationship with Him, our ability to choose whether or not we are going to correspond to His love is a logical necessity. True love in any relationship must be freely chosen by both parties.
The only way God could have eliminated the possibility of evil would have been to create amoral robotic beings, incapable of making independent decisions contrary to His will. Such beings would indeed do whatever He programmed them to do, and they would be incapable of sinning against Him. However, any loving relationship with them would have been impossible. Relational love, by its very nature, must be freely chosen by moral and relational beings possessing free-will.
While it is another subject in itself, God sovereignty is not limited nor hampered by the free-will decisions of His creatures. Although all things are known to God from eternity, not all things are dictated by Him. In His infinite wisdom, He is able to work all things according to His eternal purpose without the need to manipulate our every move like a puppet or a pre-programmed robot.
There are a few hyper-Calvinists who still hold to a rigid determinism, claiming that all our thoughts and actions are predetermined by God and that there is no such thing as human free-will. While it is true that God is sovereign and, as any loving father, He may restrain the free exercise of our will as He deems necessary, the total denial of our ability to independently choose would defeat His good purpose in creating us, which is to be loved by Him and for us to reciprocate in a loving, intimate relationship with the triune Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. Evil is necessary in order to reveal God’s glory
Although Adam and Eve were created flawless and innocent, they lacked an experiential knowledge of God, much as newborn infants lack any real knowledge of their parents who brought them into the world. Adam and Eve were the recipients of God’s love and goodness, but without ever having experienced hatred and evil, their understanding and appreciation of His love and goodness was very rudimentary.
Only through the fall and God’s redemption and salvation was it possible for us to have any real comprehension of His multidimensional love. Only those who have become acutely aware of their own depravity and unworthiness come to know the depth of God’s love in the form of longsuffering, grace and mercy. Had Adam and Eve continued in their state of innocence, neither men nor angels would have ever had the opportunity to know the width and length and depth and height of the love of God which surpasses knowledge.
Suffering and evil are only for a brief moment in comparison to eternity, but the experiential knowledge of God’s love which we acquire in this brief lifetime will be a priceless and eternal treasure. It produces an intimacy with God that Adam and Eve could have never even imagined in their primitive state of innocence.
3. Evil is necessary for our formation
It is a true saying that our character is formed in the school of adversity. And adversity, or natural evil, is a consequence of moral evil. Without the entrance of moral evil, mankind would have never known adversity. Without adversity we would have never matured. Adam and Eve were perfect and innocent before the fall in a way similar to that of a newborn baby. However, there is a great difference between infantile innocence and positive righteousness.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve were innocent and naïve. They had no concept of sin and its consequences. It is only through the fall and the resultant suffering under the heavy yoke of sin that we all eventually come to hate evil and seek God and His righteousness. Once mankind has been delivered from sin’s dominion and restored to full communion with God, we will not be innocent and naïve as Adam and Eve were in the beginning. Instead, we will forever possess a positive righteousness in union with God, abhorring evil and loving that which is good.
Contrary to the doctrine of eternal torment which perpetuates evil (albeit quarantined in hell), once all creation has been restored and God becomes all in all, evil will forever cease to exist, no longer having any host willing to nurture it. Moral evil only exists in the minds and hearts of individuals. When God becomes all in all, the last enemy, death, will have been destroyed, and evil in all its forms will forever cease to exist (1Cor 15:26-28; Isa 25:6-8 cf., Rev 21:3-5).
The belief in the final extinction of evil and the end of death (whether it be the first or the second death) through the restoration of all, was the dominant belief of the most prominent Ante Nicene Fathers prior to the fifth century, and was eloquently expressed by Gregory of Nyssa (330 to 394 AD) when he said:
“Wherefore that at the same time liberty of free-will should be left to nature and yet the evil be purged away, the wisdom of God discovered this plan, to suffer man to do what he would, that having tasted the evil which he desired, and learning by experience for what wretchedness he had bartered away the blessings he had, he might of his own will hasten back with desire to the first blessedness . . . either being purged in this life through prayer and discipline, or after his departure hence through the furnace of cleansing fire.” 
“For it is needful that evil should someday be wholly and absolutely removed out of the
circle of being. For inasmuch as it is not in the nature of evil to exist without the will, when every will comes to be in God, will not evil go on to absolute extinction, by reason of there being no receptacle of it left?” 
“When every created being is at harmony with itself…and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord … Everything shall be subdued to Christ, and they shall be subdued by a full knowledge of Him, and by a remodeling… Now God will be all in all at the time of restitution.”  (emphasis mine)
In this brief window of time on earth God is preparing us to reign with Him. The only way we can be perfected or matured is in the school of suffering and affliction. There are no shortcuts to maturity. We must all die two deaths. We must not only die physically, but we must also die the second death to the flesh and the soul/life, either in this life, or later in the purifying lake of fire (Rev 2:11). Paul exhorts us to continue in the faith, saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
What is Paul saying here? Elsewhere he said that we have already been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13). All who have been born again are now children of the kingdom (Jn 1:12; 3:5). However, we are only perfected in suffering, and in that sense, whenever we submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God in the midst of suffering, we are entering into a greater level of maturity and kingdom authority in preparation to reign with Him when He comes to reign and to be glorified in His saints (2 Tim 2:12; Rom 8:17; 2Thess 1:10).
Understanding that we are perfected in suffering, for us to ask God to remove us from all suffering in this world would be asking Him to love us less. Rather than removing us from life’s trials, He gives us the grace to bear up under them (1Cor 10:13). The Psalmist said: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Ps 34:19). Paul said that in all these things we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:35-37). After saying that the world would hate us, Jesus prayed to the Father that He would not remove us from the world, but rather keep us in the midst of it (Jn 17:14-15). Rather than denying Satan’s request to sift Peter, He prayed that his faith would not fail in the midst of his trial (Luke 22:31-32). Peter says that the suffering we must undergo is only for a little while in comparison to eternity, and the God of all grace is faithful to keep us and perfect us through it. He said:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)
Peter saw trials and afflictions as being needful or necessary for our own purification:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Paul, likewise, saw the present brief lifetime of affliction as nothing in comparison to the eternal benefits we receive through that which we suffer in this fallen world:
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor 4:17-18)
That is why a long life is considered to be a great blessing in Scripture. Being now in my 70s and still alive ten years after receiving a liver transplant, I am grateful to God for each new day that He grants me, in spite of the increased aches and pains and the trials which will doubtlessly come my way, since I have come to appreciate the eternal value of each day lived in this fallen world submitted under the mighty hand of God. It saddens me to see some advocating for euthanasia rather than encouraging the elderly to endure until the Lord takes them home.
I have heard some who defend abortion say that nothing is lost, since they go to heaven anyway. While it is true that we will see them in heaven, whenever a baby is aborted, that soul is deprived of an eternal weight of glory which can only be obtained by living out one’s lifetime in this fallen world in submission to God.
While it would defeat God’s purpose to fully reveal all of His reasons for permitting evil in this present world, He has revealed enough in order for us to trust that He is working all things together for our good. What He has revealed is sufficient so that we should willingly submit ourselves to His plan for our lives, knowing that, when evil has served its purpose, it will be no more, and God will have restored all creation to a level of glory much greater than it was in the beginning. God makes all things beautiful in His time.
 Gregorio de Niza, Orat. pro Mortuis, ad. fin. p. 634, Ed. Paris. 1638.
 Gregorio de Niza, Dial. de Anima et Resurrect. tom.iii. p. 227, Ed. Paris. 1638
 Gregorio de Niza, Catechetical Oraciones, (36)