Mrs Oz from For Such a Time is hosting a summer book club featuring If God is Good by Randy Alcorn. See here for her post on Session 2: Accept the Diagnosis. I am totally late posting this, but better late than never.
Section 2 is titled Understanding Evil: Its Origins, Nature, and Consequences
The entry of evil into the universe came through the rebellion of Satan and other fallen angels, creatures whom God had originally created good. We do not know how evil could take hold in a perfect being - this is one of the mysteries that we are simply unable to understand and God has not explained it to us. But their rebellion did not surprise God.
One interesting point Alcorn makes...
What's the opposite of light? Darkness. What's the opposite of good? Evil. When asked to name the opposite of God, people often answer, "Satan". But that's false. Michael, the righteous archangel, is Satan's opposite. Satan is finite; God is infinite. God has no equal. (pg 51)
Technically this isn't even a fair fight. God will win and He will win decisively - it will be worse than a trouncing. But for now, Satan does have power. As Alcorn puts it - Scripture always describes Satan's power in the context of God's absolute sovereignty. Satan remains under God's authority at all times. The devil is nowhere close to being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or anything like God.......Satan is a lion, yes, but a lion on God's leash. (pg 52)
So why doesn't God end it now?
This quote is a bit lengthy, but I think it so hits the nail on the head that I need to share it...
John Piper writes, "Satan's fall and ongoing existence are for the glory of Christ. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, will be more highly honored and more deeply appreciated and loved in the end because he defeats Satan not the moment after Satan fell, but through millennia of long-suffering, patience, humility, servanthood, suffering, and decisively through his own death."
God has both the power and the right to destroy Satan and the demons now, which would demonstrate his justice. But he wants to display his other attributes as well, among them grace, mercy, and patience.
Every day that God delays his final judement against Satan is one more day to extend his grace to a needy world. And it is one more day for his kindness in Christ to accomplish in this fallen world the work for which we will be praising him ten million years from now. (pg 53, 54)
Another excellent point Alcorn is makes is that we, as humans, don't get to decide what is good or evil. God establishes whether something is good or evil and that is not based on what we want or don't want, what we understand or don't understand, human nature, culture or preferences.
If we come to see the purpose of the universe as God's long-term glory rather than our short-term happiness, then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of evil and suffering.
The world has gone terribly wrong.
God is going to fix it.
First, for his eternal glory.
Second, for our eternal good.
OK, this is getting rather long. I'm going to end with the one thing that probably impacted me the most from this section.
We need to grasp the seriousness of our own sin.
God despises sin. Any sin. He despises my sin and He despises your sin.
The biggest obstacle to the gospel today in our culture, is the complete ignorance of our own sin. In our culture, most people think that if they are good enough they will go to heaven. And that hell is only for the vilest offenders in prison. Basically everyone else is good enough. They certainly are personally. We don't see the need to be rescued.
In our current culture, we first need to convince people of the bads news (that they are sinners) before we can even begin to tell them the Good News.
The man swallowing ocean water and going under doesn't need to hear he's drowning; he needs a life preserver. But countless people today, arms flailing, as they attempt to keep their heads above water, don't believe they are drowning - and so don't think they need rescue. (pg 77)
If we don't have a correct view of sin we will never acknowledge our need for a Saviour. And, even worse, we minimize what Christ did for us on the cross.
And we don't only demonstrate evil by what we do, but also by what we fail to do, and by what we stand by and allow others to do.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17)
The following exerpt struck a huge nerve with me because I know for a fact that I would react the exact same way.....
Westley Allan Dodd tortured, molested, and murdered three boys. Dodd was scheduled to become the first US criminal hanged in three decades, shortly after midnight on January 4, 1993. At dinner that evening, both our daughters, then eleven and thirteen, prayed earnestly that Doddwould repent and place his faith in Christ before he died. I agreed with their prayer...but only because I knew I should...
Thirty minutes after Dodd, died, the twelve media eyewitnesses recounted the experience. I felt stunned as one of them read Dodd's last words: "I had thought there was no hope and no peace. I was wrong. I have found hope and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Gasps and groans erupted from the gallery, fueled by palpable anger. How dare someone who had committed such heinous crimes claim that he had found hope and peace in Jesus! Did he really think God would let him into Heaven after what he'd done? Shut up and go to Hell, child killer! You won't get off so easy! The idea of God offering grace to Dodd utterly offended the crowd that had come to see justic done.
That's when it hit me in a deep and personal way - I am part of the same human race. I'd imagined the distnace between Dodd and me as the difference between the South and North poles. But from God's viewpoint, the distance is neglible. Apart from Christ, I am Dodd. I am Osama bin Laden. I am Hitler. Only by the virtue of Christ can I stnad forgiven before a holy God.
This isn't hyperbole; it's biblical truth. Unless we come to grips with the fact that we're of precisely the same stock as Dodd and Stalin and Mao, we'll never get over thinking that we deserve better. Evil done to us will offend us, and having to suffer will outrage us. We'll never appreciate Christ's grace so long as we hold on to the proud illusion that we're better than we are.....
Apart from Christ, we are different from every notorious murderer and ruthless dictator only in degree, not in kind.....
The greater our grasp of our sin and alientation from God, the greater our grasp of God's grace.
Obviously we are not only evil.
Obviously some people do far more acts of evil than others.
Obviously we are capable of numerous acts of goodness - indeed, humanity could not survive otherwise.
But we need to quit denying responsibility for our own sin.
We need to quit casting blame.
We need to acknowledge and recognize our sin, and take the steps necessary to guard our hearts.