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If God, Why Evil? – Part 1

January 28, 2024 • g1283

Dr. Frank Turek from CrossExamined.org teaches a message titled, “If God, Why Evil? – Part 1”

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Dr. Frank Turek

January 28, 2024

There are a lot of passages in the Bible that say things like Psalm 86:15: “You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” If this is true, why have some of you buried your own children? If this is true, why have some of you been victims of abuse? Why have some of you lost your jobs? Lost your fortunes? Why have some of you been bullied in school? Why have some of you become addicted to drugs, alcohol or pornography? You’ve asked God to help you out. And He hasn’t. If this verse is true, why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?

Where was God when you were going through all this? You might be in it right now. Where was He? Are you just praying to the ceiling? Maybe the God we pray to actually doesn’t exist. That’s possible. Or maybe He does exist, but He’s evil.

As Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, said in his famous book, The God Delusion, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” And those are His good qualities.

And when you take a 30,000-foot look at the Old Testament, it’s kind of hard to disagree with Dawkins. I mean, what’s all this business of killing the Canaanites? Is that a God of love and compassion? And if this God did exist, why do you worship Him? Why would you?

But what if your best arguments to doubt God show that He actually exists? In other words, what if you think these are reasons to be against God when, in fact, they are actually reasons to show that God does exist?

In fact, that’s my thesis. I think that when atheists are arguing against God, most of the time they are stealing from God to argue against Him. They do this in several ways. I think they’re committing intellectual crimes. They are stealing from God to argue against Him. Each letter of the word “crimes” stands for a different aspect of reality that atheists say shows there is no God, when in fact, none of these things would exist unless God existed. These things are causality, reason, information, morality, evil and science. This is from my book, Stealing from God; Why Atheists Need God to Make their Case.

And the question we will look at today is the big question, a perennial question: “If God, why is there evil?” We’ve asked this question since the time of the Greeks. If there is a good God out there, why doesn’t He stop evil? Well, maybe He doesn’t exist. Or if He does exist, He’s not loving. Or He might be loving, but He’s not powerful enough to stop evil. What’s the deal?!

You would stop evil; right? “No, I’d let it go.”
So what we’re going to do is to try to answer this question, “If God, Why Evil?” We’re going to try to do it in four steps. The first step or point is, does evil disprove God? You hear people say, “Yeah, there’s too much evil in the world, so there can’t be a good God.” Is that true? The second point is, if evil doesn’t disprove God, what’s God’s purpose for evil? Why does He allow it to continue? You’ll see that there are purposes for evil. Then the third point is you’re gonna ask the question, what about purposeless evil? Sure; I can see that some evil leads to good and has a purpose, but there’s gotta be evil out there that has no purpose. Why would God allow that to continue? Then finally we’ll deal with the fourth point and the key question: What’s God’s solution to evil?

Today we’ll go through the first and second points. Then tonight we’ll deal with the third and fourth points and take your questions.

But first I have to warn you about something. Evil is not just a problem for the head; it’s also a problem for the heart. The reason I’m saying that is because if you’re in the midst of pain and suffering right now, what I say might not resonate with you. You don’t need a philosopher in the middle of pain and suffering; you need a pastor. That’s why Pastor John is here and other pastors. You need somebody alongside you to comfort you. You don’t need a lecture. Job had his friends lecture him chapter after chapter. Did they do any good? No; God actually rebuked them. But Job did need their presence. So what I say may not resonant, but I do want to say that one of the first steps back to wholeness, if you’re in the middle of pain and suffering, is for you to intellectually realize that God has a purpose for what you’re going through, even if you never discover what that purpose is this side of eternity.

Okay. Let’s start with point one. Does evil disprove God? When you look at a big question like this, I think you’re gonna want to get the view from 30,000 feet. That’s because people will say, “Well, God does exist” or “God doesn’t exist. What’s the evidence?” Much of the evidence that God exists I gave you last year when I was here. We talked about the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe, the information found in DNA which appears to be the product of intelligence, life, consciousness and free will and how reason is best explained by there being a great Mind out there. Our mind is patterned after that great Mind.

Reason can’t be explained by molecules just bumping into one another, like the atheists say. Atheists tend to reduce everything to the laws of nature, the four natural forces: gravity, stronger and weaker nuclear forces, electromagnetism, light. They think everything happens by these laws.

Did you ever ask yourself, “Where do laws come from?” Laws come from lawgivers. Why is the universe so precise and consistent and orderly? This is an orderly world, because it was created and is sustained by a Mind. Also, objective morality. Why is murder wrong? If there is no God, it’s just your opinion against the murderer. Why is charging across a border and murdering and raping women and children wrong, as Hamas did a few months ago? It’s not just my opinion that it’s wrong. There must be a standard beyond us, who is goodness Himself, and we’re obligated to obey that standard. And that standard can only be God’s nature. If there is no God, everything’s just a matter of opinion. Murder would just be a matter of opinion. Rape would be a matter of opinion. But we know these things aren’t just a matter of opinion, so God must exist.

How about Old Testament prophecy? Read the Old Testament and you see how many passages point toward the future that have come true, such as Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9. So you say, “There’s gotta be a Mind behind this.” Of course; look at the Resurrection, the greatest miracle in the New Testament. If the Resurrection happened, Christianity is true. If it didn’t happen, Christianity is false. And there is great evidence that it actually happened.

So this is some of the evidence that God exists. But what is the evidence that He doesn’t exist? The biggest argument against the existence of God is evil. If there is a God, why is there evil in the world? Why doesn’t He stop it? Does evil disprove God? No. Why not? In order to have evil, you must have good. In fact, evil is actually an argument for God’s existence. Objective evil presupposes objective good, and objective good requires God. If there is no God, that means there is nothing good. Not from an objective sense; you might like certain things better. But if there is no God, good doesn’t exist, which means evil can’t exist either.

You say, “Why?” Because evil can’t exist by itself; it can only exist as a lack in a good thing. In fact, C.S. Lewis discovered this many years ago. He was an atheist early on in his life. He went through World War I, so he said that there can’t be a good God, because there’s too much injustice in the world. In fact, he lost his best friend in World War I. But then he realized that his argument against God didn’t work, so he penned the book, Mere Christianity. He realized that evil requires good, and good requires God. He wrote, “As an atheist, my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got[ten] this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it ‘unjust’?”

You see, you wouldn’t know what a crooked line was unless you knew what a straight line was. You wouldn’t know what injustice was unless you knew what justice was. Something can’t be not right unless something is right.

You might be thinking, Can’t evil exist on its own? No. It’s a parasite; it can only exist in a good thing. Evil is like cancer. If you take all the cancer out of a good body, you’ve got a better body. What happens if you take all the body out of the cancer? You’ve got nothing. It doesn’t exist; it needs a host in which to live. Evil is like rust in a car. If you take all the rust out of a car, you’ve got a better car. What happens if you take all the car out of the rust? You’ve got a Pinto. It doesn’t exist on its own.

You could put it this way. Shadows prove the sunshine. In order to have shadows, you have to have sunshine. Thus, in order to have evil, you have to have good. Oh, you can have sunshine without shadows. You can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without good. You can’t have shadows without sunshine. So if evil exists, then God exists. Because they’d be no such things as evil unless there was good. And there’d be no such thing as good unless God exists.

You’d be surprised to learn that even atheists agree with this. In fact, Richard Dawkins points out that if atheistic materialism is true, there is no evil or good. What’s atheistic materialism? There is no spiritual realm. We’re just molecules bumping into one another. There’s no free will; everything you do is the result of the laws of physics, you’re just a molecular machine, you’re a “moist robot.” So they say that there can’t be good or evil, and there’s no purpose to life.

Here’s the way Dawkins eloquently puts it. He says, “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice….There is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference….DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”

He says that you’re just dancing to your DNA. You’re not making decisions; it’s making decisions for you. Of course, that would be self-defeating. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t know this was true. But that’s a whole other thing.

You might be thinking to yourself, Wait a minute! Notice how he says there’s no justice, “no purpose, no evil and no good”? Isn’t this the same guy who said that God was “unjust”? Where’s he getting that from? He just said there was no “unjust,” because there’s no justice. He’s stealing it from God. He has to sit in God’s lap to slap His face. He’s complaining that there is no justice on one hand, and then he says that God is “unjust”!

So in the book, Stealing from God, we point this out. We deal with the Canaanite issue and other issues. But let’s just bring it to modern day. If you’re a Christian, what is the number one objection you hear against being a Christian. “You hypocrites! You Christians ae judgmental hypocrites!” You hear that all the time. When somebody says that you’re a judgmental hypocrite, you should say, “You’re right. So. Big deal.” Because the person who said that to you is also a judgmental hypocrite. That person doesn’t live up to his or her own standards either. Nobody lives up to their own standards. We don’t live up to Jesus’ standards. Atheists don’t even live up to their own standards. We’re all hypocrites! What’s the point?

Secondly, when somebody says, “You’re a judgmental hypocrite,” you might want to say, “Thank you. You’ve just given evidence for God.” Why? Because what’s wrong with being a judgmental hypocrite if there is no God? There is nothing wrong with it. But you’re claiming there is something wrong with it, which means you’re presupposing God. You’re presupposing a standard of good, the way things ought to be.

John Dixon, who was a historian at Wheaton University, said, “People who claim ‘I can’t be a Christian because there are too many hypocrites,’—ask them this: ‘When somebody plays Beethoven poorly, who do you blame?’” You don’t blame Beethoven. You blame the player. So when somebody plays Jesus poorly, who do you blame? You don’t blame Jesus. Just because I’m not true and beautiful, doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t true and beautiful. In fact, if I was true and beautiful, I wouldn’t need Jesus.

Do you realize that you can get to heaven by being good? You can. You just have to be perfect your whole life. It’s too late for me, but what about you? No. You’re not going to make it. You need a Savior. We all need a Savior. And we’ve got to remind people that Christianity is not Christians; Christianity is Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

A number of years ago, I had an opportunity to debate Christopher Hitchens. He was a brilliant, British atheist who sounded more brilliant than he was, because he had a British accent. He wrote the book, God is Not Great; How Religion Poisons Everything. A lot of what he says in the book is true: religious people have done a lot of evil things. But during the debate, I kept asking him, “Christopher, what is your standard of good by which you’d even judge what evil is?” He never answered the question, because unless there is a standard of good, you don’t even know what evil is.

By the way, when he uses the word “poison,” what is poison? It’s a fun way of saying that religion’s evil. But again, there’s no evil unless there’s good, and there’s no good unless there’s God. Also, religion doesn’t poison everything; everything poisons religion. I poison religion because I don’t live up to the pure words of Christ. If I could live up to the pure words of Christ, I wouldn’t need Him. I wouldn’t need a Savior if I was good all the time. Neither would you.

So I said in the second debate, “Christopher, I’m a hypocrite; I can’t live up to what Jesus told me to live up to. But if I could, I wouldn’t need Him.” So when people tell me I can’t go to church, because there are too many hypocrites down there, I say, “Come on down, pal, we’ve got room for one more.” The church is a hospital for sinners. It’s not a country club for saints. We’re all hypocrites! Yes, I realize we’re saints theologically if we’re in Christ. But we still have the fallen nature; we still do evil things. So we’re all hypocrites!

In fact, to say that “I can’t go to church, because there are too many hypocrites down there” would be like saying that “I can’t go to the gym, because there are too many out-of-shape people down there.” Well, that’s why they’re down there; they’re trying to get in shape. And that’s why you better come to church; not just to worship God but to get in spiritual shape. So that’s stupid to say, “Oh, there are too many hypocrites.”

A lot of times people will claim you’re a hypocrite, because they think love means approval. And Christians are supposed to love. Does love mean approval? No. Every parent knows that love does not mean approval. If your parent approved of everything you wanted to do when you were 13, would that parent have been a loving parent? No; you can’t allow your kid to do whatever they want to do. That’s not love; that’s enablement. You need to stand in the way of evil if you’re going to protect the kids. Love doesn’t mean you approve of everything. Love means to seek what’s best for the person and do whatever you can to have that person take that path.

In fact, in the section of the Bible that everybody reads at their wedding but nobody obeys, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “Love…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” He says that love always protects and perseveres. What does that mean? It means you don’t approve of evil; you stand in the way of it. Especially today when it’s all on the sexual issues. People say, “Oh, you’re not LGBTQ. You’re unloving.”
“Well, are you unloving because you’re not pro-Christian?” You see, it cuts both ways.

No; love doesn’t mean approval. Love means seeking what’s best for the person. And that requires you to stand in the way of evil.

Jesus gave us one new command. He said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13:34). How did He love us? He sacrificed Himself for us. But what we tend to do in today’s culture is we sacrifice other people for our benefit.

In fact, Thomas Sowell, who is now 93 years old, said everything well. He said, “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” We tell people what they want to hear too much in order to help ourselves. We tell them what they want to hear, because we don’t want them mad at us. We don’t want to take the blowback. But you know what we’re doing? We’re sacrificing them for our benefit. But when we tell them the truth and take all the arrows that come our way, we’re sacrificing ourselves to help them.

In fact, you need to tell people the truth, even if they hate you for it. Because you need to be faithful and leave the results to God. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily offense; don‘t get me wrong. But if you’re just winking at people going, “Yeah, I’m with you,” when you know they’re going down the wrong road, that’s not love; that’s enablement. In fact, what you might ask someone like that is, “Hey, if I was about to go down a road you knew was wrong that would hurt me and others, would you love me enough to tell me?”

“Of course, I would.”

“Great! Do you mind if I do that for you now?”

So love doesn’t mean approval.

You’ll also hear people say today, “Religion is the cause of most violence and wars.” Is that really true? According to the Encyclopedia of Wars, what percentage of wars is caused by religion? The number is 7%. And if you take Islam out, it’s 3%. Just think of the last century. World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War weren’t caused by religion. Most of these wars had to do with government and economics. Yet we think all evil is done by religion.

Now this doesn’t prove whether religion is true or false. I’m simply pointing out that religion being the cause of most violence and wars is a myth. To say that most religious people have done all the evil in the world is false.

In fact, David Berlinski, an agnostic, wrote a book called, The Devil’s Delusion. He’s now in his 80s. He wrote it in response to Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. In one section of Berlinski’s book, he points out that it is not religion that has brought so much suffering on the human race. He says, “Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the formula for Zyklon B….” That’s what the Nazis used in the death camps. “…heavy artillery, pseudo-scientific justifications for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons? If memory serves, it was not the Vatican.”

Of course, the Catholic Church has done a lot of evil. The whole pedophile thing; that’s still going on. But they’re not the source of all the evil in the world. It’s just like Protestant churches aren’t the source of all evil in the world, although there is evil going on in them. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with religion. Yet people think that religion is bringing on all this evil in the world. But they also don’t have a standard by which to judge what good or evil is.

So the bottom line to this section is that the existence of evil doesn’t indicate the absence of God from the world, but the absence of Him from our lives. If we want to sum it all up, we can say that evil destroys something good.

Now you say, “A ’75 Pinto is not good.” Well, just go with the analogy. We said that if you have rust in a car, that’s evil. Evil doesn’t disprove God but actually proves God does exist, because there would be no such thing as evil unless there was good. And there would be no such thing as good unless God existed. But evil may show that Satan exists. The hard question isn’t “If God exists, why is there evil?” There are a lot of good reasons why evil exists and God exists at the same time. Rather the hard question is, “If no God exists, why is there good?”

In other words, you may have heard people say, “Wow! If there is a good God, why do bad things happen to good people?” The Biblical answer is that there are no good people. Sure; there are some people worse than others, but we’re all fallen. So the bigger question is, “Why do good things happen to bad people? Why does God allow that?” That’s harder to answer. But again, there’s no good unless God exists.

So going back to the question, “Does God exist? Yes or No?,” evil should be put under the “Yes” side, not the “No” side, because evil actually shows that there must be a standard, that God must exist. So evil does not disprove God; it actually proves the existence of God.

Now the next question is, “What’s the purpose of evil?” If evil doesn’t disprove God, what’s the purpose of evil?

I go to a lot of colleges during the year, and I present the evidence that Christianity is true. It’s from our book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. After the presentation, we always set up a microphone for Q and A. A number of years ago I was at Michigan State University, and I knew—as I was giving the presentation—that there was a militant atheist in the audience, because for the entire two-hour presentation, he sat with a scowl on his face and his arms crossed. He didn’t crack a smile once, and I put some pretty good jokes in there.

When it was time for Q and A, his hand shot up. I called on him, and he said, “If there is a good God, why doesn’t he stop all evil in the world?”

And I said, “Sir, that is an excellent question. Maybe because if He did, He might start with you and me, because we do evil every day.”

Have you ever noticed that when we start complaining about evil, we start complaining about somebody else doing it? It’s like, “God, why don’t you stop him?” We don’t say, “God, why don’t you stop me?” In fact, if God were to stop evil tonight at midnight, would you still be alive at 12:01? I wouldn’t be.

Anyway, I said to this man, “Yes, that is an excellent question. If we had a whole semester, we could spend a lot of time on it, but we only have a few minutes here at Michigan State. So what I’m going to do is show you a two-minute video, a kinetic video, that doesn’t give you a complete answer to the question, but it gives you a doorway to the answer.” So I showed this video, Why Does God Allow Evil?

“Is God good? If He is, why is there suffering and evil? Let’s assume for the moment that God is all-powerful. This means that God can do anything that is logically possible. So He can create galaxies and subatomic particles and rain forests and you. But God cannot do what is logically impossible. He cannot make a square circle or a one-ended stick. So can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it? No.

So what if, when God created human beings, He wanted them to be free? Freedom is a good thing. But if humans are to be free, they cannot be forced to obey God, because freedom without choice is like a square circle; it’s a logical contradiction. No choice, no freedom. God didn’t want robots. He wanted real people.

The first humans endowed with the awesome power of free choice abused their freedom. The tragic consequences of their bad choice and our bad choices rippled across the world. God is responsible for the fact of freedom. But humans are responsible for their acts of freedom.

But let’s remember: We don’t suffer alone. God will put an end to suffering and evil. And God became a man, to suffer with us. God is good, and He wants real people, like you, to know Him. But the free choice is yours.”

The bottom line to this video basically is that evil exists because we have free will, which is the only way love and moral choices could exist. The reason evil exists is because God gave us free will. Why did He give us free will? Because if we don’t have free will, we can’t make moral choices and we can’t love; we’re just molecular machines. And God thought it worth the risk to give us evil so love could happen, and ultimately God is going to deal with evil by quarantining it. So God thought love was worth giving people free choice and worth the risk of evil.

So I showed that video at Michigan State, and how do you think that guy looked after seeing it? He looked the same. He said, “Okay, I can see how free choice has something to do with it. But why do babies die? They didn’t have free choice! That seems unfair!”

And I said, “Sir, the only way we could discover why a particular event took place is if we know the overall purpose of life. If we don’t know that, we can’t fit this little piece into the puzzle.” It’s kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle without the box top. You need to see what the big picture is in order to see how this piece fits in there. If we don’t have the big picture, you can’t ask, “What’s the purpose of a baby dying?” for example.

I said, “You have to know what the purpose of life is in order to know what the purposes of these individual events are.” And since I had just given evidence that the Bible is true, I said, “We’re going to look to the Scriptures to see what the purpose of life is.”

So the question is, “What’s the purpose of life?” To glorify God. What does that mean? “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That’s the Westminster confession. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but where would we go in the Bible to find what the purpose of life is? Are we just supposed to get a bunch of stuff and them we die? Choose to love God is getting closer. The answer is on Revival Christian Fellowship’s website: to know God. And not just intellectually but personally.

And where do we see that? In Jesus when He is praying for us in His high-priestly prayers recorded in John 17:3. He says, “This is eternal life, that they…” meaning us “…may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The purpose of life is to know God, not just intellectually. In fact, James, the half-brother of Jesus, said in James 2:19, “Even the demons believe [that God exists]—and tremble!”

If God exists—and He does—and if demons exist—and they do; just read the news—they know that God exists better than we do. But they don’t trust in Him. They don’t want to trust in Him.

Last year we talked about “belief that” and “belief in.” “Belief that” is just intellectual; “belief in” is personal. “Belief in” says, “I trust in You.” It’s like trusting somebody to get married when you ask that person to marry you.

In fact, when I first met my wife 38 years ago, I got evidence that she would be a great wife. But just knowing that didn’t make her my wife. I took the step of trust in her and then asked her to be my wife. And in a momentary lack of judgment, she said “Yes.” That’s the difference between “belief that” and “belief in.”

So when Jesus is talking about “know,” He means like in the marriage sense. In fact, our marriages are supposed to be illustrations of the ultimate union with Christ. And if you add the great commission to this, when Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19) the purpose of life is to know God and to make Him known. That’s why Pastor John preaches faithfully through the Bible. It’s what God wants you to know. That’s how you come to know God. It’s at least the primary way.

But here’s the problem. If this is the purpose of life, knowing and growing in God often requires pain. C.S. Lewis put this very well by saying, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes the only time you look up is when you’re on your back. When things are going really well, a lot of times we forget about God.

I think one of the biggest problems in America today is too much prosperity. I don’t want people to not be prosperous, but it’s a danger when you get too prosperous. What do you tend to do? You think it’s all about you. You think, I don’t need God! I got my own security, my own money. I can create my life any way I want! You can customize your life completely now. Who needs God? But that’s dangerous. Sometimes the only way to grow is through pain and suffering.

The Scriptures talk about this. Suffering develops character. James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Time out! Who counts it all joy when you’re going through various trials that are ultimately going to produce patience for you?! I don’t. When I’m in a trial I want to get out of it!

As Pastor John was talking about when he was in Romans 5, Paul says, “We also glory in tribulation, knowing tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Who glories in tribulation? I don’t. But that’s what the Scriptures are saying. Because going through “tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” And there are only two things you can have in life: either hope or despair. Going through difficulty can actually bring you hope. It makes you a deeper person. The Job of chapter 42 is a much deeper person than the Job of chapter 1 after he had gone through all the difficulty.

Think about the opposite of that. What would happen to you if you got everything you wanted? If everything in life went your way all the time, what would happen? You would become a spoiled brat. Completely. This is unfortunately why so many celebrities are shallow people; nobody ever tells them “No.” They get whatever they want. People fawn over them. They never have any obstacles. They just feed their selfish ego over and over. It’s all about them. If they don’t get their water at 41.6 degrees, they’re going to be annoyed.

You need obstacles in your life. What do we say about kids who get everything they want? They’re spoiled. What’s spoiled about them? Their character is spoiled. You can’t give a kid everything her or she wants. You’ll ruin the kid. You need to say “No.” You need to nudge them back into line. You need to discipline them.

And God doesn’t always put evil under our control. If He did, we would always turn it off. We’d always turn pain and suffering down. But we need pain and suffering. If you think about this, suffering develops character, and some of these virtues can only be developed through evil and trial. It’s hard to develop courage without danger. It’s hard to develop perseverance without obstacles. You’re really not going to develop compassion unless there is suffering. It’s almost impossible to develop patience without tribulation.

I’m a very impatient person. In fact, I’ve been praying for patience for quite a while. And frankly, I’m tired of waiting for it. By the way, never pray for patience. What will happen is every line you get in that day will be the slowest line, your transmission’s going to fall out of your car—everything’s going to go wrong. But that’s the only way you can learn patience.

Also, it’s hard to develop character without adversity, and it’s hard to develop faith—meaning trust—without need. If you have no needs, you’re not going to trust. No pain, no gain! Actually that doesn’t go far enough; it’s more pain, more gain!

This is exactly the point the Apostle Paul makes when he sums up a section on suffering in 2 Corinthians 4. He sums it up by saying, “For our light and momentary troubles…” meaning what we go through here on earth “…are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Don’t fix your eyes on things that are happening right now. Fix your eyes on what is going to happen in eternity, because the difficulty you’re going through right now is actually going to enhance your capacity to enjoy eternity. This is what Paul is saying.

Here is a trite illustration of this, but I think it communicates, because most know what football’s about. I grew up in New Jersey, so I grew up a New York Giants fan. In 2004, the New York Giants actually traded up with the Chargers to get Eli Manning number one. And early in his career, Eli Manning was not very good. When you’re selected number one and you’re not good and Payton Manning is your brother, you’re going to hear about it. So he did for the first few years.

Then in 2007, he had a pretty good year. He got his team to the playoffs, and he beat three favored teams on the road to make it to the Super Bowl. One of the teams he beat was the hated Dallas Cowboys. In fact, we have a saying in New Jersey about the Dallas Cowboys. That is, whenever the Cowboys win, it’s living proof that Satan is alive and well. In fact, we can say today, in this millennium, the Detroit Lions have been in more NFC championship games than the Dallas Cowboys. Isn’t that delicious? The Detroit Lions!

Anyway, the problem was that Eli Manning was going up against Tom Brady and the 18-0 New England Patriots, who already had a book written called 19 and 0. It was the perfect team in the perfect season. All they had to do was win the final game. In fact, the Patriots were favored by 12 points. The only people who picked the Giants were the Giants.

During the media run-up to the game, a reporter asked Plaxico Burress, one of the receivers for the New York Giants, “What’s going to be the final score?”

Plaxico said, “We’re going to win 21-17.”

Then they went to Tom Brady and said, “Tom, Plaxico said you’re going to lose 21-17 to the Giants.” Then Tom said, “Oh, we’re only going to score 17 points? Okay.” They had set scoring records that year.

Then they played the game. The Giants had a very good defense. They sacked Brady five times. He didn’t like that. Now it’s a pitcher’s duel in the fourth quarter. The score is 14-10. The Giants had the ball on the 20-yard line. They’re down 14-10. Eli had to take them 80 yards to win the game. At one point, it looks like he’s going to get sacked, and the game’s going to be over. Then he throws a “hail-Mary pass” over the middle and hits David Tyree in the helmet. Tyree, who was a Christian, walked off the field and said, “Man, this was supernatural!” That was the last pass he caught in the NFL. A few plays later Manning hits Burress in the corner of the end zone, who had predicted the score, and the Giants won, 17-14. The Patriots don’t even score the 17 points, and Tom Brady was deflated. Then four years later, the Giants did it again to the Patriots.

After the game, when Eli Manning held up the Lombardi trophy—and so did the third-string quarterback, who didn’t play a down all year—did Eli Manning enjoy the Lombardi trophy more than the third-string quarterback? Of course he did. Why? Because he was actually in the game. He went through all the difficulty. He went through all the trouble. He went through all the people who said that he couldn’t do it. He enhanced his capacity to enjoy the reward by being in the game, by going through the pain and struggle.

A couple of years later when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they asked Rob Gronkowski, who was their tight end but injured mid-year, so he didn’t even play in the Super Bowl, “What’d you think about this one?”

He said, “It’s okay.” He wasn’t in the game, so it didn’t mean the same.

Do you think that if the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl this year it’s going to mean more to them than if the Kansas City Chiefs win? Yes. Why? Because they’ve been through 59 years of futility, of trouble, of suffering and pain. So yes, it would mean more.

The same is true here. In fact, as Paul says, “Suffering will bring greater good.” Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose…to be conformed to the image of His Son.” What’s the purpose? You are predestined—not that it means you don’t have a choice—which means you’re guaranteed, if you’re a Christian, to be conformed to the image of His Son. And that’s going to take some pain and suffering. It’s going to take some difficulty.

And notice that Paul doesn’t say that all things are good. He says “All things work together for good.” You might die this afternoon. Something terrible may happen this week. But if Christianity is true—and it is—in the end, it’s all going to work for good.

Dr. Peter Kreeft, who wrote a great book called, Making Sense of Suffering, put it this way: “The point of our lives is not comfort, security, or even happiness; but training. Not fulfillment but preparation. [This world] is a lousy home, but it’s a fine gymnasium.” Yet God believes in cross-fit. Get off your butt, you lazy slugs! God’s going to try to conform you to the image of His Son. That’s what this is about.

And you need to remember that God is a Father, not a grandfather. What do grandfathers do? I know; I’ve got two grandsons now. We spoil kids. Meanwhile dad’s tying to discipline them, and we’re messin’ all that up! “Hey kids, how about a puppy and an espresso?” Bring that home. Whoa! No. Grandfathers are trying to spoil kids while dads are trying to discipline kids to try to make that kid conformed to the image of Christ. And that’s what God is like. That’s why it says in Hebrews 12:6, “God disciples those He loves.”

So I went through this at Michigan State, in a lot shorter period of time than I just did here. How do you think the atheist looked after that? He still looked the same as before. He said, “That still doesn’t explain it all, because there’s purposeless evil out there! Why does God allow purposeless evil?!”

We will cover that the next time. “What about purposeless evil? What is God’s solution to evil?” And we will come to see that this verse is actually true: “You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Psalm 86:15). God is abounding in love and faithfulness.

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About Dr. Frank Turek

Frank Turek is an American apologist, author, public speaker, and radio host. He is best known as the founder and president of CrossExamined.org.

Sermon Summary

Dr. Frank Turek from CrossExamined.org teaches a message titled, “If God, Why Evil? – Part 1”

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Dr. Frank Turek

January 28, 2024