Our Question Box

Dr. Leonard Greenway, pastor of the Riverside Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is in charge of Our Question Box. This department is for everyone. Questions from all ages are welcome. No signatures are required and no names will be published.

Although we are happy about the popularity of this department, we regret that, at this time, Dr. Greenway finds it necessary to make this announcement: “I have enough material to occupy my attention here for the next twelve months. Please hold up your questions for a while.” The patience of our readers will therefore be greatly appreciated.

From a reader in New Jersey:

Question: I am a high school teacher, and the older I become the more I am disturbed by the Problem of Evil. Will yon suggest some guidelines for my thinking which will help me?

Answer: The existence of natural and moral evil is one of the most difficult problems that can occupy human thought. It has exercised the minds of men in all agcs. No one of us has the competence to deal with it exhaustively. You ask for some guidelines to help you in your thinking and reflection. Let me suggest the following:

1. The problem is not created by Christianity. All religions in the world face it, and people who have never possessed a Bible and have never heard of our Scriptures have been disturbed by it. Natural and moral evil is a fact in the universe which all civilizations have recognized. Under the light of Christianity the problem intensifies precisely because of the way the character of God and the nature of man are illuminated under that light. 2. Difficult as the problem of evil is, it would be immeasurably more distressful if we had to believe that there is no infinite righteousness and love at work through which a solution ultimately can be expected. The cross of Christ is the unanswerable sign of that. In this connection note how the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:19–23 handles the matter of natural evil and its relation to moral evil.

3. Evil under Divine administration has a nature that carries elements of self-destruction

4. God has His own ways in working out His plans for time and eternity. Isaiah 45 tells us how He used heathen King Cyrus, and the point to be observed here is not that Cyrus was meritoriously fit to he used—he was not!—but God in His sovereign wisdom saw fit to use him! And note what Isaiah in verse 9 has to say to people who remonstrate with God for using such a person as Cyrus. The Book of Job teaches us that while God is under no obligation to satisfy our curiosity regarding matters beyond am depth, He has the unimpeachable prerogative to remind us of our creatureliness. And when we take the reminder seriously, like Job we shall say, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer Thee? I lay my hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:4). 5. As for the fall of man, which is of course directly related to this whole discussion, I find it helpful to reflect upon what Rosseau says in Book II of his Confessions: “Propensities that are easily surmounted lead us unresistingly on: we yield to temptations so trivial that we despise their danger. And so we fall into perilous situations from which we might have easily preserved ourselves, but from which we now find it impossible to extricate ourselves without efforts so superhuman as to terrify us, and we finally fall into the abyss, saying to the Almighty, ‘Why hast thou made me so weak?’ But notwithstanding our vain pretext, He addresses our conscience saying, ‘I have made thee too weak to rise from the pit because ‘I made thee strong enough not to fall therein.’”