Why Doesn’t God Stop Evil?, Lesson 5, Belief in God, 4-8

This idealistic view furnishes a congenial system for the workings of divine providence and the supernatural.

It does not create a world in which God must reach through a curtain to help us, but it wraps him around us and immerses us in his presence. God is present in the World, and this makes every atom filled and touched by his providence, not merely touched at points as he reaches through the curtain. As nature is plastic and pliable to God’s every thought, being only the expression of his wisdom and will, he need stop no rigid machine or break no law to accomplish some special purpose, but only needs to think and will it.

We have mentioned divine providence. What is it? Providence is the process by which God carries out his plan and purpose. God is present in the world in continuous creation, and our world and solar system as well as every root and leaf is undergoing constant changes. Evidently, God is active in our human world then, or is he only a spectator at the scene watching from his throne the struggling and suffering of the human race? This is a question that pains our modern thought. What is God doing?

Ancient thought pictured God as being eternally at rest. Roman and Greek gods were pictured as resting or reveling in everlasting dissipation. The impression has still not passed from our minds that God has nothing to do. Doubtless the picture of God in each of our minds is that of a God sitting on a throne watching the world go by. Labor is a disagreeable thought to us, and we think of labor as degrading to God. And yet, the Bible represents God as a laborer.

The Scriptural doctrine of providence puts God right down in the midst of our human world. And this applies to his control over our human wills and actions, which is involved in the doctrine of destination. If God could not control human wills and actions, he would be ignorant of the future, and as a blind God he would be no real God at all. It is true that it is difficult to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s free agency, and yet, we are not without some experience in that ourselves. We are constantly controlling others and yet the others are exercising their freedom and responsibility. An architect draws plans for an immense building and as  soon as the contract is signed, men all over the country start doing his will, but they are freely doing their own will, too.

The notion of an inactive and impassive God has vanished from our theology. God works with the worker, weeps with the weeping and rejoices with them who rejoice. It may be asked, then, why doesn’t God in his omnipotence cut short the struggle of men, and bring instant victory over evil? The answer is that moral victory cannot be achieved by mere power or legislation. All the thousands of laws on our civil statues do not make us good and law abiding. Truth and persuasion are the only proper means to this end. God having given us a personality must respect our moral free agency. God is limited in his omnipotence, not by a lack of power on his part, but by the lack of capacity on our part. This lack of capacity on our part is the answer to the problem, because without it, God must be limited in his power and become a finite God. God is helping us, and we are helping God and we come to cherish the feeling of helping God because there is a constant battle going on in which the humblest human creature is capable of taking part and even the smallest help on the part of good has value in promoting the slow and almost insensible progress by which good is gaining on evil.

A couple of lessons ago, we tried to reconcile the fact that the world is evil with the fact that God who created the world is pure. This question is similar, but points out the different problem: How can we reconcile divine providence with the evil in the world? Providence permeates the world, but since God gave man free agency, divine providence cannot interfere.


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