Re: Omnipotence and evil (was Question for George)

David Campbell (
Mon, 17 Feb 1997 14:11:12 -0500

One of the most paradoxical Biblical examples of this issue is the parallel
accounts of David's census: II Sam. 24:1 "Now again the anger of the LORD
burned against Israel..." I Chron 21:1 "Then Satan stood up against
Israel..." (NASB). God is clearly "involved" in evil in two ways. First,
the physical laws of the universe that He created work whether the
application is for good or for evil (e.g., George's example of Luftwaffe
planes being able to fly). Secondly, He brings about His purpose through
all that happens. The plague that resulted from David's census caused much
misery in Israel, but it also brought about repentance by David and showed
where the Temple was to be built.
Nevertheless, the Bible is also quite clear that God does not
condone evil, nor is He morally resposible for it. Mt 26:24 is one of the
clearest examples-"The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been
good for him if that man had not been born." Several prophetic oracles
denounce those people or nations that participated in an attack that in
turn had been identified as God's judgement, because they were themselves
unjust in carrying out the attack. Habakkuk is almost entirely on this
subject- the answer is that God will deal justly with each. C. S. Lewis
(in _Perelandra_) describes it as evil's inability to thwart God: "Is
Maledil [God] a beast, that we can change his way?" [paraphrase-it's been a
few years since I read it].
Much of the problem here lies in our self-righteousness. If I
consider my sinfulness, I wonder why good things happen to me rather than
bad. I don't think "Why Good Things Happen to Bad People" would be a
bestseller, however. Also, we lack a long-term perspective. The
Inquisition was correct in asserting that someone was better off being
tortured in this life IF that saved them for the next. The gross error was
the assumption that torture would lead to salvation, not in the relative
importance of the present life and the next one. Paul refers to the
insignificance of present suffering relative to the reward to come.

David Campbell

P.S. Although an interesting topic, this is not especially germane to
science-Christianity interaction issues. Revenons `a nos moutons!