Why Has God Permitted Wickedness?
1. (a) What is the situation on earth today? (b) What complaint do some people have?
WHEREVER you look in the world, there is crime, hatred and trouble. Often it is the innocent who suffer. Some people blame God. They may say: ‘If there is a God, why does he permit all these terrible things to happen?’
2. (a) Who are doing wicked things? (b) How might much of the suffering on earth be prevented?
2 Yet who are doing these wicked things to others? It is people, not God. God condemns wicked acts. In fact, much of the suffering on earth would be prevented if people obeyed God’s laws. He commands us to love. He forbids murder, stealing, fornication, greed, drunkenness and other acts of wrongdoing that cause humans to suffer. (Romans 13:9; Ephesians 5:3, 18) God made Adam and Eve with a marvelous brain and body and with the ability to enjoy life to the full. He never wanted them or their children to suffer or have trouble.
3. (a) Who are responsible for wickedness? (b) What shows that Adam and Eve could have resisted Satan’s temptations?
3 It was Satan the Devil who started wickedness on earth. But Adam and Eve were also to blame. They were not so weak that they could not have resisted when the Devil tempted them. They could have told Satan to “go away,” just as the perfect man Jesus later did. (Matthew 4:10) But they did not. As a result, they became imperfect. All their children, including us, have inherited that imperfection, which brought with it sickness, sorrow and death. (Romans 5:12) But why has God permitted suffering to go on?
4. What helps us to understand that a loving God would temporarily permit wickedness?
4 A person may at first think that there could be no reason great enough for God to allow all the human suffering that has been experienced over the centuries. Yet, is it right to reach that conclusion? Have not parents who truly love their children permitted them to undergo a painful operation to correct some problem? Yes, the permission of temporary suffering has often made it possible for children to enjoy better health later on in life. What good has been done by God’s permission of wickedness?
AN IMPORTANT ISSUE TO BE SETTLED
5. (a) How did Satan contradict God? (b) What did Satan promise Eve?
5 The rebellion against God in the garden of Eden raised an important issue or question. We need to examine it in order to understand why God has permitted wickedness. Jehovah told Adam not to eat from a certain tree in the garden. If Adam did, what would happen? God said: “You will positively die.” (Genesis 2:17) However, Satan said exactly the opposite. He told Adam’s wife, Eve, to go ahead and eat from the forbidden tree. “You positively will not die,” Satan said. In fact, he went on to tell Eve: “For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”—Genesis 3:1-5.
6. (a) Why did Eve disobey God? (b) What did it mean to eat from the forbidden tree?
6 Eve disobeyed God and ate. Why? Eve believed Satan. She selfishly thought that she would benefit by disobeying God. She reasoned that no longer would she or Adam need to answer to God. No longer would they have to submit to his laws. They could decide for themselves what is “good” and what is “bad.” Adam went along with Eve and also ate. Discussing man’s original sin against God, a footnote in The Jerusalem Bible says: “It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence . . . The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty.” That is, it was an attack on God’s right to be man’s absolute ruler or superior.
7. (a) What issue was raised by man’s disobedience? (b) What questions need answering in connection with this issue?
7 So by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve withdrew themselves from under God’s rulership. They went out on their own, doing what was “good” or “bad” according to their own decisions. So the important issue or question raised was: Does God have the right to be the absolute ruler of humankind? In other words, is Jehovah the One to decide what is good or bad for humans? Is he the One to say what is right conduct and what is not? Or can man do a better job of governing himself? Whose way of ruling is best? Can humans, under the invisible direction of Satan, rule successfully without Jehovah’s direction? Or is God’s guidance needed in order to set up a righteous government that will bring lasting peace to the earth? All such questions were raised in this attack on God’s sovereignty, on his right to be the only and absolute ruler of humankind.
8. Why did Jehovah not destroy the rebels right away?
8 Of course, as soon as the rebellion happened Jehovah could have destroyed the three rebels. There was no question that he was stronger than Satan or Adam and Eve. But destroying them would not have settled matters in the best way. For example, it would not have answered the question of whether humans could successfully rule themselves without help from God. So Jehovah allowed time to settle the important issue that was raised.
SETTLING THE ISSUE
9, 10. What have been the results of humans trying to govern themselves without God’s guidance?
9 Now that time has passed, what has been the result? Well, what would you say? Have the past 6,000 years of history shown that humans have been successful in governing themselves without God’s guidance? Have humans provided good government for the blessing and happiness of all? Or has the record of history shown that the prophet Jeremiah’s words are correct: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step”?—Jeremiah 10:23.
10 Throughout history all kinds of governments have been tried, but none have brought security and real happiness to all those living under their rule. Some persons may point to the signs of progress. But can a person speak of true progress when the bow and arrow have been replaced by the atomic bomb, and when the world now is in great fear of another world war? What kind of progress is it when men can walk on the moon but cannot live together in peace on the earth? What good is it for men to build homes equipped with all kinds of modern conveniences when the families who live in them are torn apart by troubles? Are riots in the streets, the destruction of property and life and the widespread lawlessness things of which to be proud? Not at all! But these are the results of humans trying to rule themselves apart from God.—Proverbs 19:3.
11. So, evidently, what do humans need?
11 The evidence should be clear to all. Man’s efforts to govern himself independently of God have been a terrible failure. They have resulted in great human suffering. “Man has dominated man to his injury,” the Bible explains. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Clearly, humans need God’s guidance in governing their affairs. Just as God created man with the need to eat food and drink water, so man was made with the need to obey God’s laws. If man ignores God’s laws, he will come into difficulty, just as surely as he would suffer if he ignored his body’s need for food and water.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
WHY SO LONG?
12. Why has God allowed such a long time to settle the issue?
12 However, a person might ask, ‘Why has God permitted so much time, about 6,000 years now, to settle this issue? Could it not have been settled in a satisfactory way long ago?’ Not really. If God had stepped in long ago, the charge could have been made that humans were not given enough time to experiment. But as it is, humans have had plenty of time to develop a government that would satisfy the needs of all its subjects, as well as make scientific discoveries that could contribute to the prosperity of all. Over the centuries humans have tried nearly every form of government. And their progress in the field of science has been remarkable. They have harnessed the atom and traveled to the moon. But what has been the result? Has it brought a grand new system for the blessing of humankind?
13. (a) In spite of all man’s scientific progress, what is the situation today? (b) What does this clearly prove?
13 Far from it! Instead, there is more unhappiness and trouble on earth than ever before. In fact, crime, pollution, war, family breakdown and other problems have reached such a dangerous stage that scientists believe man’s very existence is threatened. Yes, after about 6,000 years of experience in self-rule, and after reaching a peak in scientific “progress,” humankind is now facing self-destruction! How clear it is that humans cannot successfully govern themselves apart from God! Nor can anyone now complain that God did not allow enough time to settle this issue.
14. Why should we be encouraged to examine the other important issue raised by Satan?
14 Surely God has had good reason for permitting humans under the rule of Satan to cause the wickedness that has existed for so long. By his rebellion Satan raised another issue that it has also required time to settle. An examination of this issue will provide further help in our understanding why God has permitted wickedness. You should be especially interested in this issue because you are personally involved.
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With good reason, a parent will permit a beloved child to undergo a painful operation. God also has good reasons for temporarily permitting humans to suffer
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Adam and Eve, by eating the forbidden fruit, abandoned God’s rulership. They began making their own decisions as to what was good or bad
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Just as man was created with the need to eat food and drink water, he was also created with the need for God’s guidance