Divine Providence and Evil

by Lenny Esposito

One of the biggest tension points in Christendom is the question of divine providence and how that relates to the evil we see practiced in the world today. If God is in control of all the events of the world, and He is all-powerful, the why do we see so much evil and suffering?

Most Christians in the past clearly understood the concept of divine providence.  Even Thomas Jefferson, a deist, invokes divine providence in the Declaration of Independence. Certainly, the idea that God can order events in certain ways follows naturally from His attributes of omniscience and omnipotence.

But what does it mean that God orders things? Is there a difference between the laws of Nature and the providential care of God?  And if God orders all things, then what about all the evil that we see in the world today?  Couldn’t God fix that? James Montgomery Boice encapsulates the discussion well:

“There is probably no point at which the Christian doctrine of God comes more into conflict with contemporary worldviews than in the matter of God’s providence. Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the ‘immutable counsel of His own will’ (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, i). By contrast, the world at large, even if it will on occasion acknowledge God to have been the world’s Creator, is at least certain that he does not now intervene in human affairs. Many think that miracles do not happen, that prayer isn’t answered and that most things ‘fall out’ according to the functioning of impersonal and unchangeable laws.

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“The world argues that evil abounds. How can evil be compatible with the concept of a good God who is actively ruling this world? There are natural disasters: fires, earthquakes, and floods. In the past, these have been called ‘acts of God.’ Should we blame God for them? Isn’t it better to imagine that he simply has left the world to pursue its own course?”[1]

As I’ve written before[2], God, in Hebrew thought, is considered the final authority over everything. If wars or famine happen, then God has allowed that to occur, and therefore controls evil. He does not initiate any type of evil. When a man seeks to sin and commit adultery that is his choice. He should not expect God to protect him, then, from any disease or negative ramification of his choice. God’s judgments and the loss of His protection are how he creates afflictions in the lives of men. Judgment is not morally wrong, though. Quite the opposite, judgment is what we expect of a righteous God…

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Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Divine Providence and Evil