“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
These are the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus which have been quoted and paraphrased by agnostic and atheistic philosophers countless times since he first uttered them over 2,000 years ago. It has come to be known as the “Epicurean Paradox” or “Riddle of Epicurus” and is viewed by many as “evidence” that disproves the existence of God. The Problem of Evil has perplexed skeptics and believers alike as man, in his limited capacity, ponders the unsearchable motives and methods of an infinite God.
The main problem with the logic presented by Epicurus is that it presumes that evil exists because God is either unable or unwilling to do anything about it. The implication is that God is obliged to eradicate evil for the sake of mankind. The Bible, however, makes it clear that it is mankind who is ultimately responsible for the evil that permeates our world. In Adam’s Fall, sin entered the world and, consequently, evil accompanied it. That which God had produced in perfection has become corrupted.
Evil exists in the heart of man because he is in rebellion against God. Corrupted humanity through its wicked desires commits unspeakable atrocities that God never intended. Each individual is permitted to exercise their own free will, to a point, even if their decisions result in bringing great harm and evil upon others. God will judge and hold accountable each and every human being for their actions and will settle all matters of justice in His own time. He does not prevent all the evil inclinations that corrupted man conceives and attempts because, to do so, would negate the free will of man and leave him no more than an automaton, a puppet whose strings are held in the grasp of the Divine.
But what of the “evil” that results from the natural world around us? What of the disasters that befall humanity through no will or action on the part of mankind? Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, wildfires, and tornados kill people in the thousands every year – not to mention the devastation caused by parasites, predators, germs and disease. Should God be held responsible for not halting these destructive forces? Genesis 3:17-18 tells us that the Earth itself is cursed and corrupted by the sin of man. Romans 8:19-22 shows us that this world, the creation of God, is held in the same bondage of corruption that man is, and for the same reason.
The day will come when we will no longer live in a cursed and corrupted world, but a renewed and delivered one. The old world will pass away under the judgment of God (2 Pet. 3:7) and a new Heaven and a new Earth will be created (Isa. 65:17, 2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1). All of this new creation will be pure and undefiled by sin, a paradise wholly free from evil.
What Epicurus, and all of the skeptics who have quoted him, failed to understand is that God is both able and willing to purge evil from His Universe, but He is going to do it in His timing, not ours. The judgment of God upon this earth and all of its inhabitants is going to be so complete and thorough that none will remain unaffected by it. The Lord’s judgment is currently withheld for man’s sake; time is being allowed in order for as many who will to repent and turn to Him (2 Pet. 3:9). Evil will be dealt with, all of it. May we all repent of the evil that we have committed and turn to Him for forgiveness.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,