Greg Koukl admits in these two chapters (14 and 15) of his latest book (The Story of Reality) that the issue of evil is a thorny one.
(If you are new to this series, check out the first post and the intervening posts to put this in context.)
We discussed the problem of evil in an earlier post. In this post, I’d like to branch out from Koukl’s material slightly to focus on the definition of evil and the place of wrath.
How would you define the term “evil”?
Can you define it without referring to examples of evil?
J. P. Moreland has noted, “Evil is a lack of goodness. It is goodness spoiled. You can have good without evil, but you cannot have evil without good.”
Greg Koukl has said, “Human freedom was used in such a way as to diminish goodness in the world, and that diminution, that lack of goodness, that is what we call evil.”
This idea that evil is a lack of good solves a great many problems philosophically, theologically, and emotionally.
This answers the challenging claim that God created evil, for evil is not a thing. It is a lack of good.
This also informs our false intuition that mankind is basically good. I think we recognize the beauty of the image of God in mankind, but intentionally blind ourselves to the evil in the human soul. Stating that the human soul is evil is very controversial because we grade on a curve. If we are not a mass murderer, then we are “good”. But that is not true. If evil is a lack of goodness, then we are in deep trouble.
We lack a LOT.
We are not righteous. We are not perfectly good, and therefore we are evil.
[Matthew 19:16-17 ESV] 16 And behold, a man came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
17 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
Jesus corrected the young man, and pointed out that “good” was a WHO not a WHAT.
Then Jesus discusses ways to follow “the Good”. He begins with the commandments. He ups the ante next by telling the young man to rid himself from his earthly attachments. Then he hits the main point:
[Matthew 19: 21 ESV] 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect,… come, follow me.”
Here’s a little quiz.
Which was the main point in Jesus advice?
a. Follow the 10 Commandments perfectly.
b. Give away everything you own to the poor.
c. Follow Jesus.
I suggest that the main point was to c. Follow Jesus. Keeping His commands and loving others is how we show we love Him. Jesus is “the good” not the deeds.
[John 14:15 ESV] 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Lack of obedience is evil, but the main evil is identified as a lack of belief.
Jesus was teaching his disciples and comforting them on their last night together when he said,
[John 16:7-11 ESV] 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
-9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
-10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;
-11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
This Helper is what the Bible calls the Holy Spirit. It is what causes your conscience to scream at you when you consider your lack.
What is it that you lack?
Here are some attributes or fruits of the Holy Spirit:
[Galatians 5:22-23 ESV] 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Is your conscience not convicted by your lack of love and all these other holy and good attributes of God? Mine is. My weight is evidence of my lack of self-control. My temper is evidence of my lack of patience, gentleness, peace, and kindness. My intentional acts of disobedience are evidence of my lack of faithfulness.
But are these “evil”? If evil is a lack of goodness, yes. If God is good, then my lack will make me as incompatible with Him as darkness is incompatible with light.
I can no more withstand his presence than can darkness withstand the presence of a single candle flame. Darkness is a lack of light, and when light comes, darkness retreats.
This stark elimination of evil by God’s holiness is the proper understanding of wrath. There is no way darkness can resist light and no way evil can successfully resist God’s goodness and holiness.
Does this match what we see in the “real world” around us?
Ultimately it is not our lack of good deeds that will be our undoing. Notice that Jesus ended with “follow me” as the key to goodness. Notice that the Helper is not coming to convict us of sinful deeds, but of a “sinful lack of belief in Jesus”.
What a bold thing for Jesus to say!
- Goodness and eternal life are tied to following him.
- Sin is a lack of belief in him.
These are not the teachings of merely a “good moral teacher”. These are divine claims. It took the resurrection and the Holy Spirit to prove it to the disciples.
Is your conscience pricked by this? Don’t ignore it. Pray,
“God, if your Holy Spirit is truly behind my troubled conscience, please give me the wisdom to seek you. Reveal yourself even more in my conscience, my exploration of the Bible, and my feeble attempts to follow Jesus wherever He may lead. -Amen”
[Mark 9:24 ESV] … “I believe; help my unbelief!”