Relationship Theodicy

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Definition of God’s Sovereignty

Definition of Gratuitous Evil

Arguments against God’s Sovereignty

Arguments against Gratuitous Evil

Failures of Both Arguments


What must it answer theologically

What must it answer practically

Promising Theodicies





“Something is dreadfully wrong with our world.”[1] So begins Dr. Michael Peterson in his book God and Evil. As he continues to expound on this pronouncement, Dr. Peterson makes a valid, and obvious, case to back up his assessment. It is valid because the world around us gives enough evidence to show that there is definitely something wrong. It is obvious because everyone feels it to the very core of their being. Every living man, woman, and child feels an idea of how things should be, and a strong realization that things are not as they should be. C.S. Lewis summed it up best: “…human beings all over the earth have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way…they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it.”[2]

This idea that there is something very wrong with the world causes each of us to question: why is there something wrong with the world? How did it get this way? Theists claim that there is a sovereign God who created the world and is in control of it. Non-theists feel confused and ask: does this God of yours actually care about us? The idea of a God according to the Christian theists description does not seem to fit with the world that they see around them. Dr. Bruce Little presents this confusion best when he defines the question asked as: “How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God allow such horrible evil in the world?”[3]

Theists try many answers to this question, often appealing to God’s sovereignty. Against this, others try to argue that evil is gratuitous and there is not a sovereign God in control of everything. This paper will explore arguments on both sides of the issue and attempt to present a logical, practical, and theologically sound answer to Dr. Little’s question.


Definition of God’s Sovereignty

Before the question presented by Dr. Little can be properly answered, it must be understood what is meant by God’s sovereignty and gratuitous evil.

Dr. Little defines God’s sovereignty as “God’s will is absolute in that it is not subject to the dictates of another.”[4] He gives an analogy of a father ruling over his household. The father sets the rules by which the house runs, but he does not dictate every choice and action of his household.[5]

Dr. Paul Enns defines sovereignty as “…it means that God is the supreme rule and authority, that He ordains whatever comes to pass, and that His divine purpose is always accomplished.”[6]

In researching for this paper, a small, four-question survey was sent to Bill Turner, a youth pastor and Jason Wilson, a Christian counselor.

Mr. Turner answered with his definition of God’s sovereignty:

“To coin a phrase I heard once, “There is not a single maverick molecule in the universe”. The sovereignty of God means that God is sovereign (in control) in the creation of all things (Colossians 1:16, Romans 11:36, John 1:3), the control of all things (Job 42:2, Psalm 33:10, Proverbs 16:1, 4, 19:21, Isaiah 46:9-10, 55:11, Romans 8:28, Revelation 17:17, etc.), and the conclusion of all things (1 Corinthians 15:24, Colossians 1:16, Jeremiah 46:28, etc.)”[7]

Jason Wilson answered similarly:

“When I think of how to define the sovereignty of God I think of this of name of God – Yahweh Tsabaoth – literally the LORD of Hosts. The Hosts, includes everything in creation from angels, demons, humans, animals, insects, bacteria, and all not living, not sentient matter that exists or has ever exist. In essences, the sovereignty of God mean that because all things in existence were created by God he has power over and may choose to call on any or all things to do his bidding or fight on his behalf even Satanic forces.”[8]

Dr. Thiessen strives to further define God’s sovereignty in defining His omnipotence:

God is all-powerful and able to do whatever he wills. Since his will is limited by his nature, God can do everything that is in harmony with his perfections. There are some things which God cannot do because they are contrary to his nature as God. He cannot look with favor on iniquity (Hab. 1:13), deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13), lie (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18), or tempt or be tempted to sin (James 1:13). Further, he cannot do things which are absurd or self-contradictory, such as make a material spirit, a sensitive stone, a square circle, or a wrong to be right. These are not objects of power and so denote no limitation of God’s omnipotence.[9]

Finally, Dr. Grudem defines sovereignty simply as “God’s exercise of power over his creation.”[10] Or, “God’s omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.”[11]

It seems from these various definitions, one thing can be determine. God’s sovereignty seems to be tied directly to His omnipotence. His omnipotence is directly tied to His nature and His will.

Definition of Gratuitous Evil

Gratuitous Evil can be simply defined as evil that “serves no purpose”.[12] Dr. Little expounds on this and defines it as “a state of affairs that is not necessary (either logically or causally) to the attainment of a greater good or to the prevention of an evil equally bad or worse.”[13] The idea of gratuitous evil came from attempts to answer “If God is all good and all powerful why is there so much intense, unequally distributed suffering and why do the innocent suffer?”[14]

Many non-theists attempt to use the idea of gratuitous evil as evidence against the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God. The question is, does the existence of gratuitous evil contradict the sovereignty of God?

Arguments Against God’s Sovereignty

Arguments against the sovereignty of God generally fall into four categories: Logical, Probabilistic, Evidential, and Exestential.

The Logical argument can shown best from philosophers J. L. Mackie and David Hume. Mackie’s argument states: “In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these there propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all there are essential parts of most theological positions; the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three.”[15]

Hume’s argument simply stated: “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”[16]

The Probabilistic argument tries to not say that God simply does not exist, but that His existence is improbable. The argument contains four premises: 1) “If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then he could have created any logically possible world”; 2) “If God is all-good, he would choose to create the best world he could”; 3) “If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and all-good, he would have created the best of all possible worlds”; 4) “It is unlikely or improbable that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds.”[17] This brings philosophers Cornman and Lehrer to the conclusion “It is unlikely or improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good God.”[18]

The Evidential argument relies heavily upon the idea of gratuitous evil as its evidence against the existence of God. It uses a straight-forward deductive argument: “If God is all good, He would destroy evil. If God is all powerful, He could destroy evil. Evil is not destroyed, therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that God does not exist.”[19]

Finally, the Existential argument relies not so much on philosophical meditations, but on common experience. “As long as theism is understood to entail that there are no gratuitous evils and as long as human beings experience much evil as gratuitous, then there will be a continuing tension between theistic belief and common experience.”[20]

Arguments against Gratuitous Evil

Perhaps the most popular, and most used, argument against gratuitous evil is the Greater-Good Theodicy. Theodicy is defined as “an attempt to explain the ways of God to man in reference to the existence of evil in this world.”[21] The Greater-Good Theodicy can be summed up as “God allows only that evil from which He can bring about a greater good or prevent a worse evil.”[22] Augustine used this to show that “all evil serves some greater purpose.”[23] “When a child suffers/dies, the good is that it makes for better parents.”[24] While this doesn’t seem very comforting, the greater-good theodicy states that sometimes God’s purposes for allowing evil are beyond our cognitive limitations. “According to these theists, such limitations bar the critic from claiming that it is reasonable to believe that there are no offsetting goods connected to many evils in the world. The goods that justify God in allowing evil are, they contend, beyond our ken, known to the divine mind but not to our minds.”[25]

This argument can be seen in both Bill Turner’s and Jason Wilson’s response to the question “Do you believe gratuitous evil exists?” Mr. Turner replied “No.(Proverbs 16:20, ). Gratuitous evil seems to exist from man’s perspective but not from a biblical perspective. God made everything for its purpose, even though the purpose for some things (especially evil) is very difficult to discover and may never be discovered this side of Heaven.”[26] Jason Wilson echoed this belief:

I do not believe that gratuitous evil exists because when I stated previously that God permits evil to take place for His purposes then reasonably (with respect to God’s omniscience and omnipresence) what he does not permit must not be permitted. God has never been frivolous and thus even evil must have purpose in his plan. To support this I offer that a tragedy (would-be gratuitous evil) which has no apparent purpose, to human minds, must have already have been expected and planned for by God. Let’s take the example from question 4 for instance (pedophile murders child). Even if no obvious “good” comes from this murder it still serves the purposes of God in that it serves to fulfill God’s prophecy of end times and how the world waxes more dark in the days of the Lord’s return. All of creation MUST acknowledge God as the creator and as such they will prove God true (i.e. prophecy) even if it is supposedly gratuitous evil. It serves God’s purpose.”[27]

Failures of Both Arguments

The primary failure in the arguments against the sovereignty and/or existence of God seems to fall in the understanding of the critic when it comes to what sovereignty entails or what the existence of evil entails. Geisler argues that evil actually proves the existence of God:

If, as atheists suggest, evil is ultimately meaningless, then what is the problem? If we are merely part of a blind molecular process, how is it that atheists can rise above that process and say that some aspects of it are evil and some are good? Atoms are simply atoms; there are no evil atoms in the universe. Therefore, atheism cannot logically offer a definition of evil without appealing to an ultimate standard of good. If atheists try to do so, they end up affirming the very existence of that which they claim does not exist – the ultimate good (God).[28]

The arguments also assume the idea of sovereignty in what Dr. Little describes as a man operating an automobile.[29] An omnipotent, sovereign God is one that dictates every action of His creation. However, a solid research of the Biblical definition of God’s sovereignty reveals that He has not determined His creation, but created man with the ability to choose between good and evil. “In order for God to make a universe where the greatest good (a loving relationship with Him) was feasible, He would also have to create free creatures who would be capable of choosing or rejecting that greatest good.”[30]

The arguments against gratuitous evil also seem to assume the same idea of God’s sovereignty. If the greater-good theodicy is taken by itself, the question must be asked “How would we know this (that all evil serves some greater purpose)?”[31]

Dr. Little points to two proofs needed to substantiate the argument. First is the evidence of the greater-good obtained makes the principle clear. However, this does not seem to be the case. If the good is always greater than the evil, then the greater the evil would produce significant good. Dr. Little uses the examples of the Holocaust, the French Revolution, and the death of children. As incredibly tragic as the Holocaust and French Revolution were, where is the monumental good that must be the result of them? The second argument for the greater good is the use of an unambiguous statement in the Bible attesting to it. Common Scriptures used to argue the case are Gen 50:20; Job 1:21; Rom 8:28; and 2 Cor 1:3-6. There are some problems: Genesis 50:20 is a narrative of the life of Joseph, and it is not to be applied universally or seen as a normative case. Further, a true exegesis of the passage shows that Joseph’s statement is about his life, not the actions of his brothers. His brothers meant evil for his life, while God meant good for his life. God brought about the good in Joseph’s life in spite of the evil actions of his brothers. Job 1:21 is an example of Job’s faith, but has nothing to do with greater-good. Earlier in the chapter, it is clear that Satan is the cause of the evil in Job’s life, not God. Romans 8:28 would only have to do with believers at best, and is speaking about specific suffering – not a universal statement. Finally, 2 Cor 1: 3-6 speaks about what God does with or in suffering, not answering why He allowed it (nor saying that He caused it).[32]


What Must It Answer Theologically

A theodicy, as explained before, attempts to “justify the ways of God to man”[33] especially when it comes to the question of evil. Humanity wants to know “why an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God allows the terrible evils in this world to continue.”[34] A solid theodicy needs to answer why mankind, especially the innocent, suffers so intensely.

Theologically, a solid theodicy must answer for the apparent contradiction of a sovereign God and gratuitous evil. Dr. Peterson quotes Keith Yandell “the crucial question is whether it is certain, or at least more probable than not, that there is unjustified evil, whether natural or moral.”[35]

What Must It Answer Practically

Practically, a theodicy needs to answer for the innocence of God. “Theologians whose calling is to present the word (logos) of God (theos) have many times made it easier to have intellectual and moral reasons to reject God. His passion, holiness, and love are but hollow concepts unless God’s innocence in themes of reality is clearly established.”[36]

When asked about a hypothetical situation in which a couple lost a daughter to the hands of a pedophile, both Bill Turner and Jason Wilson began their answer with the fact that they would first help the couple grieve their loss. Eventually, they both pointed out, they would point to God as comforter and full of mercy.[37]

Promising Theodicies

Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino offer a theodicy that is based on a love relationship. They offer that the greatest good is a relationship with God and the greatest evil would be separation from that relationship. They explain that it is man’s choice that separates them from this relationship.[38] God created man with the choice to accept or reject God’s love, a choice that in turn affects every other relationship that humanity experiences.[39] It is the rejection of God by Adam and Eve that ushered in the evil that affects all of humanity as well as all of creation.

Their theodicy is strong in offering the break in relationship with God as the cause of evil, but it is weak in still maintaining that God continues to allow all evil for a purpose. It is true that God can and does bring out good from evil that happens, but to say that evil is necessary[40] to bring about good demands evidence. Developing character is subjective at best to offer as a reason for pain.[41] Dr. Little argues that using what God does with suffering to argue why God allows suffering is dangerous and has “serious implications for our theology.”[42] It still leaves the question, how much good must obtain to balance out the intense evil?

One last point that might cause a problem with their theodicy is their statement that this world “is not the best possible world, but is the best way to the best possible world – heaven.”[43] The problem with this statement is that Scripture reveals that God does not create a new world with Heaven, nor is it a separate world. In the end, God restores His original creation and brings His kingdom to this world and dwells among us (Rev. 21:1-4).

Another promising theodicy is Dr. Little’s Creation Order Theodicy. It begins with the idea that this is the best feasible world – God created a world that includes moral agents whose choices affect reality. In Creation, God set certain parameters to govern all of creation. When man fell, this affected all of creation, though it still operates within the parameters set by God. Dr. Little’s answer, then, to the question of why does an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God allow such terrible suffering is that it is not because He lacks power or desire to stop the suffering, but that He honors the structure He has created.[44] Moreover, Dr. Little argues that Scripture is very clear that God does not leave man to face the suffering alone. He refers to God’s promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5); that God is the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies (2 Cor 1:2-4); that Jesus is the high priest who sympathizes (Heb 4:15), and many others.[45]

The strength of Dr. Little’s theodicy is that it attempts to answer both the theological and practical needs for a theodicy. He maintains God’s innocence in allowing gratuitous evil while showing that God does not turn a blind eye to the suffering, but offers comfort and help. The weaknesses of Dr. Little’s theodicy are: 1) There seems to be no explanation for God’s use of evil and suffering in judgment. Dr. Little might have an explanation for this, but he does not present it with his theodicy; 2) his theodicy relies heavily upon man as a moral agent affecting history and only give a small aside to God acting it seems when He feels like it. This could be a misunderstanding of Dr. Little’s theodicy, but his explanations seem to paint God a bit aloof when it comes to dealing with evil. “Some evil in this world is without purpose and God is under no obligation to do anything with it except condemn it.”[46]


In tackling the question that spurred this research paper (Does gratuitous evil contradict the sovereignty of God?), a theodicy must be formulated that satisfies both the theological and practical needs discussed above. The theodicy that follows borrows from both the Geisler-Bocchino theodicy and Dr. Little’s theodicy while trying to resolve the weaknesses discussed.

The Relationship (Creator-Creation) theodicy revolves around the broken relationship between the Creator and His creation. It is this broken relationship that is the cause of all evil: moral, physical, and natural. It is this broken relationship that demands God’s justice and prompts His grace. It is this broken relationship that will not be fully resolved until God restores His creation to its original state. The formulation of the theodicy is as follows:

First, The Creator (God) alone is perfect and in need of nothing to complete Him (Ex 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; 90:2; John 1:3; 17:24; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:35-36; 1 Cor 8:6;). God did not need man because He was lonely (John 17:5). God is unique in existence – He necessarily exists forever – He is qualitatively different from creation.[47] “While man’s ground of existence is outside of himself, God’s existence is not dependent upon anything outside of himself.”[48] “Yet God’s self-existence is not grounded in his will, but in his nature.”[49]

God is absolutely separate from and exalted above all his creatures, and he is equally separate from all moral evil and sin. In the first sense, his holiness is not really an attribute that is coordinate with other attributes, but it is rather coexistive with them all. It denotes the perfection of God in all that he is. In the second sense, it is viewed as the eternal conformity of his being and his will. In God purity of being is before purity of willing or doing. God does not will the good because it is good, nor is the good good because God wills it, if such were the case, there would be a good above God or the good would be arbitrary and changeable. Instead, God’s will is the expression of his nature, which is holy.[50]

Second, man, by nature of his creatureliness, is not perfect and in need of God to complete him. God, the necessary being, created man, the contingent being. We exist because God chose to create us. Our existence relies upon His act of creation (Gen 1:26-27; 2:7). “God did not create us because he was lonely or because he needed fellowship with other persons – God did not need us for any reason. Nevertheless, God created us for his own glory.”[51] He did not need to create us, but He created us for a purpose: His glory. Our existence and purpose rely upon Him (Isa 43:7; 1 Cor 10:31; Eph 1:11-12). “Everything that has essence (exists), comes from God and depends on God for its existence.”[52] “God provided certain limitations on man’s possibilities (Gen 1 – 3).”[53]

Third, man was created in the image of God – man has the ability to choose between good and evil. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). “Both the Hebrew word for ‘image’ (Tselem) and the Hebrew word for ‘likeness’ (demut) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an ‘image’ of.”[54]

Quoting Hodge: “He is the image of God, and bears and reflects the divine likeness among the inhabitants of the earth, because he is a spirit, an intelligent, voluntary agent; and as such he is rightfully invested with universal dominion. This is what the Reformed theologians were accustomed to call the essential image of God, as distinguished from the accidental.” That man had such a likeness to God is clear from the Scriptures. If in regeneration the new man “in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:24), it is undoubtedly correct to infer that originally man had both righteousness and holiness. The context of Gen 1 and 2 bears this out. Only on this ground was it possible for man ot have communion with God, who cannot look upon wickedness (Heb 1:13).[55]

Thiessen continues to write about man’s original state “Holiness is more than innocence. It is not sufficient to say that man was created in a state of innocence. This would be true, if he had been destitute of a moral disposition either right or wrong. Man was made not only negatively innocent, but positively holy. Man’s regenerate condition is a restoration of his primitive state; Eph 4:21; and as ‘true holiness’, Eph 4:24. This is positive character, and not mere innocence.”[56] “This original holiness may be defined as a tendency of man’s affections and will, though accompanied by the power of evil choice, in the direction of the spiritual knowledge of God and of divine things generally.”[57]

Dr. Little echoes Geisler and Bocchino in saying “Power of moral choice is essential if one is to love”[58] and “Note that the main reason for giving man libertarian freedom is so that he can love God, and thereby glorify God because his loving God is possible because man is made in the image of God.”[59]

Fourth, man’s choice of self over God caused the fall and created a separation, a chasm, between man and God. “When man sinned, three great conditions came upon mankind. When man broke God’s law, he was in a position of guilt. When man broke God’s relationship, he was in a position of shame. When man broke God’s trust, he was in a position of fear.”[60] “To overcome his creatureliness, he chose to not love God, which he demonstrated by disobeying God in an attempt to be like God (Gen 2:17).”[61]

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen 3:5-6).

“Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom 1:25).

First, their sin struck at the basis for knowledge, for it gave a different answer to the question, ‘What is true?’…Eve decided to doubt the veracity of God’s word and conduct an experiment to see whether God spoke truthfully. Second, their sin struck at the basis for moral standards, for it gave a different answer to the question ‘What is right?’…Eve trusted her own evaluation of what was right and wrong and what would be good for her, rather than allowing God’s words to define right and wrong…Third, their sin gave a different answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’ The correct answer was that Adam and Eve were creatures of God, dependent on him and always to be subordinate to him as their Creator and Lord. But Eve, and then Adam, succumbed to the temptation ‘to be like God’ (Gen 3:5), then attempted to put themselves in the place of God.[62]

“Before the fall, God and Adam were in fellowship with each other; after the fall, that fellowship was broken…they knew that they had lost their standing before God and that his condemnation rested upon them.”[63]

Fifth, the broken relationship between God and man affected man’s moral nature, his physical nature, and all of creation. Thiessen explains that God’s warning to Adam of death from eating from the tree was “first of all spiritual, a separation of the soul from God” and indicated “a corrupt nature.”[64] Not only did it affect man spiritually, but Thiessen explains that it affected man’s physical body as well. “From the moment that man ate of the forbidden tree, he became a dying creature. Corruption was introduced on that very occasion…not to say that every sickness is a direct result of a personal act of sin…but that ultimately and finally, physical and mental sickness are a result of Adam’s sin.”[65]

“All animal and plant life would be affected by the sin of Adam. Animal life and nature would resist the man. Animals would become wild and ferocious; plant life would produce weeds to hinder productivity. All creation would grown with the effect of the fall and anxiously await for the day or restoration (Rom 8:19-21).”[66] “Because man was lord over creation, when man fell, it affected all of creation and this explains natural evil (Rom 8:22).”[67]

Sixth, God alone is good and is the source of all good. “’good’ can be understood to mean ‘worthy of approval’, but we have not answered the question, approval by whom?…Ultimately,…God’s being and actions are perfectly worthy of his own approval. He is therefore the final standard of good… ‘No one is good but God alone’ (Luke 18:19).”[68] “God is the source of all good in the world…(James 1:17; cf. Ps 145:9; Acts 14:17).”[69]

Seventh, the fall marred man’s ultimate ability to do good and his understanding of what is good. “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless, no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Rom 3:10-18).

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). “Therefore, God is not the direct author of evil; He created the potential for evil when He created free creatures, which also made it possible for them to experience His love (the greatest good).”[70]

As Christian theists, we believe that the greatest good in all of reality is God. Furthermore, we know that we are finite beings, and since it is intrinsically impossible for finite beings to become the greatest good (an infinite God), the next best experience we can have is to be in a loving relationship with God (Matt 22:36-37). For that reason, God offers all people His love; it is His love that brings wholeness and holiness into human lives. Conversely, the greatest evil that anyone is capable of experiencing is being separated from that loving relationship with God. However, in order for us to engage in a loving relationship with God, we must be free to reject His love, for true love is always persuasive and never coercive. Therefore, the essential component of any loving relationship, including a relationship with God, is freedom. In order for God to make a universe where the greatest good (a loving relationship with Him) was feasible, He would also have to create free creatures who would be capable of choosing or rejecting that greatest good.[71]

Eighth, the fall not only separated man from God, but man now stands condemned by God and is hostile toward God. There are numerous Scriptures that illustrate this fact (Rom 1:18-32; Col 1:21; Eph 2:1-3).

Ninth, God’s judgment against man’s wickedness is not evil, though he may use evil men to fulfill His judgment (Isa 8:5-8; Jer 1:14-16; 19:14-15; 21:3-10).

Tenth, because of the fall, the world is hostile toward God and God’s law (Ps 2:1-3). “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

“This world lies under the control of Satan (1 John 5:19) and manifests itself in foolishness (1 Cor 3:19), immorality (1 Cor 5:10), and hostility toward God (James 4:4).”[72]

Eleventh, Satan is real and is at war with God and all who belong to God (Job 1:9-10; Isa 14:12-17; Ezek 28:16-17; Eph 6:11; 1 Tim 3:6; 1 Pet 5:8; Rev 12:9-10, 12).

Twelfth, demons are real and cause physical and moral evil (Gen 3:1-5; Matt 13:19; Luke 13:11, 16; 2 Cor 4:4; 11:3; Eph 2:2; James 3:15; 1 Thess 3:5; Rev 16:14). “According to biblical (Christian) theism, God has allowed this world to be occupied by evil spiritual beings that possess free wills. Their decisions and actions must also be factored into the equation with respect to accounting for the problem of physical evil. Some physical evil results from the free choices of evil spiritual beings. As long as there are free beings (human or spiritual) committing evil deeds, there will be physical and moral consequences for their behavior that affect this world.”[73]

Thirteenth, the world (physical, natural, and moral) still operates within the order that God created and ordained, but the fall has caused it to be less than what God intended (Gen 1 – 3; Eccl 1:5-7; 3:1-8, 11; Job 38:4 – 39:30). “When God allows suffering, it is not because He lacks the power or desire to stop the suffering, but that He honors the structure He has created.”[74]

Fourteenth, God does act in response to man’s choices, according to His goodness (Ps 46:1; 56:8; Heb 4:15-16). “However, at certain points and under certain circumstances God can (and has), when it is consistent with His character and purpose, intervened in the affairs of men because of His goodness, in answer to the prayer of His people, or because of His grace.”[75]

Fifteenth, God does not leave those that love Him and put their trust in Him to face any evil alone (Ps 3; 4:1; 7:10; 23; John 16:33; Rom 8:28). “The Christian, when suffering for any reason, must always look to the Father of mercies the God of all comfort…(2 Cor 1:1-6).”[76]


This is a broken and hurting world. God knew that in order for all of creation to remain as He created it and good, mankind would need to remain in a close, loving relationship with Him. He is the source of good, and when man tried to find the good apart from Him, he failed. This break in the relationship affected all of humanity and all of creation. There is no perfect link to the source of all that is good anymore. The fall brought corruption of our souls and our bodies, it brought corruption of nature, and it brought God’s judgment and wrath. However, God did not say that this was the end. Many ask why is there so much evil, but it is clear if Scripture is read carefully. The real question is, why is there so much good? Why would the source of all good still continue to pour out His mercy and grace on a world that has chosen separation instead of relationship? The answer is His love and His holiness. The same holiness that demands justice for the evil in this world is the same holiness that demands grace for His creation. God acts daily within time and space to extend this grace and love to all who will accept it. Creation works as He created it to, just not as He intended it to. This does not mean He is not sovereign – it just means we need Him now more than ever. Evil affects us all, but we don’t have to face it on our own. The Father of mercies and God of all comfort will walk with us through it all. He is our rock, our anchor in the storm. The storm will come, but He will not leave us nor forsake us. Our only hope is Him.


Peterson, Michael L. God And Evil: An Introduction to the Issues. Boulder, CO. Westview Press: 1998.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. First Touchstone ed. New York, Touchstone. 1996

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Rev. and expanded. Chicago. Moody Publishers. 2008

Seminar in Apologetics Final Paper Interview of Bill Turner, Youth Pastor

Seminar in Apologetics Final Paper Interview of Jason Wilson, Licensed Professional Counselor

Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids. William B.Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2006

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2000

Geisler, Norman and Peter Bocchino. Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith. Kindle ed. Minneapolis, MN. Bethany House: 2001

Middlemann, Udo. The Innocence of God. Colorado Springs. Paternoster Publishing. 2007

Muller, Roland. Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door. Xlibris Corporation. 2000

Dr. Bruce Little. Winter 2011 Session Seminar: The Problem of Evil. Video series from Luther Rice Seminary. 2011

[1] Peterson, Michael L. God And Evil: An Introduction to the Issues. Boulder, CO. Westview Press: 1998. Pg. 1

[2] Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. First Touchstone ed. New York, Touchstone. 1996. Pg. 21


[4] Dr. Bruce Little. Winter 2011 Session Seminar: The Problem of Evil. Notes. Pg. 5


[6] Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Rev. and expanded. Chicago. Moody Publishers. 2008. Pg. 724.

[7] Seminar in Apologetics Final Paper Interview of Bill Turner, Youth Pastor

[8] Seminar in Apologetics Final Paper Interview of Jason Wilson, Licensed Professional Counselor

[9] Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2006. Pg. 82

[10] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. Pg. 1255

[11] Ibid. pg. 216


[13] Little, notes, pg. 27.

[14] Little, notes, pg. 8

[15] Peterson, pg. 18.

[16] Ibid, pg. 18.

[17] Peterson, pg. 48-49

[18] Ibid, pg. 49

[19] Little, notes, pg. 9

[20] Peterson, pg. 112.

[21] Little, notes, pg. 2

[22] Little, notes, pg. 6

[23] Ibid, pg. 10

[24] Ibid, pg. 9

[25] Peterson, pg. 86

[26] Turner interview

[27] Wilson Interview

[28] Geisler, Norman and Peter Bocchino. Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith. Kindle ed. Minneapolis, MN. Bethany House: 2001. Loc. 2806


[30] Geisler, loc. 2846

[31] Little, notes, pg. 10

[32] Little, notes, pg. 10

[33] Peterson, pg. 85

[34] Little, notes, pg. 2

[35] Peterson, pg. 86

[36] Middlemann, Udo. The Innocence of God. Colorado Springs. Paternoster Publishing. 2007. Pg. 11

[37] Turner interview and Wilson Interview

[38] Geisler, loc. 2846

[39] Ibid, loc. 2857

[40] Geisler, loc. 2907

[41] Ibid, loc. 2907

[42] Little, notes, pg. 11

[43] Geisler, loc. 2851



[46] Little, notes, 47

[47] Grudem, pg. 162

[48] Thiessen, pg. 78

[49] Ibid, pg. 78

[50] Thiessen, pg. 84

[51] Grudem, pg. 440

[52] Little, notes, pg. 44

[53] Ibid, pg. 44

[54] Grudem, pg. 442-443

[55] Thiessen, pg. 155-156

[56] Ibid, pg. 156

[57] Ibid, pg. 156

[58] Little, notes, pg. 44

[59] Ibid, pg. 46

[60] Muller, Roland. Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door. Xlibris Corporation. 2000. Pg. 21.

[61] Little, notes, pg. 45

[62] Grudem, pg. 493

[63] Thiessen, pg. 182

[64] Ibid, pg. 182

[65] Thiessen, pg. 183

[66] Enns, pg. 321-322

[67] Little, notes, pg. 47

[68] Grudem, pg. 198

[69] Ibid, pg. 198

[70] Geisler, loc. 2846

[71] Geisler, loc. 2846

[72] Enns, pg. 325

[73] Geisler, loc. 2981


[75] Little, notes, pg. 47

[76] Ibid, pg. 47


8 thoughts on “Relationship Theodicy

  1. I did a section on apologetics for a vacation bible school, wish i had come across this before that, your “argument” is systematic and with easy to understand language. I would usually stay away from reading anything religious on WP as its my escape zone but the topic is one close to my heart. Explaining why God allows bad things to happen to a child needs to be simple and sometimes as an adult our own demons prevent us from stating the truth and we go with emotional declarations. So I appreciate the time and effort you have put in writing this, I will be back again to read it one more time, it’s been very eye opening and informative. thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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