By Jeff Keaton
In the first three articles of this series, we looked at the answers Genesis provides for who holds ultimate authority in this world, how we got here, what it means to be human, and God’s design of gender. In the final article of this series, we look at why there is so much evil in the world and the hope we have in Christ.
I plopped down in my seat on a flight home from Atlanta, and the gentleman next to me said, “Where are you coming from?” I told him, and he immediately asked, “What were you doing there?” I said, “I gave a speech last night.” He then asked, “On what subject?” I responded, “Biblical worldview.” Everything changed at that moment, and he followed with, “I was raised Southern Baptist, but I abandoned Christianity decades ago. I’m an atheist.” He continued, saying, “I abandoned Christianity because I could never understand how a good God could allow so much evil.”
I decided to engage with him on this very legitimate question by stating that since he was an atheist, we could remove any belief that God exists from our discussion. I then asked him, “Since in your mind God doesn’t exist, how do you explain the existence of evil?” I continued, “Aren’t you a Darwinian evolutionist?” He said, “Yes, I am.” I said, “Don’t you believe that we are evolving and getting better and better?” He said, “Yes, that’s what I believe.” I then looked at him and asked, “Sir, are we really getting better and better?” He responded, “Actually, I think we’re getting worse.” We had a wonderful conversation from then on, and as I was about to leave the plane, he asked if I had a business card. He said, “I may want to talk to you some more.”
All worldviews have to give an answer to the question of evil, not just the Christian worldview. Evil is everywhere. There is no legitimate question as to whether or not evil exists; there is only a question of why and what should be done to eradicate it.
From a biblical worldview perspective, we know that for reasons known only to God, He allowed the possibility of evil in His universe. He created two human beings who were good in every way (Gen. 1:27) until they chose to rebel against their Creator (Gen. 3:1-19). Their rebellion allowed sin to enter our world, and from that day forward, there has been this immense struggle between good and evil.
Men and women are born with sin in their nature and are thus bent to do wrong from their earliest days. Children naturally lie, act selfishly, and rebel against authority. None of these things have to be taught to them. On the other hand, children must be instructed and disciplined in order to develop habits of honesty, obedience, and unselfishness. Left to themselves, children become like wild animals that eventually cannot be controlled.
Sin is pervasive and the root of all evil in the universe. Our Founding Fathers in America were so convinced of the power of evil in the human heart that they established three branches of government to place checks and balances on the power of any one person or group of people. From experience and biblical revelation, they knew that evil in the human heart could rarely handle unchecked power. Knowing this and acting accordingly produced the most effective and productive form of government in human history.
The biblical worldview makes the most sense in the real world. All other worldviews lead to the chaos and confusion we see all around us today. By understanding the nature of evil, we are much better prepared than other worldviews to find ways to conquer evil in our personal lives and broader communities. Most of the solutions being proposed today to fix what is broken are wrong solutions and only exacerbate the problems we face. If you mistreat a physical sickness, it often creates even more problems, and yet the sickness remains.
So, what is the solution to evil in our world? We first catch a glimpse of the solution in Genesis 3:15 when God said to Adam, Eve, and Satan (the Serpent), “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” One translation states, “He shall crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This prophecy was fulfilled thousands of years later when Jesus declared the work of redemption finished as He hung on the cross. Three days later, He rose from the dead and forever conquered death and evil. Because of His redemptive work, He now redeems lost, sinful, broken, and twisted people. As they learn His ways for all of life, they, in turn, begin to redeem lost, perverted, and twisted cultures and societies.
I was sitting on another plane next to a very sweet Palestinian Muslim woman, and she said something that struck me: “You Americans don’t know what you have!” I asked, “What do you mean?” She said, “The rule of law is so strong in your country. I can drive from the east coast to the west coast and feel safe. I cannot do that where I come from.” I asked her if I could tell her why the rule of law is so strong in our country, and she said, “Yes.” I then told her that the biblical principles our Founding Fathers built our nation on were the reason America is what it is. You see, it is only when a nation is filled with people who overcome evil personally through the power of Christ and apply Christ’s ideals into the fabric of their culture that they can subdue evil to a degree where they can live peaceful and happy lives. I also told her that as America has moved away from personal and corporate morality and obedience to God’s laws, we are losing the security and the rule of law we have always known.
Any solution to the problem of evil that does not include individuals taking full responsibility for the evil in their own hearts is a solution that will fail. The government can’t give away enough money to solve the problem of evil. If poverty or lack of education are the root causes of people’s destructive behaviors, how do we account for the evil we find in the lives of the wealthy and educated? We live in the wealthiest and most educated society in the history of the world, but hatred, murder, and the killing of babies are rampant.
The glorious news of the gospel is that Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross and His resurrection are sufficient to help solve the problems the world faces. All of history has recorded the miraculous transformation of human beings and nations as a result of people entering into a life-altering relationship with Jesus Christ. William Wilberforce was the key influence in ending slavery in the British Empire. He was driven by his deep love for Christ and the men and women God had created in His image. John Newton, the slave trader, turned from the pure evil of selling human beings to a man who loved all people and wrote “Amazing Grace,” the most famous hymn in the world.
The only hope for America and our world is to see millions of people come to know Christ personally and understand His ways so deeply that they implement them in society. All great world revivals started with individuals and spread to the reshaping of the surrounding culture. This is our mission and prayer at RenewaNation. We are working daily to reach the hearts and minds of millions of children, lead them to Christ, help them understand God’s ideas for all of life, and then unleash them on the world.
Jeff Keaton has been a successful pastor, church and school planter, and ministry entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of RenewaNation, Jeff works across the United States and Canada to help awaken the church to the great need to give every child a biblical worldview. Jeff is married to Michele, and they have two daughters, two sons-in-law, three grandsons, and a granddaughter. He is the author of The Life of Radical Faith.