What is the difference between destroying evil and defeating evil
By: The John Ankerberg Show
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|If God exists, why is there evil in the world? What is evil? Where did evil come from? Why doesn’t God intervene and stop all evil? How can physical evils such as earthquakes, tornadoes and cancer be explained? Is there a good reason for the existence of hell on which even some atheists would agree? What about those who have never heard the Gospel?
Copyright: 2003, Number of Programs: 8, Cat. No. EVL
Keywords: Defeating evil, Defeating evil, Freedom, Matthew 23:1-39,
- Ankerberg: That’s powerful. There’s an important definition, couple of definitions that you give in your books. It has to do with the words destroying evil and defeating evil. What’s the difference? What’s the importance here?
- Geisler: Well, let’s take the little logical statement: If God is all powerful, He can destroy evil. If He is all good, He would destroy evil. Evil is not destroyed, therefore there is no such God. But the truth of the matter is, God cannot destroy evil without destroying the greater good, because freedom is what makes the good possible and the only way He can totally destroy evil is to destroy freedom. For example, God could every time somebody picked up a gun to shoot someone else, He could destroy the gun right in his hand. Every time somebody took a knife to stab someone else, He could turn the knife into butter. You know? Or every time somebody put a noose around somebody’s neck, He could turn it into a noodle. But, if He did that, He would also be destroying their freedom.
- Remember Madelyn Murray O’Hair? I know we don’t have anyone like her anymore but, anyway, God could have stopped a lot of evil when she was running around the country mouthing off about God. All He had to do was stuff her mouth full of cotton. But if He had done that, then she wouldn’t be free, would she? Or every time she lifted her fountain pen to write an atheist book, He could have exploded the fountain pen in her hand. Then she wouldn’t be free to express. Or God could have given her an Excedrin Headache #2 every time she thought an atheistic thought. Then she wouldn’t have been free to think. God made us free to think, free to choose, free to express ourselves, and the only way to destroy all evil is to destroy all freedom. But then you’ve destroyed the possibility of the greater good.
- So, destroy is not the word. Defeat is the right word. Can God defeat evil without destroying freedom? The answer is, “Yes.” And here’s how He does it: He gives everybody their free choice. “Do you want to follow Me forever, or do you want to go your own way forever?” As C. S. Lewis said in The Great Divorce, there are only two kinds of people in the end. One says, “Thy will be done, Oh God.” The other one, God says to them, “Thy will be done.” That’s an awesome choice, right? He gives everybody their choice, and then He allows everyone to have their choice forever. Jean Paul Sartre wrote a play called No Exit, and the irony of the twentieth century, the last century, is that the greatest insights into hell came from atheists. Nietzsche said that “I would rather will nothingness than not to will at all” in On the Genealogy of Morals. Jean Paul Sartre said in his play No Exit, “The door of hell opened and they were all given a chance to leave, and nobody left.” Why? They’re all condemned to their own freedom. They chose to be there. The door of hell is locked on the inside.
- So, the way God defeats evil without destroying freedom is He allows everybody to make their choice and then He says to them, “You’ve got it!” Do you remember Milton’s Paradise Lost? Satan said, “I would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven!” to which I respond, “God says ‘You’ve got it! You’ve got it!’”
- Ankerberg: Yeah. I think that separating good from evil forever, according to what man chooses, of not bullying men and saying, “Because I’m God, I’m going to force you to think my way,” but of actually going way beyond that and saying, “I’m going to give you dignity and a real choice.” And also, He has made it possible for us to be forgiven. It’s already been done and it’s sitting there waiting for us, that we can have this relationship with God forever, but He won’t force us into it. I think it’s absolutely astonishing when you realize that’s the case!
- Geisler: It is. And Jesus is the perfect example. Matthew 23. He’s weeping, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…! How oft I would have gathered you together, as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing.” [Matt. 23:37] God will not force us into the fold. There’s no Divine arm-twisting. God is a loving Father. He works persuasively but not coercively. The young man said to a young lady, “I love you. I want you to marry me.” And she said, “No.” And he said, “I love you so much, I’m going to force you to love me.” You say, “Wait a minute. Forced love is not love. Forced love is rape.” And God is not a divine rapist. He will not force anyone to love Him. That’s why there has to be a hell. Not just because He is just and must punish sin, but because He is loving and can’t force free creatures against their freedom because forced freedom is a contradiction in terms.
- Ankerberg: Give a word of encouragement to the person that is without hope right now. Maybe because of circumstances, maybe just because they’ve never thought about God this way. Talk about the loving God and the possibility of knowing Him in a personal relationship and what they have to do to have it right now.
- Geisler: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” [John 3:16] He just doesn’t love some people, He loves all people. God loves you. He sent His Son to die for you. He has paid the penalty for your sin. He doesn’t want you to suffer, and He’s got a place where there will be no suffering, no sin, no death, no sorrow – forever. If that’s not hope, what is hope!