Lesson 6


And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him (John 9:1-3, KJV).
The problem of human suffering has been an area where humans have argued and debated since the time of Job and before. This discussion has a personal relevance to me because I have a son who was born blind, mentally retarded, with cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. I can testify to the pain of having your baby unable to reach out for the bottle, unable to reach out for the rattle, unable to mimic, imitate, and do all the cute, rewarding things that babies do. Atheism offers no answer to this dilemma except abortion or euthanasia. In classic evolutionary theory a child like my son is less fit, and thus if he cannot survive, that is just what natural selection is all about.

From a biblical standpoint, there are answers that are positive, constructive, understandable, and useful in making decisions. We do have the complete story of my son and his long struggle in a book titled Timothy, My Son and My Teacher which can be borrowed by contacting us.

Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal God create something as ignorant and useless as I am? If God is in control, why is there pain, suffering, and tragedy? Is there a logical explanation for these things and other related issues? Maybe you feel that by bringing up these questions we are walking where angels fear to tread. The traditional approach to this kind of inquiry has been to say that “you simply have to have faith.” This implies that we cannot comprehend the answers and just have to trust God. It is true that we are limited in our understanding, but we can know a great deal--enough to see that there is a logical reason for our existence!

Many silly explanations for the problem of pain and suffering have been given by religious people over the centuries. Some have said that God is testing us--that God is trying to find out who is worthy and who is not worthy. Such answers indicate a very poor understanding of the nature of God as we learned in an earlier lesson. If we understand that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), then surely we know that God does not need a silly experiment to find out who is worthy! If we understand anything about grace, we know that none of us are worthy in the sense that people are applying that word.

This discussion requires some non-traditional thinking which we hope will stimulate you and excite you!


God did not create evil! Evil is the consequence of the existence of God. One way of understanding this is to think through the law of parity. This law says that for every situation there is always a mirror image. In biology, we speak of bilateral symmetry. If something has a left eye, it will have a right eye. If something has a left lung, it will have a right lung. These are examples of bilateral symmetry.

In psychology, we speak of id and ego. In physics, we speak of matter and antimatter. All of these are examples of ways in which parity can be applied. God is love and God is good, according to the Bible. What is the parity form of love? Obviously, the answer is hate. What is the parity form of good? Obviously, it is evil. What this suggests is that because God (love and good) exists, there is also an existence of the opposite of God’s qualities. Because God exists and God is good and love, there will be the absence of good and love, which is evil and hate. Because evil and hate were not personified in anything or anyone initially, there was no dualism. Only if evil has an agent to work through does it have any power or effect. Evil is not an object like a rock or a tree. Evil is a choice of a sapient being.

The point of all this is that God did not create evil so that man could spend eternity in hell. Evil has existed before the beginning. It is a consequence of God’s existence. The Bible speaks of God
allowing evil, but the context of all passages relating to evil and man portray evil consequentially, not as a conscious creation of God to afflict and condemn man.


We are not the only beings that God has created. God has also created angels. We are told that we are created a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7), and we are told we will become like the angels when we die (Mark 12:25). These angelic beings were created with the ability to choose between good and evil, and some of them chose evil! (See 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.) We might ask why God would have created the angels so that they could choose evil, or perhaps why He should have created them at all. There are all kinds of philosophical and theological possibilities to this question, but human theories are probably not worth the paper they are written on.

Suffice it to say that, if beings are created without the ability to choose, they are merely robots or pawns. Love is not possible unless we have the option not to love. We recognize this in sexual matters. If there is sexual love without choice, we call it rape; and we all recognize that rape is not really love. Realizing that we have not answered all questions that could be asked about why God created angelic beings who could and did embrace evil, let us move on.


We now have a situation in which evil has force. Evil is now operational through Satan and the angels who followed him into evil. The insidious destructive power of evil is now working, and there is a need for a platform in which the struggle between good and evil can be carried out.

The situation is similar to a human having an idea. If I want to test and evaluate an idea, what do I do? I take a piece of paper (a lower dimension than myself) and I formulate my idea for a critic to challenge (my wife, my business partner, etc.). I want my idea to be successful. (“[God] is ... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” See 2 Peter 3:9.) If my idea is flawed, my critic will destroy it. I could pull out a gun and shoot my critic, but what would that prove about the validity of my idea? God could destroy or isolate Satan, but what would that prove? It would prove that God can destroy, but it would prove nothing about the superiority of goodness and love.

It seems that the reason for man’s creation is somewhat similar to what we have just described. There are numerous biblical passages that convey this concept to us. In Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) we read “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” It is clear that there is a battle between good and evil. The forces of evil use spiritual terrorism to defeat good, love, and peace. In Ephesians 3:9-11 (KJV) Paul talks about the fact that God’s plan, His purpose in creating man from the very “beginning of the world” was “to the intent that ... the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church ... according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I find it very strange that in our world of video games, Star Wars, Stephen King, and constant horror movies full of spiritual creatures, people can ridicule the idea that we have a spiritual purpose. The history of this battle goes all the way back to Job.


The book of Job projects what we have been describing. Here is a Clayton paraphrase of Job beginning with chapter 1, verse 6.
There was a day when the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, “Where have you been?” “Oh I’ve been hacking around the earth,” Satan replied. God asked, “Have you seen my servant Job? He doesn’t have a thing to do with your evil system!” Satan answered and said, “Well, why shouldn’t Job serve you! You’ve given him everything he could possibly want! Take away the goodies and he’ll spit in your face!” God said, “Okay, go ahead and take away the goodies, but don’t touch his body.”
Let me point out that it is not God that afflicted Job. God allowed Satan to afflict Job, but God did not do it. It is also not God that afflicts you. It is Satan who brings the problems into your life--not God. Job had severe problems and losses, but he stayed faithful to God. Now let us go to chapter 2, verse 1 (Clayton paraphrase again).
Again, there was a day when the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, “Where have you been?” Satan replied, “I’ve been hacking around the earth.” God asked, “Have you seen my friend Job? I let you take away all he had and he’s stayed with me! How about that, Satan?” Satan said, “Okay, you won that round, but let me touch his body and he’ll spit in your face.” “Go ahead,” God replied. “Touch his body, but don’t kill him.”
Notice once again that God drew the line on what He would allow. Now we might look at this incident and say, “That was a terrible thing that God did to innocent Job.” How did Job look at it? In Job 42:5, Job looked back on what had happened and said, “Lord, before all of this I had heard of thee by the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.” He went on and praised God, because he saw the reason for his creation and he sensed he had served a purpose in God’s plan.

I would like to suggest to the reader that you can take the name “Job” out of the book of Job, and you can replace it with your own name--because you are Job (or as my wife used to say “Jobbette”). I have had a lot of pain in my life--perhaps just as you have. I cannot say to you that I am glad that my son was born with multiple birth defects. I lost my wife of 49 years on May 9, 2008, and the pain of that separation will be with me until I die. The fact is, however, that I still find great joy in life and in living. When I was an atheist, I had to look at life as the best that I was ever going to have. Now as a Christian I can look at life as the worst I am ever going to have to tolerate. Look at the difference between those two views!

How much will we remember in eternity of the pain that we have had on the earth? You go to the dentist and you get a Novocain shot. Why? Because you are willing to gamble 30 seconds of the needle against what seems like three hours of the drill. Seventy-five years of suffering will not seem like much in the context of eternity.

Please do not assume that I have all the answers as to why bad things happen to good people. On the other hand if we have even a partial understanding of why God created us, we can live through the bad things that come our way knowing that there is a better world coming in which the bad things will no longer exist. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4, KJV).

© 2009, John N. Clayton

Lesson 6 Questions

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