Keeping in mind the inability we have to wrap our minds totally around this centuries-old question, I offer my best attempt (with credit to Wayne Grudem.
A. Why does God allow evil to exist? Why does God give Satan dominion over the earth for the time being?
B. [in reference to James 1:13] Sure God isn’t the one doing the enticing but this certainly gives us reason to think that there is more to it than just human free-will to sin.
To the first question: Why does God allow evil to exist and why does God give Satan dominion over the earth for the time being?
Eph. 1:11: God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”
The simple answer is that the Bible makes it clear that God is in control and everything that happens is according to his GOOD purposes. But this alone is deficient to satisfy most people.
As we dig deeper, we need to recognize that it is unbiblical to assume that God is unwilling or unable to prevent evil.
So then, what is the relationship between God and evil in the world? If God is the primary cause of everything that happens, then is God not responsible for sin?
- We MUST affirm that God, in some sense, DOES CAUSE EVIL EVENTS but that it can NEVER BE SAID THAT HE DOES EVIL.
- Scripture NEVER blames God for evil or shows God as taking pleasure in evil.
- Scripture NEVER excuses human beings for the evil they do.
- There are dozens of scripture passages that affirm that God indirectly brought about an event that we would look at as evil. At the same time these events are said to be caused by God, the evil aspect of these events is attributed to people or demons who choose to do commit evil.
- For Example:
- Joseph being sold into slavery (Gen. 50:20) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
- Long before Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex. 8), God told Moses in chapter 4, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.”
- In punishment of David’s sin with Bathsheba “the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick,” and eventually died. (2 Sam. 12:15)
- When foreign raiders killed nearly all of his servants and a tornado killed all of his children, Job said of God’s providence “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
- The most evil deed in all of history, the crucifixion of Christ, was ordained by God—not just the fact that it would occur, but also all the individual actions connected with it. The apostles recognized this and said that God had predestined it to take place yet at the same time Peter blames the people for killing Jesus (Acts 2-4).
As to the second question regarding James 1:13-14), the passage does NOT say that God never causes evil; it affirms that we should never think of him as the personal agent who is tempting us or who is held accountable for the temptation. We can never blame God for temptation or think that he will approve of us if we give in to it.
What are the alternatives?
Alternative 1: Since God causes evil, then God is responsible for evil and therefore can be blamed as the one who DOES evil.
- Paul deals with this in Rom. 9:19: “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
- God is clearly portrayed in Scripture as holy. Therefore this is not an option.
Alternative 2: There is evil in the universe that God never intended, is not under his control, and might not fulfill his purposes. This too is NOT an option.
So what about Free Will? (It depends on how you define it.)
- Scripture NOWHERE says that we are “free” in the sense of being outside of God’s control.
- Yet we ARE free in the greatest sense that any creature of God can be free—we make willing choices and these choices have REAL effect. We have the power of willing choice and God holds us accountable to the motivations of our choices.