On Providence and Evil

Sergey Khudiev | 25 November 2019

When I appear on the radio, people often ask me questions about God’s stewardship of the world. We Christians believe in God’s Providence: we claim that everything is part of God’s mysterious and beautiful plan, which includes both grandiose events in world history and individual lives, yours and mine. For many, however, this leads to confusion: there are terrible things going on in the world. Are they also part of God’s plan?

The Psalmist says, For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether… in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them(Ps. 139:4, 16). This plan cannot be broken, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand (Is. 14:24). This truth must be a source of hope and consolation for the faithful, as the apostle says, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Not long ago, I saw an atheist meme on the internet: “Every year thousands of children die before they reach the age of five. If this is part of God’s plan, it’s a lousy plan.” Not only atheists can be puzzled by this: whenever we read social networks, there is invariably a terrible catastrophe that claimed the lives of hundreds of people returning from vacation, there are heinous crimes and painful maladies. Are all those things part of God’s perfect plan?

People find it extremely repulsive to think that God somehow stands behind these calamities and sends them to people for some incomprehensible purposes.

Well, that idea is just wrong. God is not a source of evil in any way. Misfortunes are part of His plan – but in a different sense.

Even on a purely human level, we can say that things are part of the plan in two ways.

First, it may be that we actively planned and wanted those things to happen. For example, we can talk about a plan to open a surgical center. This plan includes the construction of specialized buildings, the purchase of necessary equipment, the recruitment of all kinds of specialists and the backing of their work.

Secondly, our plan may cover events that we don’t intend and are not happy about at all, but that will likely happen. For example, the Surgical Center’s plan will factor in a possible influx of hundreds of car crash victims and other people in need of urgent surgical care every day. We don’t want those accidents to happen. They will occur as a result of driving under the influence, malfunctioning cars, icy roads, drivers’ fatigue, and some other reasons. Still, we are ready for them. We know what to do. They will not catch us by surprise.

Our crash rescue plan covers fractures, burns, bleeding, and other horrible things – and that doesn’t mean it’s a lousy plan. A good rescue plan should incorporate all of these things.

The plan for fighting an epidemic includes predictions about how the epidemic will spread. A fire fighting plan includes predictions about the destructive effects of the fire. An anti-crime plan includes educated guesses about the actions of the criminals.

God acts in a fallen world, like doctors or firefighters. It is a world in which humans and some angels fell because they rejected His will. A world in which people do terrible things in the eyes of God all the time. A world where a lot of appalling things happen all the time, which God does not want to happen – just as rescuers do not want accidents to happen. Yet, all these events do not take God by surprise: God, who has all knowledge, took them into consideration in His plan from the get-go. God does not make predictions – He knows precisely how the events will unfold and how He will react to them, turning the course of history as He needs. God knows how to turn the evil that comes from His fallen creatures into the final triumph of the good.

Judas betrayed the Savior, the crowd demanded His execution, and Pilate pronounced the unjust verdict, but God had known that it would happen, and it was through this that He carried out His plan of redemption for the world. God cannot be taken by surprise and confused. Absolutely all events, including the most horrible ones and those that are contrary to His will, shall be accounted for in His plan.

The Good News of the Bible: God Has a Plan

We may find ourselves in trouble, and it’s very important for rescuers to have a clear plan of action. The Bible’s good news is that God has a plan. He knows what to do. He will ultimately turn everything that happens to the benefit of His creation. Evil will not only be neutralized and corrected, it will turn into something unthinkably beautiful.

A lot of things happen in this world as a result of human sin – either directly or as a result of the damage that the sin has inflicted upon this world. God is not the cause of all this evil, just as a surgeon isn’t the cause of a fracture or a rescuer isn’t the cause of a disaster. However, God knows exactly what to do about it. He has factored it into His plan. His plan will be fulfilled, and we shall see how God wipes out all tears; those who trusted Him will rejoice, and no one will take their joy away from them.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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