The Surprising Truth of God's Participation in Evil

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Several years ago, I was in a pretty bad car wreck.

Praise be to God, I wasn't hurt.

But my car was totaled. And the driver of the car that sideswiped me on the highway? He fled the scene.

To top it all off, the only reason I was even driving that day in the first place was because I was on my way to the doctor to find out whether a condition I had been battling was terminal. (Thank goodness, it wasn't.)

So yeah, it's safe to say that I was having a pretty rough day.

And standing on the side of the highway in the midst of all that suffering, I asked God, Why?

I knew, of course, that God was not only in control of everything happening, but ultimately the cause of everything, including my car accident.

But what does that actually mean?

Can we say that God somehow, in some way, causes evil?

And if that's true, how do we reconcile that with an all-good, all-loving God?

Well that's exactly what I address in today's Sainthood Snippet.

God bless and enjoy!


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Now, first of all, let's make a distinction about evil itself, because there are basically two kinds: physical evil and moral evil. I can't do this full justice in a short time. Let me try and quickly summarize them.

A physical evil includes suffering or pain that isn't directly caused by an immoral act. It's the absence or corruption of the good. It's an imperfection due to the fact that we live in a fallen world. For example, blindness at birth is a physical evil. Sickness is a physical evil. You trip over a crack in the sidewalk and break your leg. That's a physical evil. They are essentially things that happen according to the laws of nature, but result in suffering because we live in a fallen world. Sin janked up the natural world and nature sometimes now works against us. So physical evils or natural evils as they're sometimes called, are not the result of someone directly willing us evil. The person was born blind because of a congenital defect. When you tripped and broke your leg, you fell because of the law of gravity and suffered because your bone couldn't stand up under the pressure of the fall and suffering resulted, and no one caused the blindness on purpose. No one pushed you and made you break your leg.

Moral evil though is a different animal. Moral evil occurs when someone willfully acts against the good. It's the result of a willful sin or negligence. Rudolph Hess committed moral evil when he ordered the death of the Jews. King David committed moral evil with Bathsheba. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah basically wrote the book on moral evil because it is all terrible stuff.

So where does God fit into all of this? If he doesn't cause evil, how can we say that everything that happens, even the bad stuff, does so in cooperation with his will? Well, let's say the police were right and the guy who hit me on the highway was drunk. God participated in that it was through his power and grace that the driver had the ability to move his arm and swerve into me. In other words, he couldn't even move his arm if God didn't give him the ability to do so. But God did not cause the moral evil of the man's deciding to get drunk and drive, which led to the accident.

Well, similarly, let's say somebody slices and dices you with their tongue. God participates because they can only wag their tongue through his grace, but he does not participate in the evil of the act of the will the person made to slander you. So do you see the difference? Because he's the creator of the universe and nothing can happen without him sustaining it. There's a sense in which he participates in everything, but he cannot be the cause of evil. He can however bring good out of it. While I may not still know the bigger picture, my accident certainly drove me once again to my knees and deepened my trust in God's fatherly care. It caused my wife to thank him for keeping me from harm. It even gave me the opportunity to share the faith with the tow truck driver. Now, these are all good things, part of the good that God promises will always happen for those who love him. We know that in everything, says Saint Paul, God works for good with those who love him who are called according to his purpose.


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