MAN’S REBELLION AGAINST GOD
by Bob Wheeler
As we have seen, God is the Creator of heaven and earth. And as we might also note, he is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6; NKJV). This, in turn, raises the age-old question, if God is wise, good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? This known as the problem of “theodicy,” and it admits of no easy answer.
Two things need to be remembered. First of all, the presence of evil in the world is an undeniable fact – it is an unpleasant reality with which we all live. Secondly, when it comes to God’s purposes in the world, we only know what He has been pleased to reveal to us in Scripture. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29).
Beyond that we simply do not know, indeed, we cannot know. That means that part of the question of theodicy must remain unanswered.
There are, however, several things about the origin of evil that we can know, the most important of which is that it originated with us. The question is not, why does God permit evil? The real question is, why do we do it? If there is a paradox here, it does not reside with God; it resides with us. If we are God’s creatures, created in His image; if we have consciences, then why do we choose to do what we ourselves believe is wrong?
It is instructive to go back and see how it all began. According to the biblical account, it began with a single act of disobedience. God had placed our first parents in a garden and told them, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:6,17). Enter Satan, who takes the form of a serpent. He approaches the woman, Eve, and on questioning her she repeats what God had told her and her husband Adam. It is at this point that the serpent makes the fatal suggestion: “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4,5).
Whom should she believe? God or Satan? She made the fatal choice and acted on Satan’s suggestion. Both she and her husband ate the forbidden fruit.
This was the birth of secular philosophy. Satan’s suggestion has several staggering implications. First of all was the suggestion that knowledge can be obtained independently of God. Just because God said something does not necessarily mean that it is true. Eve must use her critical faculty to determine what the real truth is. In other words, what are witnessing here is the birth of rationalism.
Secondly, there is the suggestion that God does not exercise control over what happens in the physical realm. God had said, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:17). But Satan boldly asserted that “You will not surely die” (3:4), the implication being that God cannot control what would happen to Eve if she ate the fruit. In other words, nature operates independently of God. This was the beginning of naturalistic materialism.
And then there is the implication that God need not necessarily be obeyed. Just because God had said that something is not permitted does not mean that we should not do it. This suggests that we can derive an ethical standard independent of God’s will.
In other words, what we have here is the birth of secular philosophy. In the areas of epistemology (theory of knowledge), ontology (theory of being) and ethics we had declared our independence from our Creator. To state the matter crudely in the common vernacular, Adam and Eve basically told God to take a flyin’ hike, and that, of course, wrecked their relationship with Him. He was their Creator; He had provided them with everything that they had needed. The restriction that He had placed upon them was modest and reasonable. And yet they chose not to obey. They were thus doomed, by their own choice, to live life apart from God. They had made God their enemy.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Rome, declared, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). The “ungodliness” (Greek: asebeia) is the lack of reverence and devotion to God. The “unrighteousness’ (adikia) is the lack of justice or conformity to God’s law.
Paul then goes on to deliver a stunning indictment of the human race. There is ample evidence for the existence of God in nature. Yet, “although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). They “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (v. 25).
“Therefore God also gave them up . . .” (v. 24; cf. vv. 26,28). No more terrifying words than these are found in Scripture. God abandoned them to their lusts and passions. Originally created in His image, to serve Him, they sank into anti-social and self-destructive behavior, and all the while under God’s wrath and condemnation. We are slaves to our own self-centered desires, marching blind-folded to hell.
The average educated, middle-class person today may not think of himself as a depraved sinner. He obeys the laws of society (except the speed limit!), pays his taxes, and provides for his family. But he is still trying to live his life without God. He has basically declared his independence from divine authority and control, and thinks of himself as autonomous and self-sufficient. His very success in this life was achieved in defiance of his Creator, Sustainer and Judge. How can he expect to survive the Last Judgment?