The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil and its existence in the world has led many a writer to put pen to paper, or writing instrument to parchment or keystrokes on a QWERTY keyboard to essays, blogs or theses.

In Habakkuk 1:13 as part of his second complaint to the LORD, Habakkuk affirms his knowledge of God’s holiness. Remember this man is a prophet living in Judah where the temple was located. He would have known God’s command, “BE HOLY, for I AM HOLY!” as penned in Leviticus. He would have understood the design of the tabernacle with its HOLY of HOLIES where the symbol of God’s presence, the ark, was kept with its sacred contents. As a faithful member of the covenant community, Habakkuk would have known Israel’s sacred history and God’s severe judgment with those who ‘trifled’ with HIS HOLINESS.

Habakkuk knows all this, or we can rightfully assume he does, but now he is faced with a dilemma. How can this LORD, his GOD who has commissioned him as prophet and entrusted him with a prophetic ministry tolerate this present ‘evil’ which is happening?

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrong.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

God is absolutely holy. Isaiah in his vision in the year which King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6) is granted a vision of angelic creatures calling out to each other “Holy, holy, holy…..” This thrice-holy God, absolutely pure in all His ways, cannot look on evil. His eyes are ‘too pure’ to look on evil, in sharp contrast with the eyes of people who fix their gaze (too often) on evil and are drawn into temptation through the “lust of the eyes.” Without extending this blog immensely, consider the darkness over the face of the earth on Good Friday as He (Christ) who knew no sin became sin for us. As God transfers the guilt of sinners to His sinless Son, He turns away. In the agony of that hour, do you recall the cry from the cross? “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” There is plenty of solid food for meditation in all of this, isn’t there?

Habakkuk knows God’s absolute standards, but also knows that the Babylonians (Chaldeans) who have violated those standards and are violating those standards are gaining power. They have ‘triumphed’ over God’s own people. They are rising to prominence as their kingdom expands and the kingdom of God’s chosen people is being ruined.

The problem with Habakkuk (and with us) is our limited vision. We cannot see clearly what God is doing. We cannot fully grasp the ways of an infinite God, but He is there, He is at work and ultimately His will is being done. This calls for faith combined with hard questions. Tough apologetic questions, as I am discovering in some fascinating dialogues these months, take time to identify and address. There is a huge element of mystery which arises from our observation of what is happening in ‘our’ world or the universe in general. I am grateful for ministries like that of Ravi Zacharias which are dedicated to challenge “the thinker” to believe and “the believer” to think. I think individuals, families, churches and Christ-centred institutions should be engaged in an equipping process that tackles the tough questions, not with a false simplicity, but with an engagement of the mind, a careful analysis of Scripture and an open dialogue with those like Habakkuk who are struggling.

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