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Why Does God Ordain That There Be Evil?

Recently, I have been thinking/meditating on the issue of why God allows/ordains bad things to happen. For example, why would God allow an earthquake to strike Haiti? Or, why would God allow tragedy to strike a Christian family?

Nicki and I came across an Appendix in John Piper’s Desiring God entitled “Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?” In that Appendix, Piper wrestles with these questions. He shares an extended quote from Jonathan Edwards that I would like to share with all of you. Take the time to read and think through it.


It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all…

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.

If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired…

So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature mush be proportionably imperfect.” (Jonathan Edwards, quoted from Desiring God by John Piper, p. 350)

As I read through this, I came to understand that we cannot fully appreciate or understand God without his ordaining that evil be. Bad things happen so that we might more fully fathom the mercies of God. They happen so that we might better understand the grace of God. Without pain or suffering, our understanding of God would be incomplete. It would be shallow.

Let us praise God for good and evil.