Chapter Three

A suffering God puts the question of the permission of evil in a practical perspective. If God shares our suffering, why would He conceive a plan that would result in His own suffering? Remember our definition of evil—anything that causes unhappiness or suffering. To fully understand why God permits evil, we must go back in time before man lived on the earth, before the mountains rose majestically over plains, before the millions of galaxies sparkled in orbit around and through each other, before the angels graced the heavens, back, back to when God dwelt alone.

God desired to have a family, to be a parent—a father or life-giver—the Heavenly Father. All things were created by and for God's pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Evidently angelic children and human children were the desire of His heart. Ephesians 3:14, 15 speaks of God as the Father of "the whole family in heaven and earth."

Raising children entails suffering—both the suffering of the parents and the offspring. How much suffering does parental love demand? The most loving parents are not overly protective; rather, they are willing to permit hard knocks, realizing it will cost themselves dearly in pain as they watch their children struggle to maturity. Our Heavenly Father, the most loving and wise parent in the universe, is willing to suffer to the ultimate degree for the eternal welfare of His children. How could utopia be attained for His children?

God desires mankind to live in peace, harmony and happiness. He knows this will happen only as each practices the principles of righteousness and love. Otherwise, evil will result with its consequences of suffering and unhappiness. Here we glean an insight into what may be referred to as the "dilemma of God." The planetary systems move in mechanical obedience; the animal creation is driven mainly by instinct; but God desired the human race to have a free will and to "worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). God could have programmed the ideal man—utopia would have been inevitable; but man would be no better than a robot, without true happiness. God knows it is only as man is fully motivated by the principles of righteousness, that he can really attain happiness for himself and be in that attitude of cheerful concern for the happiness of his fellows. This is the true meaning of worshipping God "in spirit and in truth."

Free will has a built-in dilemma. Man can rebel against his Creator. The Lord was willing to bestow free will, fully aware that it would cost Him dearly before man became fully responsible to this freedom. And what an awesome power! Man can stand in stiff-necked rebellion against his Creator. He can refuse to submit to His authority. He can refuse to accept His favor. He can choose to avert the mercy of God and adamantly stand upon his decision against God. For by free will, man is man, created in the image of God and neither an animal nor a machine.

Put yourself in God's place to appreciate this dilemma. A parent will tell a baby not to touch the stove because it is hot, but what does a baby know about pain? The anxious parent knows the inevitability of the baby touching the stove before learning the consequence of heat. A wise parent will create a controlled experience with heat—lightly and quickly placing the child's hand where the heat is not too severe. All through life parents will admonish their children, knowing that they will only learn certain lessons the "hard way"—by experience. Likewise, God is giving mankind a controlled experience with sin.

As our Father, God knew man would not comprehend His warning about sin—disobedience—and its dire consequences. So God formulated a plan whereby man, by his own choice, might first experience evil and then righteousness (in God's kingdom). This contrasting experience will manifest, as no other educational process could, the wholesome influence of God's law and the dire consequences of its violation.

The process of recovery from sin is called redemption in the Bible. Redemption simply means the release from sin and death through the payment of a price. The thought is similar to the release of a person from prison when a benefactor pays the fine the prisoner couldn't afford to pay. This release through the death of Jesus is generally considered as an afterthought of God to salvage some of the human race. However, the depth of God's wisdom is shown in His foresight to devise a plan that provides for man's free choice and experience with evil, redemption through Christ and ultimate eternal happiness. Thus Isaiah 46:9,10 speaks of God knowing and declaring the end from the beginning.

God created Adam and Eve and established them in Eden—a perfect paradise. There they enjoyed a perfect home. Eden provided an abundance of food containing all the wholesome nutrients to sustain their perfect life. Adam was given dominion over the whole earth and all the animals therein. The crowning feature of this experience was Adam's close fellowship with his Creator and God (Gen. 1 & 2).

The third chapter of Genesis details the history of man's free will choice. God instructed man that if he practiced righteousness, he would live forever. If he disobeyed, then "dying thou shalt die"(Gen. 2:17). Death would be a process of sorrow and suffering culminating with the grave. Note well that death, not eternal torment, is the penalty for sin (Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:4). Like the child and the hot stove, Adam did not know what suffering and death would mean. These were mere words to him. By information he knew that his disobedience would lead to his own death. No matter how many times God reiterated "dying thou shalt die," these were only words devoid of meaning. Adam never saw anyone die. The dying scenario was never played out. Adam could not look down through the corridors of time and visualize all the suffering and death that would be brought about by human sin and selfishness, all of which would have their beginnings in his own disobedience.

Let's set aside his eating of the fruit for a moment and focus on the principle. Something far more weighty was involved here. Adam of his own free will chose not to continue in the fellowship of God. This important detail is recorded in Genesis 3:8.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [breeze] of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

This account indicates that a very familiar routine had developed between the Heavenly Father and our first parents. "They heard the voice of God walking in the garden in the cool (Heb. breeze) of the day." Evidently, God spoke to Adam frequently, perhaps daily—"in the breeze of the day." A familiar pattern developed by which they knew when God was approaching. Now that he had disobeyed, Adam heard God approaching to fellowship with them and knew the consequences of his actions. By his disobedience, Adam realized he had willfully chosen to withdraw from God's fellowship; therefore, he hid from the presence of God. Notice that even before God cut off fellowship with him, Adam hid or withdrew from fellowship with his Heavenly Father.

Ponder well Adam's choice. Just think, Adam enjoyed perfect communion and fellowship with the Heavenly Father. Communion with his Creator was not just a momentary experience. Some teach that from Adam's creation to his disobedience was a short time—a few minutes or a few hours at the most. No wonder many are repelled by the absurdity that a momentary decision by a minutes-old Adam plunged the human race to long centuries of horrific tragedies. The record in Genesis 2:7-9, 15-23 allows for a much longer period of time. It elaborates on the events that occurred between Adam's creation and Eve's.

After Adam's creation, God planted a garden in Eden and put Adam in it. Adam, after receiving instructions from God, worked in the caring of the garden. This took time. There was extensive communication pertaining to things Adam could and could not do. Then Adam was instructed to name all the birds and all of the living creatures. This took time. And, during this time of extensive responsibility in caring for all the plants and naming all the animals, Adam enjoyed communion with God. Then Eve was created and became the wife of Adam. Now Adam had time to spend with his wife and enjoy her companionship. All of these events covered a period of time. Other scriptures indicate a period of two years.

In his talks with God in the "cool of the day," Adam should have realized there was something vastly different about his God compared to himself and Eve. He was such a loving Father. God not only practiced benevolence, kindness, love, justice and mercy, but God also loved these qualities. They were the very fiber of His being. He loved them so much that He wanted to exercise them in every relationship with His creatures. This was the "spirit" or "essence" of God's holy principles which He wanted to crystallize in the human heart. If God had programmed these qualities into man's heart, man would have been a mere robot, devoid of fulfillment and happiness. But in order for mankind to live eternally in peace, harmony and happiness with each other, they must have these qualities crystallized in their heart. The only way this moral crystallization of God's likeness could have been developed by Adam, would be by Adam choosing (free will) to maintain close fellowship with his God and daily choosing to learn and practice—obey all of God's holy principles. God was the epitome of holiness, wholesome benevolence. Due to a lack of experience, Eve chose the way of self-interest, selfishness. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:13,14, Eve was not fully responsible, but Adam was. Adam was faced with a choice between loyalty to God and His benevolent ways or loyalty to Eve and her ways of self-interest.

Over a period of time, Eve evidently had become a rival to God. Adam not only disobeyed God but chose loyalty to Eve before loyalty to his Creator. He loved Eve more than he loved God. Man had to learn this basic principle. It is only as he loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind, that man will be enabled to love his neighbor (fellowman) as himself.

The crystallization of God-likeness in man ended, but only temporarily. Before God pronounced the death sentence, withdrew His fellowship and expelled the first pair from Eden, He did a remarkable thing. God slew an animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skins. What a ray of hope! This pointed to the shedding of Jesus' blood that would cover the sins of Adam and all his children who would be born in sin—inherited from father Adam. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22) in God's Kingdom. Then they will individually be given the opportunity to crystallize God-likeness in their hearts. Meanwhile, the educational process has changed. Adam and his descendants would first learn the bitter consequences of sin—disobedience to God's law (Eccl.1:13; 3:10). Man would reap the dire results of the ways of selfishness which Adam chose when he cast his lot with Eve and her ways.

Because of Adam's lack of experience God knew he would disobey. Therefore, before God even created the earth and man, He planned for man's redemption. First Peter 1:19,20 speaks of Jesus as "slain before the foundation of the world." From eternity God lovingly planned the best for His future human children. This meant a plan that would deeply grieve His fatherly heart as He watched man trampled down into death by the machinations of evil while learning the consequences of sin. Further, man's highest interests required a plan that would cost God's fatherly love the ultimate in suffering—watching His only begotten son suffer the agony of being vilified and crucified. Only profound love would conceive and pursue such a plan. The foreknowledge of God's own suffering proves that the permission of evil is a necessary experience for man's eternal welfare. God's gift of Jesus was the greatest demonstration of fatherly suffering in history. Pastor Russell caught the degree of this suffering love when he wrote:11

"Ah, did the Father let him go on that errand of mercy without the slightest sensation of sorrowful emotion? Had he no appreciation of the pangs of a father's love when the arrows of death pierced the heart of his beloved Son? When our dear Lord said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," did it touch no sympathetic chord in the heart of the Eternal? Yea, verily the unfeigned love of the Father sympathetically shared the Lord's sorrow. The principle taught in the Divine Word, that true love weeps with those that weep and rejoices with those that rejoice, is one which is also exemplified in the divine character. God could and did sacrifice at great cost to his loving, fatherly nature, the dearest treasure of his heart and thus he manifested (1 John 4:9) the great love wherewith he loved his deceived and fallen creatures."

Sin literally means, "missing the mark"—disobedience to God's principles. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, God withdrew His fellowship. This was devastating! Alienated from God, man became alienated from his human companions. Rivalry and jealousy raged, and soon murder shattered the first family. Loneliness, stress and depression overwhelmed them rendering both mind and body prone to disease. The latest scientific research confirms the Biblical account of man's "fall" into sin. Mental distress does disease the body and mind. The dying process had begun and man became alienated from himself. Man is out of harmony with himself and struggles within himself. This adds to his mental anxiety. Fear, hostility and aggression became the norm. Exploitation, crime and violence were the inevitable consequences. Man was learning the dreadful consequences of sin and its resultant evils. Yes, Adam's children, the human race, were born sinners (Psalm 51:5) worthy of death (Rom.6:23). This is "the sore travail God hath given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith" (Eccl. 1:13; 3:10).

After Adam and Eve disobeyed, they were cast out of their Edenic paradise into the unfinished earth, where the components of nature were yet unbalanced. Man is learning by experience that death is the bitter consequence of sin and evil. Yes, disease, another natural consequence of sin and imperfection, has taken its ravaging toll. Natural disasters, too, take their toll, but frequently selfishness is the cause. Man's greed for industrial profit created the pollution that burned the hole in the ozone layer. This has accelerated and accentuated the scope of nature's catastrophes. More vicious than this, man's inhumanity to man has resulted in the slaughter of billions. Man's greed enslaved and exploited his fellowman, resulting in hunger, pestilence and human depravity of every form.

Remember the illustration in Chapter 1, of the parent who disciplined his child by sending him to his room for the evening and had loving thoughts of their continual relationship. God has remanded His human children to their room—the unfinished earth. In their "affliction He is afflicted" and He has wonderful loving thoughts—recorded in the Bible prophecies—concerning their restoration to His favor. Yes, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:22—"as in Adam all die" but he continues, "so in Christ shall all be made alive." Why? Because Jesus died "a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:6 and Heb. 2:9).

Some will say, "Don't tell me you still believe in original sin! Just because Adam and Eve were disobedient, the whole human race are sinners?" In I Timothy 2:13, 14; I Corinthians 15:21, 22; Romans 5:14; and John 8:44, both Jesus and the apostles refer to this event in Eden as an actual historical event. What better proof can we have that the Genesis account of Eden occurred? Unfortunately, the logic of the original sin concept has been obscured by Dark Age superstitions that have been attached to it, such as "hell fire" and a vindictive God who must be placated. Modern man is rightly repelled by the superstitions contained in some church theology, but these superstitions are not taught in the Bible. Shorn of Dark Age theology, there is no better explanation of man's miserable plight than the Scriptural teaching of original sin and its penalty, death—extinction, not eternal suffering.

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