Unstoppable is a short documentary that gives a pretty simple and succinct answer to the “problem of evil.” The answer? God permits the existence of evils, because they ultimately are part of Him fulfilling His good purposes. It is certainly a must watch for anyone who is grappling with the issue or looking for an easier way to communicate it to others.
1. In my post about double predestination, one of the conclusions I draw from 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chron 21:1 is that God permits even the operation of Satan in his evil, so that He may fulfill His purposes. In the case of the David’s census, God was seeking to punish Israel, so Satan and his evil were employed as a matter of punishment. So, that’s one answer. One purpose God has for evil is to exact punishment. However, being that God is gracious and slow to anger, God does not exact punishment for the same infraction every single time.
2. In my careful reading of the Book of Job, where I am still on the fence whether or not to complete a commentary on the book or not, a conclusion that I believe we can safely draw is that God permits evil to lead us to repentance and closer faith in Him. Job 33:19-28 goes into detail:
Man is also chastened with pain on his bed,
And with unceasing complaint in his bones;
So that his life loathes bread,
And his soul favorite food.
His flesh wastes away from sight,
And his bones which were not seen stick out.
Then his soul draws near to the pit,
And his life to those who bring death.
If there is an angel as mediator for him,
One out of a thousand,
To remind a man what is right for him,
Then let him be gracious to him, and say,
‘Deliver him from going down to the pit,
I have found a Ransom’;
Let his flesh become fresher than in youth,
Let him return to the days of his youthful vigor;
Then he will pray to God, and He will accept him,
That he may see His face with joy,
And He may restore His righteousness to man.
He will sing to men and say,
‘I have sinned and perverted what is right,
And it is not proper for me.
‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit,
And my life shall see the light.’
To sum it up, what Elihu is saying is that the pain of suffering draws us to repent of our sin and place our faith in God, all in the meanwhile this is made possible by the penalty of our sins being paid for (by Jesus Christ). Elihu was a gentile from long before Christ’s time, so he only understood Christ in the most vague, rudimentary ways. However, this explanation of the existence of suffering has been for me, the most applicable to my personal experience. Losing my business or difficulties in my marriage, though extremely painful at the time, have helped me become a better man, a man I would not be otherwise. I would not want God to take the events back. Thankfully, because I understood the Book of Job and Romans 8:28, I trusted that God was good in the midst of my suffering and that gave me the strength to continue on.
3. Another principle in Scripture is God’s inimitable nature. We have Romans 11:33, 34 that states, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” We already know that we simply cannot call God into question for anything, simply because of His omniscience and omnipotence:
Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His?
[Only t]hen I will also confess to you,
That your own right hand can save you. (Job 40: 8, 9, 14)
How can we tell God that we can do a better job than Him saving ourselves by ridding the existence of suffering? God considers such thinking as a condemnation of His very nature. God’s answer to Job in chapters 38 to 41 revolve around the idea that God’s almighty nature is sufficient in itself to explain why His will in these situations is just and unquestionable.
Further, God is the author of all things. Who knows how to write the book best, the author or the character in the novel?
The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.
Drip down, O heavens, from above,
And let the clouds pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit,
And righteousness spring up with it.
I, the Lord, have created it. (Isaiah 45:7-8)
God admits He causes both good and calamity. Yet, He is the one who pours down righteousness because He created it. How could someone accuse the very inventor and creator of righteousness of being unrighteous, and pretend that he is more righteous that He? It’s a ridiculous notion.
4. Lastly, the point of the movie itself, that God permits evil to fulfill His good purposes, is best summed up by Ephesians 1:11-
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.
God works “all things” according to “His will.” That includes both good and evil. God even takes the evil decisions that man does on his own and in permitting these makes good come out of it that otherwise could not occur, such as the case of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. The result? The entire nation of Israel was preserved from famine.
And so, the murder of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the most reprehensible act in all of history where the only perfect Man ever died for those who put Him on the cross (that’s all men who have ever sinned for all time), preserves the true Israel of God. The most evil act in all of history was meant for the best possible thing in all of history. You can’t make this stuff up! Without suffering, we are dead in our sins! Without suffering, we are damned!
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
Even the death of children can result in God accomplishing His unstoppable purpose, the redemption of His people. God uses all things for good.
Now, back to Kirk Cameron…
I just watched the movie last night with a Jehovah’s Witness that I am on friendly terms with (or as friendly two people who seek the conversion of the other can be anyhow.) Lou had us over his very nice place, my wife and I brought over Thai food, and we all watched Unstoppable. He also showed us the grounds to the Patterson, NY Jehovah’s Witness education headquarters that they call “Bethel.” It is very well done and is like a college campus.
Anyhow, my aim in watching the movie with Lou was to elicit discussion that centers on the Scripture, as all Scripture is God breathed and profitable. Being that the movie is not on the topic of Christology, the subject matter is not particularly offensive to a Jehovah’s Witness. However, being that Lou knows the movie is coming from an orthodox viewpoint, he approached it with suspicion.
So, when Kirk Cameron dabbles into some pretty out there speculations (God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins to remind them that their sinful nature made them like animals or that God put angels outside the garden to watch after Adam and Eve, Lou correctly pointed out their task was to keep them out), he gives non-Christians the opportunity to doubt his message.
However, that aside, I can tell that the movie at least got us all thinking. I then asked Lou and a Jehovah’s Witness couple that joined us afterwards what they believed the purpose behind evil was. The answer I was essentially given was that evil was the result of Adam and Eve’s choice in the garden, so now we just live with the consequences.
This indeed is partly true, but then how do we understand tragedies? Are they just another domino that is falling in a row? We already know God has and continues to intervene when He wants to. So, it still begs the question, why doesn’t God if He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent intervene all the time?
This is where the “free will” apologetic cannot cut it (which, by the way, apparently was the topic for a special worldwide sermon that was given on their Easter/”Memorial” service). It attempts to protect God from all responsibility over evil by placing the onus entirely on man, but the Scripture does not speak of evil in this way. It speaks of God permitting it, dare I say using it and literally employing it in Satan, and working evil for good!
Ultimately, free will cannot explain why 15 year olds can go through ten years of wasting away with cancer. But, Kirk Cameron’s interpretation, that God works all things including evil to fulfill His unstoppable purpose, the redeeming of sinners and showing of unmerited love to them through Jesus Christ, does offer an answer. It makes sense with the Scripture and it works with the reality we deal with.
To sum this all up, I can draw a simple conclusion: never go beyond the Scripture. It can give detractors a reason to doubt its message and further, the ideas we come up with apart from Scripture (i.e. free will is the reason why there is evil) won’t really answer the big questions out there. As Tim Conway has taught on the topic of the age of accountability, “The Bible wasn’t given to answer every question that can possibly be asked, but do you know what the Bible was given for? It was given for us who can think and reason to know the way which to be saved. The fact is the Bible was not given to tell us how people who cannot reason can be saved.”
Paul wrote to Timothy that “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). They are not always going to answer every question that has nothing to do with wisdom leading to salvation. Therefore, the Bible tells us what we need to know about evil. God is in control of it, it is used for good, it is used for punishment, it is used for discipline, and His ways are unquestionable as much as they are unstoppable. There is nothing useful I, Kirk Cameron, or anyone else can say going beyond this.