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To clarify, I'm not asking why God allows evil. I believe there are sufficient arguments for that. What I would like to know is: how can a righteous God tolerate evil without it affecting His nature as righteous? Are there any arguments for that, and is there any supporting evidence from the Bible to provide a basis for that belief? This question is based on a few passages:

Genesis 15:16 (NASB): 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."

This verse makes it clear that God tolerates evil, at least to some degree.

Psalm 5:4-5 (NASB): 4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil can dwell with You. 5 The boastful will not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do injustice.

This verse indicates that no evil can dwell with God. Righteousness cannot dwell with unrighteousness. However, what is the significance of God tolerating sin outside his dwelling as opposed to inside it? Not to mention that the omnipresence of God is taught in several places in scripture. Ex.

Psalm 139:7-10 (NASB)

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 9 If I take up the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will take hold of me.

I bring in this verse not to ask a second question but to show that even though evil is not in God's dwelling, it is still within the scope of His presence. This is to emphasize the question: how can a righteous God tolerate sin (for any duration of time) without being evil?

Let me make the distinction more clear.

Why God Allows Evil: This question concerns theodicy, which seeks to identify any conflict between a benevolent, omnipotent God and the evil and suffering in the world; in other words, it asks why a God who is good and powerful will allow evil to exist.

Why God Tolerates Evil on Earth: This question focuses primarily on the evil that continues on earth, which means that God will allow or have some tolerance. Connecting to the broader question of why God permits evil, this question narrows the focus to understanding why God continues to tolerate its presence within our world.

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    The scriptures plainly declare that God does not tolerate evil. Every book from Genesis to Revelation cries out this fact. God judges evil and does not ignore it.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 10:54
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    @depperm I apologize if I formulated my question poorly. If I'm understanding your question correctly, then yes. I want to know how God personally tolerates evil without it affecting His nature as righteous.
    – Jason_
    Aug 18, 2023 at 15:50
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    @depperm I added a clarification at the end. Hopefully, this shows where I see the difference between the questions.
    – Jason_
    Aug 18, 2023 at 16:35
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    I appreciate your meaning. We are told that God has 'longsuffering' and 'patience' and 'is not willing that any (of the elect) might perish'. He has also borne with a disobedient creation, a rebellious angelic response, a failure in the first humanity and has 'overlooked' wickedness that His true purposes might come to fruition in Christ and the Church. But I balk at the word 'tolerate'. God judges evil and will not ignore it. But judgment must wait until the purposes of the Father have been accomplished. I have up-voted @rhetorician 's answer.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18, 2023 at 19:03
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    You actually might rather ask why God does not bring instant justice against all sorts of evil. Our “Time” means nothing to the God of eternity.
    – Kris
    Aug 18, 2023 at 20:56

5 Answers 5

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This is an important question, whether or not particular words are used; whether or not similar questions have already been asked on Stack. This answer starts from the negative, seeking to work towards the positive. It starts with the lesser, to move towards the greater.

Negatively - The Lesser

Humans are finite and very incomplete in their knowledge of world history; even in living through present history (up till today), we know very little of the vast, global picture of the evil going on in our world. This makes us incompetent judges of the extent of evil, even from our own, human, point of view.

Given that evil may be far greater than we suppose (I'm not even going to entertain the possibility that we exaggerate it), it is all the more perplexing to us that God appears to be doing nothing significant, or final, to 'deal with it'.

Because of our very limited life-spans, we fret due to wishing God would act decisively, once and for all, to 'deal with evil' in our life-time. We may rightly suppose that many God-fearing people have, throughout the centuries, fretted likewise. The Bible has many such expressions of God's people not understanding why they did not live to see significant action on God's part.

Consider how the prophet Habakkuk complained to God at crying out to him for so long yet God appeared not to hear. There was violence, iniquity, grievous things going on, strife, contention, slackness in applying law, wrong judgment and wicked people compassing the righteous. Well, the answer he got directly from God was that God would act, but conditions would get worse! God would raise up the Babylonians to sweep in like a flood, as his instruments of judgment against all the evil that the prophet saw going on around him, in Israel. Yet the end result would be righteous judgment on God's part; the just would live by his faith, and God, in wrath, would remember mercy. Read Habakkuk chapter 1.

We are creatures, bound by space and time, and that impedes us hugely. Even more significantly, we are all guilty of some evil or other in our personal lives. (Read Jeremiah 17:5 - 10) This, I suggest, could be a better spring-board to dive off from into the deep waters of God's point of view with the problem of evil - for we are part of that problem, even insofar as our turning a blind eye, or a deaf ear, to evil going on around us makes us culpable due to sins of omission. This is where the saying, "Be careful what you wish for" holds good.

Positively - The Greater

What is needed is a Judge, who is both executioner and pardoner, to collate all the evidence before him regarding every single person's accountability regarding evil: every person who has ever lived, and who will yet live. No human can do that. We speak of God, who is from everlasting to everlasting, who is called the Judge of the whole Earth, who will do what is right (Genesis 18:16 to 19:14 in conjunction with Ezekiel 16:47 to 63 and 36:13-36 - reading all of that will be helpful.)

This Judge has already acted in human history (on more than a few occasions) to show us what happens when his patience ends regarding the wickedness of people. He invariably allows a lot of time to pass first, giving the wicked a chance to hear what he will do if they to not follow his requirements, and turn away from their evil. The global flood of Noah's day was one case in point. And Jesus warned us 2,000 years ago that as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be before Jesus suddenly appears to render judgment (Matthew 24:30-39). Not only was wickedness in the Earth so great that God destroyed the wicked while preserving others alive, but the populace paid no attention to the warnings, and the witness provided.

Yet throughout God's written record of his dealings with humanity over the centuries are constant proofs of his deliverance of his people who fear (revere) him, and who tremble at his word. (Read Jeremiah 29:11-14.) That does not keep them from trials, tribulations and suffering at the hands of evil-doers, but it does assure them that God knows full well what is going on, even in their tiny little lives, and the Day of Judgment is coming. All will have to answer to God. Jesus assured us that then, everything hidden will be revealed (Matthew 10:26). And for those who keep faith with the Judge of all the Earth, who does what is right, is the assurance that our lives are now hidden with Christ, so that when he appears, we will be with him in glory (Colossians 3:3). That is why we are told in verses 1 to 2 to set our hearts on things above (where Christ presently is), and to set our minds on things above (not on earthly things).

May such a spiritual perspective help you look at the matter of evil differently; trusting in God's eternity and sovereignty.

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Theodicy is an explanation for the existence of evil, and why it exists in the universe that God created. Skeptics and unbelievers cast aspersions on God, postulating that God--if he exists!--cannot be omnipotent, good, and holy if he allows evil to exist unchecked.

Believers in God, on the other hand, postulate that God and evil coexist, and God's character (his omnipotence, goodness, and holiness), at times, causes him to wipe out egregious evil, as in the Great Flood in Noah's day. He does not always choose to do this, however. Therein lies the rub.

An important statement , attributed to Epicurus, was cited by the Scottish philosopher [and skeptic] David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779): “Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” Since well before Hume’s time, the problem has been the basis of a positive argument for atheism: If God exists, then he is omnipotent and perfectly good; a perfectly good being would eliminate evil as far as it could; there is no limit to what an omnipotent being can do; therefore, if God exists, there would be no evil in the world; there is evil in the world; therefore, God does not exist. In this argument and in the problem of evil itself, evil is understood to encompass both moral evil (caused by free human actions) and natural evil (caused by natural phenomena such as disease, earthquakes, and floods) (see https://www.britannica.com/topic/problem-of-evil) 1

In my opinion, one of the most powerful arguments for still believing in an omnipotent, good, and holy God, despite the existence of sometimes unchecked evil, is that the end justifies the means. That sentence about the end justifying the means may sound heretical, but Christians worldwide are to keep in the forefront of their thinking that there will one day be an end to evil.

Since God exists in the eternal present, he knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. Only he is omniscient and has the long view that is all encompassing (see Psalm 90). Moreover, the ending of evil will one day give way to the glory of God, and the outshining of his presence in every aspect of life.

By the "long view" I mean that God will one day destroy the power of evil, and he will confine evil for all eternity in the lake of fire. By the long view I mean that one day righteousness will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14).

Rather than thinking and speculating on how best to "justify" or defend God for allowing evil to exist, I think the cause of Christ is best furthered when believers take the long view.

Some denominations pray together weekly Jesus' prayer for his disciples, which includes the words "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." When we recite those words, are we not taking the long view? I believe we are. One day, God's will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven.

As messed up as this world is--and Jesus knew that things would get worse before they got better (see Matthew 24:6 and Mark 13:7), God will triumph in the end--in the long view. Knowing this, Christians as light and salt need both to expose evil and with God's enabling do what they can to combat evil in all its forms.

In response to natural disasters, which are evidence that the "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:22), the church universal must both reach out in love to grieving and hurting families whose lives have been upended by disaster. Sometimes, as strange as it may seem, God does his best work in the wake of tragedy.

As for moral evil in the world, Christians need to pray that evil will be contained, to the end that the gospel of her Lord Jesus will reach every people group on the face of the earth with the life-saving and soul-saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, here is what God's long view is all about:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that . . . the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:18-21 NIV).

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    Interesting and relevant point about the Lord's prayer. Just to ask if you could add the source details for your first quote, at the end of it - the Britannica. Yes, anyone clicking the link in it will see that for themselves, but not everyone will click that link.
    – Anne
    Aug 18, 2023 at 18:40
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    @Anne: Done. Thanks for the suggestion. Aug 18, 2023 at 20:21
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The Apostle Peter addresses one aspect of this problem.

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:1-10, ESV)

Patience. Peter’s answer is mercy and patience. The bargain is that the already saved endure at most 120 years of suffering in exchange for their own salvation and the salvation of some wicked people who would otherwise endure an eternity of suffering. That is part of the cross we are commanded to take up daily.

Time. The rest of the picture is that all people but Jesus as a consequence of sin deserve an eternity in Hell. The evil we endure is less than we deserve. By this calculus, all is grace. We want to compare an infinitesimal amount of time with suffering to an eternity of joy.

Motive. Joseph, son of Jacob, assuaged his brothers’ fear of reprisal by saying this:

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:7-8, ESV)

In God’s economy, actions may serve two purposes. The wicked seek to destroy, but God uses the same actions - in due time - to save or execute justice. The most dramatic examples are how God used wicked nations to punish Israel, then later destroyed those nations.

Wisdom. Solomon said this about suffering:

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:4, ESV)

Suffering teaches us wisdom, if we submit to God and accept his lessons. This even applied to Jesus:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10, ESV)

Faith. Going back to Peter, we must speak of faith. We all waver in our faith from time to time, but for unbelievers this very idea is a test that they unfailingly fail. The person who seizes onto the idea that God is unjust and slow in this matter of addressing the evil of the world is condemned as a scoffer. Indeed, it seems that God has purposefully arranged the affairs of this world so that unbelievers will use the existence of evil to deny the existence and or the goodness of God. It took a man like Job to work his way through the logic and finally discover the truth. We must imitate him. God can handle our doubts, but we must persist until His light dispels their darkness.

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A Good God, For Sure One answer in short form is the Fact that God has a Solution in mind for all the evil men commit. He does not tolerate evil willy-nilly, without any resolve. And He was not taken by surprise by the Fall into sin by His creation. From the beginning, the cross was in play. (Revelation 13:8) His "solution" is impeccable, from the Mind of God. Good will reign over all Evil. Any use of the word "toleration" must not imply complicsent behavior on the part of God, nor impugn His character. (Toleration of evil in modernity refers to the failure of District Attorneys to execute justice or bring criminals to court! With crime increasing.)

Which brings up the second point: recognition of the Total Personality of God. God is, beyond debate, a God of justice, righteousness, holiness, and truth. But one cannot bring a "half God" to the table of discussion.

And of His fulness we all have received grace upon grace; for the Law (recognition and condemnation of evil) was given by Moses, *but grace * and truth came by Jesus Christ.(John 1:16-17)

Judgment tempered by mercy, is a principle even appealed to in secular courts of Law. Grace and mercy---and patience---are supreme attributes of the Holy God, as well as a pure sense of justice. The Canaanites sins "were not to the full". (Genesis 15:16) The patience of God, desiring their repentance, shows a side of God that is merciful. God even hoped the Jews of the first century would repent, but they too filled up their sins to the max. (Matthew 23) God was even merciful to Ninevah, regardless of its wickedness, when they repented! Because He not willing that any should perish.

If "evil" were out of control, one might fault God. If "evil" could not be remedied (forgiven , expunged, erased, as well as punished), the skeptic might have a point of contention.

But the sight of an innocent, bloodied Body of the Lamb of God hanging upon a cross on the hill of Golgotha speaks louder than the thunder that accompanied the scene, of the Providence of a God who does not tolerate evil, but deals with evil by Judgment tempered with Mercy.

16-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
17-For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16,17)

23-For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
24-Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
25-Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26-To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness; that He might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

The Apostle Paul recognized the need and provision of forgiveness for sins (evil)---at a dear price---but still holding on to the maintenance of justice and righteousness in the universe---and in His Character.

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God does not change, He is the same yesterday, today and forever more. God does not tolerate evil like you suggested, and this I support with

  1. Fire and Brimstone raining on the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah

The fact that God burnt these cities with inhabitants alive then shows how much God is intolerable to evil.

Hollywood might have lost the spiritual struggle to the son who goes to destruction but we the remnant will defend our faith to our last breath

Also if you get these ideas that God might be evil from movies, it's high time you stopoed watching those movies because they are putting worldy ideas and thoughts in your mind and we are not friends with the world.

For he who is a friend to this world is an enemy to God and vice versa

Do you know that there is a prophet in the Bible whose lips were burnt with charcoal to purge away his iniquity

God burns evil with fire and that shows you how much he hates evil.

Right now God has given those evil people a chance to repent and turn away from their iniquities, for it is appointed man to live a fixed number of days after which comes the judgment.

You are mistaking God's mercy to allow these men to repent for a weakness and using it to try and call God something which is abominable.

The four living creatures and the 24 elders constantly say Holy Holy is the Lord God almighty who was, is and is to come

Who are you a mortal to try and paint a picture that God could be evil? There is a mystery to this question that's not welcoming.

We are living in an age where people fear nuclear weapons more than God, fear Him who destroys the body and the soul in the lake of fire

When the Israelites abandoned God's covenant for idols and images worshipped by the Canaanites, he delivered them into the hand of their enemies

The character of God shouldn't be attacked because God who is in subject is sacrilege and blessed for ever and ever, he existed before Technology came and will destroy all this inventions man has made with the breath of his mouth for it is written.

Earth and sky fled away from the presence of him who sat on the Great White Throne. - Revelation 20:11

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  • I only corrected 3 typos, capitalised the start of a sentence, and added a scripture reference. Hope you find that acceptable.
    – Anne
    Sep 28, 2023 at 8:59
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    @Anne, yes thanks for the edits. May God bless you for improving my post. Sep 28, 2023 at 9:03
  • @FewAgainstMany-Israel, I noticed your comment and wanted to assure you that I did not mean this question as an attack on Christianity, but a genuine question. I realize that "tolerance" is not the preferred word, but I have chosen to leave it as such because I believe that others may have a similar question. Perhaps "mercy" until judgement would have been better. Yet, I feel the nuance in words may be missed by many.
    – Jason_
    Oct 23, 2023 at 7:20
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    @Jason_, there is no problem. Christianity Stack Exchange is a public Q and A site and your question is all alright. It's my perspective that's not so alright. Your question is logical and high quality. Oct 23, 2023 at 8:31

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