Apologetics Philosophy Theology

Is There Gratuitous Evil In the World

This post is from Ryan Wright. Ryan has agreed to write and co-host the (upcoming) Table Theology podcast. He, like myself, is a classical Christian. We agree on the core of theology and on what we call first hand issues. We do have some differences in theology, when it comes to second hand issues, which we will probably talk on more in the future. He has a degree in youth ministries and a masters degree. He has a wonderful wife and twin baby girls (Yes, that means he will be writing on patience, because he understands it better than I). You will be reading and listening to him more.  These are Ryan’s thoughts on gratuitous evil.

I believe that all evil has a purpose and doesn’t simply exist on its own. But before we can talk about gratuitous evil not existing, we must first understand how to properly define gratuitous evil. Gratuitous evil is any evil that is not logically necessary for the occurrence of a greater good. There are many other logical ways to define this term, but this definition is the best fit for the argument at hand. Most people believe gratuitous evil is just evil that God allows in the world and does nothing about because it’s just made to be there for no reason. Things like murder, car accidents, or drug overdoses get put into this category of evil with no purpose. To better understand why there is no gratuitous evil in the world I am going to use Biblical examples, experiences, and even worldly examples to help argue against this evil.

      The first reason I don’t believe gratuitous evil exists is because in the Bible there is always evil that is for the greater good and is not just there to be there. Take the story of Job, for example. In Job chapter one, God and the Adversary discuss whether or not Job can be tempted to turn away from the God he was always faithful to because of bad circumstances. God gives the Adversary permission to take everything away from Job, with the exception that the Adversary was unable to physically harm Job. The Adversary took everything from Job, from his servants and livestock to his sons. There was a lot of evil that took place to take everything Job was blessed with away in the blink of an eye. The book concludes with Job remaining faithful to God in spite of his suffering, and eventually God restores him with even more than he had at first. That is just one of many examples from the Bible of why gratuitous evil doesn’t exist. God allowed the trials and hardships to come to Job because he was testing him for the greater good. Job proved that he would be faithful to God no matter what circumstances he found himself in, and he proved that it wasn’t because of his prosperity that he served the Lord. 

Another Biblical account that comes to mind when I think of gratuitous evil not being in the world is the Life of the Apostle Paul in general. Much of his life was spent in hardship as he served the greater good for the Kingdom of God. He went through so many trials, such as being shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, and even being bitten by a snake. He endured all of this for the Gospel of Christ, which is the ultimate greater good. A verse in Romans comes to mind when I think of this subject; in Romans 8:28, Paul writes that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. This is saying that even though there is evil that we go through God ultimately has a greater good for it in the end.

      The second reason or example of why gratuitous evil doesn’t exist is from what we experience in the world around us. If someone of lower class or someone who is poor in general is stealing, then I don’t believe that their actions qualify as gratuitous evil. If they are in dire need and their thieving affects whether they live or die, then I would argue that it is for the greater good. I don’t believe people just steal; people steal in order to accomplish something, and usually they are serving the greater good by keeping themselves fed for example.

The third and final reason as to why gratuitous evil doesn’t exist is from our reality. We all know as a society the miracle that is childbirth and we all have a good grasp of what this entails. My wife when she was bringing our girls into this world was in an extreme amount of pain and suffering in order to do this (thanks Adam and Eve). This seems to be evil at the time because that is what we relate to pain and suffering. God had a plan for this suffering and pain and made it happen for the greater good which was the birth of my girls (a true picture of innocence and purity). 

The objections that most people throw out to the non-existence of gratuitous evil are that God just allows evil to happen just because he created it with no purpose. This objection would fail because God does have a purpose for the evil in the world. Not to mention that God is incapable of evil. It goes against his very nature. Evil exists in spite of God, not because of him. If evil has no purpose, then there would be some evil that grace and mercy would not need to abound over. This whole example is linked with the nonexistence of God also saying that why a loving God allows such evil in the world. Oftentimes, these hardships serve to test our endurance to remain faithful to God. Other times they serve as a wake-up call to make us realize that we are outside of God’s will for our lives. These hardships lead us back to a relationship with him, if we respond correctly. These are just some of the many reasons why gratuitous evil does not exist, and that evil in the world is in the end is made for the greater good.

About Ryan

I am married to my best friend Lizzy Wright and we have 2 beautiful twin girls Gwen and Harper. I work as a barista/Roaster at The Coffee Ethic and work as a Special Education Resource teacher at Republic School District. I have a masters degree in special education from Grand Canyon University as well as my Bachelors of Science in Youth Ministry. I hold to my classical christian beliefs. I am a new writer and co host on the blog and up in coming podcast called Table Theology. I am best friends with the other part of table theology Josh Morris and this where we talk about first hand issues as a part of the core of theology today in an authentic and real setting. This blog and podcast is to show that even though people have differing views we can still do life together and learn from one another.

3 comments on “Is There Gratuitous Evil In the World

  1. Sick—this is a cool project/site—thank you Josh and Ryan! ❤️

    This reminds me of John Hick’s soul-making theodicy quite a bit—I always understood gratuitous evil in the world to be any seemingly chaotic event that we could perceive as causing pain, suffering, or loss of life that happens totally devoid of human action. Like some natural disasters for example. Humans aren’t even necessarily involved in bringing about these events, yet they cause immense suffering.

    I guess the argument addressing the problem of evil here is geared toward allowing God to keep all his Omni-traits (all good, knowing, powerful). If God has some benevolent reason for not acting to intervene in human suffering, then he can keep his all-good title. 🤷🏻‍♂️

    This subject is way hard. I agonized over it during college and soul-making is one of the best arguments that straight Biblical Theology can give us on its own for sure.

    This was super encouraging to read, because it shows me that people are wrestling with these issues as well and what we think about God trickles down into every fiber of our lives and how we treat our fellow humans—thank you for continuing to do the hard work of wrestling. Love you guys so much! Keep it up! 🤘😊🤘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting question; I had never thought of it before. Maybe all evil is gratuitous as it is initiated by Satan, but limited in many cases by God (e.g, Job, Peter). Maybe the only evil that isn’t gratuitous is that directed at God’s elect. Think of the days of Noah when everyone except Noah was engaged in evil and presumably all non-elect. God knew none of them were salvageable and evil served no purpose in strengthening their faith in and knowledge of god. Satan could do as he pleased with them while righteous Noah built God’s ark.

    The only reason evil exists is for the elect to CHOOSE God over evil (even though their choice is pre-ordained) and strengthen their faith, as James points out in chapter one. Otherwise, why stop at planet earth instead going straight to Heaven? I have always been troubled by why evil has to be as bad as it is. I am sure we will have more insight on this at the wedding feast in Heaven, but I guess one reason is that evil has to be equally as bad as God’s Mercy and Goodness are Good. To know the Peace of God that transcends all understanding I suspect we have to know the anxiety and terror of pure evil.

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    • Hello Robert, thanks so much for your comment. This is what we hope comes from this blog, just honest open discussion with no abrasive arguing or telling one another that they are wrong without explanation because this leads to destruction.

      As i said in my post I don’t think this can be classified as gratuitous evil because with Job God allowed for it to happen and there was purpose behind it. In my definition most people believe that this type of evil has no purpose and is just here for little to no reason or explanation. In Peter’s case i would argue that what he experienced was for the greater good of the gospel and that is why i would say as a christian believer there can’t be gratuitous evil in the world.

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