The Cross of Christ and the Problem of Evil (Scott Christensen)
Why does evil exist if God is all-powerful and good? In the newest issue of Credo Magazine, “The Glory of the Atonement,” Scott Christensen locates “the primary solution to the problem of evil in that which brings God the greatest glory—the atoning work of Christ.” Christensen helpfully argues that only by rightly examining the cross of Christ is one able to rightly think through the problem of Evil.
Scott Christensen (MDiv, The Master’s Seminary) is the author of What About Free Will? (P&R 2016). He is working on his current book entitled Light Pouring Out of Darkness which tackles the problem of evil. He pastors Summit Lake Community Church in Mancos, Colorado.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Christensen’s article:
Why did God permit the fall? More pointedly, why did he purpose it? Why the intrusion of evil into his good creation? Why this dystopian planet full of corruption and endless agitation of peace, harmony, and unbroken fellowship with God? There are two answers to these questions. First, nothing but redemption could maximize God’s glory as it has. Given this divine purpose, the fall is made necessary. Secondly, there was no suitable or greater way to accomplish redemption than through Christ’s incarnation and atonement. That God would humble himself by taking our lowly flesh as his own and subjecting himself to the humiliation of the cross is utterly mind-boggling (Phil. 2:6-8). Therefore, both the fall and God’s redemptive work become necessary aspects of his freely-chosen, glory-maximizing plan. God ordained evil to transpire to this end.
The freedom of God in magnifying his glory is the driving force behind his plan of the gracious, redeeming, atoning work of Christ. Here is the conclusion we must draw as we work out a biblical theodicy. Certainly, God’s glory was magnified in the prelapsarian paradise of Eden. This is what a fallen world longs for whether knowingly or not. But what we do not often recognize is that God created the conditions for a much better world than unfallen Eden. As much as his glory was magnified in that former world, it is being magnified more in the present and future world as it moves toward the consummation of redemption. Not only is God’s glory more magnified in a fallen-but-being-redeemed world than it would be in an unfallen-not-needing-redemption world, but his glory is most maximized in such a fallen-but-being-redeemed world. How so?
Because elect sinners have a view of being rescued from an otherwise inescapable predicament caused by their own willful rebellion against the Almighty. They have a view of an ill-deserved favor abundantly poured out upon their unsightly heads by the very God they once despised. They are being fitted for a world where the redeemed are exceedingly more benefited than if they had never fallen in the first place. Their fall occasioned God to display the unrivaled magnificence of mercy and grace that an unfallen world had no occasion to behold. There is nothing quite as wonderful as being the object of God’s ill-deserved, glory-maximizing mercy.
We get to witness the marvel of the incarnation and humility of the sovereign Lord of creation displayed upon a cruel cross; all for the purpose of raising us up from the pit of destruction. The view standing above that wicked abyss is made all the more glorious given we were once helpless captives of its malice, ruthlessly festering in our souls. It is a view now dominated by the refulgence of our risen and exalted Savior whose luster will only shine ever brighter in the restored paradise to come (Phil. 2:9-11). Subsequently, this broken world with all the deleterious effects of evil, is strangely yet gloriously, the best of all possible worlds holding for us the greatest possible goods.