The question of the problem of evil is a burning question. How do you explain the difference between how God allowed sin into the world and yet does not himself sin?
Ironically, this question was answered a long time ago by the “greatest mind America has ever produced.” How does God ordain sin and yet remain sinless? To say that God “causes” evil is to say, or perhaps imply, that he is to blame for it. God is not the “cause” of sin, but it is by his “ordination.” “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16:4). God has allowed evil and sin to enter the world, but he himself does not sin or engage in sinful behavior.
It may be helpful at this point to establish a good definition of “sin.” Sin is the rebellious attitude of the heart against God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. God is not guilty of sinning, because he can never violate his own holiness. God can never not reach his standard of righteousness. Because God is, by definition, perfect, he can never be imperfect.
But if he “allows” or “ordains” or “causes” sin or others to sin, is this not the same as being guilty of sin? The short answer is no. Why not? Because the goal or ends to which the evil and sin is ordained is not evil and sin in themselves. In other words, God does ordain sin for the purpose of sin. He doesn’t allow evil for the purpose of there being evil. God ordains evil and sin for the purpose of good. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Or, in the words of Jonathan Edwards: “God wills that evil come to pass . . . that good may come of it.”
That leads us to that one very important vital link to connect it all. And that is God’s glory. Again Jonathan Edwards says in a somewhat lengthy quote:
“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all.
Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.
If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired.
So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”
So it is God’s glory that is the bottom-line. God ordains evil and sin, yes. BUT he does not use it to accomplish evil or sin, he uses it to accomplish good. And the ultimate good for both the believer and the unbeliever is for God to glorify himself.
If there were no evil or sin in the world, we would not know what goodness and righteousness are. Without imperfection, we would not fully know perfection. Without sin we would not know justice. Without sin, we would not know mercy. Without sin, we would not know forgiveness. Without sin, there would be no cross. Without sin, there would be no atoning love. Without sin, there would be no redemption. Or in other words, without sin, we would not know God’s glory. And without knowing God’s glory we would never truly know God.
Sin is necessary to fully know and experience God’s glory, and thus, sin is necessary to fully know and experience God.