Defending Your Faith 101: Sources of Evil and Suffering

“We need to know God’s plan so that we can make sense of tsunamis, fires, cancers, strokes, rapes, tortures, and the fact that, except for the Lord’s return, the only thing that will prevent us from watching everyone we know die will be our own death. If we don’t understand that our good God can have a good purpose in allowing evil, we’ll live confused Christian lives.”

-Dr. Clay Jones, Biola University

Suffering, whether it results from natural or moral evil, is suffering nonetheless and we all experience some form of it in this life. No human is immune. Understanding sources of evil can help us explain it to those who ask, or correct those who lay blame at the feet of God. As Christians it is our duty to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, always doing so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

There are three major factors in identifying sources of evil:

Factor #1: The value of freewill

It would not be possible for things like love, relationship, and intimacy to exist without freewill, and it would not make sense to create beings with freewill and not allow them the possibility to misuse it. This is what happened with Adam and Eve, and from the few clues we get in Scripture, this is what happened when Satan and his angelic followers fell.

God created Adam and Eve and gave them everything. We don’t really comprehend how awesome it was for them to be in paradise, able to walk and talk with God face to face, but they chose to throw that all away in an effort to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This also seems to be the cause of Satan’s fall from Heaven, a desire not just to be like God, but to be God (Isaiah 14:13-14).

Sometimes people will say, “why do I have to suffer and pay the penalty for the sins of Adam and Eve, I wasn’t even there?” Actually, we were there “in Adam’s loins” and therefore present at the ‘Fall.’ Through modern science we now know that we carry the genetic material (DNA) passed down from our original parents. Since Adam and Eve are both our spiritual and physical parents (and could only reproduce after their own kind) they passed their fallen nature on to us.

1 Corinthians 15:22 tells us that, “in Adam all die.

William G.T. Shedd, Systematic Theologian writes, “To die in Adam both spiritually and physically supposes existence in Adam both as to soul and body.”

This teaches us the importance of the need to be born again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23). Jesus tells us in John 3:3, 6: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. …That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” To be ‘born again’ takes care of the spiritual death.

Factor #2: The effects of the “Fall”

We tend to blame God and the lot in life He has given us for the sufferings we encounter, but when we peel the layers of a situation down to their core we find that we bring much of the hardships we experience on ourselves through bad choices. No one who is being honest can ever say that they have not caused pain in another person’s life at one time or another, and in turn have received the same. Over the span of human history we know of disasters, wars, and tragedies that expose the human condition at its worst, and all of this is the result of the Fall.

The Fall not only infected humankind with sin, it also contaminated the earth itself. Dr. Jones summarizes it like this:

Adam and Eve rebelled against God and so God then cursed the ground, enabling every possible pestilence. Then He kicked them out of the Garden of Eden, which removed them from the rejuvenating power of the Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve were on their own, life became very hard, and we’ve been attending funerals ever since.”

How did Satan deceive Adam and Eve at the Fall, and how does he deceive us today?

The first attack of Satan is always on God’s Word:

Step 1: Satan twists God’s Word and causes doubt

“He said to the woman, Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1)

  • Today Satan causes us to doubt God’s Word by getting us to think it is outdated, written by men, and not interpreted correctly; and he causes us to doubt the Bible’s historicity, reliability, and inspiration. (All of this is untrue upon careful investigation) 

Step 2: Satan contradicts God and substitutes what He said with something else

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. (Genesis 3:4)

  • We know that was a lie because Adam and Eve died both physically and spiritually (they were separated from God). Today we find Satan’s deception through changing cultural norms that contradict Biblical values, philosophies that deny the need for the God of the Bible, and scientific theories that substitute as the means for our origin instead of God as the Creator.

Step 3: Satan challenges God’s motives

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

  • This is what Satan wanted, to be like God and to take His place. In essence Satan was implying that God was holding something important back from them. In today’s culture we have this mind-set that things are owed to us and that God is not giving us what we deserve. But what do we really deserve?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  James 1:13-15

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:12, 17

Factor #3: Satan and his demons, as created beings with freewill, cause significant damage to humans and to this world

Concerning the October 1st Las Vegas shooting tragedy, ABC news reported: Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel was both visibly shaken and determined to send a message during an emotional monologue Monday night about the shooting, a “terrible, inexplicable, shocking and painful tragedy. We wonder why,” he said, holding back tears, “even though there’s probably no way to ever know why a human being would do something like this to other human beings who are at a concert having fun and listening to music. It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.””

Kimmel was right; a window into hell is opened every time we see acts of this nature. To deny a spiritual world is the same as denying that we have souls with immaterial thoughts and intentions. In the beginning God made everything perfect and “good” (Genesis 1-2) including the spiritual world. However, God chose to give freewill to His creation. Freewill is the only way real love can be expressed, but along with that comes the chance of choosing evil as Adam and Eve did at the Fall.

Satan, a created being, chose to go against God along with one-third of the created angels (Revelation 12:4, 9) and he was thrown from Heaven to the Earth (Job 1; Isaiah 14:12-13). He furthered his choice by deceiving humans (Genesis 3), and by bringing out, in us, the three greatest evil characteristics he possesses: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, pride of life.

In Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve succumb to this:

  • Lust of the flesh:The fruit was tempting to the appetite
  • Lust of the eyes: The fruit looked good and was attractive
  • Pride of life: Satan wanted God’s job and he presented the fruit of the tree as something God was holding back from them, as something they were owed, and as something they deserved.

Jesus overcame these in the wilderness temptation (Luke 4:1-13):

  • Lust of the flesh: Jesus was hungry after 40 days of fasting
  • Lust of the eyes: Satan took him to the top of the pinnacle and showed him the world
  • Pride of Life: Satan told Jesus he would give him the world if He would worship him

How did Jesus avoid these temptations and respond to Satan? HE USED THE SCRIPTURES—GOD’S WORD and Satan fled! Many times you hear people say that we need to rebuke the devil, but that is a dangerous thing to do. Instead of speaking directly to him, let Jesus do it for you by using Scripture only.

The Apostle John warned the early Church of these same three things…

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.  1 John 2:15-17

Jesus’ response to a question of evil gives us some insight into human sin and our need for repentance and forgiveness:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:1-5

Going Deeper:

Watch Dr. Sean McDowell’s 40 minute presentation: If God, Why Evil:

For a tougher apologetic perspective watch Dr. Frank Turek’s 45 minute presentation: If God Exists, Why Does He Allow Evil?


  1. Review the main factors identified as sources for evil. What stands out most to you and why?
  2. How did Jesus overcome Satan’s temptations?
  3. Prayer Focus: Battling evil—read Ephesian 6:10-18


You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!  Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.

Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.

Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.

Teri Dugan

1 Peter 3:15

2 Responses to Defending Your Faith 101: Sources of Evil and Suffering

  1. Dr. Dugan
    Thank you again for the monthly writings. They have been so helpful as I continue growing in my
    Christian Faith.

    • Thank you for you’re comments. I appreciate the title of “Dr.” but I can only claim M.A. in Christian Apologetics!