allow \uh-lou\ vt 1 : to give permission to or for; permit: to allow a student to be absent; No swimming allowed 2 : to let have; give as one’s share; grant as one’s right: to allow a person $100 for expenses 3 : to permit by neglect, oversight, or the like: to allow a door to remain open 4 : to admit; acknowledge; concede: to allow a claim 5 : to take into consideration, as by adding or subtracting; set apart: to allow an hour for changing trains 6 : Older Use. to say; think 7 : Archaic. to approve; sanction.
I grew up hearing it. “God ‘allows’ evil to occur. He uses it to teach us.”
But the idea that God would allow horrid things to happen to the people he loves in order to teach them is like beating one’s children as a method of instruction or believing that rape or torture are acceptable methods of discipline.
The idea of God “allowing” evil to occur, no doubt, comes as a feeble attempt to explain the existence of evil in the world: the Holocaust, 9-11, genocide, WWI and WWII, barrel bombs in Syria, the Iraq War, and more. How do you account for such incredibly awful events in human history?
This characterization of God as someone who only sits-by as horrid evil occurs in the world is influenced to a large degree by the Platonic idea of God as impassable and unchangeable. So great was Plato’s influence, early church teachers were also influenced by his thought including Augustine, Calvin, and others. In fact, A. N. Whitehead once described the whole Western philosophical tradition as “a series of footnotes to Plato.” (From philosophyofreligion.info)
But this view of God crashes into the Biblical view of God as loving, passionate about His creation, and responsive to his people. The whole idea of prayer is founded on the premise that God responds and changes. Repeatedly in Scripture is found references to God’s disappointment with the evil that was unleashed on the world along with indications of God’s cosmic strategies to restore Creation to its origins.
Jesus is God’s quintessential strike against evil. Jesus cast out demons, healed people he described as “Satan bound” and conducted a war against Satan and evil. This is hardly a case of a God sitting by, allowing evil to have its way with Creation.
In Mark 3 Jesus said, “Who is powerful enough in enter the house of a strong man like Satan….Only someone even stronger.” By saying that, Jesus was affirming that God is conducting a catch and destroy war against evil. God hates evil and does not “allow” it.
And that is what we celebrate at Easter.