Why does God allow the existence of sin?

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Answered by: James, An Expert in the Studying the Bible Category
One question that has puzzled people throughout the ages is the reason that an all-powerful God would allow the existence of sin, something inherently contradictory to God's supposed nature as the ultimate embodiment of "good". While debate continues over the exact meaning of "all-powerful", where some say that God can literally do the impossible (for example, eradicate abstract concepts such as "lies", making a reality where lying is not possible and cannot be conceived of), and others put varying restrictions on the definition, the fact that God allows for the existence of sin, if He indeed exists, remains a relevant question in theology.

To begin with, whatever limits may or may not exist on God's abilities, most scholars agree that God is capable of miraculous acts that defy the laws of nature (such as the transmutation of matter, with water to wine being the most famous example). In other words, God is capable of at least some level of action within the world. The problem arises when humans are faced with situations that are widely considered to be negative, such as a child being murdered by a serial killer. From a moral standpoint, most would agree that stopping that sort of thing (if at all possible) is the duty of any person with the ability to do so. Why, then, does God allow it to happen, if He has the ability to prevent it? How can you say that somebody is "good" if they allow "evil" to happen right in front of them?

Definitive answers are rare in theology, but one suggested answer is that God considers the idea of sin to be a requirement for humanity. In theory, all that is necessary for salvation is to ask for it; some hold that confessions are needed, that it must be done through a Priest, or believe a number of other minor additions are necessary, but the core of the teaching is that salvation is open to everyone, regardless of what they've done in the past, and is open to all who choose to believe in God.

However, this ability to choose to follow God also means the ability to choose NOT to follow God. The nature of choice requires there to be at least two options in a situation; if people were forced to be righteous, then any goodness in their acts would be meaningless. An individual cannot be blamed for actions outside of their control, and this is reflected even in the very earliest part of the Bible, where the supposed "Original Sin" was Adam and Eve choosing to do something they had been told not to do.

Taken further, the absence of sin could mean a world in which free will and choice did not exist, and therefore, humanity would have no reason at all to exist either. Creating devoted servants is a simple matter for God, if the stories of angels in the Bible are to be believed. If God desires companions that choose to follow him, as Christian theology suggests, then the existence of sin is necessary because otherwise His companions would never be able to make that choice to begin with.

Just as an individual cannot be held responsible for things they are forced to do, being able to make a conscious decision between right and wrong allows humans to be accountable for the things they do. Some have suggested that this is true freedom and the ultimate expression of God's love for His creations. The choice between good and evil, not just the actions themselves, are what truly matter.

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