God, If He Is Good Why Is There So Much Bad?
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8,9
What are the following verses saying?
Today's conversation is huge! God: if He is so good why is there so much bad. This conversation is built around several statements, statements that will hopefully begin to point us towards understanding this issue a little better.
A Few Statements
1. Okay here is the basic problem – ‘How do we Reconcile the truth that God is all Powerful, all knowing and Good with the existence of Evil and suffering in the world.’
“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, and does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?” - Epicurus, philosopher
“A loving God could not be the author of the horrors we have been describing – horrors that continue every day, have continued since time began, and will continue as long as life exists. It is an inconceivable tale of suffering and death, and because the tale is fact – is, in truth, the history of the world – it is obvious that there cannot be a loving God.” - Charles Templeton
“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. It’s distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love. – John Stott (The Cross of Christ)
• A good God would destroy evil
• An all powerful God could destroy evil
• Evil is not destroyed
• Therefore, there cannot possibly be such a good and powerful God.
At this point it will be good for us to define what we mean by evil.
• Evil acts (murder, rape)
• Evil people (Manson, Dahmer, Hussein)
• Evil events (earthquakes, hurricanes)
• Evil sicknesses (cancer, blindness)
What makes something evil?
If there is no God is there evil? (if there is no God where do we get the standard of goodness by which we judge evil as evil)
Does evil exist?
The university professor challenged his students with this question. Did God create everything that exists? A student bravely replied, "Yes, he did!"
"God created everything? The professor asked. "Yes sir", the student replied.
The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil". The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question professor?"
"Of course", replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"
"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?" The students snickered at the young man's question.
The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."
The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"
The professor responded, "Of course it does."
The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."
Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"
Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil." To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."
The professor sat down.
Evil is a lack of something
2. God does not need me or anyone else for that matter, to defend his goodness.
You know it’s kind of crazy that anyone (as messed up and sinful as we all are) to think that we have the right to challenge God’s the goodness of God.
I mean who in this room would want to be the measuring stick of what good really is?
3. If God did not claim to be good we could escape this problem, but that is not the case.
2 Corinthians 1:3
4. It is normal to struggle and wrestle with this issue.
Have you ever wrestled with this issue personally, not academically but personally?
I mean evil and suffering do exist…
Last 100 years pretty bad (people killed)
• 60 million USSR
• 56 million in WW 2
• 16 million Jews in Holocaust
“The most difficult thing for me to remember or think about is that each person died one at a time.” - William Lane Craig (Real Questions Hard Answers)
“The problem of suffering is far from being of concern only to philosophers.. It impinges upon nearly all of us personally; few people go through life entirely unscathed…Suffering comes in many unwelcomed forms, and sometimes we not only ask God our agonized questions ‘Why?’ ‘Why me?’ but even like Job rage against him, accusing him of injustice and indifference.” - John Stott (The Cross of Christ)
So you see having this conversation today goes beyond being able to answer this question when brought up by a: seeker, skeptic or critic… Instead goes straight to the heart of our very lives.
This is not just an intellectual issue to be debated in sterile academic arenas; it’s an intensely personal matter that can tie our emotions into knots and leave us with spiritual vertigo – disoriented, frightened and angry. – Philip Yancey (Where Is God When It Hurts)
• Why does some cancer go away and other cancer kill? I don’t know…
• Why do some marriages run smooth and others seems to always run up hill ad even fall completely a part… I don’t know…
• Why do some people seem to always have more than enough money and others can barely make ends meet? I don’t know…
• Why are some people forced to live under so much pressure and stress? I don’t know…
• Why do some kids get to grow up in homes where they are loved and valued and others have to grow up in homes where they feel worthless and discarded? I don’t know…
• Why does this life at times seem to be full of nothing but struggle, hardship and suffering? I don’t know…
• Why does it seem like so many things right now are stacked against you? I don’t know…
Our LORD, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around… Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? Hab 1:2-4,12
5. People are not really looking for an answer to their ‘why’ question.
I mean, think about it… how much help would knowing why really give you?
Listen, when things are not natural they are supposed to bother us. And what people are really saying when they ask why is, ‘I don’t want it to be this way.’
Almost ever culture has some kind of myth of paradise lost…
6. God’s thoughts and God’s ways are higher than ours
From Peter Kreeft (Making Sense Out Of Suffering)
Would you agree that the difference between us and God is greater than the difference between us and say a bear?
• Imagine a bear is in a trap
• You come by walking in the woods and want to free him
• The bear thinks you are out to get him so every time you get close he fights you
• Finally you shoot him with a tranquilizer gun
• Then to get the leg out of the trap, you first have to push it deeper into the trap to release it
• If the bear was half awake, he would really think that you were out to hurt him, but he would be wrong. He can only see the situation from his limited perspective. He reaches this conclusion because he is not a human being.
It is at least possible that there are things about our lives (like evil, pain and suffering) that we misunderstand and reach the wrong conclusions because we are not God.
Our finite human perspective causes us to misinterpret what is actually going on.
Job 38:1ff (“hush child you could not possibly understand”)
7. God did not create evil
• God made everything perfect
• One of the perfect things God made was free creatures
• Free will is the cause of evil
• So, imperfection (evil) can arise from perfection (not directly but indirectly through freedom)
God created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men make evil actual. God created the possibility of evil.
Even an all powerful God could not create a world in which people had genuine freedom and yet there was not the possibility of sin. It is a self contradiction – a meaningless nothing – to have a world where there’s real choice while at the same time no possibility of choosing evil. And to ask God why He didn’t create such a world is like asking God why he didn’t create a colorless color or a round square.
God did not create evil and suffering… but He did create the potential for evil to enter the world, because that was the only way to create the potential for authentic love.
Then why did God create a world without human freedom?
Because it would be a world without humans. Would it be a world with hate? Yes. Without suffering? Yes. But it would also be a world without love, which is the highest value in the universe.
If you push a button on a doll and it says, ‘I love you’ how meaningful would that be? If love and goodness are ‘programmed’ into you, something you have no choice about it, is it really love?
8. There are some possible reasons why God allows evil & suffering?
• To promote freedom. You cannot wipe out evil and suffering without destroying freedom. If freedom is destroyed (which is the only way to destroy evil) that would be evil in itself, because it would rob creatures of the greatest good.
• To lead to some eventual good. We as parents allow our children to go through suffering at times because we know that in the end it will be good for them. (we let them feel the consequences of wrong actions, we force them to do things they may not want to do that at the time are painful). It is at least possible that God is wise enough to foresee that we need some pain for reasons which we may not understand because he sees the bigger picture and the eventual good. (James 1:1-5; Romans 8:18,28)
• To make people aware of the need for something bigger than themselves and draw them to a God who wants to be with them in their pain. “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – CS Lewis
• To warn us and protect us from greater pain and evil.
9. The Novel Is Still In Progress. Just because we don’t see God wiping out pain and suffering right now does not mean that he never will. Criticizing God for not doing it right now is like reading ½ a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the plot. Justice delayed is not justice denied.
• If God is good – He will defeat evil
• If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil
• Evil is not yet defeated
• Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil
10. Jesus is one of the greatest answers to this issue of a good God and the
existence of evil.
The answer to suffering cannot just be an abstract idea, because suffering is not just an abstract issue, it’s extremely personal. That is why the answer requires a personal response. The answer must be someone not just something.
(Hebrews 4:15; 5:7-9). To those:
• Who feel alone
• Who are afraid
• Who had a friend betray them
• Who are tempted by (lust, money, popularity and power)
• Who are weeping over the death of a loved one
• Who had their best intentions misunderstood and twisted
• Who are stressed out by the demands of life
• Who are angry at the way the weal and powerless are treated
• Who experience disappointments and set backs
• Who had everyone walk out on them when they needed them the most
• Who had a parent turn their backs on them
• Who are in physical pain
• Who have had family members think they are crazy
• Who have had their name and reputation slander by other people
• Whose lives seemed to be filled with sorrow and grief
• Who don’t have a lot of money or material things
• Who find it so hard to do the right thing and to follow God’s will
Jesus then man says; “Been there… Dealt with that…I can help! ”
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after awhile I have to run away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God forsaken darkness. That is God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our suffering become more manageable in light of His.
There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes Divine suffering. ‘The Cross of Christ’ is God’s only self-justification in such a world as ours. – John Stott
God’s ultimate answer to the problem of suffering
is that He came right down into the middle of it!
Case For Faith – Lee Strobel
When Skeptics – Norman Geisler
Peter Kreeft – Making Sense Out Of Suffering
The Long Silence
At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame - but with belligerence.
"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?", snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beatings ... torture ... death!"
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black !"
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.
How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.