So is God good? Let’s begin by examining the Biblical definition of “good”:
So Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God….' (Luke 18:19)You can easily see what this Scripture implies: That no one person is good, except God; He alone is truly good. Since God is good, He cannot do evil; He cannot do anything that contradicts His nature. Therefore, He is not responsible for the evil things that happen in the world. Even Augustine understood that the problem of evil does not lie in God’s goodness, but rather in defining evil:
Augustine realized that the solution was tied to the question: What is evil? The argument… [1) God created all things; 2) evil is a thing; 3) therefore, God created evil] depends on the idea that evil is a thing. But what if evil is not a ‘thing’ in that sense? Then evil did not need creating. If so, our search for the source of evil will take us in another direction.
Augustine approached the problem from a different angle. He asked: Do we have any convincing evidence that a good God exists? If independent evidence leads us to conclude that God exists and is good, then He would be incapable of creating evil. Something else, then, must be its source.
If Augustine's approach is fair, it prompts a pair of syllogisms [deductive reasoning] that lead to a different conclusion. First: 1) All things that God created are good; 2) evil is not good; 3) therefore, evil was not created by God. Second: 1) God created every thing; 2) God did not create evil; 3) therefore, evil is not a thing.
So we can safely conclude that God is not the source of evil.
But if God did not create evil, what, then, is its source? Our natural instinct is to blame God for everything evil: “God, why did you allow this to happen to me? How can God be good when there is all this evil in the world?” However, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that evil is the result of sin. From the moment God created human beings in His perfect world, there could have been eternal bliss with no “problem of evil”; but man chose to disobey and reap the consequences forever, thus unleashing evil in the world. Every bad thing that has happened in the world since then is ultimately the result of man’s sin - and sin has consequences.
This brings us to the third issue: man has a choice, a free will. This is a tough pill to swallow, and some atheists will say, “If God is good, why didn’t he make it so man could only do good to avoid evil and suffering altogether?” Let's use a real-life illustration: Ten years ago, on 9-11, we saw a group of terrorists commit some heinous acts which forever shook our world. To us, those terrorists are evil compared to most people. And by whose standards? By our own standards (as established by our laws). If we have standards (or laws) to prevent evil, it follows that God who is all-good also has standards-- that there is evil that He intends for us to avoid. In other words, it’s our choice. The terrorists could have chosen to not carry out their diabolical schemes that fateful day, but we all know what choice they made. God will never force people to obey Him. If God had simply created man with the inability to choose so as to avoid evil, He would have been a dictator and people would be robots. Sure, it would avoid evil, but it would eliminate true freedom as expressed through man’s choices. As *Frank Turek and Norman Geisler put it, "Forced freedom is a contradiction."
Norman Geisler explains free will in this way: “To be free we had to have not only the opportunity to choose good, but also the ability to choose evil. That was the risk God knowingly took. That doesn’t make him responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He (God) made evil POSSIBLE; man made evil ACTUAL.”
So where is God when tragedy strikes? That seems to be the clincher that seals an atheist's unbelief in God. To them, if God were real, He would have intervened on 9-11 (or insert any other tragedy here) to prevent such atrocities from occurring. God is always there, so why doesn't He do something about all this suffering? I think part of the reason that people don't always see God at work in tragedy (though He is not the cause of it) is because they fail to remember that sin has consequences; if God intervened every time man sinned, we would never learn our lesson. But it is also important to remember that God can USE even the worst of circumstances for His glory (Romans 8:28). Just because God hasn't intervened, this does not mean that He is therefore the cause of suffering. As James 1:13-17 states, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
Additionally, just because there is evil in the world and we cannot always see God in the midst of it, this does not mean that God will not destroy evil at some time -- and it certainly doesn't mean that God isn't there. Geisler puts it this way: 1) If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil; 2) If God is all-good, He will defeat evil; 3) Evil is not yet defeated; 4) therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil.
So, yes, God does care about the suffering in this world. And one day, He will put an end to evil: “‘He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In fact, God cares so much about suffering that He partook of it Himself by sending His only Son into the world to die on our behalf (see John 3:16). Since He has partaken of suffering Himself, He is able to comfort us when we experience it: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
When we look at the goodness of God, and then observe all the evil in the world, it is necessary for us to remember that evil itself proves the existence of God. As C.S Lewis put it, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” In other words, we can’t know what evil is without knowing what good is, and the Bible tells us that God is good. Still, evil and suffering in the world are a very real problem. We see evil everywhere in our world today; September 11th showed us evil in a very real sense. For many atheists the problem of evil is considered to be an intellectual stumbling block; I would advise them to check out every objection supporting the problem of evil as well as the Christian answers, since I have only scratched the surface of the issue (see links below). Remember, God is neither the cause nor the perpetrator of evil; hence, the problem of evil as an objection to God’s existence stands on shaky ground.
“ You [God] are good and do good…” ~ Psalm 119:68
“…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned... Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:12, 18-19).
* From the book, I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist
Disclaimer: Simply because the DCFblog links to these articles does not mean that it endorses all of the content therein.
From the DCFblog:
Video: Free Will and Suffering
The Love of Christ Compels Us (related to the burning of the Q'uran last year)
Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? (from a Biblical perspective)
From the Christian Apologetics Alliance (Thanks to Maryanne Spikes at Ichthus77 and Greg West at The Poached Egg):
Wintery Knight: Ground Zero: Why truth matters for preventing another 9/11-style attack
The Valley Girl Apologist: The Tiptoes of Tolerance
Josiah Concept Ministries: Did God Cause 9/11?
Tilled Soil: The Problem of Evil: Who's problem is it? Is it a problem?
MandM: Divine Commands Post 9/11
Ratio Christi-OSU: Remembering 9-11— The Need for Reason in Revelatory Claims
Reasons For God: Ground Zero: Greatness and Despair
Sententia: From Ground Zero to Ten years-Later-September 11, 2001
Another Ascending Lark: 9/11 and Religious Pluralism
Clay Jones: Unsung Lessons from 9/11: “Moral Monsters” & Fear of Death
TALITHA, KOUM!: 9-11, Jihad, and The Christian
Video: If God created everything, and what He created was perfect and good, how did evil originate?
Video: Why Is There Evil and Suffering? (William Lane Craig)