Dear Pastor Charles:
I have a basic question that is preventing me from fully trusting God. I realize that this is only a short column but maybe you can shed some light for me. My problem is this: If God is all knowing, all loving and all powerful, then why does He allow the evils of suffering, injustice and tragedy to happen to His creation? Thank you for any help that you might give.
Dear Sincerely Bewildered:
I sincerely thank you for your question for it is a very good one. In fact, you have touched upon one of the basic questions of theology, called theodicy, the problem of justifying God. The premise is this: Because God is all powerful and because He is altogether good, how can one explain the presence of evil in the world? If God were all powerful, He COULD do something about evil. If He were altogether good, He WOULD do something about evil. So why is there evil? Why do terrible things happen to good people? Why doesn’t God just put a stop to it? May I say to you, I believe that the Bible deals effectively with this issue and that there is an answer to your question.
One of the early thinkers of Christendom, Augustine (354-430AD), dealt with this issue perhaps as well as anyone else. His main argument was that evil, in itself, does not exist apart from good. In other words, as God created everything, He created it perfectly and called it good. In the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, after every act of creation, the earth, the waters, the grass, the plant life, the animal life, human beings, etc. God “saw that it was good”. Genesis 1:31 tells us, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” So you see, all that God made, He made good. There is no mention of evil at all in His creation. So if God did not create evil, why does it obviously exist?
Please bear with a crude little illustration. I like to cook hamburgers on the grill so I go to the supermarket and buy three pounds of USDA prime. I put it in the refrigerator intending to cook it the following day. A business emergency arises and I am sent out of town for a few days. When I return home, I notice a very fowl odor coming from the kitchen. I trace the odor to the refrigerator and, as I open the door, I am struck by the full force of decay. My USDA prime hamburger has gone bad. That hamburger was fine as long as it was part of a living cow, but since it was removed, it began to decay. The action of the refrigerator slowed the process of decay but it could not stop it.
So the question here is one of relationship. As long as the hamburger was attached to a living cow it was considered to be very good. However, when that relationship was severed, it necessarily faced the natural consequences of it’s separation. At the time of creation, man was in a right relationship with the Creator. He was created to be very good. He was given freedom of choice and responsibility for oversight of God’s creation. He could remain forever with no possibility death as long as he remained in a right relationship with God. Unfortunately, we know the rest of the story. Man chose the path of separation from God through his disobedience. This separation is what brought about the natural consequences of death and decay into the natural world. Separation from God is literal, eternal death of the mind body and spirit from which evil decay naturally ensues.
The promise of God in the Bible is that He has provided a means of escape from this eternal, literal separation called eternal death. He fulfilled this promise by sending His only begotten Son Jesus to pay the eternal price required for our redemption from death. Jesus tells us about His mission on earth when He says in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” God desires a restored relationship with us.
So you see, God cannot simply remove evil from the world because it would necessitate the complete removal of the human race. Since God is love, that would be out of character for Him. Our problem is not that we are inherently evil, but that we are separated relationally from our Creator. Apart from God nothing good exists. The Bible teaches us that there is only one way to restore a right relationship with God and that is through faith in His Son. Jesus said in John 14:6, “. . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me.”
So now is the moment of truth for you, my bewildered friend. You have asked for my help and I am offering it to you to the best of my ability. Will you, right now, accept the truth of Scripture and get into a permanent, loving relationship with the living God? Having a perfect understanding of theology cannot save you. Living a pure life cannot save you. Dedicating your entire life to easing the suffering of humanity cannot save you. Only Jesus Christ can save you. Won’t you accept in faith right now that Jesus paid for your sins, your separation from God, with His own blood and that He rose from the dead for your sake?
My prayer for you is that you will turn from your unbelief and turn instead to Jesus with all your heart. Ask Him in your own words to help you in your doubt, to forgive your sins, and to come into your life as your Lord and Savior. Then get into a Bible preaching church as fast as you can and learn how to grow in your newly established, right relationship with God. May God bless you and keep you.