This is a question that I hear quite often. Why me? I presume people ask the question because something bad has happened to them or something wrong has happened to them. Some people even venture to blame God for their misfortune. It is easy to blame God. Some do it out of disgust while others do it out of shame. Many even claim to be Christian and yet they don’t understand why these things happen to them.
Let me offer my suggestion regarding three teachings in the Bible that just don’t seem to fit together.
- God is good. This simply means that God is absolutely pure. Not only is God pure but He also hates evil. He has to deal with everything that is in rebellion to Him.
- God is great. God is all-powerful and He can conquer anything that challenges Him.
- Evil is real. There are things out in the world that are in rebellion to God and that are at this very moment challenging Him.
So, here is the problem, God would know about evil. If God is really good, then why doesn’t He condemn it and do something about it? Also, if God is truly great—in other words, if He is all-powerful—then why wouldn’t He actually do what His goodness demands and destroy evil?
Do you see the problem? As Christians we believe God is good and He is great, and yet evil still exists and on a magnificent scale. How do we understand this?
Here are some examples of solutions by people who deny the existence of God.
- Deny God’s existence—and, with it, the reality of evil.
This sounds simple enough, wouldn’t you think? If God is good and great, the He would certainly destroy evil. And since evil is not destroyed, there must be no God.
Here is the problem with that thinking—a lot of people seem to miss the fact that if you throw out the idea of God, you have also thrown out the meaning of evil. You see, in an atheistic universe there is no actual good or evil, and therefore no absolute standard by which to judge anything as being ultimately right or wrong. So, all we are left with is are preferences. I have mine and you have yours. Robbery and murder are not my forte, but they might be somebody else’s. Who are we to say what others do is wrong? On the same token, who are they to judge what we are doing?
Now, we can do and make up rules and laws to try to help us get along with one another. But if these rules and laws are not grounded in any objective reality or standards beyond mere human opinion, then what makes them right versus wrong? They are just human preferences.
We should not forget that Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein, for example, had their preferences, which they imposed on their nations. Now, we can say we don’t like it and we can fight to try to stop it, but we’re left with the unanswerable question, “why accept our values over theirs?”
We know—unmistakably and undeniably—that evil is real and that some things, whether legalized and legitimized by society or not, are simply wrong. So, if evil is real, if it truly goes against a set of universal moral standards, it is a powerful indicator that there must be a transcendent moral lawgiver.
- Deify evil.
This comes primarily through Eastern thought, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, and through the New Age teachings in the West. Everything is part of God, these religions tell us—so the thing we call evil is actually, as we saw in the Eastern-influenced story of Star Wars, just the “dark side of the force.”
But if everything is part of god—not a personal God as the Bible teaches, but an all-encompassing impersonal god as is taught in these pantheistic worldviews—then evil and suffering are part of that god too. So, the problem then is that we are supposed to join with the very thing that contains evil within itself!
- Diminish God’s power. Deny God’s greatness.
This viewpoint says that God does exist but is limited. He is good and He sees the evil, but He lacks the power to do much about it. This simply comes from various strains of liberal Christian theology.
We see this idea that God is not all-powerful at a popular level in the best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner.
There are major problems with this teaching. First, it denies what the Bible tells us—in both the Old Testament (including the Jewish Torah) and the New Testament—about a God who is unlimited in His power; who is unchanging; and who has Satan, the ultimate embodiment of evil, under His feet, ready to crush him at any moment.
How can we know that ultimately there will be any victory over evil? If God is limited, how do we know anything solid about the future? This is simply a weak and unbiblical attempt to explain evil.
- Diminish God’s goodness.
This only suggests that God knows about evil and has the power to vanquish it, but apparently doesn’t care enough to deal with it. He lacks the goodness to take action, letting evil just go on.
A lot of people in the midst of pain and suffering are, consciously or unconsciously, tempted to flirt with this idea. They have privately shaken their fists at God and said to themselves, “He must not be good; He must not care; He must not be loving—why else would I be going through this?
You see, during those difficult times, it is easy to overlook all the ways God has been good to us. It is common in the middle of a drought, for example, to forget that rain is the norm.
So, yes, bad things do happen, but a lot of good things do, too. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Bible stresses the importance of gratitude—so we will remember God’s many acts of goodness in our lives.
There are many recorded revelations all through the Bible that assure us God is good. And the historical record of God’s patient dealings with His people certainly bears out those claims.
There is nothing we can say to make people suddenly okay with the evil around them or the suffering in their lives. Because—to be honest—we are not okay with it, either! Christianity offers the most satisfying answer to this problem.