If God is Good – Section One, Chapter Two
Today in our continuing study of the book If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn, we will look at chapter two. We will discover that the problem of evil has a long history.
If you are just joining the study, you can read the introduction here and read part one here. As always, as we work through this book together, I encourage you to leave your thoughts, comments, and any suggestions you may have.
As I mentioned in part one, I will be sharing excerpts from the chapters that stood out to me.
Chapter Two – What is The Problem of Evil and Suffering?
At the beginning of chapter two, Randy Alcorn states:
“We live between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20, between Eden and the New earth. Things are not alright with the world, but does that mean God is not in His heaven? This is the enormous question of the problem evil poses.”
People have stated the problem of evil and suffering in various ways with different nuances.
Per the author, their question can be summed up as:
- If God is all good then He would want to prevent evil and suffering.
- If He is all-knowing, then He would know how to prevent it.
- If God is all-powerful, then He is able to prevent it and yet a great deal of evil and suffering exists. Why is that?
The Problem of Evil Has A Long History
Philosophers throughout the ages have pondered the problem of evil and suffering. Three centuries before Christ the Greek philosopher Epicurus asked: “Whence evil If there be a God.”
In 1776, skeptic David Hume asked a series of questions about God:
- If He is willing to prevent evil, but not able to, then He’s impotent.
- If He’s able But not willing, then He’s malevolent.
- If He is both able and willing whence, then, is evil?
Modern atheists take the same approach.
George Smith states in Atheism: the Case Against God, “the problem of evil is this”:
- “If God knows there is evil, but can’t prevent it, He is not omnipotent.”
- “If God knows there is evil and can prevent it, but desires not to, He is not, omnibenevolent.”
The problem crosses all barriers of time and culture.
The ancients never had to deal with nuclear weapons, but they did face plagues, invading armies, floods, and earthquakes without the benefit of even aspirin or penicillin.
In 1651 Thomas Hobbes spoke of the natural human condition as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Their knowledge of suffering may have been greater than ours.
Randy Alcorn goes on to state that he has a book on his bookshelf written in France 140 years ago titled The Problem Of Evil by Ernest Naville.
This book could have been written this year in America. Page after page the basic issues remain the same, only the illustrations have changed.
Every generation in history, every place in the world can fill in the stories. Moreover, many of those sound remarkably similar when it comes to evil and suffering. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Many books of the Bible address the problem of evil. As did Epicurus. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Voltaire, Hume, and John.
Throughout history, the problem of evil is a central theme in human storytelling as Homer, Milton, Mary Shelley, Shakespeare, and others all raised it.
Christians Made The Problem of Evil a Central Study
To hear some modern atheist talk, you’d think they originated the idea that evil’s existence serves as an argument against God. But history shows that those who did believe in God addressed the problem of evil much more carefully than those who did not.
Evils reality, quantity, and extremes have long perplexed Christians.
- Why does God permit evil?
- Why so much evil?
- And why in its most hideous forms?
A Prominent Voice
The problem of evil has found a prominent voice in what may seem the most unlikely place. The Bible.
No other book asks so bluntly, passionately, and frequently why God permits evil, and why evil people sometimes thrive while the righteous suffer.
Why, God’s people have wondered, would a sovereign and loving God not immediately rid the universe of evil?
People and prophets alike ask how long, oh Lord?
“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
“How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:2
“I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Psalm 42:9
“Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” Psalm 44:23-24
“O God, how long will the adversary reproach?” Psalm 74:10
“LORD, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph? Psalm 94:3
“How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, “He will not see our final end.” Jeremiah 12:4
“How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,” Jeremiah 23:26
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; There is strife, and contention arises.” Habakkuk 1:2-3
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” – Rev 6:10
By including these scriptures and many others in God’s inspired Word, God graciously invites our cries and questions so long as we remain willing to listen to His response.
However, some perspectives can give great help in dealing with the problem, but none bring neat and tidy solutions.
If atheists would read scripture, they’d find their best arguments articulated there.
Evil in the Bible
Scripture deals with evil’s origin, nature, and consequences. 600 times specific terms for evil appear. With thousands of other references to sin and wickedness, detailing particular sins from idolatry and child killing to gossip, gluttony, and fornication.
The problem of evil lies at the very heart of the biblical account and serves as the crux of the unfolding drama of redemption. The first act of human evil moved God to bring decisive judgment while simultaneously unveiling His master plan.
To complete our redemption as well as that of the fallen creation, He sets in motion His strategy of incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, and ultimate return.
The Bible never sugarcoats evil.
The Christian worldview concerning the central problem is utterly unique. When compared to other belief systems, it is singularly profound, satisfying, and comforting. In fact, the author states:
“In the end, I’m convinced the Christian worldview is the only one that adequately deals with evil and suffering.”
Randy Alcorn includes a story that someone told him of a teenage girl who didn’t want to be seen in public with her mother. This teenager was embarrassed because her mother’s arms were terribly disfigured.
One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand a clerk looked horrified.
Later, crying, the girl told her mother how embarrassed she was. Understandably hurt, the mother waited an hour before going to her daughter’s room to tell her for the first time what had happened.
The mother stated “when you were a baby I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno, flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the front door but I decided I’d rather die with you than leave you to die alone. I ran through the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back through the flames my arms on fire.
When I got outside on the lawn the pain was agonizing, but when I looked at you all I could do was rejoice that the flames hadn’t touched you.”
Stunned, the girl looked at her mother through new eyes. Weeping in shame and gratitude, she kissed her mother’s marred hands and arms.
May we learn to see the problem of evil and suffering through new eyes.
Maranatha! Until next time, I am Passionately Loving Jesus, the Anchor of my Soul.
Maranatha! Until next time, I am Passionately Loving Jesus, the Anchor of my Soul.
Coming up: Chapter Three – What is Evil And How Does it Differ From Suffering?