Thursday, July 15, 2010

Q&A: God and goodness

This is a post designed to answer deeper theological questions. I've asked Facebook friends to post questions for discussion. I'll make a humble attempt to explore these questions from a biblical perspective.

Q: I know God can use bad things for good and for His glory, but when you hear of child being horribly ill or being badly abused, it's hard to see how to trust in God's goodness or explain it to others. --Susan Sheldon

A: Susan, more than a few people have had a hard time trusting in God because of the terrible evil they see and experience in the world. When bad things happen--especially to "innocent" people--it's tough not to question the goodness of God, the power of God or the knowledge of God. If a child is abused, God must be unkind, unknowing or unable to prevent it. Perhaps all three.

To be sure, no one can give a completely comforting answer for the sad traumas and tragedies in our world. However, there are a few truths that we can put our hands on to give us a better perspective.

First, bad things are the result of the principle of evil in the world [see previous blog post "on suffering" below]. Terrible things happen because sin was unleashed in the world in the Garden of Eden. This sin affects and infects every aspect of life: the natural realm [tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.], the biological realm [birth defects, premature death, Alzheimer's, etc.], the moral realm [lying, cheating, stealing, etc.], and the relational realm [divorce, abuse, anger, etc.]. God doesn't orchestrate tragedies in life. The pervasive principle of sin makes our world a very difficult place to live.

Second, the presence of sin is an expression of the goodness of God. I know, this sounds strange. But, once we read the first point above, we immediately wonder, "Why doesn't God rid of evil in the world?" and "Why did God ever allow evil in the first place?" Truth is, God could have limited the opportunity for sin, but to do so would have limited human freedom. In other words, for God to allow the free-est expression of love, He had to permit the possibility of un-love. To say it differently, only when my children have the possibility of not loving me can their love be proved genuine. If they only had the option of love [i.e, if option of sin and rebellion were removed], they would be nothing more than automatons--creatures without volition. This would not be loving and it would not be good. So, while it doesn't feel like it, the goodness of God is demonstrated in the original and ongoing freedom that He gives for people to love... or not.

However, the answer doesn't end here. God is able to redeem even the worst of tragedies to accomplish greater purposes. This is the hope of Romans 8:28. Though God permits sin to remain for a time [Be sure that God, for reasons we do not understand, does intervene and limit evil today so that the world isn't as evil as it could be!], He uses the terrible outcomes and weaves them together in a tapestry of His eternal purposes. For example, I know of a little boy, abandoned by his natural mother [his father died when he was young], who has met adoptive parents who, in the process of his adoption, have led him to Christ. God's ways are bigger [see Isaiah 55:8] and, in time, God's sovereignty will always bring beauty out of the ashes of pain.

I hope this helps.


Anonymous said...

So, does God call only certain people whom He knows will respond and not others?

David Daniels said...


I'll bet you intended to leave this comment on the post above (Divine Calling). However, I will answer it here. The Bible assures us the 1) no one can come unless God calls them and 2) all who are called will come. God doesn't call those "whom He knows will respond." Frankly, NO ONE is inclined to seek God [see Romans 3:11-18]. So God, must graciously break open the hearts of the unwilling so that they can see, appreciate, understand and desire what is good.