The goodness of God and the problem of evil


#1

All my thinking about hell, universalism and God’s goodness over the last few months has started me down a path of questioning some things I never thought I would question. I find myself wondering, if God is good, why did he allow sin to enter into the world through Adam? Why all this brokenness and death? Why the Holocaust? Why Stalin? Why Ted Bundy? Why me? Why am I so incredibly screwed up? What is the point of it all? What meaning does life have? Why this way of all the ways the world could have been?

I guess I’m looking for some justification for God’s behavior, some way to make sense of it all. The state of the world, for me, is both strong evidence against the very existence of God and the kindling of a stronger hope that maybe God is love and maybe somehow there is goodness in the universe and maybe it will all make sense one day. The very existence of evil and my ability to recognize it holds out some hope, it seems to me. That’s probably the only reason I’m a Christian right now. That and the fact that my imagination has been so affected by C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, George MacDonald and others who have consistently pointed me towards hope.

It’s interesting to me how coming to embrace universalism has forced me to examine the underpinnings of my entire theological system. Right now, it seems pretty shaky. But there must be hope in the universe somehow. If not, all is certainly meaningless in my view. It just seems really hard to see the hope sometimes in the midst of the chaos that exists on this planet. I understand why people abandon God because of the evil in the world now. Schaeffer says “He Is There and He Is Not Silent” but sometimes those words sound utterly hollow.

This is kind of an open thread. If you have any reflections on these issues I’d really like to hear them. If you have any resources to help understand this matter better, that would be helpful as well. I hope I’m not being too depressing, it’s just this issue of the goodness of God is weighing very heavily on me right now.


Evil and Chaos? What is Chaos and its relation to God?
#2

Let me recommend a brilliant commentary on Job by Canadian lawyer, Robert Sutherland. A quick summary of the argument is found at bookofjob.org/

To give a taste, Sutherland argues that Job “is a most provocative theodicy for it is the story of the most righteous man on earth putting God on trial for crimes against humanity and refusing to acquit him.”… “God has a duty to give the answer. That duty is rooted in the goodness of God. God has created human beings with certain natural needs, including the need for truth.”… “But God does not have the duty to give the answer right now. That is because the right to know is not an inalienable and indefeasible right.”

A good God may well allow evil, but not allow pointless evil. We humans are far too small to judge which evils (if any) are pointless. Second, a good God would not allow us to do (or to suffer) irreparable evil. Again, we are too small to judge if any irreparable damage has occurred. Basically, we cannot use the problem of evil as a rational argument against the goodness of God though it certainly possesses formidable (and sometimes overwhelming) emotional force.


#3

Although He was a son He learned obedience through suffering.
+
As Christ is so are you in the world

Although you are a son, you learn obedience through suffering.

To grow up into the fullness of a mature man(Christ)


#4

redhotmagma,

I agree that suffering can definitely be turned for good, but ultimately it seems that there is little point to the suffering in the universe. I mean, why is there suffering at all? It seems to me that the free will defense only gets us so far. I don’t know. I guess I just wonder why God seems to be so distant, so silent. So aloof. This thread probably isn’t the best way to address my feelings, but I guess I’m just looking for what I would consider some better answers to these very difficult, and probably ultimately unanswerable questions. I’m doing a pretty lame job of explaining myself.

AllanS,

Thanks, I’ll check out that commentary.

By the way, what do you both think about Talbott’s argument that God might not have been able to actualize a world in which there is free will and no sin and thus I presume no suffering? Do you think that is likely?

What do you think about Genesis 3 and God saying if Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that they would die? Did God curse them? Was it some law of the universe that said they would die? Why did they have to die? I guess I’m asking some pretty difficult to answer questions, but this whole experiment of God’s seems very strange to me. I’m just wrestling with trying to understand how it makes any sense.

Josh


#5

I’m not talking about free will. In fact I don’t believe we have free will, well a measure of it. I see this whole experience as that, an experience for us to learn the difference between good and evil, so that we can discern, and grow up to the fullness of Christ, so that when we become elohim we won’t be like the ECT god, hey, maybe thats why God allows ECT so that we can see why not to be like that. I look at the whole ride as a story that plays out from a-z and we are just actors in that play, maybe we have some free will, but in the end we will all see what evil really is when we stand in the glory of YHWH. When our sins are laid bare, maybe we since we are all one body, will be able to experience the pain and hurt that our and others sins have caused, and it will totally turn us away from wandering off the path.


#6

So right! Me too. That is the reason for my recent interest in theories of the atonement. I realized that the theory I had most prominently been taught (penal substitution) really couldn’t be right. And also that I had believed all along in Christus Victor though I didn’t realize that it was a theory of atonement; likewise the one about Jesus gathering up into Himself the entire race of Adam and Adam (us) dying in Him on the cross and being raised with Him in the resurrection. Yeah, I believed that because it said so in Romans, but it didn’t occur to me that it was a theory of the atonement. Duh. :laughing:

What would have happened if we had chosen the other tree? Of course God knew we wouldn’t, so that’s pretty much a moot point, but I think that we would have had our knowledge all through God, and would never have had to experience the knowledge of evil. But God knew we wouldn’t, and I don’t think it would have worked if we had. We’d have been the Eloi.

I had been contemplating the meaning of suffering for a long time prior to realizing ect couldn’t be true and coming here, more or less at the same time. People who haven’t suffered lack depth. We love them of course, but they’re usually quite selfish. We call them little children because anyone who lives long enough to learn to talk will not escape at least some suffering.

It isn’t that they’re inherently disobedient. They don’t know the law or anything, right or wrong. Without suffering the thwarting of their desires, they cannot learn obedience because obedience doesn’t mean anything if you’re just doing what you would have done anyway. No, unless we suffer for it, our obedience is pretty weak. How do we know we won’t cave the minute it costs us something?

And without suffering, how can we care about others? What great hero of myth or history has ever become great without suffering great things? God wants us magnificent, and that’s gonna cost. But would we really prefer to be mediocre forever? God is building mighty and courageous sons and spectacular, valiant daughters. We truly will be glad of it (even those of us who have suffered most of all) when we look back at it, however much it hurt at the time.

I’m going through one of THOSE things at present, and let me tell you . . . I don’t LIKE it. It HURTS so much. But I know that I’ll thank Him for it, and that everything will turn out well in the end. I’ve gone through this sort of thing before, and I am grateful for that, now that it’s over. This time, I sense that God wants to teach me to walk in His joy no matter the circumstances. I know I can’t do that, but I’ll cooperate with Him as much as I’m able. I can’t, but He can.

I want to sign on as completely in Talbott’s corner concerning his theory of the free will justification and the possible universes available to God to create whilst still giving us enough free will to develop into the children He desires. It seems to me the best explanation I’ve ever read, though it wouldn’t work at all if God wasn’t able to redeem every single person He created or will create.

So anyway, I expect that’s enough reflecting out of me for the moment. :wink:

Love you, Bro. Hang in there.

Cindy


#7

I can relate to how you’re feeling bro.
I’ve felt that way before myself, still do sometimes, wondering why the world is such a mess and why I’m such a mess and if that’s as good as it gets. :neutral_face:
There are a lot of people out there, and probably a lot of people on this forum, who have often felt or are even right now feeling the same way. That and I believe that (though I admit that I wrestle with doubts about God sometimes as much as anyone else) God understands us and everything that we’re going through in our lives, inside and out, better than we do, and somehow shares in this journey of life that includes questions and fears and pain and struggle.
In short, you’re not alone. :slight_smile:
Keep holding onto hope, bro. :slight_smile:
Our God, the One who put us here in this mess for reasons we don’t fully know or totally understand but one day will and is somehow with us every step of the way, always loving and never abandoning, is a God of hope. :slight_smile:

Blessings to you brother :slight_smile:

Matt

‘The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially ‘escapist’, nor ‘fugitive’.
In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.
It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium…
giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.’ - J.R.R. Tolkien


#8

Hi Cindy, read this with interest. i was proposing, as a thought exercise, this very thing on Facebook. the idea of how it was known by God we’d fall, and how maybe He almost intended it.
i was told i should be ashamed for that, as it “hurt God and cost Him His life”, and that the idea was “toxic”
:imp:
it makes me feel vindicated somewhat that i’m not alone in asking these questions or examining these possibilities. i’m not at a conclusion yet, but you have been very helpful here! thanks :slight_smile:


#9

I have a pretty simple answer to this and because we now recognize that ‘hell’ is not a permanent state for humanity since God reconciled all mankind through His Son Jesus. So now, evil has lost it’s power to overcome God, but God overcomes evil in all ways and from that we now can understand that evil has a purpose and that is why God placed mankind in the Garden with the tree instead of no tree at all.