I think you’ve hit on a huge reason that people do have a problem with seeing God as good. They instinctively KNOW that the “god” of Calvinism is absolutely NOT good. Fortunately, THAT “god” does not exist. I’m not saying that all or most Calvinists are worshiping a false God. I expect that most of them also instinctively know that a literal god in the image of the Augustinian/Calvinism model could never be good–therefore, not having intellectualized as much as many of us do, they simply go on worshiping God and ignoring “god” as portrayed by Calvin.
As for the weak Arminian “god,” who cannot even save those he loves, how is this person a god at all? A big problem for the Arms imo is that we are taught God cannot (for some reason I’ve never heard coherently explained), save human beings after their fleshly bodies die. That’s the ultimate hard sell–“BUY NOW! Offer Ends Soon!!!” I think that’s exactly what it IS, too. An incentive for people to turn to God today rather than putting it off and off and off. All good intentioned, but you can NOT substantiate this “death deadline” from scripture. Without the death deadline, there is absolutely NO reason that God (who gets to do whatever He wants, so long as it’s in accord with the foundations of His character–which is love and light) can’t save ALL those He loves. And if He is truly good, then He must love ALL, as indeed scripture says He does.
But this thread is about evil as a roadblock to faith. I agree that seeing God as redeeming all, by whatever means, goes a long way toward mitigating the problem of evil. In fact, I don’t think the POE can be mitigated without putting forth a God who is truly good. That said, many people will still have serious misgivings. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I think that in the end it comes down to this:
- God wants REAL individuals as children, not puppets or robots–not even Artificial Intelligence that’s gotten away. He wants authentic creatures as His children.
- In order to achieve #1, there needs to be a genuine separation between the will of God and the will of humankind. Humans must have REAL free will, not make-believe free will.
- In order to achieve #2, God must not interfere with the will of humankind except when absolutely necessary–or at the very least, He must do so with extreme judiciousness and possibly only at the request of humans (and not always then).
- In order to achieve # 3, God must not even directly create humankind (or perhaps anything in His creation). Otherwise, wouldn’t we simply be mechanical/biological machines, doing that which we were designed to do?
- Because of 1-4, I think God probably created in the way the scientists think the world was created–a singularity (prepared by but not predetermined by God) exploded into, basically, the world. Granted, that’s monstrously over-simplified, but this isn’t a science forum.
This is, to me, the best apologetic for the POE. God HAS to step back and allow the world to be what it will be. That involves, unfortunately, a lot of messiness and pain and evil. God has to allow the world to develop as it will. That means stronger things eating weaker things. I kind of think He knew that–yet hitting a nail with a hammer involves a lot of violence, and yet the result is worth it. True a nail is an inanimate object and cannot (so far as we know) suffer. It’s NOT the same thing. That said, I think God foresaw the results of this project and like the master builder He is, He decided it would be worth the interim suffering. I agree. Why?
- The suffering is temporal but the reward is everlasting.
- Temporal things are so insignificant in the face of eternity that, mathematically speaking, they DO NOT EVEN EXIST. Really. When a thing has a designation too far on the low end between zero and negative whatever, it simply doesn’t exist for any practical purpose.
- The suffering is terrible while the sufferer is suffering, but once the suffering is relieved and healed, it no longer exists. We do not have a race of beings scarred by suffering. We have a race made wise by suffering, but it is a race completely HEALED of the pain of the suffering–a race which will exist forever in absolute bliss–bliss which COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ATTAINED without the suffering.
- Therefore, allowing this suffering is not only moral, it would be IMMORAL not to allow it considering the gain to be attained by the sufferers.
Finally, the evolutionary phase of creation can only go so far. Once it has produced beings capable of being communicated with by God, this dog-eat-dog phenomenon becomes an impediment to the further development of that species. In order for us to step up to the next level of development, Someone had to intervene. That Someone was God Himself in the person of Jesus the Christ. We do still choose to take that step, imo, but in order to actually take the step, Jesus has to lift us up. The Father conforms us to the image of His Son via the mentorship of the Holy Spirit. Those of us who have put our trust in Christ have entered the stage of training for true sonship. We could never have attained this without Jesus’s work to ransom and free us from slavery to the tyranny of the flesh.
Sadly, this isn’t something you can fit into a typical religious tract, even if your average passerby cared enough to take the trouble to understand it. God is good, though, and eventually we ALL will understand–including me. And yeah, my understanding is doubtless so very simplistic that it’s essentially wrong. But it’s the best I can do.