Pastor David Robertson: “If God is good then why do bad things happen? If God created the world good, how come there are bad things like diseases? Surely if God is all-powerful He would be able to prevent bad things happening? If He is good He would want to prevent bad things happening? So if bad things happen then it either means that God is not all-powerful or He is not good?”
- God created all things;
- Evil is not a created thing–it is the absence of good (God);
- God did not create evil, but permits it for the good.
“And, in the universe, even that which is called evil, when it is regulated and put in its own place, only enhances our admiration of the good; for we enjoy and value the good more when we compare it with the evil. For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if he were not so omnipotent and good that he can bring good even out of evil” (Enchiridion ch. 11).
Here are my questions to you:
- How do you decide which actions, events or people are evil?
- What is your standard for “good”?
- Can something that an honest, moral person decides is good, be legitimately considered by another, equally honest, moral person to be evil?
- Have you ever considered something evil, then later changed your mind about it, or vice-versa?
Do you think about such questions, or do you “simply know” what is evil? Is torturing people evil? What is worse, torturing someone you know and love, or a stranger who means to harm those you love? Do you torture people you love? No, not short term torture like water boarding, electric shock or cutting, but with long term torture, like unfaithfulness, broken promises, verbal putdowns? No? I guess you aren’t married then. Silly me, most spouses don’t do those things to each other, at least not without “good reasons.” In the absence of God, what standards determine good and evil: cultural norms, majority rule, what your social circle thinks, your college professors’ biases?
Is chattel slavery evil? Is indentured slavery evil? Is a low minimum wage? Why didn’t the pre-Christian world consider slavery evil? Why doesn’t most of the present and historic Muslim world? Why doesn’t much of Asia and Africa consider slavery evil? Or, maybe they do, but not enough to stop it. How many times do you hear or read a statement out of context and immediately draw a conclusion? What determines the conclusion you draw? Great Britain outlawed slavery in 1833, but the United States didn’t outlaw it until 1865. Are we more evil? Massachusetts passed laws outlawing slavey in 1771 and 1774, and both times the British governor vetoed them. Context baby!
There are few stories that better illustrate how God uses evil to produce a greater good than the true story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was the youngest son of the Israeli patriarch Jacob. His brothers conspired to kill him, because they were jealous of him. Instead, they sold him to slavers. The slavers took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s guards. Joseph became a faithful steward over Potiphar’s household, trusted implicitly. Then one day, Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of trying to rape her, when in fact he had spurned her advances. Potiphar through him in jail, but God continued to give him favor with others. He became a trusted steward in the jail. Soon, Pharoah’s baker and wine taster were thrown in jail, and each had a disturbing dream, which they each told to Joseph, who interpreted them. After his prophecies came to pass, after the wine-taster was restored to Pharoah’s service, Pharoah himself had two very disturbing dreams, and none of the magicians or wise men of Egypt could interpret them.
The wine-taster told Pharoah about how Joseph had interpreted his and the baker’s dreams. Pharaoh then summoned Joseph out of prison to interpret his dreams, which he did. Both dreams were about a coming famine. “There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it.“-Genesis 41:29-35.
Consequently, Pharoah appointed Joseph steward over the food supply of all Egypt, thus saving most of the known world from starvation. In addition, his actions saved his own family back in Israel. His brothers who sold him into slavery had to come to Egypt to buy food, lest they too starve. He greeted them, but they didn’t recognize him. When he revealed his identity to them, he summed up the principle that is the theme of this post: So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. Genesis 45:4-8.
God is sovereign over all events and all His creations, including you and I. If we were in charge, God help us.