Disclaimer: To say that this next part is intimidating wouldn’t do it justice. There’s a lot I don’t understand and a lot I may not even be mature enough to speak of in a manner that begins to do it justice. I’m going to bank on someone that knows more about this stuff questioning why I’d bother even trying, but this is where I’m at on this subject right now. I’m going to do my best with this and point you to both scripture and speakers that are more educated and sophisticated than I am. I’m also going to be acting on the assumption that God exists from this point forward due to the naturalist worldview not being able to account for an objective standard of good.
“God is just. God is holy. God cannot violate his attributes. He cannot do something that contradicts Himself. He is a righteous God. Now, that is a good thing. It would be terrifying to know that this universe was created by an evil god. An omnipotent god that was evil would be absolutely terrifying, so it’s good that God is just. But then it presents also another problem: if God is just, what does He do with us?” – Paul Washer (Short Summary / Full Sermon).
It’s hard to explain the weight of this to a skeptic. We’re taught that our good comes from some special innocence we’re born with, our more positive attitudes, and self sacrifice, service, and other means. We are taught that there is an inherent goodness in everyone. We believe that those we see as good should be praised for their contributions and we want to be recognized and appreciated as well. There is one HUGE problem with this: God says the exact opposite about our nature.
In the Old Testament, David writes of being born in sin (see Psalm 51:5). In the New Testament, Paul says that we’re born children of wrath (see Ephesians 2:3). While there is some debate that those verses don’t mean that we’re born sinners, the thought that any are good is put to rest by Jesus Himself (see Mark 10:18). Jesus flat out tells people to not call Him good unless they believe that He is God.
What does that say about our nature? None of us are righteous. Not even one of us (see Romans 3:10-12 / Psalm 14:1-3 / Psalm 53:1-3). There are no notable excuses mentioned. None at all. This rallies against everything that we perceive to be an inherent good. We’re born in sin and under the curse of Adam. The pride of man in his self proclaimed inherent goodness prevents him from seeing both himself and God in the proper light.
God is not only the source of good as noted in the previous chapter, but he’s also the standard of what good is. This makes God the judge over all that’s good and all that’s evil. But man, blinded by his pride can’t see this. He wants to put the judge in the defendant’s seat so he can complain. He’s perpetually guilty of the sin of our first parents: namely the desire to be the ones that truly “knows” what good and evil is.
Being made in God’s image, we already know what good and evil is. We just don’t get to sit in the judgement seat and decide the boundaries of it by our own standards. We keep insisting on doing it anyway, to the point where our understanding of scripture is obscured. Instead of seeing the goodness of God and seeing Him in scripture, we read it as if it’s about us (see the conflict this creates here). When we don’t understand scripture, we miss the holiness and goodness of God leading us to treat Him the way we treat one another: as someone that’s guilty of not upholding to the standard of goodness we all know exists.
In light of all of this, a common question goes something like this: “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” The underlying preconception in the question is that bad things shouldn’t happen to “good” people. This is an important question that people have asked throughout the generations. A proper understanding of who God is gives us the answer (hear answers from Ravi Zacharias / Voddie Bauchum / Frank Turek / John Piper / Norman Geisler). For the sake of giving a naturalist worldview a fair comparison, PragerU offers a short and insightful video (check that out here).
With this understanding, we see that God is the source of good, the judge of good and evil, and now we’re moving on to see how God is sovereign over all things good and evil. When faced with the trauma that evil can present in this life, understanding that God is in control is crucial. Without that being true of God, He looks like us when calamities happen. We’re the ones that try to fix things when they go wrong. We’re the ones that freak out when things don’t pan out the way we planned. We’re the ones that have to compromise as we go because life gets difficult sometimes. A God that does these things is not worthy of worship. His plans can be thwarted by the unknown. Fortunately, that kind of impotent God does not exist.
How is the sovereignty of God demonstrated in scripture? God declares the end from the beginning. He already knows the names of every person that will be saved when the final judgement comes. He wrote their names in the book of life before a single being was made (see Revelation 13:8 / Daniel 12:1 / Malachi 3:16-18 / Exodus 32:32). When the fall happened and mankind was separated from fellowship with God, He already had a plan in place for redemption. The first prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus comes shortly after the introduction of sin (see Genesis 3:14-15). In Joseph’s story, he’s sold to Egyptian slave traders. By the end of his life, he was in the position to spare both all of Egypt and the brothers who betrayed him from starvation (Genesis 37-50). God told Abraham and Sarah that he would bless the world through their seed, even in their old age. The nation of Israel is born out of them. There are many stories to choose from that show that despite all the calamity goes on in a world thrown into chaos by sin that God is not phased and His hand is not moved aside by the evil of man. In the words of R.C. Sproul, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.”
The sum of it all is this: God is the source, the standard, and the judge of what is good. Being made in His image, we can recognize that we’re endowed with the knowledge of what good and evil is. The pride of man tempts him to place himself in the judge’s seat, a place he cannot work to make himself worthy of. His problem is he is unrighteous and tainted by sin. God, encompassing all that is holy, cannot violate His own holiness by calling the unrighteous the righteous.
Therefore, can we say that there is evil in God when He punishes the unrighteous for any reason? When the men before God’s thoughts are only evil all the time (see Genesis 6:5) is there injustice to be found in Him when he dishes out punishment? Yes, good people (I speak in a human way) do die. In the case of those people, we have the comfort of knowing that all things work out for those that love Christ (see Romans 8:28).
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If you know Christ, you have all the assurance you need that He is just, fair, patient, and kind even when you don’t fully understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it. There’s nothing outside of His control and nothing that won’t work out for the better in the end. This life isn’t all there is and can know these things because He promised these things. Those of us that put our hope in Him all long for the day when we can go to the place He’s preparing for us (see John 14:1-4). As Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
Is God a Moral Monster? (video or book) By Paul Copan
Is God a Moral Monster? (debate) Matt Slick vs David Smalley
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (video or book) by Frank Turek
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Part 1 & Part 2) by RC Sproul and Derek Thomas
Why Does Evil Dominate the World? (video) by John MacArthur
The Mystery of Evil and the Miracle of Life (video) by Ravi Zacharias
Answering the Problem of Evil (video) by Jeff Durbin
Bonus: Donall and Conall explain why it’s ridiculous to say that God doesn’t exist because He’s mean.