If God is good why does He allow…?

I’ve been talking about deeply entrenched beliefs, or assumptions, that people hold about about God that keep them from Him or make them doubt His intentions or demean His character. Last time I shared my thoughts on predestination. Today, I would like to talk about why God allows what He allows in this life.

A big issue that people seem to have with God is that if He is good, all powerful, all knowing and can do anything, why then…

…does He allow bad things to happen to good people?

…is there so much suffering, hunger and poverty in the world?

…does one person get healed and another doesn’t?

…did my baby die and a crack baby lives?

…did He allow _____ in my life?

…does He allow evil at all?

IsGodtoBlameBefore I continue, I want to give a plug for a book by Gregory Boyd on this subject titled, “Is God to Blame? Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering.”  There’s no way to exhaustively answer these questions in this post, or treat every seeming contradiction in Scripture to my view, so I heartily recommend this excellent work on the subject. I believe it will help you navigate these sometimes confusing and heartbreaking issues about our journey through this life.

In our struggle to find answers to these hard questions, we have come up with a lot of pat answers, going all the way back to Job’s comforters, that have not been helpful. And what Boyd points out, and I agree with, is that the most damaging is this idea that all things are ultimately God’s will and for His higher good. But this logic breaks down when you consider some of the atrocities have have taken place on the earth.

Deconstructing our Augustinian worldview of God’s providence

The subject of trying to make sense of God allowing evil is called theodicy. It comes from our need to explain the seeming arbitrary nature about what happens to us, attempting to reconcile the goodness of God with the existence of evil.

One the main contributors to our Western idea of God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil comes from Augustine of Hippo, later reinforced by the Reformers like Calvin.

As Boyd points out, according to these church fathers, the ultimate reason anything happens is that God decided it was better to have it happen that way. He calls this the “Blueprint worldview” and contrasts this with Jesus’ and the early church’s “warfare worldview.” He also deals with this in his book, “God at War,” which I talked about here.

The blueprint worldview is that God is the Great Architect of all human affairs, meticulously micro-managing all things. Therefore all things, even the most evil things, happen for some mysterious greater good.

This view has us saying absurd things like “God gave me cancer” (or other types of suffering) so that we can make sense of what happened to us. But, ultimately, it’s not logical, biblical or helpful to do so.

Adopting this worldview has needlessly made Christians powerless victims for centuries, abdicating our Kingdom role on the earth while propagating a theology that turns people away from a God of love.

Yet, it’s this very view that most people in the Western world have about God–Christian or otherwise. Again, while it may provide some strange kind of comfort to some, this blueprint view has also been a major reason why people reject God.

Considering the atrocities committed in the world, who would want to follow a seemingly arbitrary and partial sadistic tyrant? And it doesn’t help to say it’s for our greater good!

For we cannot honestly look at vicious brutalities in history like the rape and disfiguring of women in Africa, or the sadistic mutilation and gassing of innocent children in Auschwitz, and say that God was behind this for our higher good. That idea is utterly repulsive to me. There is nothing good to be gained from this evil.

But if we follow the logic of Augustine and the Reformers we must conclude that if these horrors serve some greater purpose, then more rape, mutilation, racial genocide would be more glorious! Of course we don’t believe this, yet we’re left with some hopelessly convoluted answer that no one with a brain and a heart really buys.

Restoring the goodness of God in our thinking

Thankfully, God IS good and He allows what He allows for a very different reason. Briefly, here are just a few points I could bring up (some of these are explained in greater detail in Boyd’s book)…

First and foremost, God is love, and everything He allows is because of love. Just like the laws of nature dictate that a triangle cannot be a circle, or a horse a cow,  love cannot be coerced. (And we wouldn’t want it any other way!) Love can only exist where there is freedom to choose. God, in His sovereignty, chose to give seven billion people living today, and angels and demons, all free will to choose to receive His love or reject it. I talked more about this last time.

Just because God can do something doesn’t mean He must do it. As Graham Cooke says, God permits in His wisdom and love what He could easily prevent in His power. For power does not compel the human heart, love does (2 Cor.5:14-15).

Love necessitates risk. For God to allow His creation to be free agents, He must also risk the consequences. As I said last time, while He exists outside of time, knowing the end from the beginning, He does not violate our freedom to choose or not choose to do His will.

Giving freedom of choice prevents revocation. Since God chose to limit Himself this way for love, He also restricts Himself in revoking human or angelic freedoms when they choose to do evil. This doesn’t mean that God never intervenes against evil, He does. In fact, this is our ministry in Christ. But the reason He does so is for love.

There are malevolent forces in the spiritual world who have freely chosen to hate God and His creation and are bent on our destruction. Frankly, it’s beyond me why so many Christians seem to discount and even ignore this reality since Jesus Himself attributed sickness and evil to Satan’s work, not God’s. While this doesn’t mean that everything bad comes directly from the devil, why are we so quick to give him a pass?

God gave the earth to us to take care of! (Gen.1:26-28; 9:1; Psalm 115:16) So when we ask why there is evil done on the earth, we need to at least partially blame ourselves. Furthermore, He has given us enough natural resources to feed and clothe the whole world (Gen.8:21-22), so when we ask why there’s starvation and poverty, we must point the finger squarely at ourselves.

The seeming arbitrariness of life speaks of the complexity of creation, not of the nature of God. Imagine the endless chain of events in all of human history that have cause and effect on our lives today. Add to that, science has postulated that there are least nine dimensions to our Universe. That means that there are at least five dimensions outside of the space-time continuum we understand with our natural senses. So it’s utterly naive, or foolishly arrogant, to think we know why everything happens.

This is why faith is required, for faith informs us that the world we see was framed by a world we cannot see (Heb.11:3). Sometimes, we must just be content with the mystery and say we don’t know. But it should never lead us to question God’s goodness and character.

While God is not the author of evil, nor does He will it, He can and does use it, after the fact, for good (Rom.8:28). This is an important distinction. Evil, sickness and disease are never God’s will. But what His creation meant for evil will be turned to good, if we will but trust Him (Gen.50:20).

Finally, and most importantly, God took responsibility for all that’s wrong with creation by sending His Son to die for its redemption (Rom.8:19-23). He also gave us His grace to live a godly life in this world (Titus 2:11-12) and empowered us by His Spirit to continue His ministry of defeating the devil’s work and overturn injustice wherever we go (Acts 10:38; John 20:21). And by His resurrection and prophetic promises, assures us there will come a day when all evil will be eradicated and only love will remain (1 Cor.13:13).

Again, this list is not exhaustive. If you would like a more scholarly study, I highly recommend the two books by Gregory Boyd mentioned.

I will close with a brief video clip where Boyd briefly deals with the question of what it means for God to be in control.

Video provided by Paul Mussell
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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11 Responses to If God is good why does He allow…?

  1. Michael says:

    Great points, Mel.

  2. Steven Sawyer says:

    Mel, I enjoyed reading this. I typically avoid any debate or discussion of theology and the deep unanswerable or speculative topics that require a knowledge of the Bible way above my pay grade. However, you handled a huge topic in a way that us common folk can understand. I applaud you on you skill at “dumbing down” so to speak, some very difficult ideas. And, you helped me understand the difference between God having things under control and God controlling things. Your explanation was worth copying (I’m going to borrow your thoughts to write a post about the same topic–of course I’ll credit you with the original).
    I particularly agreed with these thoughts: “This is why faith is required, for faith informs us that the world we see was framed by a world we cannot see (Heb.11:3). Sometimes, we must just be content with the mystery and say we don’t know. But it should never lead us to question God’s goodness and character.” And . . .”He also gave us His grace to live a godly life in this world (Titus 2:11-12) and empowered us by His Spirit to continue His ministry of defeating the devil’s work and overturn injustice wherever we go.” And I liked the way you supported your views with scripture. Great job on a very difficult, complex topic. I also liked what Greg said about the universe being so complex so it will free us up from having to figure everything out. And we’d have to go back to the origins of the universe to understand stuff.
    Thanks for sharing. Excellent post.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Steven. I really appreciate your comments. I’m not one to normally engage in theological debates either. What motivates me to write about this difficult subject is my desire to remove the “religious” obstacles to knowing the Father’s love. Sometimes our theology is our worst enemy to winning people over. 🙂

      Btw, my faith comments came out of my discussions with an agnostic friend about quantum physics and the spiritual realm, and how faith plays a part. I’m no expert on the subject but I love how science is proving the spiritual world that a lot of Christians still don’t believe in. Quite ironic, really.

      And I personally appreciate Gregory Boyd tackling these issues head-on. He’s not only a pastor but a university professor so he has credibility in the academic realm. Both of the books I mentioned are worth reading, or for giving to someone who is struggling with this issue. But God at War is a bit more scholarly, probably better for the scholastic types.
      Blessings to you, brother.

  3. tcummuta says:

    Mel,

    Once again you and I are on the same page. My next post is title “Be Still and Know that I am God”. It’s very much along the same line therefore I can fully agree with your post. Great one!

  4. Thank you Mel… great post, and a timely reminder of God’s goodness towards us in spite of what we see unfolding around the world. Many friends of mine are struggling with their faith due to what they see happening in the Middle-East ‘why doesn’t God do something’ they ask? He did 2000 years ago! What a love He has shown us… brings tears to my eyes EVERY time I think about it! Bless you Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. God answered all that’s wrong on the Cross. And this is why I wrote about this, so that we would trust God and see His goodness, even when all hell is breaking loose in His creation. And we can pray that He intervenes in situations like the Middle East, but He usually does so through human beings. For we must remember we are the hope of the nations because this Great Love abides in us now.
      Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. Blessings to you too,

  5. Ayanda says:

    Hi Mel, by now it shouldn’t surprise you that I recently had a moment where this came up as I talked with God, (the day before you posted this to be precise) my heart was just breaking because of what I have suffered a couple of years back (the stuff I wrote to you about) usually I would be angry because that’s the emotion I used to feel the safest with when processing difficult things, but this time I felt like I had a gaping wound in my soul and I blamed God for it and I just wept and cried bitterly to Him and I think here He is setting the record straight.
    When we attribute evil to God we become powerless. I had a very deeply entrenched fatalistic view of life in Christ, like He is a puppet master and we just have to tow the line. Twice so far at church God has addressed me through the pastor saying “I see you” and “what you have to say is important to me, talk to me and I will listen, what you have to say is important to me”. Up until now, I thought I was talking to God but all I’ve been doing is saying what I think He wants to hear not what I feel or think. (Its not for His benefit that He was telling me this but rather for mine, He knows my heart and the question is do I?)
    You and Dr Kruger talk a lot about the Great Dance and participation and it is starting to dawn on me that one cannot participate if you are fatalistic in your approach, we become like the “frigid bride” you mentioned in one of your posts about surrendering. Jesus said He has given us ALL authority over the power of the enemy, however if I believe that God is the one inflicting me with disaster there is no way I will ever take my authority that I have in Christ. This is a huge paradym shift for me and I am reeling even as I comment.
    You have written a lot of things which have shaken my world but this one has just brought everything tumbling down. There is something that Phil Mason says in Quantum Glory: “Intimacy precedes fruitfulness just as love precedes authentic faith” and in your previous post you said something to the effect of “love can only exist in freedom” ( I might be paraphrasing). This is a question now I am asking myself “if I can’t trust God to be good can I freely love Him?”

    So thanks for setting the record (at least for me) straight, the walk here is still a way from over but at least I have a jumping off platform and also it shined a light for me as to why God is sending me love overtures.

    I could go on and on about His overtures to me but for now I am keeping those precious pearls for myself. 🙂

    Keep going Mel, I’ll catch up with you soon soon enough:-)

    #Emensity*

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Ayanda. You’ve said so many profound things here that deserve highlighting. Here are just a few because they are so important for us to understand.

      “When we attribute evil to God we become powerless. I had a very deeply entrenched fatalistic view of life in Christ, like He is a puppet master and we just have to tow the line.” This is exactly right! Too many Christian’s view of God’s sovereignty is fatalistic, not biblical. And this makes us powerless victims. And it certainly doesn’t endear us to Love!

      “Up until now, I thought I was talking to God but all I’ve been doing is saying what I think He wants to hear not what I feel or think.” Again, you hit the bulls-eye here. Intimacy requires honesty and vulnerability. Sadly, too many have been hurt in relationships so they put up walls, even with God. But when we let those walls come crashing down, His love and joy will flood our souls. It’s worth it!

      “…however if I believe that God is the one inflicting me with disaster there is no way I will ever take my authority that I have in Christ. This is a huge paradym shift for me and I am reeling even as I comment.” Absolutely. Think about it. If God gave me cancer or some other disease, then I would be sinning by even going to a doctor! Let alone, use my authority in Christ. Jesus certainly had a very different perspective. He didn’t ask His Father if sickness or oppression were His will. He rebuked it or cast it out.

      “This is a question now I am asking myself “if I can’t trust God to be good can I freely love Him?” Now, you’ve hit on the central point of why I bring these subjects up on my blog. And it’s really the only place where I will be more “doctrinal” in my writing. I think there’s too many religious distortions we have about God that actually keep us from freely loving and enjoying intimacy with Him. I want to obliterate all those obstacles! 🙂

      Thanks for you great comments, Ayanda. I see God working in you mightily. You are SO loved! Never forget that. Blessings.

  6. Pingback: Love requires self-limitation | In My Father's House

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