Season: 6 Episode: 082
A difficult thing to understand is if God can do anything, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people? Why doesn’t He step in and intercept car accidents, cancer, and crime? What about innocent children who are abused by family and friends?
These are tough questions Shanda tackles in today’s episode. It will leave you encouraged and better equipped to answer this question. And if you are a Christian, you have either asked it, have been asked it, or will be asked. Are you prepared?
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Hey guys! Welcome back to Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to biblical truth. I will be dropping the registration for the fall apologetics class ( I can’t believe we’re talking about fall. Anyone else feel like they’re getting old too fast?). Anyway, once it drops, all of my email subscribers will be the first to know, so if you haven’t subscribed yet and want the online class info when it goes LIVE, go to shandafulbright.com and subscribe asap.
Today, we are answering a question asked by many, many people: Christian and non. This is the question that will halt people in their tracks, keep them from serving God, cause doubt and unbelief and even cause some to conclude that God cannot be good because He allows bad things to happen.
And what about why God allows bad things to happen to good people?
Why do innocent children get cancer? Why doesn’t God stop the pedophile? What about to natural disasters? Why do bad people get away with doing bad things? Wouldn’t a good God stop all of the evil in the world?
Well, if you’re listening to this and you’ve wondered the same things, we are going to talk about it today.
As I’ve already mentioned, this is one of the top questions asked about God no matter what religion someone claims, no matter if someone is an atheist, agnostic or theist. This question will trip people up because it is a bit difficult to understand.
So, let’s get into to it, shall we? We are going to answer the following questions:
- If God created Satan, doesn’t that mean He created evil?
- Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
- What good can come from evil?
There is an argument from evil that theists conclude proves the existence of God, while there is an argument from atheists that they conclude proves there is no God.
The argument from evil for the atheist is:
God created all things
Evil is a thing
Therefore God created evil
If the first two premises are true, then it would follow that the conclusion is true. However, the second premise is not true. Evil is not a thing. Evil describes things, actions, words. But evil itself is not a thing. It only shows there is a standard in which to judge evil by.
If this is difficult to grasp, because it is important you understand it, rewind this portion of the episode, write it down and study the word evil. Look it up in the Bible. It will help bring it together. You can also do a word study on the evil through conservatives commentaries and a bible dictionary.
The better logical argument is:
All things God created are good (See Gen 1 for this)
Evil is not good
Therefore, God did not create evil.
When we ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” We are essentially asking why God allows evil … and this is a question of morality. We are questioning God’s morality.
The answer to this question goes back to my absolute favorite narrative in the Bible and that is Gen 1-3. God created all things and said all things were good. When you look at Gen 2, we see God gave Adam a command and said, “Of all the trees of the garden you may eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
We must first note that this shows Adam was given a choice. If God would not have put the tree in the garden, Adam would have been a prisoner in the garden. God also gave him a command and told him the consequence of the choice to disobey: you will die.
What is the knowledge of good and evil?
Adam and Eve had intellectual knowledge of good and evil based on the command God gave them. To eat of the tree is evil because it is disobedience and causes death. To obey is to remain in life.
However, it wasn’t intellectual knowledge God was talking about. God was talking about the experiential knowledge of evil. It wasn’t about knowing the difference between right and wrong. It was about knowing wrong through personal experience.
For example, I have intellectual knowledge about a lot of things in life but it doesn’t mean I’ve experienced them. I know smoking is bad for my lungs based on intellect but not based on experience because I’ve never smoked.
I know a few things about France, but I have never experienced the life of the French because I’ve never been there myself.
We can have an intellectual knowledge of things without experiential knowledge.
However, when it comes to evil, it’s a little more complex because only Adam and Eve knew what it was like to have intellectual knowledge of evil for a time. We have experiential knowledge of evil and I’ll explain more about that a little later.
God understood the nature of evil Himself. Not because of experience but because He is omniscient (all knowing).
And that’s the very reason people struggle with believing God created evil. If God knows all things and He knew the devil would rebel and tempt mankind to fall, God is responsible.
So the question remains: Did God create evil? He couldn’t have. God created the opportunity for evil. How did He do that? When He gave man freewill.
Well, then you might ask: “Why did God create Satan if God knows everything and God knew Satan would rebel and then tempt man to rebel?”
When we ask a “why” question, unless the Bible specifically gives us the answer, we only have a finite understanding as to the purpose.
As stated before, God is omniscient and knows everything. Since He knew Satan would rebel, He obviously determined that this fall and rebellion would be part of His divine plan.
The angels in heaven were also made to have freewill, but they cannot thwart the plans of God. We also must remember that Satan cannot make us do anything. His very name means adversary. He is the tempter. Just like we have freewill to obey God’s commands, we also have freewill to resist the temptation of the enemy. However, the good news is that God gave us the power of the Holy Spirit within us to empower us to stay strong and endure temptation (1 Cor 10:13).
In reality, we don’t need Satan to disobey God.
We have a sin nature that desires evil things. We want revenge for people who wrong us, we want people to pay, we are selfish, and the list goes on.
I don’t like Satan anymore than the next church goer, but he can only tempt .. he cannot force us to disobey God. Adam and Eve still made the decision to disobey the command of God because God gave them a choice, and now all of us struggle.
One of the last points I want to make with this question: “If God created Satan, doesn’t that mean God created evil” is that we are always looking for someone to blame for our condition.
This too, is part of the human condition. We see this in Gen 3 when Adam hid from God and when God asked him where he was, he said, “The woman whom YOU gave me made me eat.” Adam blamed both God and Eve.
When we say God created evil that means we can blame God for all the bad. “God, if you wouldn’t have created Satan, there would be no evil in the world.” No. Because the angels have freewill and we have freewill. The difference between the angles and us is they cannot be redeemed. We can.
So again, God created the opportunity for evil when He gave us freewill. If there is no freewill, there is no choice and you and I are forced to love God. And forced love isn’t love at all.
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
When we ask this question, we’re inserting a standard that we must measure all people by. We’re questioning God’s moral judgment and what He determines to be good in comparison to what we deem as good.
Let me ask you something: What do you mean by “good”?
Are you talking about the man who gives money to the poor? The woman who bakes cookies for the elderly at the retirement home? The person who always tells the truth? What about the teen who donates their time to the homeless shelter?
What is meant by good when this question is asked?
Because outside of God, good is subjective?
According to whatchristianswanttoknow.com, 77% of people polled believe they will go to heaven because they are good people. Most people believe they are good. They set themselves right next to Mother Teresa and say they’re closer to her than Hitler. And no one wants to be like Hitler.
But again, what do we mean by good?
According to Romans 3:12, no one is good. We have all fallen short. You may not send people to concentration camps and I may not rob banks, but a Biblical worldview teaches us that no one is good. Only one is good. That is God.
When we ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people” we assume we are good because we are comparing ourselves to the person next to us. “I don’t cuss like Janet.” “I’m more honest than Brittany.”
If you listened to my “Chasing perfect and the argument from desire” episode (73), you will remember I talked about all of the words that end in “er”. They are comparison words and it’s where envy and and competing are birthed.
Remember, God said that after each day it was “good”. He never said after day 1 it was good, after day 2 it was better, and after day 3 it was best. No. The standard was good. There was no need for comparison words before the fall because there was nothing better than good and there was nothing worse than good.
But now … we live in a world of “er”.
And because we think we’re better than the next guy or girl, we conclude that if we live morally better than them, nothing bad should happen because we’re good and God should recognize that.
But in light of Christ, we all fall short. If God was going to eliminate evil, as Frank Turek has said, He would start with me and He would start with you because I do evil everyday. I have to ask the Lord every morning to search me and know me. I repent everyday of evil thoughts toward others, complaining, grumbling, and a bad attitude when I get impatient with others.
So, when we think of bad things happening, maybe we need to get a new perspective.
Contrary to popular American Christian culture, the Christian life is not an easy life. All of the apostles except one gave their lives for the gospel, and even though John was not killed he was persecuted for his faith.
The world we live in is a fallen world and that means death comes to us all. Death in our eyes is sorrowful. It’s what we call bad. But even with something like death, God sees it differently. Psalm 116:15 tells us precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants.
God doesn’t see bad like we do.
He sees things from His eternal perspective. Paul talks about suffering in the NT. Peter talks about suffering. And they talk about the results of suffering being positive.
In our culture, we do everything we can to keep from discomfort of any kind. So we ask the question, “Why would you allow this, God? It doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t look good. How can it be good?”
You and I are shortsighted. We have a small, minute perspective on this life. D.L. Moody said, “If I had God’s power, I would make everything right in the world. If I had God’s knowledge I would leave it the same.” (Butchered a bit, but same concept). The point? We aren’t God.
The reality of life is that bad things by our definition happens. Can God step in and stop it? Yes, He can. And there are probably a lot of things God does stop from happening that we don’t even that keeps us from evil.
Just like Job, God allowed Satan to do all he did to Job, but God gave him his boundaries. That means evil itself cannot work outside of the will of God. And it’s very hard to get to the point that Job got to when he said, “Though he slay me, yet I will praise Him.”
Job’s wife told him to curse God and die. After all that he endured and lost, he should shake his fist at God and succumb to death.
And Job said this to her in 2:10, “You speak as a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
You see, we question God when things go wrong.
But we are willing to accept the blessings and the mountain tops as long as we’re comfortable. But in our comfortability, we are not growing.
When the children of Israel clung to God, it was in adversity. But when they turned their backs on God and became complacent, it was in their abundance. We have to make up our minds to follow God and serve Him no matter what life throws at us. Because there is a greater purpose to our hardship than to our comfort.
And that brings me to our final point of this episode:
What good can come from evil?
There will always be evil in this fallen world, but my hope and the Christians hope is that only a good God can bring good from it.
Joseph told his brothers in Gen 50:20, “What you did to me, you meant for evil. But God meant it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Joseph went through terrible, terrible hardship. He was sold into slavery, was falsely accused of adultery and thrown into prison. For more than 10 years, he was enslaved and hauled off to a foreign land to a people he did not know. But God was raising up a man to save His chosen people (and the whole world) who would have died of starvation. And do you think God could not have stopped Joseph’s brothers? Do you think God could not have stopped Potiphers wife from lying about him and slandering him? Do you think God could not have made the cupbearer and baker of Pharoah’s court tell Pharoah about Jospeh immediately after he interpreted their dreams … sparing him several more years in prison? Do you think God could not have prevented a global famine? We can answer all of these questions with an emphatic YES.
But He didn’t.
He used them for His good and His purpose because He is always in control.
We don’t know how all of the parts come together, but Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for good. We may see a part of something terrible and wonder how in the world anything good could ever come from this … but God brings it all together for our good.
The final thought I want to leave you with today is the moral will of God and the sovereign will of God.
The butterfly effect is explained on the American Scientist website and it’s a question posed that asks, “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, does it set off a chain reaction that causes a tornado in Texas?”
The point is that there is an outsize significance in minute occurrences. A domino effect of events that is sparked by a small nudge somewhere else in the world. We may only see the tornado, but God sees the thing from start to finish.
Mankind is free to violate God’s moral will. We do it everyday. Have you ever told a lie? You violated God’s moral will. Have you ever gossiped? Moral will violation. Have you ever cheated on a test or taxes? You get the drift.
God’s sovereign will cannot be violated by Satan, mankind, evil or anything else in this world.
God is not thrown off or tripped up by evil. He uses it for good. He is the only one who can because He is by definition, the only standard for good.
Jesus asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone.” (Mark 10:18). This was Jesus’ reply when someone came up to Him and called Him a “good teacher”. But the man wanted to know what he could do to be saved.
He, like many in the world, thought salvation was dependent upon being a good person and doing the right thing. And if he did, then he would have the right to set the standard of good.
But Jesus brought it his attention back to THE standard of good… that is God.
There are many who get hung up on this question when it comes to God and Christianity. Why do bad things happen to good people? Or if God is good, why does He allow bad things to happen?
As a Christian, you need to understand how to answer this question because with the answer comes the hope that even in a world of evil, God is at work to bring good.
And if you don’t know how to answer it, you will lose the people asking it. Christians have the answers to life and this is a major one that we need to be ready to give an answer for. This is apologetics and this is our responsibility.
And if you are struggling with this question and you are going through a rough time and wonder, how can anything good come out of this?
I don’t know how and I don’t know when.
I’ll be honest and tell you I don’t even know why you have to go through it. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong or deserving of it, but I know the One who can turn all things … and when I say all things, I mean ery’thang … for good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.
Nothing and no one will ever work outside the sovereign will of God.
Thanks for joining me today. If you have any questions, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll catch you on the next one!