“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good…” Genesis 1:31
“Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father…” James 1:17
In 1st Peter 3:15, the Christian is commanded to, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” It has been my experience that we Christians are pretty good at this as long as the questions don’t get too tough or come from the wrong people. Please note, though, that the verse says that we should be ready to give a defense to everyone. That means we should have a solid, Biblical answer for any question that comes from anybody. This includes questions that take us out of our comfort zone, hard questions asked by: the atheist, the agnostic, the angry unbeliever, the cynical skeptic, the grieving mother, the bitter father, the disillusioned teenager, the scared, the disappointed, the hurt, the used, the abused, the follower of another religion, the devil worshiper, and anybody else we can think to put on the list.
In my previous post, I explained why I get it when someone asks, “Is God good all the time?” As I noted, scores of events from daily life around the globe, in addition to multiple passages from the Bible itself, are more than enough to validate the question. I also mentioned that we Christians are typically ill-equipped to answer the question. More than being ill-equipped, we can be even downright offended that somebody had the gall to ask such a thing. So, what I want to do with this post is take the Bible and lay the foundation for a reasonable answer to what I believe is a reasonable question. To do this I need to give you five basic facts. Ready? Here we go:
Fact #1: Mankind Is Sinful
It is human nature to be quick to cast aspersions about God, but the truth is that the human race is a race of sinners from whom “bad” flows as naturally as breathing. When Adam sinned in Eden he took all of his descendants down to a low level in terms of conduct, and there isn’t one corner of earthly life that mankind’s sinful conduct doesn’t mar and scar. If you want to know what humans are like, apart from God’s influence, read Romans 3:10-18. These verses, which are really just a compilation of quotes lifted from the Old Testament, offer the Bible’s most vivid description of the depravity of our race. They say:
As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Fact #2: God Is Holy
Imagine a brand new white sheet, fresh out of the package. The sheet is blindingly white, spotless, and without blemish. Think of that sheet as God. Now imagine another white sheet that is spotted by large blotches of black tar and various other kinds of stains. Think of that sheet as the human race. Now, in your mind’s eye, place the two sheets alongside each other and see the contrast. This mental object-lesson can help you understand the incalculable difference between sinful mankind and holy God. There are dozens of Bible verses that speak of God’s holiness, but Revelation 4:8 is a good one. In describing a heavenly worship scene, the verse says:
The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
Fact #3: God Shouldn’t Be Blamed For “Bad” Caused By Man
If mankind is sinful and God is holy, where does the real problem lie? You guessed it. A terrorist detonates a bomb that kills ten people. Did God detonate that bomb and kill those people? A drunk driver runs over a girl riding her bicycle and kills her. Did God drink that booze and kill that girl? A spouse ends a marriage by having an affair. Did God recommend that affair and cause that divorce? Two rival nations engage in a war in which thousands of soldiers and civilians are killed on both sides. Did God cause that war and all those deaths? You see, even though God is all-powerful, He won’t overrule actions that we take as free moral agents. If He was going to be in that business He would have charged in and stopped Eve from eating the forbidden fruit. When He didn’t do that He put the human race on notice that He wasn’t going to play the role of “safety switch” or “emergency shutdown” for us. Putting it another way, God allows a myriad of “bad” things to happen that He doesn’t cause. The old line is, “God doesn’t want robots who have to serve Him.” Another one is, “God wants volunteers not draftees.” The fact that God gives individuals the choice to serve Him and reap the blessings or disobey Him and suffer the consequences, even when those consequences adversely affect other people, is wonderfully exhibited in Deuteronomy 30:19-20. There Moses lays out two options for the people of Israel concerning keeping God’s Old Testament law. He says:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Fact #4: God Shouldn’t Be Blamed For “Bad” Caused By Satan
Satan is a mighty fallen angel, and the Bible teaches that he has incredible power and influence in our world. He can prevent God’s word from having its intended effect (Mark 4:15). He can tempt (Genesis 3:1). He can put evil plans, intentions, and desires into peoples’ hearts (John 13:2). He can disguise himself as an angel of light (2nd Corinthians 11:14). He can lay snares (1st Timothy 3:7). He can blind peoples’ minds (2nd Corinthians 4:4). He can hinder plans (1st Thessalonians 2:18). In certain instances he can even create physical infirmities (Luke 13:16, Job 2:7) and affect the weather (Job 1:12,19). How powerful and influential is Satan? He’s powerful enough to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9) and for Jesus and the apostle Paul to describe him as “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30) and “the god of this age” (2nd Corinthians 4:4). Satan has led the other fallen angels as they’ve cut a path of destruction across planet earth from pretty much the dawn of history, and that path grows wider each day. So, if you want an explanation for why “bad” things happen don’t forget to check out Satan’s resume. As 1st Peter 5:8 warns us:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Fact #5: God Can’t Be Truly “Good” If He Doesn’t Deal With “Bad.”
Do you know someone who has a complex personality? I’m talking about a person who can’t be easily classified, labeled, or described because he doesn’t fit neatly into a pre-fab box. Well, the Bible teaches that God is such a being. For example, He is loving, merciful, compassionate, patient, long-suffering, and forgiving. We like to hear about that God, don’t we? At the same time, though, He is jealous, just, vengeful, wrath-filled, and judgmental. That kind of God went out of vogue sometime back, right? My point here is that for God to truly be both all-powerful and “good” He must by necessity deal with “bad.” Think about it, how can a judge be called “good” if he always lets the criminals get off unscathed? You see, if “bad” is allowed to roll on unchecked “good” doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why God can’t merely be a God of mush and gush who is rendered powerless when sinners run amuck and fallen angels hold sway. Instead, He has to be a God who at some point in His timing deals with “bad.” Hebrews 10:26-31 is just one passage of many that could be cited here. Those verses say:
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Okay, now that we have these five facts in place, we can start to filter the “bad” things of our world through them. And that’s the ground I’ll attempt to cover with the final post from this series. Do you remember all those instances of “bad” that I named in the first post? Next time I’ll take these five facts and try to fit each of those instances into them. So, until then………