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by Rick Brownell

December, 2001 | EUGENE, OR


". . . . Indeed, it would seem very strange that Christianity should have come into the world merely to receive an explanation; as if it had been somewhat bewildered about itself, and hence entered the world to consult that wise man, the speculative philosopher, who can come to its assistance by furnishing the explanation."
- Soren Kirkegaard, "An Existential Faith"

This essay is not an attempt to belittle the often logical and rational arguments that atheists present against the 'goodness' of the Christian God of Scripture. The issue of God's goodness is challenging to theology and philosophy, and is a debate that thrives in the minds of Christians and atheists alike. Yet neither the atheist nor the Christian can ever hope to explain the 'goodness' of God solely in terms of their own understanding of reality.

In order for this debate to take place, both the atheist and the Christian must first assume that God does exist, and that He is some kind of real Being in the universe Who acts deliberately and with power in this world that He created. Though the atheist might wrestle with whether God's goodness is obvious within his perception of the reality he experiences in this world, to argue the point, both sides must also believe that God's character and acts can be easily scrutinized, and criticized or defended in human terms, in much the same way some news reporter might criticize or defend a politician's actions. Without both points of view making these assumptions first, there would be no on-going debate on the subject of God's goodness.

The atheist desires to show that his viewpoint is an intellectually respectable one. He perceives the world in terms of 'physical' reality, and wonders how some other reality that the Christian perceives might better account for God's goodness. "How can you say that your God is good when all around us we experience and bear testimony to such horrific atrocities? Doesn't the existence of these atrocities at least challenge the Christian concept of God's 'goodness' and 'righteousness'"?
B.C. Johnson, for instance, begins a chapter entitled God and the Problem of Evil, in his book titled The Atheist Debater's Handbook, with this illustration.

Here is a common situation: a house catches on fire and a six-month-old baby is painfully burned to death. Could we possibly describe as "good" any person who had the power to save this child and yet refused to do so? God undoubtedly has this power and yet in many cases of this sort he has refused to help. Can we call God "good"? Are there adequate excuses for this behavior? ....Certainly not. If we would not consider a mortal human being good under these circumstances, what grounds could we possibly have for continuing to assert the goodness of an all powerful God?

Though both Christians and atheists would agree that these are difficult questions to answer, they are more difficult for the Christian to answer than for the atheist. The atheist's answer is simple. Such a God cannot exist in light of our experience of reality. Yet Christians must ultimately wonder why an atheist might argue vehemently in opposition to the Christian concept of a good God, if the atheist remains certain that God does not exist. From the Christian's perspective, Johnson's adamant stance throughout his book makes one wonder why he appeals to human reason so zealously to prove what he is certain does not exist. Again, for the argument to continue, even the atheist makes the assumption that God exists.

Christians can hardly believe in the God of Scripture without wondering about these issues that the atheist points to regarding God's goodness. If we say we believe in the God of the Bible, how can we come to terms with this world's cruelty and God's apparent lack of concern for it in so many instances?


The atheist believes that the Christian God can only be understood apart from the concept of faith. At the outset, the atheist sets the parameters for understanding God by limiting his view of reality to no more than a scientific, rational, materialistic physical world which can only be understood through empirical (i.e., physically tangible) means. After all, to him, that is the only real world! He will never be able to come to terms with the existence of the God of Scripture the way that the Christian does, because of his view of reality. In the end, it is perhaps not so much that the atheist doubts the goodness of the God of Christianity in this debate, though he undoubtedly does do that. All of the atheist's doubts about God arise from his fundamental understanding of reality as "anti-spiritual". It is this limited view of 'reality' that forces the atheist to deny God's very existence.

But the Christian also struggles at a very foundational level in this debate. If he concludes that reality must include a God Who is not only capable of preventing pain and suffering, but also picks and chooses what He does about it, and that God is indeed real in an entirely 'other' sense than the mere physical reality that the atheist perceives, does that justify his belief that God is still good? While the Christian believes in the literal spiritual reality of the eternal, omnipotent God of Scripture, he is often incapable of debating effectively whether God remains 'good' within the perspective of this spiritual reality.

The Christian must understand, ultimately, that his belief in the goodness of God comes from his reliance on the fact that Scripture alone establishes his perception of God's goodness. Scripture is replete, not only with examples of the apparent thriving of the wicked, but oftentimes while the righteous suffer for their righteousness, and all at the hand of the omnipotent God!

"For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as are other men, nor are they plagued like other men" (Psalm 73:3-5). "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastesd 8:11). The prophet Habakkuk wrote"You [God] are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold your tongue when the wicked devours"? (Habakkuk 1:13). In Judges 6:13, Giden complains with wonder that "...if the Lord is with us, why then has all this [hardship] befallen us"?

Furthermore, what serves as fuel for the atheist's argument is the Christian conviction that even the very faith we rely on to believe in the God of Scripture is from God Himself. Karl Barth wrote in On Christian Faith, that

Faith is a freedom, a permission. It is permitted to be, so -- that the believer in God's Word may hold on to this Word in everything, in spite of all that contradicts it [in reality]. It is so: we never believe 'on account of,' never 'because of'; we awaken to faith in spite of everything. . . . when we believe, we believe in spite of God's hiddenness. The hiddenness of God necessarily reminds us of our human limitation. We do not believe out of our personal reason and power (emphasis added).

Christians do not believe that God is good based upon a living proof that God necessarily demonstrates on a daily basis. We awaken to faith in spite of everything. We understand that whether or not God is good is not based upon the depth and reality of our human comprehension of what goodness should be.

Perhaps the most fundamentally frustrating issue here for the atheist is that Christian faith in the goodness of God is not based upon empirical evidence. The goodness of God cannot be scientifically tested within the bounds of this physical reality because it exists outside of it. It cannot be validated scientifically, and so, to the atheist, it is mere nonsense to attempt to answer the questions regarding the existence or the goodness of God through some means other than empiricism. Yet both the atheist and the Christian attempt to explain the same set of facts. Both can see that there are discrepancies in this world that make it difficult to account for God's goodness. Still, it is, from the atheist's perspective,

incumbent upon the theist to provide enough reason for his belief that God is the true explanation of the universe and morality. The atheist, for his part, does not necessarily offer an explanation; he simply does not accept the theist's explanation. Therefore, the atheist need only demonstrate that the theist has failed to justify his position.

In the end, it is the atheist's own view of materialism that has made it impossible for him to believe in the Christian God Who is good. But we are not blaming the atheist for making that assumption. It is the Christian's insistence that this physical reality alone cannot account for all of what we understand truth to be, that continues to fuel this debate.

Our desire to solve the problem of the goodness of God, therefore, might better begin with an entirely different question other than "Is God good?" Perhaps it might be better to ask, "Are you so entirely dedicated to your view of reality that you will not allow for any other view?" The depth of your desire to enter into this debate will be a direct reflection on your answer to this latter question.


Historically, Christians and theologians have insisted that God has permitted evil in order to bring about "a greater good" than would have existed had evil not been present in the world. Thomas Aquinas argued on a broad scale that "the permitting of evil tends to the good of the universe." Thomas Warren, more recently, has written that "it is likely the case that no charge has been made with a greater frequency or with more telling force against the theism of Judeo-Christian (biblical) tradition " than the complication of the existence of evil."

The Christian theologian reasons that in the Biblical account of the fall of Adam "sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus [sin] spread to all men" (Romans 5:12). The fact that a good God allowed evil and sin in the world actually brought about an immense advantage to men, in that, God, through the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ, atoned for sin. This atonement for human sin is ultimately an expression of a better "good" than the "goodness" of a world that might have been without sin. This atonement for human sin that God provided is the ultimate expression of His love to mankind. Philosophers have suggested that God gave "to the universe something nobler than anything that ever would have been among creatures except for this [sinfulness]" , when He allowed sin to come into existence. Therefore, in light of this Biblical theological argument we cannot

doubt that God does well even in the permission of what is evil. For He permits it only in the justice of His judgment. And surely all that is just is good. Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil, is not a good; yet the fact that evil as well as good exists, is a good. For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent God, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish. And if we do not believe this, the very first sentence of our creed is endangered, wherein we profess to believe in God the Father Almighty. For He is not truly called Almighty if He cannot do whatever He pleases, or if the power of His Almighty will is hindered by the will of any creature whatsoever.

Christians must learn to think and present evidence for God's goodness in terms of the reality in which they perceive God to be real. Christians who approach this topic conceding a mere materialistic world view often forget that Scripture requires one to look beyond the physical world to wholly understand God's actions in this world. Faith is an absolutely necessary requirement to understanding how God can be good in this world. Faith is not merely an alternative to answering the difficult question of His goodness. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 12:6)."

Christians often fail to realize that the faith they possess that enables them to understand God apart from the physical, material reality of the atheist, is a gift from God Himself. "For we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:12)."

As Christians we must also part with the notion that we can somehow make the truth of Scripture, or the truth of God's goodness, appealing for those to whom God has not yet given faith. We must not forget that those currently living in a state of unbelief are condemned by God in their unbelief (John 3:18), and remain so until He sees fit "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith" in Christ (Acts 26:18).


The atheist wonders from his materialistic point of view, how any reasonable, rational, and logical human being can conclude from his experience, that it was a loving and good God that created this world where there is so much wickedness, suffering and evil. And as Christians, we cannot fault the atheist for asking these questions. In fact, what Christian at some point in his experience has not asked the same ones? "Why couldn't God have made a better choice by creating a hedonistic paradise that is free from pain and suffering? Isn't a world free from pain and suffering better than this world? Because God did not create such a hedonistic paradise, is He not therefore lacking in the qualities of love and power?"

The remainder of this essay will attempt to address these questions. To add fuel to this ongoing debate, the Christian Biblical theistic conception of God must grant that there is evil in the world which God created, and furthermore, that God has ordained its existence. Scripture teaches that not only has God created the whole earth and all that dwells within it, but that He remains good in spite of the choices He made to create it as He did.

B. C. Johnson has written of this formidable, illogical problem, that "throughout history God has allowed numerous atrocities to occur. No one can have justifiable faith in the goodness of such a God." Yet there are literally millions of people who do have justifiable faith in the goodness of the God of Scripture Who has not only allowed evil atrocities to exist, but has in His sovereignty, decreed that they be so.

According to Biblical theology, an infinitely good God demonstrated His goodness in the past in spite of His allowing evil to exist. Romans 8:28 says "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose..." Note, however, that this verse does not teach that all events in life are 'good' from the human perspective, in spite of the fact that some of them may actually be evil. Nor does this verse teach that the good and evil events alike work together within God's providence for every Christian and atheist alike.

This verse however, does teach that as Christians, we know that God's ordaining of all events, regardless of how they appear in this physical reality, work together for an ultimate good to those who love God. There appears to be nothing in Scripture to indicate that all things also work together for good to those who hate, or deny the existence of God.

Now, if we suppose for a moment that Scripture is true, and that God remains infinitely good while permitting the existence of evil, then does the existence of evil in the world demonstrate God's goodness, or negate it? In other words, if God is truly good, would He allow evil to exist because He is good, or would He destroy evil because He is good? The atheist often supposes that if God is ultimately 'good', then He could have demonstrated that goodness most effectively through the creation of a hedonistic-like paradise where only pleasure or pleasant consequences exist. I will show momentarily that the presupposition that a hedonistic environment might result only in good consequences is flawed. The theist reasons that a purely hedonistic world cannot necessarily result in only good consequences because such a world would require an altogether different set of circumstances than exist in our present world, and so, such thinking that a hedonistic world is always necessarily pure and good remains entirely speculative.

Exploring this earlier question a step further, would there even be an atheistic thought in existence to question the goodness of God, if God were intent upon eliminating every evil? This of course only requires two things. One, that the atheist necessarily admit to the possibility of possessing a single evil thought in his mind for at least one second during his lifetime, and, two, that the atheist's thought that questions the goodness of God might not be a good thought.

We ask that if the atheist would acknowledge the possibility that for one second during his lifetime he has had a thought that was evil, or merely not good, is the fact that God allows him to exist, in spite of his evil thought, a demonstration of God's goodness? Or would God be evil because He did not destroy the atheist the second he had an evil thought? Perhaps at this juncture, it would be a fair compromise if God were to only erase the thought that came to the mind of the atheist the second that he had it, rather than eliminate the atheist altogether. Certainly, to the atheist, that would appear to be a better choice.


The question remains, which action on God's part demonstrates His goodness? Is God good because He allows evil to exist? Or can His "goodness" only be demonstrated by His elimination of every bit of evil? And who determines the degree of evil that must be present before God destroys it? This issue is especially difficult for the atheist. B.C. Johnson states that

A very large disaster could have been avoided simply by producing in Hitler a miraculous heart attack -- and no one would have known it was a miracle ... No one is requesting that God interfere all of the time. He should, however, intervene to prevent especially horrible disasters. Of course, the question arises: where does one draw the line? Well, certainly the line should be drawn somewhere this side of infants burning to death. To argue that we do not know where the line should be drawn is no excuse for failing to interfere in those instances that would be called clear cases of evil.

The fact that the atheist perceives 'goodness' in such a relative fashion leads to several serious problems. For instance, how could God demonstrate His "goodness" by murdering Hitler? Furthermore, how do we know that God didn't interfere in Hitler's actions, for example, by preventing every Jew from being exterminated? Which is the greater good, allowing some Jews to live, or murdering Hitler? (Murder itself is apparently a relative "goodness" in atheism. What indeed is the standard we should use)? Furthermore, how could anyone ever prove that it was God who gave Hitler a heart attack, were he to have died from one, rather than that his heart naturally stopped beating apart from any intervention on God's part? We wonder if that certainly would be the atheist's contention had God produced a heart attack in Hitler. How could we ever know?
Who decides what is ultimately "good"? Should it be the atheist? If so, on what grounds will he suggest that he knows best what is good or not good in every circumstance? On the grounds of his own human frailty? Certainly not on the grounds that he perceives himself to be eternally omniscient! Furthermore, it is intriguing that the atheist is not requesting that God interfere all the time, but just when the atheist says so. Perhaps the atheist imagines that the Christian God should be available to intervene at every beckoning and call that the atheist determines He should intervene?

The atheist apparently knows as well where the line should be drawn in all cases that require the knowledge of "goodness". Unbeknownst to God, it is apparently before the death of innocent children. But we wonder, "If all children are innocent, wasn't Hitler once an innocent child as well?" Who knows whether or not one of those children that God allows to burn in a fire will not grow up to be the next Hitler?

And on what basis does the atheist determine the 'innocence' of children? Certainly not on his understanding of what they will do thirty years after their birth! For even the atheist would have to agree that though Hitler may have been innocent as a child, that innocence certainly left prior to his choosing to murder several million Jews! And if we compare the supposed 'innocence' of children to a perfectly holy and just God, what more then can we say of their innocence, than that it is only a relative one?

Won't the atheist agree that even humans allow for degrees of evil when they make "good" choices? Does not a general in the army prefer a slight wound accompanied by great victory, to no wound at all and no victory? Certainly goodness is relative even in the light of evil choices.

Winston Churchill allowed the Nazi bombing of the city of Coventry, England, during World War II, even though he knew ahead of time that the Nazis were preparing to do so and could have prevented the deaths of 'innocent' people. Through various spy networks and the obtaining of a Nazi book of codes, Churchill had learned of the Nazi plan to destroy the non-military site of Coventry. Yet he reasoned that if he were to evacuate all of the citizens from Coventry prior to the bombing, (thereby sparing the loss of innocent life), the Nazis would have known the British had broken their secret codes, thereby endangering the future good that would come from knowing the war plans of the Nazis more thoroughly. The difficult choice was to allow some innocent people to die at Coventry for the greater good of eventually defeating the Nazis once and for all. Did Churchill make a "good" choice? Or would it have been better to save Coventry, yet be defeated by the Nazis in World War II? Perhaps that is a something only God can determine.


The question of whether human beings (as they now are) might always be capable of only doing good in a paradise of pleasure is virtually unsolvable from our current perspectives of reality. The Christian Biblical perspective is that a perfectly good God allows evil to exist while He Himself remains good. Christians admit that evil is endemic to the world and to those of us who live here because of the presence of sin. The atheist's argument that all that God needed to do to have made a better choice when He created, was to merely change 'the environment' to one that is hedonistic, is essentially flawed if it does not allow for the presence of evil in humanity in that 'utopic' world.

We see that even in our world that now exists, pleasure does not always lead to good. In fact the pleasures that we now experience can just as easily lead human beings to jealously, envy, addiction and hatred as they can lead to good, (assuming of course that the atheist would agree that these previous things are not good). I believe it can be demonstrated that injecting heroin into one's veins, for example, is one of the most pleasurable sensations that humans can experience in the flesh. Yet there are limits to the good of these pleasurable sensations. For a little too much heroin can lead to death. And unless the atheist is willing to agree that death is a possible 'good' that results from living in a hedonistic paradise of pleasure, we cannot say that the presence of that pleasurable environment alone guarantees 'good' results, if human beings, as they now are, were to live there.

Furthermore, we could even question whether we could experience more pleasure in a 'hedonistic' world than we are capable of experiencing in the world in which we now exist. For the atheist would be greatly challenged to prove how that might happen. In his non-existent paradise of pleasure, where the divinity apparently proves His love and goodness by providing nothing but pleasure to human beings, yet no evil consequences to any of those pleasures whatsoever, do humans have the same bodies they have now? Would all other things in the world be equal? How would they need to be different to live in that world and experience more pleasure?

More importantly, has anyone experienced not only every possible pleasure to its fullest extent in this world, but every possible extent and avenue of every pleasure, in the human body we have in this world that contains evil? It must be utter speculation on the part of the atheist to assume that we could experience more pleasure than we are currently able to experience, and then, without negative (evil) consequences, while remaining the human beings that we now are.

We grant the atheist his case that he is not necessarily arguing for a world where no pain exists, but perhaps only for a world where less of it exists. B.C. Johnson, for example, does not necessarily require a completely hedonistic world as the only possible alternative to this one, where no suffering of any kind at all might exist. "[The atheist] need only claim that there is suffering which is in excess of that needed for the production of various virtues [which virtues, according to the theist, produce courage, sympathy, etc.]." Interesting, isn't it, that the atheist suggests that pain might bring virtue to humanity? We wonder which worldview the atheist visited to come up with that?

Huston Smith has written that Hinduism, for example, accepts the existence of pain in reality "when it has a purpose, as a person welcomes the return of life and feeling, even painful feeling, to a frozen arm." Yet, is it not with difficulty that anyone accepts the notion of "purposeless pain"? What function would useless pain have in the physical world? Apparently even the atheist doubts the possibility of the existence of purposeless pain.

Now, we need not look far to see that pain does serve a use in this world. Any scientist can tell us that lepers experience the mangling and deterioration of their flesh because they are no longer able to sense pain in the extremities of their bodies. Because they cannot feel the pain which would normally caution them to be attentive to their own actions, lepers cannot determine whether or not they are encurring any detriment to their flesh.

Even the atheist can easily see that pain in the world in which we now exist, is necessary, and that it actually serves a 'good' purpose in our world. And even though we agree with the atheist that pain in certain excesses is most often considered to be evil and appears to be of no use to us in this world, God had a purpose and use for it in the world which He created. Does our world not function better in some degrees because of the existence of pain in it?

Though it remains difficult to assimilate the excesses of pain and evil which appear in this world, the Bible teaches further that God uses physical pain and suffering to chastise His own "for their own good," (rather than plant them into an imaginary world of hedonism and pleasure which is free from pain). King David wrote, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees....I know, oh Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me (Psalm 119:71, 75, emphasis added).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, London's greatest preacher, was afflicted with gout for most of his adult life. His response to that affliction demonstrates a Christian conviction that in spite of pain and suffering God is good.

The result of [being in the melting pot of pain] is that we arrive at a true valuation of things [and] we are poured out into a new and better fashion. And, oh, we may almost wish for the melting-pot if we may but get rid of the dross, if we may be but pure, if we may but be fashioned more completely like our Lord.

The response of the greatest apostle in the New Testament to God's goodness and the struggle he had as God formed him towards the pattern of Christ through pain and suffering, is clearly laid out for us in 2 Corinthians 12:9b, 10. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Is it possible that in our desire to answer these difficult questions regarding the place of good and evil in this world that we have failed to ask the most important question of all?


Our tendency to question whether God should have made a world other than He did is worth serious reconsideration. After all, though it is fun to speculate, this is the world we live in. We all experience both good and evil here, and some of us experience one or the other to greater or lesser degrees than others. Yet if God did not create this world with the intention of it being a hedonistic paradise, but rather created it to be, as one man suggests, a "scene of history in which human personality may be formed toward the pattern of Christ," how shall we go about reaching that end while we live in a world that is evil?

First, the Christian theist must acknowledge his own responsibility for his own evil, and cannot fault the world's Creator for it because he believes that Scripture is true when it says that God is perfect. The Westminster Confession of Faith has stated the Biblical truth that "God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass....." (WCF 3:1). But what Christians often fail to understand is that in His perfection there exists a paradoxically mysterious element that defies human comprehension. God being perfect does not mean that He is perfectly understandable.

From our finite perceptions of reality, we humans are too willing to challenge the concept of whether God is entirely good. We critique His wondrous ways, faulting Him for what appears to us to be haphazard carelessness in His creation, without any trepidation. We so arrogantly dispute His power and ability by suggesting that He could have done it better ...."if only". We see murder, rape, greed, and death all around us, and do not hesitate to shake our fists in the air and say, "Why have You allowed this!" Do we remain so thoroughly blind to the extent of His goodness because of our own evil?

This paradoxical mystery can be stated like this: This God Who is good, Who created human beings with a huge propensity toward evil, chose the greatest good for them, by experiencing the greatest evil for them. This God, in demonstrating His goodness, by His grace alone, saves believing men from their evil rather than destroys them for it. In doing this, God demonstrated for those who believe, that though they are worthy of nothing more than to pay for their own wickedness with their own lives, He paid the price for their evil for them with the life of His only begotten Son.

Perhaps rather than challenging God's goodness, we might become inclined to see how it can be, that Scripture explains to us that while God is free from any evil in and of Himself, and would remain holy and just even if He held us accountable for each of our sins, He has chosen rather to demonstrate His goodness toward mankind in that "....God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them..." (2 Corinthians 5:19). He chose the greater good of allowing the world to become what it is, so that we could experience the greatest demonstration of His goodness toward us who are evil. And that greatest good He demonstrated was to reconcile wicked sinners to Himself, not at the cost of our lives, but at the cost of Christ's life.

This mystery is the gospel that defies human comprehension. The mystery lies in the fact that God's goodness is demonstrated to us by Scripture's explanation that instead of a perfectly holy God obliterating humanity because of its sin, God did the most inhumanly incomprehensible thing to remedy that situation. This remedy is a mystery precisely because His solution is, at the same time, a horrible demonstration of the extent our own evil and an incomprehensible demonstration of His goodness toward us. Even the goodness of God's solution for our wickedness is incomprehensible in that God poured out His wrath against evil upon His own Son, Who was the only Person to have ever existed that was free from any evil whatsoever!

I urge you to read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. To you who read this essay, may God, to His own glory, open your eyes and ears to the truth! The gospel message of God pouring out His wrath upon His own Son, is a message that is absolutely foolish to those who are perishing in their unbelief! (1 Corinthians 1:18). Yet that very same message has the power to save those who believe it. God, in His mysterious wisdom, has made what the world believes to be true about 'goodness' foolish. The gospel is foolish because the world can never understand God's goodness unless it understands God through the wisdom of the cross of Christ. In fact, not only can the world not know God through its own kind of wisdom, it was pleasing to God to save those who believe the very same message that the rest of the world rejects as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Scripture records that "it pleased the LORD to bruise Him [Christ]; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:10-11)". That message of forgiveness of sin by the pouring out of God's holy wrath against His perfect Son, is a message that cannot be understood apart from faith.

The very idea of God putting His own sinless Son on a cross to pay the penalty of sin for every person who would ever believe that message, is impossible for the human mind to accept as logical or rational. The unbelieving world asks, "How can that message demonstrate God's goodness, when, for all intents and purposes, that message describes one of the most horrific absurdities capable of being conceived?" And even to begin to grasp that message in faith, requires of the believer that he acknowledge that the greatest good could only come about through what appears to us to be nothing short of an atrocity. God's gracious forgiveness speaks volumes not only of our inability to save ourselves, but begs the question, "What if, indeed, God were very good"?