WHAT IF GOD WERE
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by Rick Brownell
| EUGENE, OR
TO THE DEBATE
. . 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
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
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
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?
IN WHICH REALITY
DOES GOD EXIST?
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,
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).
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
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,
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.
FAITH IS A REASONABLE
ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF GOD'S GOODNESS
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
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
WHICH OF GOD'S
CHOICES DEMONSTRATE GOD'S 'GOODNESS'?
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
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.
PLAYING BY THE
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
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
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
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.
MORE FLAWED HUMAN
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
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?
COULD GOD HAVE
DEMONSTRATED THE GREATEST GOOD BY ALLOWING THE GREATEST EVIL?
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
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
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"?