Is God Good?

Is God good? If so, then why is there evil and suffering in the world? Have you heard this before? If you’re like me, you’ve wrestled with it yourself.

It’s a legitimate question that we must answer.

Epicurus (Greek philosopher, 4th cent. BC) is believed to be the first to argue the following:

  1. If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.

David Hume (Scottish philosopher, 18th cent. AD) said…

“Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion)

Theologians and philosophers throughout history have responded to the scoffing of skeptics and accusations made by agnostics against a “good” God creating a world where evil is possible.

From Irenaeus, Augustine, and Aquinas to contemporary voices like John Hick, Alvin Plantiga, and William Lane Craig, a great deal of ink has been devoted to the issue of theodicy (moral defense of God in the face of evil).

I personally subscribe to the Trinitarian Warfare Worldview proposed by Greg Boyd. It is a serious theological, as well as philosophical, treatment of the problem of evil. See my summary of Greg’s views here.

Is it logical for a good God to create a world where evil is possible? Yes, I believe so. However, philosophy (logic & reason) must also make room for theology (natural & divine revelation) for a full, satisfactory response.

God has expressed his true nature in the cross of Jesus. Contrary to the sentiments of Richard Dawkins, the crucifixion is not a “petty” matter inconsequential to human history and the cosmos.

In orthodox Christian perspective, the cross of Christ is the climax of incarnation. God displays the depths of his love for all of creation by bearing the ultimate consequence of the evil our free will has brought into the world.

We also learn that God’s omnipotence doesn’t look like that of Zeus, king of the gods. The power of God is revealed in Jesus’ giving of his life by his own free will for the purpose of reconciling a broken humanity.

Greg Boyd writes…

“The cross refutes the traditional notion that omnipotence means God always gets his way. Rather, the cross reveals God’s omnipotence as a power that empowers others—to the point of giving others the ability, if they so choose, to nail him to the cross. The cross reveals that God’s omnipotence is displayed in self-sacrificial love, not sheer might. God conquers sin and the devil not by a sovereign decree but by a wise and humble submission to crucifixion. In doing this, the cross reveals that God’s omnipotence is not primarily about control but about his compelling love. God conquers evil and wins the heart of people by self-sacrificial love, not by coercive force.”  God of the Possible, p.18

The logic is sound, but the true beauty of it is only discovered in faith.

Do you find this video helpful in articulating God’s righteousness in the face of evil? Let’s renew our belief in the goodness of God by looking upon Jesus as the full and final revelation of his character. 

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in student ministry for 7 years, taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy for 5 years, and now pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

7 responses to “Is God Good?

  • John Morris

    David, thanks again, really good post. I guess I have never really understood why so many have issues with this topic. Greg Boyd (and you) have helped my in many of these “thorny” issue, to clarify and put into words what I have and do believe. Thanks again.
    And yes, I do like this short video, It says it simply and well.

  • S Anderson

    David, this is great. I need to check out your summary of Greg Boyd’s views, too. This really helps reconcile, I think, some questions I’ve been working through. The subject matter is weighty.

    “Is it logical for a good God to create a world where evil is possible? Yes, I believe so. However, philosophy (logic & reason) must also make room for theology (natural & divine revelation) for a full, satisfactory response.”

    He did, didn’t he? Adam is proof of this. God neither maniacally programmed him for “good” only, nor did he will evil upon him.

    Have you ever thought perhaps Adam did not “walk with God” in the traditional sense of he and God strolling the garden-grounds? I see this less and less as a likely scenario. Genesis tells us God walked through the garden, and we could assume within the proximity of Adam; but this doesn’t mean Adam walked with God, like Enoch or Noah, in the sense of close intimate friendship. I think this is a serious topic to consider.

    This also strikes at the creed, “As it was in the beginning, both now, and forever more.” I think, instead, God has revealed his love through Jesus Christ, as you conclude here, as answer to man’s evil. He’s growing a garden for Himself that began with the dirt of Adam and resolves everything with the river-tree of Life, Jesus Christ.

  • Sean Durity

    Definitely nervous about open theism, though it isn’t something I have studied much.

  • Cindy Skillman

    It’s a great video. And of course, very short. But it leaves unanswered the question of how, when God eliminates evil, people can still be free. In order to eliminate evil, wouldn’t He also have to eliminate free will?

    I have my own ideas about this, which I’m not skillful enough to articulate briefly enough to post them here, but I wonder if the agnostic/atheist/struggling Christian might not stumble over this question too. I’ve been wrestling with it for decades to finally come to my conclusions (fluid though they are).

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Cindy,
      Good question. I’ve thought about that one too. Of course, this post (and video) was not about addressing that head on… while I do acknowledge it’s an obvious question that follows. I have some thoughts here. I’d be curious to hear yours.

      • Cindy

        Oh, okay . . . I will try. ;)

        Jesus said, “Whom the Son sets free, shall be free indeed” (or something like that). So I have to ask myself, if His listeners were already free, why do they need setting free? Also, He came to set the captives free. That has to refer to those in bondage, including those of us who now follow Him. So were we ever free at all?

        Well, sort of free; sort of not. An infant is free to do whatever she wants to do and can do, but she doesn’t know how to want much of anything beyond comfort, and isn’t able to do much of anything beyond cry for relief and carry on bodily functions (and even of these she has no control). An infant has, it turns out, very little freedom.

        As she grows and develops she gains more freedom. She can laugh and coo; she can grasp her toys; she can begin to sit up . . . and so it goes.

        I wonder if we are like that spiritually. To begin with, we are all slaves of sin, born with the family birth defect and unable to act with righteousness no matter how much we might desire it. The baby girl maybe wants to play with her older brother’s video game, but she can only randomly push buttons. She may enjoy it, but she has no genuine power to play that game.

        Likewise we may play around with laws and codes and restrictions on behavior, but we have no genuine power to play that “game.” Enter Jesus who sets us free from the law of sin and death. Now we are free to do righteousness, and we have the power to do righteousness, but do we have the ability? Eh . . . not so much, not yet. We have the ability to develop the ability by the empowerment of the Spirit, but it will take time to grow into that.

        As we grow in Christ we become more and more free, and our relationships with God and with one another develop and grow in righteousness, beauty, love. Thus we become ready to enter into that next age and be His mature sons (and daughters) and heirs and representatives of the House of YHWH. At this point we are as free as we ever were to sin, but at the same time, there’s NO chance that we WILL sin because we have grown far, far beyond that — not in our own power, but in our oneness with our Lord and our dependence on our Father and our absolute trust in our Helper.

        We have become rational and free, loving and merciful beings, conformed to the image of Christ.

        So, that’s why I think people “in heaven” can be free and still not be in danger of falling into sin. I probably read it somewhere or read something that sparked this in my heart/mind, but I can’t remember where. What do you think?

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