If you've ever been involved in evangelism efforts it won't be long before someone drops the question on you. "If God is so loving, why do bad things happen to good people?" It may seem a tedious and tired question, but it does demand an answer. Why do infants die? Why does disease spread and kill so many in pandemics? Why is there so much evil in the world? All good questions.
First, we must understand that there are two forms of evil in this world.
Natural- These are the evils arising from natural causes. This would include things like diseases-cancer, deformity, etc.- as well as other sources of undeserved suffering and pain.
Moral- I realize this isn't popular to say in this post-Modern culture of relativism, but it is true nonetheless. Moral evil results from personal depravity. War, murder, stealing, lying, cheating, sexual promiscuity, and exploitation- all arising from the human will.
Now, how do we reconcile the omnipotent (all-powerful), omni-benevolent (all-loving) God with all of this evil we witness in our world every day? One atheist thinker (J.L. Mackie, 1917-1981) expressed the problem thus:
1. If God exists, he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent.
2. An omnipotent being has the ability to prevent evil.
3. An omniscient being has the knowledge to prevent evil.
4. An omni-benevolent being has the desire to prevent evil.
5. Therefore, if God exists, there is no evil.
6. There is evil.
7. Therefore, God does not exist.
Is Mackie's argument sound? On the face of it one might be tempted to say yes. However, there is a glaring flaw in Mackie's logic. It is true that God possesses all the attributes listed. It is also true that there is evil in our world. And I agree that God has the knowledge to prevent evil. Mackie's logic breaks down when he states, "An omni-benevolent being has the desire to prevent evil." There are examples throughout Sacred Scripture of God allowing an evil either to bring about a greater good, or to prevent a greater evil. Clement of Alexandria put it this way:
"For it is the work of divine wisdom...to ensure that whatever happens through the evils hatched by someone, a good and useful result will come of it."
It should also be noted that the question of why bad things happen to good people demonstrates an improper focus. That is, it focuses on self pity- the questions, 'Why me?', 'Why this?', 'Why now?'
People who pose these questions never stop to ask, 'Why do good things happen to BAD people?'
"For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." - Matthew 5:45
"He deals with all sorts of men alike, so that all men together share His favors and reproofs. His will is that both the elect and the outcasts should have adversities and prosperities in common."- Tertullian
The fact of the matter is, Biblically speaking, none of us is good.
"As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;" - Romans 3:10
While atheists like to force Christians to account for evil, atheists are rarely forced by Christians to account for the existence of good. That is, how does an atheist account for self-sacrifice, kindness, and altruism? Such things have no place in an Evolutionary context, where survival of the fittest is the rule. Exactly how does self sacrifice of the bravest, strongest or most noble contribute to survival of the fittest? Answer: It doesn't.
And on what basis does the atheist claim anything is good or evil?
If moral relativism is true, then they have no ground upon which to argue their case.
Christians understand that the problem of evil is not a problem with God, but a problem with humanity. Our first parents rebelled against God and brought evil, disease, and death to the entire human race.
"Evil has sprung from voluntary apostasy."- Clement of Alexandria
Why do we not get asked about the ultimate evil in human history- the murder of Jesus? An innocent man suffered for our evils, our depravity. Why do we not point the fingers at ourselves, rather than the God who gave his Only Begotten to save us from ourselves, and save us from death and hell? If we're going to grapple with the question of evil, lets do so from the viewpoint of God, not the limited viewpoint of a depraved, self indulgent humanity. Lets learn to ask the proper focus questions.
"What is God trying to teach me in this situation?"
"What would Jesus say, meditate on, or do in this situation?"
"How can I be more like Jesus in this situation?"
If more of us did this, then we just might see things more clearly.