In Sam Harris’ article on the Huffingtonpost.com, he questions why people choose to believe in an omniscient, omnibenevolent God in the face of evil. If God were all-powerful and all-loving, why would he allow suicide bombers to claim the lives of thousands of innocent people?
This logical challenge to Christian faith is commonly used to disprove God’s holy character, but when carefully considered and addressed, this objection against God’s righteousness proves to be evidence for God.
To illustrate inconsistencies in the Christian faith, people say that either God’s omniscience and omnipotence or his all-loving nature is jeopardized since evil exists. If God really is who He claims to be, how could He allow so much suffering in the world?
Before concluding those three statements to be incompatible, evil must be defined. According to J.P. Mooreland, “Evil is a lack of goodness…You can have good without evil, but you cannot have evil without good.”
Without a standard of goodness, attempting to prove evil’s existence is futile. By claiming there is injustice in the world, people inadvertently admit there is a supernatural standard of morality, a standard that can only be given by God.
Human logic tends to reason that if God is omnipotent He can do as He wishes, and if God is good, He would want for people to be happy.
However, one must examine the meaning of omnipotence and goodness.
Omnipotence does not mean that God can do whatever He likes. Rather it means God is able to do what He wants but because He has chosen to act in certain ways, He cannot contradict Himself by acting against a criteria He has set for Himself.
A criteria God has set for Himself is the creation of mankind with free will. By giving men the option of choosing good and evil, God cannot then transform humanity into machines compelled to always follow His laws.
This limitation is not because God is not powerful enough; this limitation comes from God’s power to still control the universe without infringing on the freedom He has given man.
Man’s freedom to choose good and evil makes him culpable for his actions, and since man can choose whether to follow God’s perfect law, man’s choices may lead to suffering.
Goodness is another misused term and often oversimplified. According to C.S. Lewis, goodness is the natural outcome when people love God. Since goodness is centered on expressing God’s love, one must define love.
Love of God is not hedonism. It does not automatically assume life will be easy and happy. Instead, as Lewis says in his book “The Problem with Pain,” love “proceeds from God and leads back to God…it embraces suffering as a consequence of the greater gifts of life and freedom.”
Trivial conceptions of love must never replace the true definition.
God uses the world and sin for His glory. Even suicide bombers are under the authority of God.
Yes, suicide bombings are tragic and the devastation seems senseless and cruel. The fact that suicide bombers often commit their acts in the name of religion underscores man’s depravity; however, it has no reflection on the nature of God.
While it may seem like the best option is for God to eliminate evil, evil is at the core of all unredeemed people. To be consistent, God would have to annihilate all humanity to purge the world of evil. Instead, God is present, demonstrating His love, patience, and power to His creation. Evil and suffering demonstrate the reality of morality, a moral Lawgiver, and the need for redemption.
With the proper view of what evil is and how God works through evil, the Christian view of the world offers hope to a dying world.