The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil by Dr. Albert Mohler

lightning striking 7 times

Every thoughtful person must deal with the problem of evil. Evil acts and tragic events come to us all in this vale of tears known as human life. The problem of evil and suffering is undoubtedly the greatest theological challenge we face.

Most persons face this issue only in a time of crisis. A senseless accident, a wasting disease, or an awful crime demands some explanation. Yesterday, evil showed its face again as a giant tornado brought death and destruction to Moore, Oklahoma.

For the atheist, this is no great problem. Life is a cosmic accident, morality is an arbitrary game by which we order our lives, and meaning is non-existent. As Oxford University’s Professor Richard Dawkins explains, human life is nothing more than a way for selfish genes to multiply and reproduce. There is no meaning or dignity to humanity.

For the Christian Scientist, the material world and the experience of suffering and death are illusory. In other religions suffering is part of a great circle of life or recurring incarnations of spirit.

Some Christians simply explain suffering as the consequence of sins, known or unknown. Some suffering can be directly traced to sin. What we sow, so shall we reap, and multiple millions of persons can testify to this reality. Some persons suffer innocently by the sinful acts of others.

But Jesus rejected this as a blanket explanation for suffering, instructing His disciples in John 9 and Luke 13 that they could not always trace suffering back to sin. We should note that the problem of evil and suffering, the theological issue of theodicy, is customarily divided into evil of two kinds, moral and natural. Both are included in these passages. In Luke 13, the murder of the Galileans is clearly moral evil, a premeditated crime–just like the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. In John 9, a man is blind from birth, and Jesus tells the Twelve that this blindness cannot be traced back to this man’s sin, or that of his parents.

Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls, an earthquake shakes, a tornado destroys, a hurricane ravages, a spider bites, a disease debilitates and kills. The world is filled with wonders mixed with dangers. Gravity can save you or gravity can kill you. When a tower falls, it kills.

People all over the world are demanding an answer to the question of evil. It comes only to those who claim that God is mighty and that God is good. How could a good God allow these things to happen? How can a God of love allow killers to kill, terrorists to terrorize, and the wicked to escape without a trace?

No superficial answer will do. Our quandary is well known, and the atheists think they have our number. As a character in Archibald MacLeish’s play, J.B. asserts, “If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God; take the even, take the odd . . . .” As he sees it, God can be good, or He can be powerful, but He cannot be both.

We will either take our stand with God’s self-revelation in the Bible, or we are left to invent a deity of our own imagination. The Bible quickly excludes two false understandings.

First, the Bible reveals that God is omnipotent and omniscient. These are unconditional and categorical attributes. The sovereignty of God is the bedrock affirmation of biblical theism. The Creator rules over all creation. Not even a sparrow falls without His knowledge. He knows the number of hairs upon our heads. God rules and reigns over all nations and principalities. Not one atom or molecule of the universe is outside His active rule.

The sovereignty of God was affirmed by King Nebuchadnezzar, who confessed that God “does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” [Daniel 4:36]. Process theologians have attempted to cut God’s power down to size, rendering the Creator as one power among others. The evangelical revisionists pushing open theism have attempted to cut God’s omniscience down to size, rendering Him as one mind among others.

Rabbi Harold Kushner argues that God is doing the best He can under the circumstances, but He lacks the power to either kill or cure. The openness theists argue that God is always ready with Plan B when Plan A fails. He is infinitely resourceful, they stress, just not really sovereign.

These are roads we dare not take, for the God of the Bible causes the rising and falling of nations and empires, and His rule is active and universal. Limited sovereignty is no sovereignty at all.

The second great error is to ascribe evil to God. But the Bible does not allow this argument. God is absolute righteousness, love, goodness, and justice. Most errors related to this issue occur because of our human tendency to impose an external standard–a human construction of goodness–upon God. But good does not so much define God as God defines good.

How then do we speak of God’s rule and reconcile this with the reality of evil? Between these two errors the Bible points us to the radical affirmation of God’s sovereignty as the ground of our salvation and the assurance of our own good. We cannot explain why God has allowed sin, but we understand that God’s glory is more perfectly demonstrated through the victory of Christ over sin. We cannot understand why God would allow sickness and suffering, but we must affirm that even these realities are rooted in sin and its cosmic effects.

How does God exercise His rule? Does He order all events by decree, or does He allow some evil acts by His mere permission? This much we know–we cannot speak of God’s decree in a way that would imply Him to be the author of evil, and we cannot fall back to speak of His mere permission, as if this allows a denial of His sovereignty and active will.

A venerable confession of faith states it rightly: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any way to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”

God is God, and God is good. As Paul affirms for the church, God’s sovereignty is the ground of our hope, the assurance of God’s justice as the last word, and God’s loving rule in the very events of our lives: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

We dare not speak on God’s behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner. Yet, at the same time, we dare not be silent when we should testify to the God of righteousness and love and justice who rules over all in omnipotence. Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further. There is much we do not understand. As Charles Spurgeon explained, when we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.

And so, we weep with those who weep, and we reach out with acts of care and compassion. We pray for those who are grieving and have experienced such loss. We cry for the children lost in this storm, even as we are so thankful for brave people who did their best to save lives as the winds raged. And, we pray: Even so, Lord come quickly.

Article originally appeared on August 20, 2005 and reposted again @ http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/05/21/the-goodness-of-god-and-the-reality-of-evil-4/

About Dr. Albert Mohler:

R Albert Mohler

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

Dr. Mohler has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. All of these can be accessed through Dr. Mohler’s website, http://www.AlbertMohler.com. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Widely sought as a columnist and commentator, Dr. Mohler has been quoted in the nation’s leading newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal/Constitution and The Dallas Morning News. He has also appeared on such national news programs as CNN’s “Larry King Live,” NBC’s “Today Show” and “Dateline NBC,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS, MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” and Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Dr. Mohler is a theologian and an ordained minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches. He came to the presidency of Southern Seminary from service as editor of The Christian Index, the oldest of the state papers serving the Southern Baptist Convention.

A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England).

Dr. Mohler also serves as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary. His writings have been published throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to contributing to a number of collected volumes, he is the author of several books, including Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah); Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah); Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists (Crossway); He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody); The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness (Multnomah); and Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments (Moody). From 1985 to 1993, he served as associate editor of Preaching, a journal for evangelical preachers, and is currently editor-in-chief of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

A leader within the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Mohler has served in several offices including a term as Chairman of the SBC Committee on Resolutions, which is responsible for the denomination’s official statements on moral and doctrinal issues. He also served on the seven-person Program and Structure Study Committee, which recommended the 1995 restructuring of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In 2000, Dr. Mohler served on a blue-ribbon panel that made recommendations to the Southern Baptist Convention for revisions to the Baptist Faith and Message, the statement of faith most widely held among Southern Baptists. Most recently, he served on the Great Commission Task Force, a denominational committee that studied the effectiveness of SBC efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. He currently serves as chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

Dr. Mohler has presented lectures or addresses at institutions including Columbia University, the University of Virginia, Wheaton College, Samford University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the University of Richmond, Mercer University, Cedarville University, Beeson Divinity School, Reformed Theological Seminary, The Master’s Seminary, Geneva College, Biola University, Covenant Theological Seminary, The Cumberland School of Law, The Regent University School of Law, Grove City College, Vanderbilt University and the historic Chautauqua Institution, among many others.

Dr. Mohler is listed in Who’s Who in America and other biographical reference works and serves on the boards of several organizations including Focus on the Family. He is a member of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and serves as a council member for The Gospel Coalition.

He is married to Mary, and they have two children, Katie and Christopher.

Tornadoes, Tsunamis, And The Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty by Sam Storms

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I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to the tragedy that struck our community today is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that question, and I write the following with considerable hesitation. I can only pray that what I say is grounded in God’s Word and is received in the spirit in which it is intended.

I first put my thoughts together on this subject when the tsunami hit Japan a couple of years ago. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado that struck Moore and other areas surrounding Oklahoma City, I pray that those same truths will prove helpful to some. Allow me to make seven observations.

(1) It will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature. He can himself send devastation. Or he may permit Satan to wreak havoc in the earth. Yes he can, if he chooses, intervene and prevent a tornado, a tsunami, and all other natural disasters. In the end, we do not know why he makes one choice and not another. In the end, we must, like Job, join the apostle Paul and say: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

(2) God is sovereign, not Satan. Whether or to what extent Satan may have had a hand in what occurred we can never know. What we can know and must proclaim is that he can do nothing apart from God’s sovereign permission. Satan is not ultimately sovereign. God alone is.

(3) Great natural disasters such as this tell us nothing about the comparative sinfulness of those who are its victims. Please do not conclude that the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, are more sinful than any other city that has not as yet experienced such devastation. Please do not conclude that we are more righteous than they because God has thus far spared us from such events. The Bible simply won’t let us draw either conclusion. What the Bible does say is that we all continue to live and flourish not because we deserve it but solely because of the mercy and longsuffering of God. Life is on loan from God. He does not owe us existence and what he has mercifully given he can take back at any time and in any way he sees fit.

(4) Events such as this should remind us that no place on earth is safe and that we will all one day die (unless Jesus returns first). Whether by a peaceful natural death at the age of 90, or by a sudden heart attack at 50, or in a car accident at 15, or by a slow battle with cancer at virtually any age, we will all likewise die. We are not immortal. The only ultimately and eternally safe place to be is in the arms of our heavenly Father from which no tornado or earthquake or tsunami or cancer or car wreck can ever snatch us or wrench us free.

(5) We should not look upon such events and conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are at hand, but neither should we conclude that the Second Coming of Christ and the end of history are not at hand. What we should do is humble ourselves before the Lord and prepare our hearts for the day of his return, whenever that may be, whether in our lifetime or some distant date centuries from now.

(6) We must learn to weep with those who weep. We must pray for them, serve them, help them, give to them, and do all within our power to alleviate their suffering (even if their suffering is caused by God). We do not have to agree with them religiously or politically to shower them with the love of Christ. Jesus calls upon us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. The fact is, none of us deserves it. That’s why the Bible calls it mercy: it is undeserved kindness. Remember Luke 6:27 where Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

(7) Pray that God will use such an event to open the hearts and eyes of a city and a state immersed in unbelief and idolatry (and I have in mind not merely Oklahoma, but also America as a whole), to see the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and turn in faith to him, lest something infinitely worse than a tornado befall them: Eternal condemnation. Eternal suffering.

Article from: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/tornadoes–tsunamis–and-the-mystery-of-suffering-and-sovereignty – May 20, 2013

Who is Sam Storms?

Sam Storms

Sam was born February 6, 1951, in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Both of his parents, as well as his sister, Betty Jane, were Christians. Sam was raised in a Southern Baptist context and came to saving faith in Christ at the age of nine. When he turned ten, his family moved to Midland, Texas, where they lived for the next four years. In 1965, as Sam was entering his freshman year in high school, the Storms family moved to Duncan, Oklahoma, where Sam’s father became president of a local bank. Sam graduated from Duncan Senior High School in 1969, hoping for a career as a professional golfer. He attended the University of Oklahoma where he soon abandoned his plans to play golf (due to the combined factors of incompetence and a notoriously bad temper!).

Near the beginning of his sophomore year at OU, Sam met Ann Elizabeth Mount, to whom he proposed marriage on their first date! Sam and Ann were married on May 26th, 1972. They have two daughters, Melanie (born December 23, 1978) and Joanna (born October 3, 1984), as well as four grandchildren.

After graduation from OU in 1973, Sam entered Dallas Theological Seminary to study in preparation for the ministry. He graduated in 1977 with a Th.M. in Historical Theology. While at Dallas, Sam served as interim pastor of Dallas Independent Presbyterian Church (1974-1977). Upon graduation in 1977, he joined the pastoral staff at Believers Chapel in Dallas, a non-denominational bible church. Sam began his work on a Ph.D. in Intellectual History in 1978 and received his degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1984, having written his dissertation on the topic of “Jonathan Edwards and John Taylor on Human Nature: A Study of the Encounter between New England Puritanism and the Enlightenment.”

In August of 1985 Sam accepted a call to serve as Senior Pastor of Christ Community in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he ministered for eight years. In 1993 he resigned his position in order to become President of Grace Training Center, the full-time bible school at Metro Christian Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri, where Sam also served as Associate Pastor.

Although he never thought he would leave Kansas City, God had other plans, and in August of 2000 Sam accepted the offer to become an associate professor of theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. After four years on the faculty at Wheaton, Sam made the decision to resign in order that he might establish Enjoying God Ministries.

In 2008 Sam became Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sam serves on the Board of Desiring God, Bethlehem College & Seminary, and the Acts 29 Network.

Below is a more formal listing of Sam’s educational background, ministerial experience, and publications (both books and journal articles).

Educational Degrees:

  • B.A. in History, University of Oklahoma (1973).
  • Th.M. in Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary (1977)

Thesis topic: “An Analysis of Jonathan Edwards on the Freedom of the Will”

  • Ph.D. in Intellectual History (minor in Aesthetics), University of Texas at Dallas (1984)

Dissertation topic: “Jonathan Edwards and John Taylor on Human Nature: A Study of the Encounter between New England Puritanism and the Enlightenment”

Honors and Awards:

  • Phi Eta Sigma – Freshman Men’s Honorary Society; University of Oklahoma (1969)
  • W. H. Griffith Thomas Scholarship Award – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who maintained the highest academic record during the four year program)
  • Charles A. Nash Award in Historical Theology – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who did the best work in historical theology for the year)
  • Rollin Thomas Chafer Award in Apologetics – Dallas Seminary (1977; awarded to the student who submitted the best paper in defense of the Christian faith)
  • Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities (1977).

Teaching and Pastoral Background

2008 – present / Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, OK

2004 – present / President of Enjoying God Ministries

2000 – 2004 / Visiting Associate Professor of Theology, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL (Systematic Theology, Historical Theology)

1993 – 2000 / President and Instructor in Theological and Biblical Studies, Grace Training Center (Systematic Theology, Historical Theology [with a focus on history of doctrine, ancient, medieval, and especially Reformation history] NT [both survey and exegetical courses], OT [survey], Ethics, Spiritual Formation).

1993 – 2000 / Associate Pastor, Metro Christian Fellowship, Kansas City, MO.

1985-1993 / Senior Pastor, Christ Community Church, Ardmore, OK.

1977-1985 / Associate Pastor, Believers Chapel, Dallas, TX, and Instructor in Theological and Biblical Studies, Advanced Studies Center.

1974-1977 / Interim Pastor, Dallas Independent Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX.

Published Writings

  • The Singing God (new edition from Passio, 2013)
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (new and expanded edition from Regal, 2013)
  • Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (forthcoming from Christian Focus in May, 2013)
  • Tough Topics (Crossway, March, 2013)
  • For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (edited, together with Justin Taylor, Crossway, 2010).
  • A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Daily Meditations on 2 Corinthians in 2 volumes(Crossway Publishers, 2010)
  • More Precious than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms (Crossway Publishers, 2009)
  • To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3(Crossway Publishers, 2008)
  • The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians (Crossway Publishers, 2008)
  • Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Religious Affections’ (Crossway Publishers, 2007)
  • Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (Crossway Publishers, February 2007).
  • Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Enjoying God Ministries, 2005).
  • One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God (Christian Focus Publications, 2004)
  • Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God (NavPress, 2000).
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Regal Books, 2002).
  • “Women in Ministry in the Vineyard, U.S.A.”, in The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Volume 12, Issue 2, Fall 2007, 20-25.
  • “Open Theism in the Hands of an Angry Puritan: Jonathan Edwards on Divine Foreknowledge,” in The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, edited by D. G. Hart, Sean Michael Lucas, Stephen Nichols (Baker Book House, 2003).
  • “Is Imputation Unjust? Jonathan Edwards on the Problem of Original Sin” in Journal of Reformation & Revival, Volume 12, Number 3, Fall 2003.
  • “Prayer and the Power of Contrary Choice,” in Journal of Reformation & Revival, Volume 12, Number 2, Spring 2003, 53-67.
  • “Fettered but Free: Jonathan Edwards on Freedom of the Will,” in A God-Entranced Vision, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, 2004).
  • The Singing God: Discover the Joy of Being Enjoyed by God (Creation House, 1998)
  • “A Third Wave View” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views; ed. by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan, 1996).
  • To Love Mercy: Becoming a Person of Compassion, Acceptance, & Forgiveness (NavPress, 1991).
  • Healing and Holiness: A Biblical Response to the Faith-Healing Phenomenon (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1990).
  • Reaching God’s Ear (Tyndale House, 1988).
  • Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of Divine Election (Baker Book House, 1987).
  • Tragedy in Eden: Original Sin in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards (University Press of America, 1985).
  • The Grandeur of God: A Theological and Devotional Study of the Divine Attributes (Baker Book House, 1984).
  • “Prayer and Evangelism under God’s Sovereignty,” in The Grace of God, The Bondage of the Will: Biblical and Practical Perspectives on Calvinism, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), pp. 215-31 (recently reprinted in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace [Baker, 2000]).
  • “Defining the Elect: A Review Article,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (June 1984): 205-18.
  • “Jonathan Edwards on the Freedom of the Will,” Trinity Journal 3 (Fall 1982): 131-69.
  • Review of The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism and Salvation, by Alan P. F. Sell (Baker), in Trinity Journal 4 (Spring 1983).
  • Review of The Worship of God, by Ralph P. Martin, in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (December 1983): 458-59.
  • Review of Offense to Reason: A Theology of Sin, by Bernard Ramm, in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30 (December 1987): 495-97.
  • “A Tribute to S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, ed. by John Feinberg (Crossway Books, 1988), pp. 321-23.
  • Brief articles in Decision Magazine, Discipleship Journal.