In my last article on this question, I pointed out that it seems more commonplace to be expressed as “Why God?!”, in crying out over hearing of some horrendously evil act in the world or a natural disaster or a friend’s life-threatening illness or a family member’s untimely death or some other form of suffering. Of course, this impassioned plea can take on other forms – e.g. “Why did God allow this?” or “Why me God?” or “Why now God?”.
As Atheist-turned-Christian author and apologist, Lee Strobel, said in a speech just after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 : “(The) ‘why’ question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn’t start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?”
In initially responding to these “Why God” questions, I have to agree with the response that Strobel gave in that same speech, when he said, “… the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – ‘I do not know.’” However, God’s Word does provide answers for many of the most common “Why God?” questions and I want to take a look at those answers here.
Though I recognize that it seems out of context for the question, “Why God?”, the first answer that consistently comes to me is the one Jesus gave when He was asked about divorce.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. – Matthew 19:3-8
The key phrase here, relative to the “Why God?” question is “… from the beginning it was not so.” God is not the creator of evil and suffering. Genesis tells us about what God did create, concluding with His creation of man.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. – Genesis 1:26-31
There was nothing bad in God’s creation. In fact, with His creation, God noted “it was good” and when He created man, He declared “it was very good.” With that understood, the question remains, where did evil and suffering come from? Here too, I think Lee Strobel explained this well, when he said, “God has existed from eternity past as the Father, Son and Spirit, together in a relationship of perfect love. So love is the highest value in the universe. And when God decided to create human beings, he wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why? Because love always involves a choice.” Tragically, it was what man did with the first choice he was given that led to evil and suffering coming into God’s creation.
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:15-17
Although God placed man in the garden of Eden and told him, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat”, here’s the choice man made:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:1-13
As far back as the account of the temptation and the fall of man, it’s obvious that you can’t rely on man to say what he means and to mean what he says. But God always means what He says and He meant what He said about the first choice He had given man.
So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3: 14-23
OK, with it understood that it was man’s choice that led to evil and suffering coming into God’s creation, then you’ll hear the question, “Why hasn’t God done something about that?” To which I say, “Have you not been paying attention?!” Even in His condemnation of man’s first choice, He reveals His plan for redemption when He says, “I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” That is God’s first indication that He would send His Son to take on the form of a man to do for man what he could not do for himself. And if you ask, “Why did God do that? Why didn’t He just give man a do over?”, again I say, “Have you not been paying attention?!” The account of Noah in Genesis tells us that God destroyed all of mankind except the most righteous, Noah and his immediate family. And just look at the evil and suffering in the world today. How do you think we’ve done with that do over? God knew how this would turn out but He lovingly gave us our do over. Meanwhile, He proceeded with His perfect plan, including that “… lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”
I think it’s clear that God’s plan is perfect and it is the right way to go. In my next “Why God?” article, I want to look at why it’s the right way to end. I hope you’ll take time to do that with me.