Why Does a Good God Allow Bad Things?

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


The Problem of Pain

Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?

In theological language, we are dealing with the issue of theodicy (from Greek words for God, theos, and justice, duke).

Theodicy was coined by the philosopher Wilhelm Leibniz in 1710. He defined his term, “The question of the compatibility of metaphysical, physical, and moral evil in the present world order with the justice and absolute power of God” (Leibniz, Theodicy, my translation).

The Bible is willing to ask Leibniz’s question of its Author.

Habakkuk complained to the God who allowed the devastation of his people at the hands of the Babylonians: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Habakkuk 1:3). 

Jesus cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

The medieval theologian Boethius provided the classic expression of our problem: “If God exists, from whence comes evil?”

The pessimistic philosopher Schopenhauer spoke for many: “The shortness of life, so often lamented, may perhaps be the very best thing about it.”

Christians are especially susceptible to this issue because we believe three apparently contradictory facts to be equally true:

  • God is all-loving.

  • God is all-powerful.

  • Evil exists.

As the Stoic philosopher Epicurus observed, the “solutions” to this dilemma are:

  • God wants to remove evil but is unable.

  • God is able but unwilling.

  • God is both able and willing. Why doesn’t he?

  • God is neither able nor willing.

Tomorrow, we will consider the popular—but wrong—approaches to the problem of pain.

Today, ask yourself: How do I rectify that an all-loving, all-powerful God exists, yet so does evil?