The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil

no-other-macarthur-2017In chapter three of his recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation trust, 2017), John Macarthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith. relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

He points out that there are many proposed answers (as well as outright attacks against God) to this question – the question known in theology as “theodicy”: “a defense of God’s righteousness in light of the reality that evil exists in the world He created” (p.51).

At one point he critiques the view most popular among evangelicals today – autonomy. His thoughts are worth sharing here:

…Autonomous theodicy teaches that the cause of evil is the abuse of creaturely free will. This is a very sentimental approach. It begins with the assumption that God would never willingly ordain evil; He would not decree a plan for His creation that unleashes so much misery into His universe. They also imagine, evidently, that human free will trumps everything else on God’s scale of values, so they often suggest that God had to allow for the possibility of evil in order to protect His creatures’ highly prized autonomy. The idea is sometimes articulated this way: ‘God wants you to love Him all on your own, not because He made you love Him.” A God who would willingly permit evil or sovereignly choose whom to save is a God whom some people just can’t live with, so they reinvent Him to reflect their own priorities – which in this case means an emphasis on the nobility and value of their own free will that frankly is found nowhere in the Bible (pp.52-53).

We’ll return to more from this important chapter at a later time, but I hope you can already see the direction Macarthur is going. As he states at the beginning of the chapter,

The existence of evil is not an issue that should put Christians on their heels. The answer to why God allows evil in the world is in the Bible. We can know it, we can thoroughly embrace it, and we can enjoy it. It’s not an inadequate answer, either. It fully accounts for God’s benevolence, His omnipotence, His holiness, and His wisdom. And it exalts His glory. In fact, the answer to the problem of evil begins and ends with God and His glory (p.50).

We’ll see more of that biblical answer next time.