The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil (2)

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.

We pointed out last time we looked at this chapter that we would return to it, and tonight we do.

After summarizing the many proposed answers (as well as outright attacks against God) to this question of God’s relation to evil (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]), MacArthur points out the fatal flaws in all of them in these words:

So all those different kinds of theodicy are fatally flawed, shortsighted answers. If God has limited power or doesn’t have complete knowledge, the universe is out of control at the most crucial point. And if God is not truly omniscient, how can anyone know for certain whether He will ever accumulate the knowledge He needs to curb the effects of evil and conquer it once and for all? Why would anyone prefer a God who is trying to get control rather than a God who is completely in control of it? It’s heresy to say the world is full of evil apart from a predetermined plan and purpose of God.

To which he adds these pointed words:

The same goes for most of the answers to the problem of evil – they fail because they attempt to reconcile the truth about God and the existence of evil to the satisfaction of the unbelieving world. They’re too focused on rounding off the sharp edges of biblical truth in order to accommodate philosophies and worldviews that  are openly hostile to God and His Word – to conform God’s goodness and power to the boundaries and limitations of the unilluminated mind (cf. 1 Cor.1:18; 2:14) [53-54[.

And then, in presenting his own ‘theodicy’ – that is, the Bible’s defense of God’s righteousness in the face of evil – MacArthur states the following:

Taken together, those three facts – that evil exists, that God is sovereign, and that He is utterly holy and righteous – lead us to an inevitable conclusion: that God, in His sovereign wisdom allows evil to exist without Himself being evil. As the final authority over all creation, God permits evil to exist – not merely with an unwilling acceptance. Evil was part of His plan and eternal decree. He has a purpose in it, and it’s a good purpose [59].

Next time we will conclude our look at this chapter by considering the author’s answer to the “why” concerning God’s good purpose with evil. If He ordains evil and sovereignly controls it, what purpose does God have in doing so? Why does He do what He does with sin and evil and suffering? And how can that purpose be good?