Dr. Ed Young - Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
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The title of an old and familiar book written, I don't know, 20 or 30 years ago is still a relevant question. "Why do bad things happen to good people"? And the opposite of that disturbs me even more. "Why do good things happen to bad people"? But that question, phased in a little higher falutin style of language would go like this: If God is omnipotent, all powerful, and also, if God is a God that is good and a God of love, why doesn't He use His power and do something about the evil and suffering in our world, and in your life and in my life? So the problem there is with God, and the God of this Bible. God says He loves us. The Bible teaches us that. God says He's all powerful. The Bible teaches us that. If He loves us and He's all powerful, why do we grapple with evil, and why is there so much suffering abroad in your life and in my life and as we know, around the globe in such an extent, that we've never even visualized it before. Why? Why, God? Why?
By the way, most people who say, "I do not believe in God, " they're an atheist or agnostic-say, "I don't know..." They use this problem as the reason they don't believe. And you confront them and say, "You mean you don't believe in God"? "No, I don't believe in God". "Why"? "If you say God is all powerful, and He's good, why does He put up with all the suffering in this world and the evil in this world? He can't be all powerful and all good. He can be all good and not all powerful-couldn't do anything about it; or He could be all powerful and not care. Which is it"? And we back up and say, "Ehhh, it's a good question..." You see, that's the reason given for people who are atheists, but I can tell you a secret: That's not the real reason they do not believe in God. No, no, no, no. It sounds sophisticated and erudite, intelligent, modern.
The reason most people don't believe in God-bottom line is, my opinion-they don't want God messing with their life. They want to call the old, their own shots for number one, and getting involved with the Almighty could should curtain a lot of their activity. That's the real reason, but it's more sophisticated to say, "I don't understand why God puts up with suffering if He really loves us". That's, that's a lot fancier, isn't it? Now, you run into this problem. Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that God can do anything? How many people believe God can do anything? Would you lift your hand? Hands down. Every hand up was wrong! Zero! Everybody flunked! You failed! God can't do anything and everything!
You say, "Well, my goodness! I have..." Can God draw a four-sided triangle? Hhm... can't do that. Can I... God add one plus one and get five? No. God can't do that. Can God tell a lie? No. God can't do that, because by His very nature and character, it is impossible for Him to lie. The capacity is not there. No. Well maybe God can't do everything. And then we run into the old, philosophical riddle. If you've had a, a course in, philosophy 101 somewhere, you probably encountered this riddle, this question: "Can God make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it"? That's the stone paradox. Let me phrase it. "Can God make a stone He cannot lift"? Now you see the problem with that-if you say, "Oh, ho! Heh! No, God, can't make a stone He cannot lift..." You're challenging His omnipotence. There's something He can't do. "Oh yes! God can make a stone He cannot lift".
Oh, you're challenging His omnipotence on the other side. So the skeptics say, "Gotcha! Heh, heh, heh! I gotcha there"! So maybe the problem is with the definition of omnipotence. Omnipotence is not that God can do anything and everything; that He has the power to do anything and everything. Omnipotence means that God has the power to do what He wants to do, what He intends to do. That's what omnipotence means, see? That's the definition. And therefore, that paradox of the stone, you've got two attributes of God coming at one another. You've got the attribute of God as the Creator creating power, and you've got-creat, creating the stone, and you've got the God of God in His power to lift something. So you've got two attributes of God coming at one another, you can't do that. You can't look at this attribute of God, and this attribute of God. You have to take God with all of His attributes. So let's go back to our question. Can God make a stone that he cannot li, lift? The answer is "No".
You say, "Boy, that, that does away with His omnipotence"! No, the fact that He cannot make a stone that He cannot lift is the result of His omnipotence. Do you see it? It's proof of His omnipotence! So it's a paradox, they call it-the paradox of the stone. It's not really a paradox. It proves that he is indeed omnipotent in the sense he has the power to do what he intends to do. More power will not give him the ability to draw a four-sided triangle, will it? More power will not give him the ability to lie, will it? So, we still have this problem. And look how it is expressed. Look on your screens. I want to give you how it runs down. Just read that with me. This is the argument that we're faced with so many times. Look at it. If God exists, there cannot be evil unless He has a reason to permit it, and I don't see any reason for God to permit evil and suffering, do you?
Number two-there's a lot of evil and suffering and suffering around. No argument there... There is no reason God should permit evil or suffering. Therefore, God does not exist! There you go! Whewt! Doesn't exist. And that is the rationale, the escape clause a lot of people do, and they build their case against God. Now. They accuse God of being like this... Let's say, for example that this is the stream of life running right through here-whewww! Stream of life... Over here is Creation. God is standing right here, and He can look all the way back with His omniscience, all knowing. He can see all of history from Creation, all the way down to the present time-bang! And from the present time, He also can see all of the future ahead of time, as it runs all the way into Heaven, or the end of time.
God stands here, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-present, and He observes the stream of life. Actually, God does not have foreknowledge, have to think a little bit, I apologize! God does not have foreknowledge; He has only knowledge, because in eternity, there's no time! Time is created by God. It's timelessness. It's infinity. It's eternity. So God just stands here, and He sees the future in the now. It's already happened. So God stands here, and He observes the stream of life, and we ask the question, "If you are omnipotent and You do love, why don't You eliminate evil and suffering in the stream of life when You are right there on the bank of the river of life"? Why doesn't God take action? Are we all together? You get it?
Now, I want to introduce you to another word, and I want you to look on the screen and get the definition of it. This is the defense of God. You see it? Theodicy. Big word. Incorporate it into your vocabulary. Theodicy. A theodicy is a defense of God. In other words, when people accuse God of not using His power to eliminate suffering, there are theodicies, defense of God that people have come up with-some are theological; some are philosophical. The come from every areas, so let's see about how you would defend God with a theodicy. Someone comes in to you and says, "Man, the God you worship of the Bible, He allows evil and suffering in the world. He's supposed to be all powerful. How can this be"?
Here are some theodicies that are used to defend the Almighty. Okay? First is the free will theodicy. We're created in the image of God. Primarily, the main most quality of being created in the image of God is, we have free will. We can choose. We have freedom. And how that is like God! We're the only created being in all of the cosmos that has free will. Nothing else has free will, but human beings. Nothing else has free will but human beings. And therefore, it is that free will that leads us into sin; leads us to suffering; leads us into pain; that gets us involved in evil. It's the choices, the decisions we make, and we make them in and of ourselves because we are free.
You say, "Well why didn't God make a world, where we wouldn't have to be tempted? Why did He make a world where we, where He'd have to take away our freedom"? And if you take away your freedom, you know what else you lose? Love. You don't have the ability to love. "Well, I don't get that! You mean I can't love unless I have freedom"? That's exactly right! Love is number one, remember? In Matthew 22, the lawyer went to Jesus and said, "What's the main most thing we're to do? What's the number one commandment"? Jesus said, "That's easy. Love the Lord Thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength, and then love your neighbor the way you love yourself". Love's the number one thing. But listen-without freedom, we can't love. We'd be robots. We'd be machines.
"Love God". "Oh, okay, I'm programmed to love God". "Love people". "Oh, oh, okay! I'm supposed to love..." That's not love! God is not a divine rapist, ladies and gentlemen. He doesn't force himself on us because we are, we have the gift of freedom! We have the gift of free will. And, look at these points of free will. Look. God made everything perfect. One of the perfect things God made are free creatures. Free will is the what? It is the cause of evil. Therefore, imperfection, evil can arise from perfection, not directly, but indirectly through-what's our word? Freedom! So, we look back and say that free will is a defense; it is a theodicy to say we have evil and suffering in the world because man has free will, and that's where so much of our suffering, so much of our evil really stems from.
Number one-theodicy-free will. All right-number two theodicy. I want you to look at it carefully. It is that we live in a fallen world, the fallen world theodicy. Okay? Now what is that all about? The Fall of Man. Man sinned in the Garden of Eden. We were inherited with the original sin, and the world is fallen. Therefore, it's easy to say, "I suffer because I have sinned". And by the way, that's a valid thing. So many people-we know people right now-they're whole lives is messed up, confused, bottomed out, addicted, sick in so many ways, going through the dark night of the soul like St. John of the Cross talks about. The dark night of the soul is when you cry out for God and God isn't even there, as so you believe, as so you feel. That's the emptiness, the loneliness, the estrangement, the dark night-and, and we cry out.
You say, "Well, this happens because we live in a fallen world". A lot of suffering is the result of sin, right? But some people want to say, "Well, all suffering is the result of sin". That's what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar said. Remember those guys in Job? Job was suffering! Oh, how he suffered, and is three erstwhile friends came up and said, "Job, you've done a bad thing! Therefore, no wonder you're suffering like that..." and God quickly set the record straight. That wasn't Job's problem. That wasn't his problem... At the end of Job-and by the way, God gets mad at Job's friends and says, "Job, go pray for those rascals. They tried to equate your suffering with your sin". That was not the deal with Job. His sin was not an overt moral challenge.
And so we see that we live in a fallen world. Therefore, that's one reason that we as free-will people, and we live in this fallen world, we fall into sin, and that is a defense of evil and suffering in the world. That's another theodicy. And look at another theodicy there. This is the anthropic theodicy. That's a big word. Anthropic. The Anthropic Principle. It is this... By the way, I apologize for you having to come to church and think... I know you like to sort of back up, but stay with me. It may be worth it. The Anthropic Principle is that this world was made by design. It's a defense of God.
And therefore, where you have design, you have to have a designer. Where you have an effect, you have to have a cause, and therefore, this world was made by design, the Anthropic Principle, and therefore, we see that God has designed this world for his purpose. He has exercised the power and creation for a purpose, and this world is uniquely designed for life, for human life. Human life. And therefore, we're the only planet that we know that has the, those tectonic plates that move around, earthquakes, tsunamis, weather, so many things involved there... We're the only one. So you not only have moral evil, you have natural evil that comes.
And so, this Anthropic Theodicy helps us understand that. So that also is a defense of God-the Anthropic Principle. Now here's an unusual theodicy. We say evil and suffering, you know, that's how they accuse us as Christians-it can't exist if we have an omnipotent God and a God of love. Let me tell you something: Those who are atheists, they've got a bigger problem with evil and suffering than we do. In other words, evil and suffering proves almost as good as any other theophany that indeed, there is a God. "Boy, you know, how does that work"? You're an atheist. Atheist says, "Oh, I'm telling you, there's no God because there's evil and suffering..."
You say, "How do you know what evil is? How do you know what suffering is"? An atheist looks at the natural world. What do you find in the natural world, ladies and gentlemen? Might makes right. Big animals eat little animals. Have you seen the Serengeti? Oh, ho, ho-whoo-hoo, boy! That's the natural world, isn't it? Big nations gobble up little nations. We're seeing that everywhere now. That's the natural world order. Selection-natural selection. Power. That's the natural world. So an atheist, that's all they have to go on. It's the natural power in the natural world, and we say, "Look! You're crying out for justice as an atheist".
An atheist has no reason to call for justice. Just natural justice is there, unless you have the introduction of a supernatural sense of justice. The natural order is all an atheist has; there has to be a supernatural addition to that for this to make any sense. So an atheist doesn't have a leg to stand on when they complain, and evil and suffering proves God much more than it disproves God. I want you to look at a statement about this. A very, very important-see, see it. If you have a God great enough to be mad at for not preventing evil and suffering-follow me, you have at the same time, a God great enough to have a reason for, to allow evil and suffering you can't understand.
If you got a God you get angry at, "Man, God, there's evil and suffering... Look at my life! I'm mad at..." You, you say, "I don't understand it..." Well, if that God is big enough for you to get mad at, He's big enough to have reasons that you and I can't understand or can't grasp as to why we are going through these dark valleys, or deep places, or other people are. Alvin Plantinga, one of the great apologists, has a cute little story that I love. If you have a pup tent-they are small tents, ladies-pup tent... and you go and you look in the flap of a pup tent.
You say, "Hhm... there's not a St. Bernard dog in there...Hhm...that's right". You just can't hide a St. Bernard dog in a little tent. You can't do it. And he would say, "That's accurate. Oop! No St. Bernard in there! Nobody can argue with that"! The same person goes in the pup tent and pulls the flap and says, "There's no, no seeums in there"! Know what a no seeum is? Yeah-some part of the country, they have 'em. I've got into a nest of them once. They are little bitty midges that come up and you don't seeum, but they bite you! I mean they got a giant bite. How many, how many know about no seeums? Oh, you've-they have them. I don't think we have them around here. We may... Do we? Don't think so... Not bed bugs-no. No seeum! You don't see these guys! And so, somebody goes in the pup tent and said, "Well, there's no seeums in here"! Ah! How does he know there's no seeums? You can't see 'em!
So what I'm saying, God has reasons for suffering in your life and my life, and we don't see it because His ways are higher than our ways. His agenda is far beyond our agenda. So we, we don't have a reason for everything. God does. We see this way that He proves Himself. And then finally, there's another one that I want you to look at. That is the purifying theodicy. Sickness purifies us. Have you noticed that? Had my chest split open, what, 4 or years ago, and they tinkered around and put a lot of things here, there, and yonder-boy, that'll purify you! Heh, heh, heh! Sure will...It surely will, or it should. So the problem is, suffering purifies. It cleanses. It helps us get our priorities right. When you're lying flat of your back, there's only one way you can look! Look up! It purifies. That's another theodicy for God.
Now you put all of these theodicies together, giving some rational understanding of evil and suffering and why God is omnipotent, and He's also a God of love, but we still have it. You put all of them together, it still doesn't answer all of our questions, does it? It doesn't do it. And you can take any one of them. You say, "Well, free will is the best understanding of evil..." It may be, may be, but free will has a hole in it, as every one of these theodicies has a hole in it. Now what's the free will hole? In other words, the idea that free will is-here it is. You have a 4 year old boy. You play in the yard. He's running toward the street. Cars going-shweww, shweww, shweww!! You run out there and grab him and get him before he goes to the street and say, "Son"! "Oh, I wanna..." "No"! "Son"!
Now when he grows up, gets to be about 15, he doesn't come and say, "Daddy, you remember that time you violated my free will and didn't let me run out in the street? I just haven't forgiven you for that"! No! That doesn't happen! You say, "Well, here's our Heavenly Father that loves us more than a human father can love us. Why doesn't He sometime violate our free will to keep us from having a wreck and running out into the streets of life"? You see, the free will argument, defending God, isn't totally adequate.
In fact, you can stand at the foot of the Cross, and you can look up there and you can ask all these questions: "Why this, God? Why that, God? I don't understand this suffering, this evil, this problem, this situation..." You can ask all those questions, and you'll never get them all answered, but there's one thing that you'll discover at the foot of the Cross, and that's all you need to know. That is, that the Man on the Cross, the God Man wrapped up in human face really loves you and me in and through all of this, because this God Man didn't stay on the bank of the river of life, He jumped into the river of life with us! With us! With us! And that makes all the difference in the world.