I don’t know about you, but by nature I am a skeptical person. I have never been the first to believe something simply because someone told me it was true. That is why I had a hard time when first confronted with facts about Christianity. I thought to myself, “There is no way this could be true!” Though not an atheist, I was certainly not a believer.
Let me say something you might find surprising coming from a pastor. Not all skepticism is necessarily bad. We may think anyone who entertains any doubts is immediately wrong and lacking faith. But doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking!
It’s been said, “Skepticism is the first step toward truth.” You see, God loves skeptics, too. But He wants to turn them into believers. They are not, after all, really outright unbelievers; they are just unsure. There is a big difference between unbelief and skepticism. Skepticism is open to believing; unbelief is refusing to believe. Skepticism is honesty; unbelief is stubbornness. Skepticism is looking for light; unbelief is being content with darkness.
An unbeliever has no intention of changing or believing. They will offer up the well-worn excuse, but the fact of the matter is even when confronted with evidence to refute their non-belief, they reject it out of hand. That is because they do not want to believe. On the other hand, the skeptic, when presented with the facts, may change. That is because they had honest and heartfelt questions about God and His Word. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Just consider the facts. There are many who will say, “The reason I am not a Christian is because I have certain questions about God and faith.” Sound familiar? This one almost always tops the list. You’ve heard it in a score of versions:
Why does God allow babies to be born blind? Why does He allow wars to rage, killing innocent people? How could He stand by and let a little girl be kidnapped, raped and murdered? What about all the horrible injustice in the world? How could He allow this terrible tragedy … this hurricane … this tsunami … this earthquake … this wildfire … this epidemic … to take place when He could have prevented it?
In the classic statement of the problem, God is either all-powerful but not all good, therefore, He doesn’t stop evil … or He is all good but not all-powerful, therefore, He can’t stop evil. The general tendency, of course, is to blame God for evil and suffering, and pass all responsibility on to Him.
Let’s go back to that question for a moment: If God is so good and loving, why does He allow evil? First of all, this question is based on a false premise. If I make such a statement, I am essentially suggesting (or saying outright) that God is not “all good.” And why am I saying that? Because He doesn’t meet my criteria of being good and allowing evil at the same time.
So often the person you’re talking to imagines that he or she is the first one to ever come up with this question. And in their minds, it’s so airtight and irrefutable that it puts a period on the whole issue right there. But it really doesn’t. Not at all. The first question I would ask in response would be, “So when did you become the moral center of the universe?” Listen, God is not good because I think He is good, or because I personally agree with what He says and does. God is good because He says He is! Jesus said, “No one is good – except God alone” (Luke 18:19 NIV). God is good if I believe it or not. He and He alone is the final court of arbitration. As the Apostle Paul said, “Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4 NIV).
What is “good”? Good is what God approves. We may ask, “Why is what God approves good?” Answer: Because He approves it! That is to say, there is no higher standard of goodness than God’s own character and His approval of whatever is consistent with that character. So God is good. Period.
Now let’s come back to the second part of the question. Why does He allow evil? We must remember man was not created evil, but perfect. Ageless. Innocent. Immortal. From the very beginning, however, from the time God breathed the breath of life into that inanimate clay, man has had the ability to choose right or wrong. And he made his choice.
Had man never sinned, there would have been no resulting curse. Romans 5:12 tells us, “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (NLT). The point we must keep in mind is that man, not God, is responsible for sin. But why didn’t God make man so he couldn’t sin? Because God wanted us to choose to love Him.
So, He has given to us a free will, a capacity to choose good or evil, to do right or wrong. It sometimes seems that it would be a much better (and certainly safer) world if God did not allow us to exercise our free will.
Free will is our greatest blessing and, in many ways, our worst curse. If God hadn’t given us free will, we would merely be marionettes on a string, remote-control robots that bow before Him at the touch of a button. God, however, wants to be loved and obeyed by creatures who voluntarily choose to do so. Love is not genuine if there is no other option.
You may still be a skeptic, but remember this: God loves you deeply and tenderly and has a unique and wonderful plan for your life. Won’t you respond in love to Him?
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