Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Dr. Chad Meeks is the Associate Pastor at Cedar Heights Baptist Church in North Little Rock and an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He enjoys reading, hanging out with his family, hiking, and exploring the deep mysteries of Sumatra coffee.

On Nov 5th, 2020, Ben Arbour and his wife Meg were driving home from a late night date. We can only speculate, but it seems Ben either did not see the street racer or he thought he could easily make the turn before the car approached. Unfortunately, the street racer crashed into the Arbour car killing both Ben and Meg. They leave behind 4 beautiful, young children.

Ben was a loving husband and father, never met a stranger, highly intelligent, and a devoted follower of Christ. The resurrection was an anchor for all of his intellectual pursuits. He commonly told friends as he was struggling with a theological or philosophical issue, “But you know what? Jesus has risen, so it is all good in the end!”

Meg was a devoted wife and mother. She commonly served at her local church and homeschooled her 4 children. And her perpetual smile was a gentle reminder of her love for Christ and peace in life.  

These were—humanly speaking—good people. So how can God allow such good people to die so young and tragically? How can a good God allow 4 young, happy children to be orphaned in an instant due to such a senseless act? In these very difficult situations, many ask: Where is God? Why would He allow such evil to take place?

The thought is usually fleshed out like this: God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good. So if God is all-powerful, then He has the power to stop evil. If God is all-knowing, then He has the knowledge to stop evil. And if God is perfectly good, He would want to stop evil. So why does evil exist? Does the existence of evil prove that God does not exist?  

The main focus of the argument is that if God is as we think He is, then He would never allow such evil to happen. But there is a significant problem with such a conclusion.

If, indeed, God is all-knowing, it is possible He has a reason for allowing the evil that we finite creatures just can’t understand. Perhaps He allows it because it produces a greater good. Perhaps God allows evil because it is a natural consequence of having some sort of human autonomy. The point is: given that God is all-knowing and we are not, God could very easily have a reason for allowing evil that we just can’t understand.    

But perhaps you claim: “Look, it isn’t really the general sense of evil that seems to disprove God, it’s the pointless evil. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good, He would prevent pointless (or gratuitous) suffering.” For example, what purpose does it serve for a fawn burned in a forest fire to slowly die an agonizing death? Or for a young child to suffer the painful effects of a disease that slowly takes his life? What God would allow this pointless suffering? According to the atheist, such heartbreaking realities are cause for unbelief.

But I fail to see how evil in general or “pointless” evil gets around the objection above. Granted, I do not know why God would allow such suffering, but that’s just the problem—we finite creatures may be incapable of knowing why an infinite being would allow such suffering.

It is very possible that God values free creatures in such a way that He allows them to abuse their freedom and this abuse leads to the suffering and pain in the world. No one knows for sure if this is the case, but it is definitely a possibility. And given our limited knowledge, a mere possibility is all we need to counter these two arguments.

There is also a straightforward biblical response to this issue. In my next article, I’ll focus on such a reply.

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