Years ago a book was written in which the author was examining the tension that exists between believing that God is good and believing that He is all-powerful. At the center of the debate for this Jewish author lay the very real problem of evil in our world.
Examining the problem, the author concluded that because of the evil in this world, God could either be a good God or He could be an all-powerful God, but certainly not both at the same time. Many today share this view. I do not.
The main reason so many struggle with trusting God (if they believe in Him), while others struggle with even believing in Him is quite frankly an inherent disbelief in His goodness. If there resides in us even the slightest doubt that God is a good God, we will find it hard if not impossible to really trust him.
At the core of the debate lies what I believe to be some very poor theology. Space does not allow me to go into the details here, so let me simply summarize the issue.
For at least two centuries now, the prevailing belief has been that Satan and his demons fell sometime in eternity past, before God created the physical universe. If that were indeed the case, one can understand why so many struggle with the problem of evil in this world. Why would God allow these evil beings to have sway over his perfect creation unless 1. He is not as good as we think or 2. He really had no choice in the matter.
First, let me quickly say that the second option is a mistaken notion that many hold. Many have the errant belief that there is God, who is good, and His antitheses, the devil, who is evil. They hold that both are equal in power and characteristics, and thus the battle.
That is the view of the author mentioned above. The conclusion of his book was that God was good, but not all-powerful. That simply isn't true. Satan is not the antithesis of God. He is a creature, not a creator and as such is limited in his power. Put simply, he does not worry God nor is his power such that God cannot control him.
The struggle then becomes, if God is so good and so powerful why did he let a fallen creature into the world in the first place? At the heart of that question is the poor theology that I referred to above.
If you will study Ezekiel 28:11-19, you will discover that, at the time of Eden, the creature who would become Satan, had not yet fallen. In fact, this creature was appointed as the Guardian Angel of Eden. I can assure you that God would not have appointed a fallen angel to that position.
No, Satan's fall came at the same tree as Adam's and Eve's fall came. And here is the key verse when it comes to the issue of evil in this world, "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you." (Ezekiel 28:15, NIV).
The evil that exists in this world did not come from the Creator but from the creature. God did not create evil. Everything He created was good, perfect in fact. What God did do was allow His creatures to be tested (because a love relationship must be that of a free choice) and we failed the test. The evil that exists originated in the creature, not in the Creator. (Compare also James 1:13-18).
If you look around at circumstances, you will always doubt the goodness of God. The Bible says, "People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord." (Proverbs 19:3, NLT). We all do it. I do it. As long as we try to reason from experience, we will reason wrongly. We cannot look at circumstances and know God loves us, but we can look at the cross and know it.
The Bible says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NIV), and, "God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won't he freely give us everything else?" (Romans 8:32, CEV).
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, GA.. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org