Is it God’s fault?
When I read the story: “Amoeba Parasite Kills Second U.S. Child This Month,”1 my heart couldn’t help but ache for the family of this boy. According to the original article, a nine-year-old boy caught the amoeba while swimming in a still, warm body of water: “The amoeba swims up the nose, through the sinuses and in to the space around the brain, causing meningoencephalitis—inflammation of the brain and its lining—in a day to two weeks.”2
Having three sons of my own, all under the age of nine, I cannot imagine the heartache the parents were going through. When we see headlines like this, it usually brings up the “How could a loving God allow…” question. If God created everything “very good”, does that include amoebas that kill little boys?
This is one of the main arguments that unbelievers use to attack Christianity and its image of a loving God. Regrettably, most Christians have no answer ready when someone challenges them with this seemingly loaded question. Because many Christians believe that the earth is billions of years old, and death preceded Adam’s sin, they have no strong answer for why there is death in the world.
Theologians have been trying to come up with a good answer for this question for many years. Many theologians now insist that there never could have been a real time when evil entered a truly good world—things have been bleeding and dying for millions of years, they think (see Crossing the thin red line). In this view, the Curse, if Genesis is even held to be historical in any sense for human origins, was the beginning of human death only.
Atheism’s problem of evil
When challenged by an unbeliever, one strategy is to ask them to defend the idea of ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ using their own worldview. Before an atheist can complain that God is ‘evil,’ he must first give a justification for any differentiation between good and evil. If we are simply the result of mindless processes over millions and billions of years, who decides what is right and wrong?
According to the atheistic worldview, right and wrong (all morality in general) are merely the results of mindless chemical processes in our brains, a by product of a survival advantage inherited from our common ape-like ancestors. Following this to its logical conclusion, we can say that the ideas that forged the Nazi empire under Adolf Hitler were forced to obey the same chemical laws as those in Billy Graham’s that resulted in thousands of conversions to Christ. If we’re thinking according to the atheistic worldview, then which is more horrific; the terrorist who kills thousands of people or the spider who kills thousands of flies?
The Genesis answer to the problem of evil
Right and wrong are Christian concepts with their roots grounded in the book of Genesis. An atheist must borrow from the Christian worldview to justify the distinction between good and evil in the first place. The argument that atheists use to say that God doesn’t exist because of all the evil in the world is founded on Biblical principles. So, in order for them to make any argument whatsoever, they would first have to be wrong. Atheists ultimately have no answer of their own for this dilemma.
On the other hand, we as Christians have an absolute standard for morality given to us by God in His Word. But many Christians cheat themselves out of the best answer to this dilemma by failing to trust the Bible’s history recorded in Genesis. Without a literal Adam whose disobedience literally resulted in the death of humans and nepheshchayyah animals, Christians are left without a coherent answer just as much as the atheists. In other words, if Genesis is not literal history with a literal very good creation and with a literal Adam and Eve with a literal sin and literal Fall, then sin did not literally enter the world through their actions and therefore you and I don’t literally need to be saved.
God’s solution to the problem of evil
So, how could a loving God just sit back and allow all the death and suffering in this world? This question assumes that God hasn’t done anything. In fact, God has done a lot already to solve the problem of evil, and He has promised to do more in the future. If God had immediately judged all of humanity and gotten rid of the evil rebellion that causes death and suffering today, Adam and Eve would have died instantly, and none of us would be around to complain about God delaying judgment and allowing bad things to happen.
Second, the death and suffering that goes on in this life is a powerful reminder that something is wrong with creation, and more than that, something is wrong with the human heart and our relationship to God. Suffering often points people to Christ, who is God’s ultimate answer to the problem of evil.
Third, God promises a future complete elimination of death and suffering. But along with that is an elimination of all evil and rebellion against Him. Only those who have been forgiven their sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ will have an eternal life free of death, suffering, and pain on the restored earth. God offers the free gift of salvation to everyone, even though none of us deserve it. However, anyone who refuses this gift is subject to eternal punishment. While many do not like this idea, and even many Christians minimize it, God’s justice is inextricably linked with the solution to the problem of evil.
Is it God’s fault that there’s death and suffering in the world today? Not at all. As Christians, we understand that because of our sin, our world is the way it is and there is a loving God in the midst of pain, tragedy, violence and death. It’s up to us to decide if we are going to accept the gift of eternal life that God offers us through His Son or to reject that precious gift and suffer the consequences.