Why did 12 innocent movie attenders in Aurora, Colorado die at mid-night at the hand of a crazed gunman through no fault of their own? How could a good God allow such evil?
Elie Wiesel is a Nobel Prize winner, author, and Jewish survivor of Holocaust at Auschwitz wrote: “In the concentration camp, he was compelled to witness the hanging of two Jewish men and one Jewish boy. The two men died almost instantly, but the lad struggled for about a half-hour on the gallows. Someone behind Wiesel muttered, ‘Where is God? Where is He?’ Then a voice within him seemed to say, ‘He is hanging there on the gallows.’” ”Where is God?” He is here! God is not remote, untouched, or uninvolved but in the fiery furnace with us. He is not only exaltedly transcendent but intimately immanent.
The skeptics have several arguments with the problem of evil and the existence of God.
First Argument of the Skeptic: How can God and Suffering Co-exist?
David Hume, the eighteenth century philosopher, is often quoted as articulating the problem of evil and the existence of God: “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
Does this argument solve the dilemma? Those who reject God say evolution is the alternative to the existence of God juxtaposed with suffering, rejection, hunger, and death. But is evolution problem free? Tim Keller exposes the weakness of that logic: “The evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak-these things are all perfectly natural.” If only the strong survive in evolution then the innocent suffer. So the elimination of God has not eradicated the suffering of the innocence.
Paul wrote that “All things (which has to include the evil of child molestation, death by drunk drivers, divorce, rape, murder, etc.) work together for good” in Romans 8:28. Paul did not say all these evils are good but that God can use evil for good. One preacher, R. A. Torrey, said Romans 8:28 was a soft pillow for a tried heart. During World War II, another prominent preacher called Romans 8:28 “the hardest verse in the Bible.” So which is it? I recently visited the emergency room at Forsyth Hospital and meet a wife who had just been dealt the devastating blow that her 44 year husband had died and her 13 year old son who sat by her side was visibly in shock. The mother-in-law said to me out in the hall of the hospital, “I see no purpose in this.” Is Romans 8:28 a soft pillow or the hardest verse in the Bible for this family? Which is it to you?
This strategic verse must be interpreted in the context of the entire book of Romans. The overarching theme of Romans is the Righteousness of God through the Gospel. In chapters 1-8, Paul develops this truth doctrinally.
- In chapters 1:18-3:20, Paul argues like a defense attorney that all people are guilty sinners. Evil is not just in the world, evil is in each of us. The skeptic is hypocritical when he points out the evil of God allowing innocent people to suffer and die as if the skeptic has never cause an innocent person to suffer, like his parent, or his child or his spouse. Besides there are no innocent victims as Paul states in his concluding argument: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (3:10). C. S. Lewis said, “Natural disasters do not increase deaths, all of us will die.”
- In chapters 3:21-5:21, Paul gives hope for the sinner in the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
- In chapters 6-8, Paul demonstrates that the doctrine of sanctification is the result of justification by faith.
Chapter eight begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation” for those who “walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (8:4). If you have been justified you will have a changed life which gives assurance. You and I can and must have this assurance in the midst of evil and suffering. In Romans 8:1-25, the whole planet is “groaning” and suffering under the curse. Sometimes when the earth groans there is an earthquake, or a hurricane, or a mudslide, or a tornado. That suffering gets closer home for the believer in Romans 8:26-27, where we come to such a low point of weakness we do not know how to pray.
In Romans 8:28-30, Paul declares that God has determined from eternity past our likeness to Christ (perfect sanctification) in eternity future and is presently using daily circumstances to painfully fashion that likeness.
Scripture’s Argument: God and Suffering must Co-exist.
What is the greatest example of suffering in human history? The Holocaust where six million Jews were massacred? The tsunami in December of 2004 which killed 250,000 people? The terrorist attack on 911 in which 2740 died? 12 movie attenders murdered at a Batman movie screening (including a parent’s little 6 year old girl)? As horrific as all of these tragedies were, there is one example that is in a class all by itself. That example is found in our chapter: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3).
The skeptic says that God and suffering cannot coexist, but Scriptures affirm they have to co-exist for there to be salvation from present sin and all future suffering.
Was God at the cross? The God/Man was on the cross: “God sending his own Son.”
Was suffering at the cross? Christ “in the likeness of sinful flesh” died for our sins.
Was evil at the cross? God “condemned sin in the flesh” of His Son.
God and suffering also co-exist in our lives. These daily circumstances include the “all things” of evil and suffering. The neuter plural adjective παντα “all things” has no restrictions. The Skeptic in you might be saying, “I wish Paul would have used the masculine. My masculine knight in shining armor just dumped me for another damsel in distress. Others of you are thinking, “I wish Paul would have used the feminine. There is this feminine doll on campus, and I am in love with her, but she doesn’t even know my name.” When Paul used the neuter he included “all things” including your masculine and feminine problems. God is in your suffering accomplishing His will. Maybe you were dumped so God can lead Mr. Right into your life. Maybe see doesn’t know your name now but when it is God’s time she will bear your name. Maybe, don’t take that statement as a prophecy or an absolute.
Second Argument of the Skeptic: Why did God make His Son Suffer?
Some today are accusing God of Divine child abuse. Instead of Sola Scriptura (only Scripture), their view is Sola Cultura (only culture). Just because there is injustice in society you cannot force that reality on the meaning of the cross. Did only the Son suffer at the cross. No! Did God drop his Son off on the doorstep of earth and abandon him?
Scriptures’ Argument: God suffered at the Cross. 2 Cor 5:19 “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” Can deity suffer? Yes! Those who teach that God cannot suffer teach the impassibility of God, that is, He is incapable of feeling pain. God is not only deity but personality. God the Spirit (who has no human body or nature like Christ) can be grieved. “Grieve” is a love word. Who can grieve a parent? The neighbor? The fellow employee? No! Only a child. We are made in the image of God who has intellect, will, and emotions. Romans 8:32 gives us a unique look at the suffering (not redemptive) of the Father at the cross.
The Skeptic in you might be asking, “Why is God making me suffer?” God is also with you in your suffering. God did not save you and drop you off on the doorstep of life and abandon you. God is mentioned twice in 8:28. Once “God” is an implied subject in 8:28. Here is how Paul wrote Romans 8:28 “and we know that to those who are loving God all things (“He” implied) works together for good.” We don’t have to guess as to why God is making us suffering or what is the “good” is in verse 28. The answer is in verse 29: So that we can be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
Someone defined “Providence as the Hand of God in the glove of my circumstance.” Just as God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, God in is you conforming you to the likeness of Christ.” Your pain, sufferings, troubles are not in vain.
Third Argument of the Skeptic: Why did God not create us where we could only choose Good?
Because He wants us to choose to “love” Him just as He chose to love us. You who are married, would you want to be married to Star Wars C-3PO? Maybe sometimes?
My wife and I are doing the 40 day Love Dare. We watched Fireproof and I bought two Love Dare books. I especially liked day three which was a Wednesday where we were to buy our spouse something during the day that told them that we were thinking of them. I bought my wife a Craftsman 3/8 socked wrench and told her that on Saturday we could take her new socket wrench and together change the oil and bound. Actually, I bought her a rose. She put the rose in a vase on the dining room table and bragged on its beauty everyday and it set there until the peddles wilted, turned black, and dropped off. Would it have meant as much if I were C-3PO and before I left for work that Wednesday she commanded me. “Bring home a rose for me?”
Dr. J. Robertson McQuilkin was formerly the president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary….He is a conference speaker and author of note. But none of those credentials exceed his exemplary and heart-gripping love for his ailing wife, Muriel. She has walked down the grim and lonely world of Alzheimer’s disease for the last twenty years. Dr. McQuilkin gave up his presidency and numerous other responsibilities to care for her and to love her. He has penned his emotional journey in one of the most magnificent little books ever written. At one point in the book he recounts this incident:
Once our flight was delayed in Atlanta, and we had to wait a couple of hours. Now that’s a challenge. Every few minutes, the same questions, the same answers about what we’re doing here, when are we going home? And every few minutes we’d take a fast pace walk down the terminal in earnest search of-what? Muriel had always been a speed walker. I had to jog to keep up with her!
An attractive woman sat across from us, working diligently on her computer. Once, when we returned from an excursion, she said something, without looking up from her papers. Since no one spoke to me or at least mumbled in protest of our constant activity, “Pardon?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, “I was just asking myself, ‘Will I ever find a man to love me like that?’” When I read this love story the thought hit me: Is God asking, “Will I ever find a believer to love me like that?”
The Scriptures say God created us to choose to love Him voluntarily, willfully, and sacrificially. Do we? There are answers for the skeptic in the world and in you in Romans 8:28. Let God encourage you and strengthen your faith through this powerful verse.
 Erwin W. Lutzer. Ten Lies About God (Nashville:Nelson, 2000) 75.
 Timothy Keller. Reason For God (New York: Dutton, 2008) 249.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ravi Zacharias. Jesus Among Other Gods (Nashville: Nelson, 2000) 129.