Someone may be described as “good” if they are useful or fulfill a purpose (“He’s a good baseball player”, “She’s a good surgeon”). However, “goodness” is also appropriately defined in terms of moral character and uprightness. The Bible tells us that with God both definitions are appropriate. God Himself is good, generous, and benevolent (1 Chron. 16:34, Ps. 103:8). Everything He created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The Bible tells us God is working in this world and on our behalf to combat evil with His intentional goodness (Gen. 50:20). And when this difficult life is over, God will have worked all things together for the ultimate good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28-30).
However, many are not guided by what the Bible says, and are instead informed only by what they see, feel, and how they interpret their experiences in this life. I think we would all agree that challenges and painful experiences can and have driven people away from the conclusion that God is good. In fact, Atheists often argue that the very presence of evil, pain, and suffering in our world are enough to deny the existence of the benevolent God described in the Bible.
One reason for the alleged discrepancy between what the Bible affirms about God’s goodness and what the world concludes when they see evil, pain, and suffering is a failure to properly define what the Bible is actually affirming when it describes and defines God as good. It is an enormous leap in logic to say that the existence of difficulty and tragedy lead to the necessary conclusion that God cannot be good. God’s moral upright character implies He will always love good and hate evil, that He will love us and do what is best for us (for humanity), and that He graciously forgives, but it does not necessitate Him intervening to stop every evil deed or every painful experience. Many also erroneously assumes suffering has no value or purpose. What if God was using these experiences to humble us, help us learn, grow, empathize, etc.? Let’s also not forget how humanity’s free will plays a chief role in explaining why the world is corrupt.
Those who take the time to read the Bible will quickly find out that God dedicates a lot of ink acknowledging and addressing man’s pain and his battle against evil. The Bible in no way tries to hide the fact that things have gone horribly wrong in God’s world. The Bible tells of sibling rivalries, family feuds, criminal activities, war, famine, disease, and more. The book of Job provides a 42-chapter record of one man’s misery. Job cries out with every question someone suffering might ask, and it is a powerful story we can relate to because it hides none of the uncomfortable and ugly parts of life. The real value of the book comes from the fact that God did not abandon Job, and in the end Job did not abandon God either. Of great consolation is the fact that God had been watching him closely the entire time.
It is important to note that the very idea of moral goodness demands the existence of God. While the atheist makes his argument against God based on the supposition that “goodness” exists, and that the presence of evil must negate the reality of God, the logical requirement here is actually the opposite – that “goodness” demands God’s exists. In other words, if the universe only consists of matter, then there can be no such value as good or evil. One can have an opinion about things, but they cannot ascribe absolute objective moral value. To recognize that there is good and evil in the world, is to admit there is an objective moral standard by which we determine what is good and evil, right and wrong.
Skeptics will continue to argue that a good God, with the ability to extinguish evil, must do so or else He cannot be good, but this argument fails as the Bible provides a reasonable and alternative explanation for why there is evil in God’s world. God tells us He opposes evil and hates sin with its devastating consequences, and that He has gone to the greatest length to rescue humanity (Rom. 5:8). God is in fact so good that He will one day “wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Those who seek to deny God’s existence by pointing to the evils of this world are denying the only One that can save them from such. Others who attack God by saying He is not good are not qualified to stand in judgement of the Almighty. Job tried to question God, but he quickly found out his knowledge and wisdom was greatly diminished when God started asking questions (Job 38-41).
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor” (Rom. 11:33-34)?