Why does God allow? (Part 2)
What is God like?
What I hope we established in the first part is that if you claim the right to ask questions beginning, ‘Why does God allow...?’, you are accepting that God is responsible for what happens in the world because of His claim to be all-powerful, and that He claims to be all-loving, and therefore would surely want to exercise His power for the benefit of those who suffer; if you do not accept these two things, you have no reason to ask the question.
The next step in my argument is simply that we only think of God as loving and powerful because the Bible, which claims to be God's word, tells us so - no other source for such ideas exists - so if we are serious about finding real answers to the ‘Why does God allow...?’ questions, we must be willing to at least consider what answer the Bible gives to this; and immediately we find that it tells us that love and power are not God's only attributes (aspects of His nature). Before the Apostle John tells us that God is love [1 John 4 v8], he tells us that God is spirit [John 4 v24], and God is light [1 John 1 v5].
So, whilst we are in some ways like God (made in His 'image', [Genesis 1 v26]) we are fundamentally very different, and must not judge God's love by our own. What we would do to remedy suffering, had we the power, might have many unforeseen and undesirable consequences, because we would need not only all of God's power, but all of His knowledge and wisdom too, and would need to be capable of seeing every thought and desire in every person's mind, and to be able to be everywhere at once! In the film ‘Bruce Almighty’, Bruce had major problems because God gave him his power, but not his wisdom or knowledge!
What then must we understand about God in order to comprehend why this all-powerful and all-loving being allows all the suffering and other bad things that happen in the world? To begin with we need to understand what it means that God is SPIRIT (so utterly different to us who are limited, physical beings, and beyond our comprehension), and that He is LIGHT (that is utterly perfect, good, holy, pure and glorious).
1. God is Spirit
We are physical beings, living in a physical universe, limited to being in one place at a time, and except for a few astronauts, ultimately confined to the boundaries of this planet; we had a definite beginning, and we know this life will eventually come to an end; we are capable of thought and emotion, action and communication with others, and of learning through observation, experimentation, and the accumulated and published wisdom of others before us; all this, however, is dependent upon the physical and mental powers of our bodies and brains, and is therefore quite limited.
By contrast, the God who claims to have revealed himself to those who recorded His words and actions in the Bible, is spiritual, not limited in any sense, capable of being everywhere in the universe at once, and outside the physical realm as well; He is without beginning or end, so we say He is eternal, and His knowledge and wisdom are infinite, as is His power. However all these superlative words only serve to emphasise that really, we cannot ultimately fathom God at all! How then can we expect to understand why God does what He does, let alone pass judgement upon Him. Compared to God, we are utterly ignorant and foolish. Until we are willing to accept this and stand before God with the utmost humility and awe, we are not ready to hear the answers God would give to our questions.
2 God is Light
Here we actually come to the heart of the matter; all the answers to all the 'Why?' questions ultimately depend upon our grasping this; and our whole understanding of why the world is the way it is will turn upon how well we grasp these truths about God. The very first physical attribute of the newly-created universe, the very first specific function God introduced was light [Genesis 1 v3]; even if you believe in an evolutionary explanation to the existence of the universe, you believe in a 'Big Bang' which was in essence an outward explosion of energy which would have been visible to an observer as light!
However, throughout the Bible, God uses ‘light and darkness’ as a powerful analogy of the contrast between good and evil, between holiness, purity, and moral perfection on the one hand, and all that is sinful, impure and depraved on the other. So when God inspired John to write, "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all", He was intending us to understand this in terms of moral purity and truth, and to see darkness as a picture of all that is false and corrupt.
If you read the Bible without understanding that it is, from one angle, simply an account of how moral evil came into a perfect universe, alienating the human race from its Creator, and what God has done to rectify the matter, you really will make no sense of it at all! All the big stories - the Flood, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, the Conquest of Canaan, and greatest of all, the coming of the Lord Jesus, are all examples of God's judgement that must necessarily come upon human sin and rebellion, and how through sacrifice, sin can be atoned for, and human beings be reunited to God.
Ultimately, it is in understanding this that we will finally grasp what is wrong with the world, why there is suffering of all kinds, and what God has done, and will do about it; if you will allow the Bible to speak about these things, you will begin to see the answers to your questions without me spelling it out! We will take this matter up in more detail in the next part.
to be continued...