The Problem of Good

Atheists and agnostics regularly resort to the “problem of evil” when raising arguments against the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God. No doubt you are familiar with how it goes. How can a loving and all-powerful God allow so much evil and suffering? And perhaps this argument has entered your head without the help of an antagonistic atheist, especially when you have faced a time of tragedy or pain in your own life. Job went through this. Job doesn’t seem to have doubted God’s existence, but he did question God’s justice and goodness. On the surface the problem of evil might have an emotional impact, but the moment you begin to assume a moral universe where good and evil exist in absolute terms (necessary for protesting the presence of evil) you are, whether you recognize it or not, assuming the reality of a transcendent Lawgiver generally referred to in the common vernacular as “God.” And there you have it.

Dostoevsky was right when he said, “Without God all things are permissible.”

On what basis can we absolutely condemn anything as evil (e.g. torturing babies) without eventually appealing to God? In a relativistic universe nothing can be absolutely condemned; the moment you condemn anything, you have begun a process that eventually leads to the supreme court of a transcendent Lawgiver.

It’s all pretty obvious in terms of logic, but I’ve found that angry theophobes are not near as logical in their reasons for unbelief as they like to pretend. Indeed, as Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

But what I’m really thinking about this morning is not the problem of evil, but the problem of good.

The problem is there is so much of it!

The problem of good is that it unravels the argument raised by the problem of evil. To hear it told you would think that evil is so ubiquitous that goodness cannot be found. But that’s not true. Goodness is everywhere. We can’t turn around, look out a window or walk down the street without running into goodness.

Green grass and blues skies.
Falling leaves and laughing children.
The song of birds and the smell of coffee.
A smiling face and a warm embrace.
The capacity to know these things are good.
The ability to find beauty everywhere.
The very possibility of living a life that in the end you can call good.

Oceans of goodness are a problem for those bent on being negative and seeing only what is evil.

Good is so present it seems to be the fabric of the universe.

It is!

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.”

Yes, evil is present, but not as a thing itself. Evil is merely a corruption of what is good, a tear in the fabric of goodness, a parasite upon the host of goodness that cannot live by itself.

Creation is good, it is not evil. It has been marred, but it can be healed.

God did not create this good earth only to change his mind a short time later and kick it in the garbage can.

God did not spend what we call 13.75 billion years creating the universe and pronouncing it very good, only to give up on it in the end and decide it would be better for the Imago Dei beings to be transferred to a non spacio-temporal existence. NO! Creation is good and the solution to the damage done by parasitic evil is not abandonment but redemption.

If creation is abandoned because of the damage wrought by evil, then in a very real sense evil has triumphed. But if creation is healed and evil exiled then God is the victor.

Paul tells us that creation itself groans with longing for the day when the healing will be complete and the sons of God will appear in glory. (Romans 8:18f)

The only way that evil can claim victory is if death is the end. If the grave reigns supreme, then evil can claim a kind of triumph.

But what if one could defeat death? What if one could promise eternal life to others and guarantee the promise by rising from the dead himself?

Well, that would be good news!

And it is the good news I have come to believe in Jesus Christ.

And because evil’s greatest accomplishment — death — has been defeated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I will choose to focus on what is good. I will set my mind on good. I will look for good. I will expect good. I will experience good. I will give thanks for the goodness all around me.

I live in a good creation. A good creation marred by evil, but which will be healed. But even now the light is beginning to shine and I am surrounded by so much goodness.

A good world filled with good things to enjoy.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

You too.

Life is good.

Be happy.



Have a good Thanksgiving.

And spend some time giving thanks.

Friday night we will have a special Thanksgiving Praise & Communion Service.

If you can be there it will be a good thing.