the goodness of God

The Goodness of God

A book review of The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn

Why is there pain and suffering in the world? Why would a good God allow such evil to transpire on His watch? These are difficult questions that have drawn people to God or repelled them from Him. These difficult questions have even sifted out Christians from among the ranks, “Evil and suffering have a way of exposing our inadequate theology. When affliction comes, a weak nominal Christian often discovers that his faith doesn’t account for it or prepare him for it.” [5]

In his book, The Goodness of God, Randy Alcorn practically, personally and biblically addresses common misunderstandings about why a good and sovereign would allow or permit suffering and evil to affect His creation. He points out the flawed thinking of many world views [i.e. relativism, buddhism, pantheism, atheism, dualism, open theism, gnosticism, etc.] that seek to diminish and deactivate God’s goodness in the face of pain and suffering in the world. Here are some of the questions covered in the book that aim to give you assurance in the midst of suffering.

If God is really good why is their evil?

Evil cannot exist without the good it opposes. It’s not so much the removal of good as it is the corruption of good. As metal does not need rust, but rust needs metal, so good doesn’t need evil, but evil needs good [10]. From the beginning God intended the permission of evil, but to turn it on its head and show His highest good in the midst of it. The ugliness of evil demonstrates the beauty of God’s goodness.

If God is good why all the suffering and pain?

Evil is the source of suffering. Suffering would not exist if there were no evil. With the Fall of man came suffering and pain as a righteous consequence man’s sinful disobedience. God allows and permits suffering and pain as part of His divine plan. Though God is not the causer of evil, but he is the author of the story that includes it [15].

If God is good why doesn’t he deal with evil?

He will. No evil will ever go unpunished [61]. Where is the justice? Sometimes God’s delay in our finite mind and time frame seems unjust, but “God delays justice not to make our lives miserable, but to make our lives possible.” [62] God’s delay is actually good, it allows for His grace to give us time to turn back to Him.

“Grace isn’t about God lowering His standards. It’s about God fulfilling those standards through the substitutionary suffering of Jesus Christ. Grace never ignores or violates truth. Grace gave what truth demanded: the ultimate sacrifice for our wickedness.” [24]

The problem is, “we want selective justice, not true justice. We cry out for justice when we really want vindication and special treatment–relief from injustice done against us, without being judged for injustices done by us. Since God is just, he cannot always give us the justice we want without also giving us the justice we deserve.” [62-62]

Our problem is further amplified because “we are utterly unqualified to assess how often we sin and how bad our sins are. Sin mean nothing to those who are riddled with it.” [85]

If God is good what is the purpose of evil?

Evil is never good, yet God can use any evil to accomplish good and sovereign purposes [34]. We would much rather have suffering and pain disappear and go away. However, is for our good and God’s working in us. What glorifies God is good for us [103],

“Suffering exposes idols in our lives. It uncovers our trust in God-substitutes and declare our need to transfer our trust to the only One who can bear its weight. We imagine God as our genie who comes to do our bidding. Suffering wakes us up to the fact that we serve Him, not He us.” [100]

In conclusion, there are more biblically satisfying answers to the questions above, which I did not mention along with encouraging and challenging stories of many who have walked through the fires of suffering and pain, but came through refined.

My only beef with the book is that it is too short. There is a practical solution. Get the bigger book. The Goodness of God is a snapshot of the panoramic taken from Randy Alcorn’s bigger treatise on the goodness of God in, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (2009, Eternal Perspective Ministries). The appetizer is a tasty teaser that makes you hunger for the main course.

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