I recently had a conversation with someone about what it means for God to be all-powerful and all-loving. Since I don’t want this to be just buried in the comments section, I thought I would bring up the main points here. First of all, I have to say that there is a difference when it is a conversation between philosophers on a theoretical level and when it is someone who has personally experienced suffering. Our instinct is that if God is both loving and powerful, he should intervene in some way. I am sympathetic with these feelings. There are times I think about how effortlessly God could heal my two autistic children. I cannot put everything into a tight little box that would totally remove the concerns of people who struggle with this. But I can offer some thoughts.
1) With regard to moral evil, we have to ask who is responsible: God or humanity? Why did God allow the holocaust? Why not ask why humanity allowed the holocaust? If we followed God’s commands, we would have a heaven on earth.
2) If God took away free will for doing evil, he would have to take away the free will to do good. If we are not free to hate, we are not free to love.
3) It is in the worst tragedies that we see humanity at its most noble. Look at history. Has society been the best when it is the most affluent and comfortable or when they band together to help those in need.
4) To define all-loving as giving us everything we want is an artificial definition. I love my children. But I sometimes seem very unfair, unjust and mean when I don’t give them what they want. Loving does not require constant intervention.
5) Why does God not intervene? How do we know he doesn’t? We have no idea how much God intervenes in this world or in our lives.
6) This life is not all there is. When a baby is born extremely sick and dies days later, it is heart breaking. We think of all the things that child should have been able to experience. But if there is a resurrection and there is an opportunity for the child to experience an eternity of activity, it should affect our understanding. This does not take away from the need to grieve. Jesus cried at Lazarus’ tomb even though he was about raise him from the dead.
7) We must see God’s power and love in the context of the cross. Why doesn’t God do something about evil and death? He did by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. Jesus was God’s power and love compressed into the form of a human being.
If you are going through a terrible time or know someone who is, seven points are not going to make your pain disappear. But hopefully these things will help you to see that there is a bigger picture and will encourage you to not shut the door on God too quickly.