Atheist John Loftus has the following argument against Christianity. I don’t bring it up because Loftus is any kind of a genius of argumentation, but because we see this same argument in various forms from various atheists. Here is the argument:
If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it. So the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge. I consider this as close to an empirical refutation of Christianity as is possible.
(source) I answer:
a) God is perfectly good, he is all knowing, and he is all powerful.
b) God is also perfectly just.
c) There is suffering the world, and there is happiness in the world.
d) The answer to why there is suffering is easy: there is sin and God is just.
e) The more puzzling thing is why there is any happiness in the world.
f) The reason is that God is not only perfectly good and perfectly just, but also merciful.
JL claims: “The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it.”
JL doesn’t know what “good” is. That’s the problem. JL seems to think that the goodness of God is measured by what God does for him! How foolish! God is the creator and we are the creature. We exist for His pleasure, not the other way around. When sin is punished by suffering and death, that is God being good. JL may not like it, but what JL likes is not the standard of good.
JL claims: “So the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it.”
JL’s dichotomy (well, “di-” is not technically correct prefix because he provides more than two options) is false. God is powerful enough to eliminate all suffering and to eliminate all happiness. God is smart enough to know what to do to eliminate either suffering or happiness. The reason for God not eliminating either of these is not an insufficient degree of care. God does care what goes on in the world, and what goes on is precisely what He has decreed.
But again, notice the premise in JL’s reasoning: if God does not care to eliminate JL’s suffering, God does not care enough. This characterization makes sense only from the backwards viewpoint of anthropocentrism: a man-centered view of the universe.
JL claims: “The stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge.” As noted above, however, the problem is actually with JL’s apparent view that “goodness” is measured by man’s standard, not God’s standard. JL seems to overlook the possibility that something is wrong with the standards he’s using, and instead points a crooked finger at God. Furthermore, since JL overlooks the problem of sin, JL hasn’t seen that the real difficulty is not suffering, but happiness.
For more, see the interesting video from Pastor Voddie Baucham that I previously embedded (link).
Let me be clear, there may be some for whom Loftus’ internal critique would work. There are some for whom their conception of God is as anthropocentric as Loftus’. I hope, dear readers, that you are not among them. If you are, I would exhort you to obtain a copy of Dr. White’s “The Potter’s Freedom,” and read it. In that book, Dr. White powerfully explains the fact of God’s sovereignty. It’s available at the Alpha and Omega Ministries bookstore (link) and probably a number of other venues.