The full question:

Critically examine the apparent tension between God’s providence and the presence of evil in the world. The student should critically analyse the relevant Scriptures and historical interpretations on the subject of providence and evil and consider the pastoral implications of these views, particularly with respect to sufferers of illness or disability and their carers as they seek answers to the question: ‘How can a good God allow evil?’.

ABSTRACT

The problem of evil is a problem as old as time itself. Since almost the beginning of time there has been suffering and sickness, death and disease in the world. For just as long – or longer! – mankind has been keenly aware that God is sovereignly providential over all of creation. But these two facts create a seeming tension: how can God be fully in control and allow evil and suffering to happen? Is he to blame? Is he not good enough to desire it to end? This is the question that this essay will seek to answer by suggesting that there is another option: that a divinely sovereign and good God could have good reasons for the suffering that occurs. This answer is revolutionary, and brings great comfort to those experiencing the pain of suffering and sickness, driving them to the arms of a loving and providential God who has their best interests at heart.

1. INTRODUCTION

Death is ‘absolutely coming.’[1] This is the reality of the world. Sickness and suffering are an inevitable part of life: on average 136 people die in Australia daily from cancer,[2] let alone from other sicknesses and evils. And even when sickness does not cause an untimely death, age eventually claims what sickness has not. If reading this essay takes 15 minutes, then in that time one child will have died from violence or abuse.[3] It is clear to anyone who pauses and thinks about it that the world is filled with evil and suffering, atrocities and injustices. And perhaps the worst part of it is that often there does not appear to be any rhyme or reason to the suffering. Life is indeed a ‘mystery, which intensifies when suffering or adversity unexpectedly strikes.’[4] Death and pain and suffering are inevitable, and they often strike without explanation or answers.

The suffering that occurs often leads people to question: how can a good God allow such evil?[5] Thus, they either conclude that God is good and desires to stop the wickedness but is not powerful enough to do so, or that he is powerful enough to do so but is not good enough to desire the end to wickedness and suffering.[6] [7] Thus, it is concluded that either God is not completely in control of the world, or that he is not good.[8]

But this need not be the case – there is a third option: that a good God, who is completely sovereign over the world, might have good reasons for the evil and suffering that is found in the world. In other words, God is providential over even the suffering and wickedness of the world. This essay will seek to examine the seeming tension between God’s providence and the problem of suffering in the world by considering whether God really is in control, whether he is indeed good, and by considering how these two issues can fit together. It will then conclude by exploring the incredible pastoral comfort that this brings to those experiencing suffering.

2. GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL SOVEREIGNTY

The first issue to consider is whether God is actually providentially sovereign over the world, and thus powerful enough to stop evil. Is God providentially in control of all that happens, or is it outside of his grasp?

2.1 What Is Providence?

While the word providence ‘[does] not occur in the Bible [it] nevertheless truly represents biblical doctrine.’[9] Indeed, it is of vital importance to understand what the Bible says regarding providence. As Calvin notes, “ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.”[10]

What, then, is providence? It comes from the Latin words ‘pro’ and ‘videre,’ which used together means ‘see beforehand.’ There is more to it than merely ‘seeing’ beforehand though, as it also denotes the action of ‘acting prudently or making preparation for the future.’[11] Thus, it means that God is actively providing for his world. This is seen in the Heidelberg Catechism,[12] which says that providence is ‘the almighty and ever-present power of God by which God upholds…heaven and earth and all creatures…all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.’[13] The Westminster Confession of Faith[14] agrees, stating that God upholds, directs and governs all creatures’ actions.[15] Hebrews 1:3 makes this abundantly clear, with God being the one who upholds the world.[16] God is even in control over sin: Chapter 5.4 of the Westminster Confession says that God’s providence ‘extends itself even to the first fall,’[17] but that nevertheless God is not responsible for evil, as it ‘proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who…neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.’ Thus, the traditional biblical position is that God is provident over all things, including evil. [18] [19]

While there are some who claim to be within the church who deny God’s providence – for example, John Caputo ‘rejects the ontological reality of God as an omniscient and omnipotent King who has decreed all since creation’[20] – these views reduce God to something very different to the picture that the bible gives. Thus, while claiming to be arguing from the bible, they ignore the clear biblical evidence that God is in control of the world.[21] Thus, the bible is clear that God is providentially in control of all things.

2.2 Providence and Human Freedom

If God is in providential control over all things, then in what sense do humans have freedom? This is a question that has provoked much thought, with their being four broad views. The first view is the classic Calvinistic position. This is not really a position, as it is the ‘mainstream Christian doctrine of God.’[22] It states that God is sovereignly in control of all things and that God sovereignly determines and foreordains all that happens.[23] And yet, at the same time, humans are still responsible for their actions: they have free will. Nevertheless, while humans do have ‘free will,’ it needs to be understood properly: humans freely choose, without compulsion, to do evil (aside from the grace of God).[24] Indeed, ‘Scripture nowhere says that [humans] are “free” in the sense of being outside of God’s control’[25] – quite the opposite, God is shown to be in control.[26] This, however, does not mean that humans have no free will, rather they ‘are nonetheless free in the greatest sense that any creature of God could be free – [humans] make willing choices.’ The strength of this position is that it does not rob God of his providential control: he is, and remains, completely in control of all that happens. However, the issue is that it is difficult to figure out how this allows true freedom for humans: are they merely pawns in God’s plan? In what sense do they actually have freedom? As Calvin notes, humans are not merely pawns because they are under no compulsion.[27] While there may be difficulty in understanding exactly how this works, ‘reverence even in the face of incomprehension must be the basic Christian attitude to the revealed mysteries.’

The next position is that of ‘middle knowledge.’ This position contends that God knows all of the plethora of options that could happen and he knows his divine plan, so he achieves that without compromising the free will of people. In other words, God knows what creatures will freely choose. Nevertheless, ‘God’s middle knowledge is so sure and certain that he even invokes it as the basis by which he discriminates varying degree of punishment.’[28] The problem with this is that it robs God of His providential power. Rather than being the God who is in complete control of His world, God becomes bound by the actions of humans. Further, it attributes the evil of the world to God. God, knowing all ‘possibilities and possible worlds…creates the world with the maximal amount of human freedom and the minimal degree of human suffering.’[29]

The third view is the Arminian view: that God has complete knowledge of the future[30] but humans have free-will to choose what they so desire. The strength of this position is that it seems fair – a jury would never convict someone ‘if they knew the person could not have done otherwise.’[31] Thus it appears to be fair – people are judged or saved by their own free-will actions. It also appears to align with the fact that the bible does attribute evil to the wickedness of the human heart:[32] humans seem to have freedom to choose. However, in adopting this view one actually robs God of his sovereign providence: if humans freely choose whatever they so desire, then God is not providential at all. It reduces God to merely sitting on the sidelines, hoping that humans will choose what he so desires. This option does, however, provide a convenient and easy answer to the problem of God and suffering, as it is due merely to the free will of humans that evil exists: they use their free will ‘to harm themselves and others.’[33] Alvin Plantinga suggests that ‘some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil.’[34] While this is a comfortable answer which appears to take any responsibility away from God, it nevertheless also drains him of his power in so-doing. A God that is at the whim and will of His people is no sovereign God at all. But the God of the Bible is completely in control of things[35] and sovereignly ordains all that happens.

The final view is that of Open Theism, which argues that God limits his control over humanity, and gives humans the freedom to either genuinely love him or not love him.[36] Because of this, God does not know the future, otherwise humans would not be free to love God truly. The term ‘Open Theism’ comes from the fact that God’s relationship with the future remains ‘open.’ As Sanders notes, this view suggests that ‘God has chosen not to control every detail that happens in our lives.’[37] Instead, he has ‘flexible strategies’ and contingency plans when things do not go as He initially wanted.[38] Open Theism aptly absolves God of the blame for evil and suffering in the world: it is not God’s fault, but rather the consequences of humankind’s free will and choices. However, in so-doing it robs God of his providence: if he merely resorts to contingency plans then he is not ultimately providentially sovereign, but rather a mildly-superior being attempting to out-wit and out-maneuverer a lesser being.

Thus, while there may be difficulty in understanding exactly how it works, the Calvinist view strikes a balance between God remaining providential over all that happens, yet humans still being responsible for their choices. In all three of the other views it is merely some form of a chess match between God and his creation – it is just that God is a better chess player. However, in Calvinism God is the providential king, and humans his creation.

2.3 Human Responsibility

Therefore, while God is in control, humans are responsible, and so God is never to be blamed for evil. This is clear in Luke 22:22[39] where, although the crucifixion of the Son of Man has been ‘determined’ it will nevertheless be ‘woe’ for the one betraying him. Thus, although evil is under God’s providence, he nevertheless still holds moral creatures accountable for the evil that they do.[40] Isaiah 66:3-4 makes clear that because they have chosen sin, God will choose affliction for them.[41] It is also seen in Ecclesiastes 7:29, where humankind has gone against their created nature to instead choose sin. The point is clear, ‘the blame for evil is always on the responsible creature.’[42] As Carson notes, ‘God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions in such a way that human responsibility is curtailed, minimized or mitigated.’[43] Further, ‘human beings are morally responsible creatures…but this characteristic never functions so as to make God absolutely contingent.’[44]

This comes about because God works through ‘secondary causes,’ which ensures that he does not ‘directly and effectively cause the acts of sin.’[45] Rather, while God is sovereignly providential, ‘human beings ‘do cause evil and are responsible for it.’[46] While Scripture makes clear that this is the case, there is still a level of mystery. As Grudem notes, ‘Scripture does not tell us exactly how God brings this situation about or how…God holds us accountable for what he ordains to come to pass’ with himself becoming responsible. Thus, ‘the problem of God’s relation to sin remains a mystery.’[47]

2.4 In Closing

Thus, the bible is clear that God is providentially in control of all things. Ultimately, ‘the doctrine of providence tells us that the world and our lives are ruled not by chance or fate but by God, who lays bare his purposes of providence in the incarnation of His Son.’[48] As Hamilton notes, ‘the God of the Bible is sovereign. He reigns over all things and all people. He is the Lord and there is no other (Isa 45:5).’[49] Indeed, God made light and darkness, he graciously gives good gifts but also brings disaster,[50] he sends rain to both the just and the unjust,[51] and even knows the number of hairs on each person’s head.[52] God is sovereign over all things.[53] What should this lead to? Williams suggests that ‘providence ultimately finds its appropriate response in praise.’[54] But this is only the case if God is indeed good. If he is not, then humanity suffers under a providential tyrant.

3. GOD IS GOOD

3.1 God is Good

The bible is clear that God is not just providentially in control of all things, but that he is acting in a good and just manner while doing so. While there are many passages that make this clear,[55] Matthew 5:45 is helpful to consider. God is shown to be good to all: he makes the sun rise on both the good and the evil, and grants rain to both the just and the unjust. God thus demonstrates his goodness to all, regardless of whether they are righteous or not.[56] [57] This point can be expanded further: God gives many good gifts to those who reject Him. He gives loving families, he often gives good health, he gives food and shelter, he gives a mind to think and function. There are many good gifts that God gives abundantly. Further, God’s goodness is shown in the fact that he did not immediately wipe out humanity for their rebellion and rejection of him. Indeed, God had every right to do this, but in his goodness he had mercy and spared his creation.[58]

Nevertheless, there is also a sense in which God is particularly good to his people. The bible is abundantly clear on this point:[59] In Matthew 7:11 God is described as being like a Father who gives good gifts to his children. God has a particular relationship with his children, providing for them and sustaining them. Thus, the bible is clear: God is good, both to his people, and to everyone.

3.2 And God is Just

But God is not merely good in the sense that it is commonly used, but rather that he is good in the sense of being morally upright and just. God is seen as the One who upholds and brings justice,[60] who is never tempted by sin,[61] who is patient and gracious,[62] who is righteous,[63] and who is fair.[64] God’s goodness of character is particularly apparent in the fact that ‘evil is totally alien to God.’[65] As Habakkuk notes, God’s ‘eyes are too pure to look on evil.’[66] God is also ‘perfectly upright’[67] and he is light with no darkness.[68] Thus, it is not simply enough to think of God as good, but as morally righteous and just.

But this raises the question: if God is indeed both good[69] and in control, then why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen? And in particular, why do bad things happen to God’s people[70]? That is where this essay will turn now.

4. HOW GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND GOODNESS GO TOGETHER WITH EVIL

Thus, the bible is clear that God is both good and providential. The question, then, is how does God’s goodness go hand-in-hand with the evil in the world? How is God to be demonstrated as ‘all-powerful, all-loving, and just despite evil’s existence’?[71]

4.1 God’s Relationship With Evil

The first thing to note is that God is providential over evil, and he uses evil in his plan. Although God hates evil he nevertheless often uses evil to providentially achieve his purposes. It is thus true that God both hates and causes evil.[72] There are many passages that show God to (indirectly) bring about evil. The story of Joseph is a helpful example: Genesis is clear that Joseph’s brothers wronged him greatly and committed horrendous acts of evil upon him.[73] And yet Joseph still says that God sent him ahead of his brothers to prepare for the famine that was to come. In other words, although Joseph’s brothers are to blame for their wicked actions, God is also clearly providentially working through evil.[74] This is clear when Joseph says ‘you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’[75] God is sovereign over everything,[76] and achieves his purposes even through the wickedness and suffering in the world. Another clear example in Scripture is the way that God uses both the Assyrians and the Babylonians to punish his people. Much of what they did was evil, and they caused great suffering. And yet God is said to be working through them to punish Israel.[77] [78] Thus it is clear that God is active in using evil for his purposes. Indeed, ‘Satan and God intend the same suffering for entirely different purposes, but God’s purpose triumphs.’[79] This is seen in the case of Job, where Satan intends it to crush and destroy Job’s faith, whereas God sought to refine and strengthen Job’s faith. Hence ‘the very thing Satan intended for Job’s destruction, God intended for his betterment and ultimate reward (though certainly at a terrible cost).’[80] This same idea is seen in 2 Corinthians 12, where God gives Paul a ‘thorn’ to stop him from becoming conceited. Interestingly, this thorn is called a ‘messenger of Satan,’ thus showing that both God and Satan are involved in the same suffering. God intends it for good – to stop Paul from becoming conceited – yet Satan intends it to turn Paul from God.[81] [82] [83] [84] This is significant, because it makes abundantly clear that both God and Satan are working in suffering. Yet there is hope because God always triumphs, and his (good!) plans are always brought to fruition. Indeed, a similar concept is seen in James 1, where God uses trials[85] to build up his people.[86] [87] Thus, it is clear that God is working in suffering and trials to bring about his good purposes. And finally, there is the matter of the Cross. The ‘most evil deed of all history…was ordained by God.’[88] This is clear in Acts 4, where the church prays that God was working through the Gentiles and the people of Israel ‘to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.’[89] Thus there can be no doubt: God ‘predestined’ the evil acts of those who crucified Jesus.[90] [91] And yet the apostles do not attribute any moral blame to God, for ‘the actions resulted from the willing choices of sinful men.’[92] Therefore, while many passages[93] show that God is clearly involved and ordains evil, at the same time ‘Scripture nowhere shows God as directly doing anything evil.’[94] Further, Scripture ‘never blames God for evil or shows God as taking pleasure in evil, and Scripture never excuses human beings of the wrong that they do.’[95] Thus, God causes evil, yet is not responsible for evil, and uses that evil to bring about good.

Indeed, more than this, God is also actively restraining evil. As Alcorn notes, ‘why haven’t tyrants…destroyed this planet? What has kept infectious diseases and natural disasters from killing 99 percent of the world’s population rather than less than 1 percent?’[96] It is God. While God, in his own good purposes, uses evil and suffering to achieve his purposes, he nevertheless actively restrains evil and suffering from reaching the devastating proportions that it otherwise would. This is seen clearly in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, where God is actively restraining the evil of the world.[97] [98] If it were not for God’s active restraint, then the suffering in the world would be far greater. Thus, while God purposes good to come from evil, he nevertheless limits the evil and suffering that would naturally occur as a result of sin.

It is also worth noting that God actually took on evil for the sake of his creation. In his providential plan for the world God sent his own Son into the world to deal with the problem once and for all.[99] This is incredible, as it means that God, ‘knowing that he himself would become the major victim of the evil resulting from sin…allowed sin to occur anyway.’[100] This is one of the keys to understanding God’s providential presiding over the suffering of the world. It was part of God’s plan to come and experience suffering and evil for the sake of his creation, and to in doing so banish evil from the world once and for all. Thus, there can be no accusations cast at God that he allows suffering in the world to go un-checked, because he is the one who took the burden of suffering to cure suffering.

What can be said about God’s relationship with evil? It is that he is in control of it, but not to blame for it. It is that he holds back evil. And it is that he has taken on evil for the very purpose of defeating evil. Thus, God is not to blame for evil, yet is to blame for the lessening and ultimate removal of evil from the world.

4.2 God Has Reasons

The bible is clear that God has his reasons for the evil and suffering that humans experience. While it may not give explicit reasons for every single occurrence of evil, it nevertheless gives over-arching principles that show God’s reasons. As Frame notes, ‘God certainly does will evil for a good purpose.’[101] Indeed, ‘the good he intends will be so great, so wonderful and beautiful, that it will make present evils seem small.’[102] There are many passages that address the issue, including 1 Peter, James 1 and Romans 5.[103] One of the clearest amongst these is Romans 8:28-30, where God is shown to be using everything, including evil, for the forming of his people. He is working through even evil to make his people more Christ-like.[104] [105] [106]

There are many possible reasons for suffering, and God is providentially working his plan out amongst them all. Some of the reasons include the sanctification of his people,[107] leading his people to trust in him more,[108] preparing his people for their future glory,[109] opening up opportunities for witnessing and sharing the Gospel,[110] equipping his people to comfort and pastor others who are going through suffering,[111] and to make his people more appreciative of the countless good gifts that he has given them.[112] [113] This is why the bible makes clear that God is good to his people, even when it seems like they suffer and the ‘unjust, the dishonest, and the unscrupulous’[114] prosper.[115] This is by no means a complete list, but demonstrates that God in his providence works in many ways for the good of his people through their suffering.

Another significant reason for evil is that it shows God’s character that otherwise would have been unknown. If there was nothing to forgive, then God’s forgiveness and grace, mercy and forbearance would have never been displayed in the way that it is because of sin being in the world.[116] If there was no wrong to avenge then God’s justice and judgement would have never been displayed. Thus, God uses evil to show more clearly who he is and what his character is like. This is important, because ‘God’s glory is the highest good of the universe,’[117] and thus anything that gives glory to God is indeed good. Therefore, ‘God knows that permitting evil and suffering – and paying the price to end them, as well as patiently delaying judgement and then bringing it decisively – will all ultimately reveal his character and cause his people to worship him forever.’[118]

Thus, the bible is clear that God has reasons for the evil that occurs. Therefore, the existence of evil does not mean that God is not powerful or good enough to stop it, but rather that in his providence he has good purposes for the evil. While the specific reason may not be clear in the moment of suffering, the underlying truth is there: God has his good reasons.

4.3 Humankind’s Responsibility

Evil is also a result of human rebellion, and thus God sometimes uses evil as judgement against people for their rebellion. Thus, in a sense, the answer to why evil exists is that humans brought it about through their rejection of God. As Keller notes, the bible shows that ‘suffering in the world is the result of sin, particularly the original sin of humankind turning away from God.’[119] [120] [121] But more than that, suffering is also often the consequence of particular sins, not just the original sin. This is known as Retributive Suffering,[122] and is highlighted particularly in Proverbs.[123] However, while this is true, suffering is not always linked directly to some particular sin,[124] though it is always the consequence of judgement on the original sin.[125] [126] Thus, in a sense evil and suffering is in the world because of the rebellion of humankind, and God is able to bring good to pass from it.[127]

4.4 Job: A Case Study in Evil

When considering the question of God and evil, it is worth spending some time in the Book of Job. In Job it is clear that God is not responsible for evil, and yet he is still sovereign over it, and has reasons for the evil and suffering that Job experiences. Job shows that, while ‘human suffering has to be accepted,’[128] God has good reasons for it. Job, above perhaps any other book of the bible, sheds light on the concept of God and suffering. [129] Indeed, Job wrestles with the issue of God’s providence and suffering and it is ‘most explicitly covered in the book of Job’[130]

Yet not everyone agrees: it has been argued that in Job God does not give an answer for the suffering that happens, but rather indignantly flexes his muscles to shout down any questioning of his authority.[131] Indeed, Robertson suggests that although God has the ‘power and skill’ of God, he is ultimately ‘a fake at the truly divine task of governing with justice and love.’[132] But this is to disregard the early chapters of Job, where it is clear that God has good reasons for the suffering that Job goes through.[133] There is no doubt that from a worldly, short-term perspective the events of Job are not for Job’s goodness. But if one considers that the long-term spiritual health of a person is of utmost importance, then it becomes clear that God does indeed treat Job with love, as He is endeavouring to show Job’s faith and loyalty to him.[134]

This has caused some to question whether Job is a theodicy at all, or whether it is rather an ‘anti-theodicy’ – a book intended to show the folly of attempting to understand God’s role in the suffering in the world. [135] [136] The argument is based largely on the fact that the ‘villains’ of the book are Job’s friends, the ones who attempt to provide a theodicy. But although they handle the topic incorrectly, this does not mean that the purpose of the book is an attempt to thwart the presentation of a theodicy. Rather, they are ‘villains’ because of the way in which they handle their theodicy.[137]

But rather than show the folly of attempting to ascribe the authorship of suffering to God, or of showing God to be an unjust monster, Job actually shows the ‘spiritual transformation’ that can occur in the face of suffering.[138] Thus, Job shows that there is always a reason behind suffering and evil. While those suffering may never know the exact reason in this life, Job makes clear that they can rest assured that God is sovereign, and that he has his reasons. This is a wonderful truth, as every person goes through suffering at some point, and so can cling to the hope that Job offers. How true it is then that ‘the Joban drama is perhaps the longest-running story in the history of human experience. The biblical Job is but one…of a cast of characters who has played this role.’[139] Job explores the suffering that people experience and the thoughts that they think while going through it with brutal honesty. It wrestles not just with what people say in suffering, but more importantly what they think when going through it.[140] And it presents hope. The hope that God’s providence encompasses even the evil and suffering that occurs in the world. Thus, it truly is a ‘beautiful discussion of the theme.’[141] It reminds the reader that God is good and cares for his people: ‘even though God never actually answers Job’s question, Job goes away satisfied, confident about God’s sovereignty and goodness, and entrusting himself to the faithful goodness of his Maker.’[142] It also makes clear the point made above: while God has his reasons, these may not always be clear to the person going through suffering. Indeed, God’s ‘sovereign plan for Job’s life…[was] hidden from Job.’[143]

Thus, the book of Job is a helpful case study in evil and suffering, and the fact that God is simultaneously sovereign over evil, yet not responsible for it. It also aptly makes clear the fact that good can come about even out of the most horrendous evil and suffering.

4.5 A Mystery and a Truth

What is the answer then? How does God’s providence go together with suffering? The first thing to note is that there is, and will always remain,[144] an element of mystery to the question. As Vieth notes,

Believers are trapped in a dilemma. If they seek an explanation for the apparent incompatibility of God and evil, then it seems that they are trying to take heaven by storm. Yet if they rest their case in mystery they run the risk of naïve credulity, or even of believing self-contradictory nonsense.[145]

He continues that ‘there are no final answers, but surely some answers are better than others. So we seek the best answers we can find, all while acknowledging the circumambient mystery.’[146] Dickson suggests a similar line of thinking, contending that ‘the Good Book [does not] present a complete and final explanation for all evil and suffering – far from it…[rather] it offers the best explanation, the least incoherent one.’[147] While this may be somewhat extreme, there is nevertheless some truth in it. The bible does not seek to answer every question that people have about suffering and evil, leaving a level of mystery there.

However, C.S. Lewis offers the helpful suggestion that in the end there are only three possibilities: to be God, to be like God and share His goodness, or to be miserable.[148] While there may not always be clear answers as to why a particular period of suffering is occurring, it is clear that to flee from God can only result in being miserable. Indeed, ‘if we will not learn to eat the only food the universe grows [God and His goodness] then we must starve eternally.’[149] Thus, despite the mystery, the outcome must always be to run to God.

What then can be said of God’s role in allowing evil? As noted earlier, it is commonly purported that either God is good enough to stop evil but not powerful enough to do so, or he is powerful enough to stop it but not good enough to desire its end. But these are not the only two options. There is a third option: that God is both good enough to desire an end to evil and powerful enough to do so, but that he has good reasons for allowing evil.[150] This is the picture that the bible presents: a God that is so good and so powerful that he can use evil for good ends. While there is still an element of mystery involved, particularly in the fact that those suffering evils may not know the reason that God has for it, this is the foundation that pastoral care for them must be built upon.

5. PASTORAL IMPLICATIONS

This finding has wide ranging pastoral implications for those experiencing pain and suffering, offering up great hope and comfort.

5.1 God Cares About Them

The first implication for pastoral care towards those experiencing pain and suffering is that it is vital to remember that God cares about them. Indeed, God feels their pain: he weeps with them in their grief and sadness.[151] God has experienced pain himself[152] and so he truly understands the pain of sin and death.[153] This provides great comfort in the face of unimaginable suffering and tragedy. As Dickson notes,

The God who is in control of all things… is also the God who willingly suffers. He is the one I can shout at, cry with and find comfort in… This God is able to sympathise with those who suffer not simply because he is ‘all-knowing’…but because he has experienced pain firsthand.[154]

What a marvellous comfort it is to remember the wonderful truth that God has experienced pain himself and understands what his people are going through. Thus, it is vital that this undergirds all that they are going through. Times of great suffering and evil can cause those experiencing them to doubt God: to feel like God has either forgotten them, or does not care about them. So it is vital that they are reminded that God does indeed care about them.

5.2 God is Good

And they must be reminded that God is indeed good. Similarly to the point above, times of suffering can also cause people to doubt God’s goodness. Thus, it is vital for them to remember that whatever happens to them God is good, and is working for their good. Indeed, the ‘highest good’ that anyone can experience is to be conformed to be like Christ.[155] [156] Therefore in many ways Romans 8:28-30 is crucial to understanding the suffering of the world. It makes clear, once and for all, that everything that happens is intended to grow God’s people in their Christ-like-ness. As Lloyd-Jones notes, it gives the most ‘comprehensive, and the most final, answer…during a time of trial and of difficulty.’[157] The point here is clear: God is in control of everything, even suffering and wickedness, and works through it to bring about the good of his people. That good ‘is not necessarily what we think best,’[158] but rather the ultimate good of being made like Christ.[159] Suffering forces one to turn to God, to trust in God, to depend on God. And in so doing, it strengthens the faith of the believer. This is the ultimate good that Romans 8 is talking about.[160] [161] Therefore, when giving pastoral care to those suffering from sickness or evil it is important to remind them both that God cares about them, and God is good.

5.3 There is Hope for the Future

It is also vital to offer hope to those suffering illnesses and disabilities.[162] [163] To remind them that, despite their grief and pain, there is indeed hope: a hope in the mercy of God. God is a good God, who has good plans for his people. And hope that, ultimately, God will make it right. One day God will bring justice and healing to the world. God will heal all of their pains and remove all of their illnesses. God will make it right again.[164] There will be no more sickness or evil, disease or physical impairment, pain or sorrow in the new heaven and earth. Thus, there is great hope for them to remember that their suffering is merely a short-term thing, that will ultimately be done away with in the future.

5.4 Avoid Heartless Theology

However, in all of that it is vital to remember that there are times when theological truths are not helpful. For example, reminding grieving parents or someone who has just found out that they have cancer that God has a plan for their suffering is not always a helpful thing to hear at that moment. While it is theologically true, it is not the time for theological lessons. John 16:12 sets a precedent for the fact that there are times where spiritual truths cannot be imparted because the person receiving them is not able to hear it.[165] [166] [167] Those who have just found out about a life-threatening illness would fit this category: they are not able to bear the truth at the time. Thus, while it is important to help them understand at a point in the future, the initial moments are not the time to give a theological lesson. Indeed, the very fact that ‘suffering is spiritual warfare’ should set pastors on guard against doing anything that will needlessly contribute.[168] Therefore, it is imperative that pastors share in the grief of their people and provide a caring and heartfelt ear to listen and offer comfort. Hence, while all of the points made above are true, and will be of comfort in the long-term, in the short-term it is vital that those giving pastoral care avoid giving heartless theology.

5.5 Permission to Humbly Wrestle with the Question

It is also particularly helpful that the bible gives great permission to those suffering sicknesses to wrestle with the question of God and evil. This is shown in the way that Psalm 22, before the great Psalm 23, ‘opens with a cry of doubt.’[169] The Psalmist humbly wrestles with his doubts, coming before God with groans and questions. The same thing is seen in Job: he wrestles with the question of why it is happening to him. Thus, it can be helpful to help those going through times of struggle and turmoil to (humbly) wrestle with the question of why it is happening, and how God’s goodness is still true even when it may not feel like it. Indeed, it is good for everyone to wrestle with the question, even before suffering strikes,[170] and thus pastors should keep this in mind when giving pastoral care to anyone in their flock, not just those experiencing particular times of difficulty and suffering.

5.6 Find Comfort in the Arms of God

All of this should drive them to find comfort in the arms of God. While all else might fail them, while everything else might let them down, they can find comfort knowing that God does not and will not let them down. In God there is great satisfaction. Indeed, as Piper notes, ‘the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him.’[171] And often God is most satisfying when everything else is at risk. When suffering strikes, and there is nothing left but God, it is at that time that God is the most satisfying. Thus, those giving pastoral care to people struggling with evil and suffering ought to help point them towards God, ensuring that they run to God, not away from God. Because the only true comfort to be found is in the arms of the providentially sovereign God, who is working for their good in all things, even when it may not feel like it.

6. Conclusion

The question of how God’s providence fits with evil and suffering is a tough question, that involves careful thought and meditation on God’s word. It is not an easy topic to understand, and involves an element of mystery. Nevertheless, ‘goodness and…suffering [are] without contradiction.’[172] God is both completely good and completely powerful in allowing evil to happen. But far from being a message that destroys hope, this wonderful fact is actually a great source of encouragement and comfort in the face of pain and suffering. It is the foundation of hope that everyone experiencing suffering must build upon. If not, then what they build will not stand the test of time and suffering, but will leave them comfortless in the end. Only in the arms of God, the Providentially Good King, can true comfort be found.

Footnotes

  1. Ann Patchett, ‘Scared Senseless’, The New York Times Magazine, (October 20, 2002).

  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Cancer in Australia 2019, Summary – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’, March 21, 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-in-australia-2019/contents/summary, (accessed May 8, 2019).

  3. Following the Usborne article, which suggests that 53,000 children are murdered per year – thus that 6 are killed every hour. David Usborne, ‘UN Report Uncovers Global Child Abuse | The Independent’, in Independent, October 12, 2006, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/un-report-uncovers-global-child-abuse-419700.html, (accessed May 8, 2019).

  4. J A Du Rand, ‘The Mystery in Theodicy’, Neotestamentica 50/3 (2016): 167.

  5. See Keller’s helpful list of questions that people ask when suffering in his introduction. James A. Keller, Problems of Evil and the Power of God (Ashgate Philosophy of Religion Series; Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007), 1.

  6. See Epicurus (341-270 BC) who put together a four-point supposed paradox which says either that God is not all-powerful, not all-good, or worth being called evil if there is evil in the world. Kenneth Surin, ‘Evil, Problem Of’, in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought (ed. A. E. McGrath; Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 192.

  7. John H. Gerstner, The Problem of Pleasure: Why Good Things Happen to Bad People (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2002), 1.

  8. Indeed, some have even concluded that God does not exist because evil does exist. Daniel Howard-Snyder, ‘God, Evil, and Suffering’, in Reasons for the Hope Within (ed. M. J. Murray; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 83.

  9. T.H.L. Parker, ‘Providence of God’, in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (eds. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell; Third edition ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017), 705.

  10. Jean Calvin, ‘Chapter 17, Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1, John Calvin, Christian Classics Books at BibleStudyTools.Com’, in Bible Study Tools, n.d., https://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book1/chapter-17.html, (accessed May 17, 2019).

  11. Millard J Erickson, Christian Theology (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), 413.

  12. Question 27

  13. Reformed Church in American, ‘Heidelberg Catechism | Reformed Church in America’, n.d., https://www.rca.org/resources/heidelbergcatechism, (accessed April 16, 2019).

  14. Chapter 5

  15. Westminster Confession of Faith, ‘Chapter 5: Of Providence | Reformed Theology at A Puritan’s Mind’, n.d., http://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/chapter-5/, (accessed May 15, 2019).

  16. R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 26.

  17. Westminster Confession of Faith, “Chapter 5.”

  18. A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Great Britain: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1972), 267.

  19. It is worth noting that while God provident over even evil, he is nevertheless not responsible for it. For a more in-depth discussion of God’s providential relationship with evil see Section 4 of this essay.

  20. John D Suk, ‘John Caputo on Getting God Off the Hook: Theodicy, Prayer, and Providence’, Touchstone 36/2 (June 2018): 42.

  21. For example, God is in control of who will be saved (Luke 18:7; Romans 9:10-24), creation (Psalm 104:14; Hebrews 1:3), evil (Genesis 50:20), human life (Psalm 139:16; Galatians 1:15), human choices (2 Samuel 24:1; Philippians 2:13) and history (1 Chronicles 16:3; Job 12:23).

  22. Paul Helm, ‘Classical Calvinist Doctrine of God’, in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views (Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2008), 5.

  23. For example, God is sovereign over creation (Psalm 104:14; Acts 14:17; Hebrews 1:3), who will be saved (Luke 18:7; Romans 9:10-24), evil (Genesis 50:20) and history (1 Chronicles 16:3; Job 12:23).

  24. Jean Calvin, ‘Chapter 2, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin, Christian Classics Books at BibleStudyTools.Com’, n.d., https://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book2/chapter-2.html, (accessed May 20, 2019).

  25. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 331.

  26. As noted above, God is shown to be in control of everything: God is sovereign over creation (Psalm 104:14; Acts 14:17; Hebrews 1:3), who will be saved (Luke 18:7; Romans 9:10-24), evil (Genesis 50:20) and history (1 Chronicles 16:3; Job 12:23).

  27. Calvin, “Chapter 2, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin, Christian Classics Books at BibleStudyTools.Com.”

  28. Bruce A. Ware, ‘A Modified Calvinist Doctrine of God’, in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Academic, 2008), 115.

  29. Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 689.

  30. Ephesians 1:4

  31. Roger E. Olson, ‘The Classical Free Will Theist Model of God’, in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views (Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2008), 172.

  32. Judges 6:1; 1 Kings 11:6; 16:25; Luke 6:45

  33. Bird, Evangelical Theology, 688.

  34. Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 30.

  35. Hebrews 1:3; Proverbs 16:9;

  36. Gregory Boyd, ‘God Limits His Control’, in Four Views on Divine Providence (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2011), 188.

  37. John Sanders, ‘Divine Providence and the Openness of God’, in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Academic, 2008), 198.

  38. Sanders, “Divine Providence and the Openness of God,” 198.

  39. See also Matthew 26:24 and Mark 14:21.

  40. Robert H. Stein, Luke (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992), 546.

  41. Smith notes that the grammar and vocabulary used here ‘enables the author to create a clear relationship between the crimes that they committed and the punishment that God will choose to bring on these people.’ The point is clear: they chose sin and will be held accountable for their choice. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66 (Nashville, Tennessee: B & H Pub. Group, 2009), 732.

  42. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 329.

  43. D. A Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil (2nd ed.; Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006), 179.

  44. Carson, How Long, O Lord?, 179.

  45. John MacArthur (ed.), Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2017), 220.

  46. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 328.

  47. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (4th ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), 175.

  48. Parker, “Providence of God,” 706.

  49. Craig Hamilton, Wisdom in Leadership: The How and Why of Leading the People You Serve (Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media, 2015), 55.

  50. Isaiah 45:7

  51. Matthew 5:45

  52. Matthew 10:30

  53. Hamilton, Wisdom in Leadership, 55.

  54. S.N. Williams, ‘Providence’, in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (eds. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner; Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 715.

  55. Mark 10:18; Psalm 100:5; 135:3; Psalm 145:9; 1 Chronicles 16:34; James 1:17; Romans 12:2

  56. Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 131.

  57. Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992), 114–115.

  58. Gerald Lewis Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2012), 352.

  59. See Psalm 31:19-20, 34:8, 86:5; Nahum 1:7; 2 Chronicles 5:13; Jeremiah 33:11.

  60. Isaiah 61:8; Job 34:12

  61. James 1:13

  62. Exodus 34:6-7

  63. Deuteronomy 32:4

  64. Numbers 35:15-34

  65. H.A.G. Blocher, ‘Evil’, in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (eds. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner; Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 465.

  66. Habakkuk 1:13

  67. Deuteronomy 32:4

  68. 1 John 1:5

  69. As discussed above, both in the sense of giving good gifts, and in being morally upright and just.

  70. Whom God is shown to be particularly good to.

  71. J.S. Feinberg, ‘Theodicy’, in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (eds. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell; Third edition ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017), 871.

  72. Blocher, “Evil,” 465.

  73. They were jealous of Joseph (Genesis 37:11), they hated Joseph (Genesis 37:4, 5, 8), they wanted to kill Joseph (Genesis 37:20), they threw him into a pit (Genesis 37:24) and they sold him to slavery (Genesis 37:28).

  74. K.A Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26 (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 807–808.

  75. Genesis 50:20

  76. Andrew Reid, Salvation Begins: Reading Genesis Today (Sydney South, NSW: Aquila Press, 2000), 280.

  77. For example, see Isaiah 10:5 where they are God’s rod of anger, and Jeremiah 25:9 where God is said to bring the Babylonians against His people.

  78. F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1993), 225.

  79. Randy C. Alcorn, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs, Colo: Multnomah Books, 2009), 283.

  80. Alcorn, If God Is Good, 283.

  81. David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 521–522.

  82. Murray J Harris, ‘2 Corinthians’, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (ed. Frank E. Gaebelein; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library, 1976), 396.

  83. Jean Calvin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians and the Epistle to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 159.

  84. R. Kent Hughes, 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2006), 212.

  85. The same word is used both for ‘trials’ and ‘temptations’ in this passage, demonstrating that the difference between the two lies in the response of the human heart. Sam Allberry, James for You. (Great Britain: The Good Book Company, 2015), 33.

  86. Allberry, James for You., 14–16.

  87. R. Kent Hughes, James: Faith That Works (Preaching the Word; Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2015), 21.

  88. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2010), 148.

  89. Acts 4:28

  90. John B. Polhill, Acts (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1992), 149.

  91. David Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich. : Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ; Apollos, 2009), 201.

  92. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 327.

  93. As well as the passages discussed above there are countless other passages demonstrating a similar thing, such as Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6; Ezekiel 14:9

  94. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 322–323.

  95. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 323.

  96. Alcorn, If God Is Good, 327.

  97. D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 241–243.

  98. And in particular, the influence and suffering that the Man of Lawlessness is able to enact. Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (Revised ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 228–229.

  99. Erickson, Christian Theology, 456.

  100. Erickson, Christian Theology, 456.

  101. John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, N.J: P&R Pub, 2002), 173.

  102. Frame, The Doctrine of God, 173.

  103. J.S. Feinberg, ‘Evil, Problem Of’, in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (eds. Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell; Third edition ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017), 294.

  104. Robert H. Mounce, Romans (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 187–188.

  105. Everett Harrison, ‘Romans’, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (19. print. ed.; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library, 1976), 97–98.

  106. Jean Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. Eerdmans, 1991), 179–181.

  107. James 1:2-4

  108. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, Hebrews 6:17-19

  109. James 1:12

  110. 1 Peter 3:14-15

  111. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

  112. Psalm 63:3-7

  113. Deborah Howard, Where Is God in All of This? Finding God’s Purpose in Our Suffering (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2009).

  114. James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1990), 333.

  115. For example, see Psalm 10, 13, 37, 73 and 109.

  116. William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.; Phillipsburg, N.J: P & R Pub, 2003), 328.

  117. Alcorn, If God Is Good, 282.

  118. Alcorn, If God Is Good, 282.

  119. Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (New York: Dutton, 2013), 131.

  120. Genesis 1-3

  121. Romans 8:18-20; Isaiah 10:5-10

  122. See also Koch’s discussion. Klaus Koch, ‘Is There a Doctrine of Retribution in the Old Testament?’, in Theodicy in the Old Testament (ed. James Crenshaw; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1983), 57–87.

  123. Walter Kaiser, ‘Eight Kinds of Suffering in the Old Testament’, in Suffering and the Goodness of God (eds. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson; Theology in Community v. 1; Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2008), 68–70.

  124. Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, 132.

  125. Ronald Rittgers, The Reformation of Suffering: A Study of Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 9.

  126. Luke 13:1-5

  127. Genesis 50:20

  128. Du Rand, “The Mystery in Theodicy,” 167.

  129. Thomas G. Long, What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 2011), 93–94.

  130. Feinberg, “Evil, Problem Of,” 294.

  131. David Robertson, ‘The Book of Job: A Literary Study’, Soundings56 (1973), 446–469.

  132. Robertson, “The Book of Job: A Literary Study.”

  133. In particular, see Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6.

  134. Robert L. Alden, Job (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 52.

  135. Terrence Tilley, The Evils of Theodicy (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000).

  136. David Burrell, Deconstructing Theodicy: Why Job Has Nothing to Say to the Puzzle of Suffering (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008).

  137. They have not developed a full theodicy, and thus blame Job for the suffering that he is facing.

  138. Stephen Mitchell, The Book of Job (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1987), p.xxix.

  139. Samuel Balentine, Job (Macon, Ga: Smith and Helwys, 2006), 4–5.

  140. Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word; Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 19.

  141. Robert Gordis, The Book of God and Man: A Study of Job (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1965), p.xi.

  142. Bird, Evangelical Theology, 690.

  143. Michael Scott Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2011), 353.

  144. At least until the end of this sinful, broken world.

  145. Richard Vieth, Holy Power, Human Pain (Bloomington: Meyer-Stone, 1988), 55.

  146. Vieth, Holy Power, Human Pain, 55.

  147. John Dickson, If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain: Struggling with Evil, Suffering and Faith. (Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2002), 13.

  148. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (7th ed.; London: Fount, 1978), 43.

  149. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 43.

  150. Romans 8:28

  151. Hebrews 2:18

  152. Indeed, pain far greater than any we could ever experience.

  153. John Dickson, If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain (Kingsford, Australia: Matthias Media, 2002), 62–63.

  154. Dickson, If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain, 62–63.

  155. Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1998), 377.

  156. Horton, The Christian Faith, 352.

  157. D.M Lloyd-Jones, Why Does God Allow War?: A General Justification of the Ways of God (Bryntirion: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1986), 89.

  158. Mounce, Romans, 188.

  159. Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996), 531.

  160. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), 175–176.

  161. Timothy Keller, Romans 8-16 for You. (2015: The Good Book Company, 2015), 48–50.

  162. Along with suffering in other ways.

  163. D. A Carson, How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity, 2006), 224.

  164. For example, see Revelation 21-22.

  165. Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2004), 473–474.

  166. James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (Volume 4) (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1980), 295–296.

  167. J. C Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John (Volume 3) (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012), 110.

  168. Paul David Tripp, Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 21.

  169. Dickson, If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain, 34.

  170. Carson, How Long, O Lord?, 178.

  171. John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004), 13.

  172. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 29.

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