“Right here in the first chapters of the Bible we are confronted with key issues that have been debated among philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. Why would God create creatures whom He knew would rebel against Him and who would thereby be doomed by His holiness to eternal punishment? There was no other way because the rebels would be parents, children, aunts, uncles, etc., of the billions of redeemed who would blissfully dwell in God’s loving presence forever. The latter could not exist without the former and all would be given equal opportunity to believe the gospel.

But being all-powerful, why couldn’t God have kept Adam and Eve and all of their descendants from sinning? Atheists argue, “If God is too weak to stop evil and suffering, then he isn’t God. And if he is powerful enough to stop it and doesn’t do so, then he is a monster. Thus evil and suffering disprove the existence of God.”

That argument becomes nonsense in view of the obvious fact demonstrated by everyday experience: man’s Creator has given him the intelligence to come to his own conclusions and the prerogative to make his own choices. Without those abilities, humans could neither love God nor one another. For God to stop all evil, He would have to override the will He gave mankind; but that would turn man into a robot programmed to live a meaningless life. Such “well-behaved” puppets would not be to God’s glory. Only creatures with a will could truly glorify God with voluntary worship, obedience and love coming from the heart.

“Power” could not abolish sin and the suffering it produces without destroying the sinner, because the heart cannot be changed by force. Neither the will nor love can be coerced. If God caused man to do either good or evil, then the “choice” to do so would not be man’s but God’s. It is axiomatic that, in spite of His infinite power, God could not cause man to cease from evil, but must seek to persuade him in love and mercy.

Yet there is an entire school of Christianity which declares that God could stop all evil and suffering but it pleases Him not to do so. How do they justify attributing to God this grave lack of love and compassion toward those He could rescue but instead predestines to damnation? They argue that 1) He is sovereign and can thus do as He pleases; 2) He is not obligated to save anyone; and 3) we cannot judge Him by our standards.

None of these defenses speaks to the issue. A sovereign can “do as he pleases” in some respects, but not morally. In fact, the more absolute a sovereign’s power, the greater his moral responsibility to show compassion to those whose destiny he controls. Sovereignty cannot excuse a lack of love—nor could or would God who is love hide behind His sovereignty for such an end. We are commanded by Christ, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,…That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (Mat 5:44,45). One neither loves, blesses nor does good by leaving to suffer those whom one could rescue, much less predestines them to eternal torment. Such behavior by a man would be condemned, so it surely cannot be attributed to our “Father which is in heaven,” whom we are to emulate.

Nor is mercy motivated by obligation but by compassion; and it is “according to his mercy he saved us…” (Titus 3:5). God told Moses, “I will…be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Ex 33:19). Far from limiting His mercy, which “is over all his works” (Ps 145:9), God is simply saying that no one can demand His mercy. It flows without constraint from His love.

As for judging Him by “our standards,” the very standards of love and kindness to which we hold one another are written in every human conscience by God who is more loving, not less, than we could ever be. First Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” presents a love so far beyond man’s ability that it could only be God’s love. And it is a denigration of that perfect and infinite love to suggest that God would act toward anyone with less kindness, compassion and love than He expects of us, His creatures.

If a doctor had a sure cure for a plague that was wiping out the human race, yet supplied it only to a select few, leaving multitudes to die needlessly, he would be justly condemned. Jesus said, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Surely God is no less merciful than we are commanded to be. Therefore, any theological system is false which presents God as less loving, kind and compassionate than man’s God-given conscience and biblical commands tell him he ought to be.

We have already noted (TBC, Feb ’01 ) much which a sovereign God cannot do—and not in spite of who He is but because of who He is. He cannot lie, go back on His Word, or deny Himself; He cannot sin, be wrong, ungracious, unmerciful or unloving. Nor can He be unjust. Therefore, He cannot forgive sinners without the full penalty demanded by His justice having been paid. And that is where redemption and atonement enter.”  -Dave Hunt, The Berean Call, “Biblical Redemption/Atonement Part II”, Sept. 1, 2002, http://www.thebereancall.org/node/5201