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Can God be Good?

By Dennis Pollock


Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American celebrity scientist. He is often interviewed on various talk shows. He hosted a television program and these days he hosts a weekly podcast and YouTube channel called "StarTalk." Tyson is an astrophysicist, he studies and pontificates about space, planets, stars, and astronomy. He has an engaging personality and is not nearly as dull as most scientists.


But Tyson is not content merely to discuss things like "Is there a dark side of the moon?" or "Lost Alien Signals." Tyson seems to enjoy proclaiming his suspicion that there is no God or at least not much of one.


In one interview he was asked, "As a scientist, do you believe in God?" He responded with these words "Every description of God that I've heard holds God to be all-powerful and all-good. And then I look around and I see a tsunami that killed a quarter million people in Indonesia, an earthquake that killed a quarter million people in Haiti, and I see earthquakes and tornadoes and disease, and childhood leukemia, and I see all of this, and I say, "I do not see evidence of both of those being true simultaneously. If there is a God, then God is either not all-powerful or not all-good. He can't be both." The host replied, "Hmmm, good answer," and the audience applauded.


I find that strange. Not because Tyson doesn't believe in God – there are a lot of people educated beyond their own intelligence who are agnostics or atheists. But what I find strange is that you have an audience of presumably ordinary people who had the audacity and/or stupidity to clap when Tyson announced that if there is a God, He is either not all-powerful or not all-good, which is effectively saying that there cannot be a God, at least not the God of the Bible. When, in the history of our nation, have people felt free to publicly cheer and applaud for the non-existence of God?


Tragedies vs. a Good God


Tyson did not go into a lengthy, complex discussion of why there cannot be a God. He backed up his assertion with the idea of tragedies. Some tsunamis and earthquakes kill a lot of people, and some diseases can kill small children before they ever reach adulthood. Ergo, there cannot possibly be an all-powerful, all-good Creator. If there were one, He would have prevented these things from happening. Boom! Case closed!


The first thing I want to say is that this is not a new argument. I've been hearing this from atheists and agnostics most of my life. When Neil Tyson was a baby in diapers, atheists and agnostics were spouting this nonsense "Bad stuff happens to good people; therefore, God cannot possibly exist, or if there is a God, He is not a very good God. But it's more likely that there is no God at all."


The assumption behind this theology or non-theology is that if there were a God, it would be His duty to make sure we all live happy, long lives with no tragedies, no diseases, no premature deaths, no wars, etc. But that presumes to say that we little, scrawny, foolish, mortal humans who have the right to say how God ought to act, and since He doesn't act the way we think He should, He must not exist at all.


And that of course, is the height of folly. The Bible tells us that God made us in His image; it is not our job or duty to try to make God who He is, based on our perspectives. We have no right to write out a job description for our Creator, and if He doesn't live up to every point that we insist upon, He must not exist at all.


Jesus' Thoughts about Tragedies


Let's consider disasters, tragedies, premature deaths, and the like. Many do not realize it, but our Lord Jesus took up this issue in the gospels. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate had ordered a certain group of Jews who were offering sacrifices to be killed. They were all slaughtered as they offered their sacrifices. Some of the Jewish theologians had suggested that the reason they had died in such a way was that they surely must be terrible sinners. Otherwise, God would have protected them. Jesus weighed in on the matter, saying:


Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:2-5).


This is a strange statement. Jesus names two tragedies and tells his audience, "Unless you repent, you are going to die in the same manner." He was not saying that they were all going to be killed by Pilate while offering sacrifices or that they would all die because a tower would fall on them. He was saying that however you die, and however old you are when you die, if you die without repenting and receiving eternal life from God, you are all dying the same way – lost and without hope.


Jesus is telling us that God has a very different perspective on death than we do. We have our ideas about how people should die. They should live a full life, at least into their nineties, and then when it is their time to go, they should die peacefully in their sleep with a smile on their face. That's what we want for ourselves and for everybody else we care about.


Not When You Die…


But from God's perspective, the age we are when we die is not such a big deal. Whether we die at eighteen or eighty-eight, the real issue is whether we have received eternal life through Jesus Christ before our death. If we have received Jesus, we are a winner; if we have not trusted in Christ, we are a huge loser, even if we live to be 155 and die wealthy, happy, and with many friends.


Of course, we fully believe that tragedies are not good things. We do not wish them for ourselves, our children, or anyone else. But Christians understand that we live in a fallen world. Sin has invaded our world, and where sin is present, all kinds of miseries come with it. Additionally, God has given us free will, and with free will, combined with a sinful nature, people commit terrible atrocities against others. Our world is a messy, sinful, dangerous place, and to live in this world means we will experience some of the messy side effects of the sin that permeates it.


Why does God permit such terrible things in our world? Even nature runs amok, with its floods, tornadoes, and tsunamis. Why doesn't God just clean things up immediately? We don't know all the answers, but we do know from the Bible that God will indeed clean up our world in His time and create new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells, and where tragedies cannot exist.


Living in a Fallen World


But for now, we must live in a world of frequent pain and occasional disasters. We have no choice but to live in this world; it's the only one we have. But we do not have to live in it forever. What Neil Tyson fails to see is that our life in this world is incredibly brief. It is not all there is. There is an eternity of happiness and joy awaiting all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and trust that His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead guarantees eternal life for every believer.


Suppose we do live a short, not very happy life, dying at the young age of 42. But in those 42 years, we discovered Christ, received Him by faith, and became children of God. And after that we go into our real life – living eternally in heaven with Jesus and all our brothers and sisters. Suppose we have now been in heaven for a trillion years. And we start thinking about our short earthy life. Do you suppose that we will go complaining to God "Why did you allow me to die at 42? Why didn't you allow me to live to be 99? That just is not fair." Of course, we would not do that. What are a few years, when we have already lived a trillion years in the presence of God, and we know that we will continue to live in that happy place forever and ever?


It would be like a sixteen-year-old who gets a headache that lasts for five minutes, and then the headache goes away. Afterward, they live to be well past 140 years of age with no headache ever again. Do you suppose that they will be constantly worrying and complaining about that five-minute headache they had when they were sixteen? Of course not. They would be happy that they have now lived over 100 years and have never suffered even a hint of a headache.


We Cannot Imagine Our Future


Our struggles and afflictions and even disasters while on this earth will pale in comparison with the glory, beauty, and joy of living in the presence of God for all of eternity. God is surely all-good, and He is all-powerful. And for His reasons He allows both sin and free will to create suffering in our world. But give Him some time. In His own time, He will put an end to human suffering, and provide His children a future that is both joyous and disaster-free. We live by faith in our all-powerful, all-good God and His Son Jesus Christ.


As for Neil deGrasse Tyson, I suggest that He read and meditate on this verse of Scripture:


Surely you have things turned around!

Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay;

For shall the thing made say of him who made it,

“He did not make me?”

Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it,

“He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16).




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