By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
The God of the Bible is often accused of being an evil deity. On the one hand, the biblical text declares the goodness and righteousness of God while on the other hand this very same God commands the death of the Canaanites and often allows the evil acts of men to prevail. Does the biblical conception of God leave us with a contradictory picture of a God who is both perfectly good and at the same time relentlessly evil?
No. There is no contradiction within the biblical conception of God. There is however, a great misunderstanding within many of the critics of the God of the Bible. The Christian often gets push-back for even suggesting that the critic might possibly have a misunderstanding of who God is. Many people just take it for granted that they know what the Bible teaches concerning God. This misunderstanding is clearly manifest in the often asserted “God is love” idea. It is true that the Bible does say that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). But is this the whole picture?
When we are speaking of the God of the Bible we must consider what the “Bible” in its entirety has to say regarding God’s character and nature. One cannot cherry pick attributes of God and isolate them from the other attributes of God which are clearly described in the biblical text itself. It is precisely because of a disjointed view of God and the Bible that leads to the often presented contradictory conception of the biblical God.
If one wants to talk about the God of the Bible, then they must include all of what the Bible says about him, otherwise, to leave out what the Bible says about God is to not be talking about the God of the Bible. Within the Christian worldview, man knows about God because God has revealed himself, and hence we cannot say anything about God that he himself has not revealed. So any time a person isolates or cherry picks the attributes of God, they are then no longer speaking of the God of the Christian worldview. This is important within an apologetic context, since many of the critiques of the God of the Bible are based upon unbiblical conceptions of the God of the Bible.
So to answer our initial question: Is the God of the Bible Evil? If we are going to answer this within a consistent Christian worldview perspective, then the answer is clearly NO! For on the biblical picture we are presented with a God who is holy (1 Peter 1:16), righteous (Psalm 11:7), and is himself a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11). These attributes are as much characteristics of God as is “love” (1 John 4:8). God is not “love” only, but he is those other attributes as well. So on the one hand, God is love, but on the other hand, God is good, righteous, holy, and will judge sinners. God is also sovereign and ruler of all things, and he has the right to execute his righteous and holy judgment upon sinners whenever he sees fit.
Often times, God’s judgment comes in the form of allowing the evil of man to produce its horrible effects. Other times, God’s judgment takes different forms. Either way, God is good and righteous in all that he does and/or permits. So the reality of evil in the world does not impinge upon or contradict God’s goodness, since God is all-knowing and all-good, God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the evil that does occur in our world because he is also fulfilling an ultimately good and righteous purpose.
The fact that we often can’t see what God’s purposes are does not negate the fact that he has ultimately good purposes. If we are operating upon a biblical conception of God, then it follows that God is righteous and the very standard of goodness itself, hence the conclusion as to why there is evil in the world does not necessitate the answer: Therefore, he must not be good (i.e. evil), or if he is good, he is not all-powerful (since evil does in fact exist).
Is the God of the Bible Evil? No! He is the standard of good without which, one could not even determine something as evil.