If God is omnibenevolent, why is there suffering in the world?

Atheists routinely argue against God’s existence. One of their approaches is to say that the Trinitarian God is omnibenevolent and then say that the existence of suffering in the world is incompatible with omnibenevolence. Therefore, God can’t exist because of the incompatibility between omnibenevolence and the existence of suffering. Is their argument sound? No, it is not. Please consider these four points.

What does the atheist mean by God is omnibenevolent?
How does the atheist justify his definition of omnibenevolence as being the right one to apply to God?
The Bible never says that God is omnibenevolent.
By extracting one supposed attribute of God and then using it to represent God by which a problem is “discovered,” is to misrepresent God.

What does the atheist mean by God is omnibenevolent?

One of the most important things to do in discussing issues with atheists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. is to ask for definitions when necessary. This is obviously the case in this context. I ask atheists what they mean by omnibenevolent. I get a variety of definitions such as 1) Always being good. 2) The state of infinite goodness. 3) The source of all that is good.

Once they give me a definition, I ask them to justify that definition is the right one biblically. After all, they are attacking the Christian God. Remember, as Christians, we do not defend any gods except the Christian Trinitarian one revealed in Scripture. So, focus on God’s self-revelation, the Bible.

How does the atheist justify his definition of omnibenevolence as being the right one to apply to God?

Offering a definition does not mean that it’s the right one. Of course, people are allowed to define things the way they want. But, if they desire to discuss the Christian God, then they need to be consistent with the Bible. I then ask them if their definition is derived from Scripture or if it is something they came up with themselves. At this point, I ask what justifies their definition as being the right one. After all, we don’t want them to be arbitrary. This usually results in a scramble to justify their definition.

The Bible never says that God is omnibenevolent / all good.

I tell atheists that the Bible never says that God is omnibenevolent. In other words, it does not say that God is “all good.” And if it did, what would be meant by the phrase? Nevertheless, the Bible does say that God is good (not, God is all good.)

Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 106:1, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Jer. 33:11, “…Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

The problem with saying that God is all good is that it’s ambiguous. Obviously, from Scripture, God, who is good, allows evil to happen. So, biblically speaking, saying that goodness means that suffering can’t happen isn’t the case according to Scripture and their criticism fails.

If the atheist does not like this point, I generally respond with a sophisticated, “So?” You see, the point is that just because they don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. They are the ones who have to come up with a justification for their position. If they’re going to about the Christian God, then they need to properly represent the Christian perspective. But from that same Christian perspective, Scripture tells us that God is good and that He allows evil and suffering to occur. So, the two are compatible.

By extracting one supposed attribute of God and then using it to represent God by which a problem is “discovered,” is to misrepresent God.

If God is “all good” does it mean that He is not also wise, or not just, or not holy? Is the atheist excluding other attributes of God and then representing God by one? It seems so. This is called the fallacy of composition. It is an error in logic where one characteristic of something is said to be true of the whole. An example of this error would be to say that the car engine is blue, therefore the whole car is blue. This is an obvious problem since it might be the case or might not be the case.

When discussing the Christian God, I tell atheists that they must represent Him more accurately. I’ve asked atheists to then correct their criticism with something more biblical such as “If God is good, holy, righteous, patient, and sacrificial, then how can He allow suffering in the world? I tell them this is a more accurate question. Of course, they don’t take me up on this challenge because it does not suit their agenda to accurately represent the God they criticize.

Conclusion

I routinely tell atheists that if they want to discuss the Christian Trinitarian God, they should understand Him better. Otherwise, they will misrepresent Him. In addition, the atheist has difficulty justifying that God is “all good” by whatever definition he might offer. So, how can his argument stand on something that is not grounded? Furthermore, to extract one attribute of God such as His goodness and then say how everything else must work in relation to that single attribute, is a logical fallacy. Such an arbitrary and subjective approach is weak and ineffective.

The post If God is omnibenevolent, why is there suffering in the world? appeared first on Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.

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