Regarding the problem of evil, the atheist objects saying, “How can God be all-knowing and all-loving and let evil exist?”
Underlying the atheist’s mindset is not that God is all-loving, rather, it assumes that a moral God must be only-loving. In fact, God possesses the full range of emotions and intellectual capacity as man, more so, thus, saying God is all-loving does not imply that he is only-loving.
God is not evil, but not being evil doesn’t require that God be only-loving. The objector is under the notion that if God exists, then he is somehow obligated to cease suffering for his creatures. But this is not how the Bible describes God or his goodness. Consider the time that Moses asked to see God’s glory. God declared he would reveal himself and declare his name to him. That name was an interesting description of his character. God said, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7). Notice that God’s self-description includes attributes of justice and even wrath. So, while his self-description includes his attribute of love, it also includes attributes of anger, justice, and wrath. God is all-loving, but he is not only-loving.
God is not only-loving. However, we may take great comfort in that he is only-good. And since evil does exist then we are faced with a God who allows evil because, in the context of his love, he has rational, moral reasons to allow for evil’s existence—especially when those reasons include a moral outcome realized through some kind of suffering. And God didn’t just prescribe suffering for his creatures. He also did so for himself. So much so that he submitted himself to the conditions of evil around him when he became a man, in Christ. In Christ he experienced poverty and hunger. In Christ he experienced social rejection. In Christ he experienced abuse. He even allowed himself to be violently and gruesomely murdered. Ironically, Jesus experienced these things because he is all-loving and wanted to identify with his creatures in a way that they could understand. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Thus, God, being good, can allow evil and suffering to exist because in some fashion it makes the experience of his love more dynamic than we would experience without it. Consider the story of Joseph, whose brothers hated him though he loved them. They abused him, sold him into slavery, and deceived their father for many years saying Joseph was dead. Yet, after enduring a period of their own suffering, they experienced the forgiveness and love of Joseph that they never could have experienced without that suffering. So too, without sin our experience of God’s love pales in comparison to what we would experience without it—forgiveness is a dynamic expression of love.
God is not only-loving. He is all-loving in a general sense. He is all-good in a comprehensive sense, but evil in no sense.
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