Post Author: Bill Pratt
The classical Judeo-Christian belief has always been that God is all-powerful, or omnipotent. He can do whatever is actually possible to do, but not what is actually impossible to do. We previously covered this topic in “Can God Make a Rock So Big He Can’t Lift It?”
But there are some who deny that God is all-powerful because of the problem of evil. An all-powerful God, they say, could defeat evil, but there is still evil in the world. Therefore, God cannot be all-powerful.
This is exactly the view that Rabbi Harold Kushner took in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner’s son died of a horrible disease at the age of 14, and Kushner decided that even though God loved his son and wanted him to live, God could do nothing to stop the onslaught of the disease. God is handcuffed by the laws of nature.
In essence, Kushner believed that God was either limited in power or not infinitely loving. Kushner could not stand to worship a God who was not infinitely loving (a God who didn’t care about his son’s suffering and death), but he could stand a God who wanted goodness to reign on earth, but could not make it happen.
Contrary to what Kushner believes, there is another option. God could be all-loving and all-powerful. In fact, Christians believe that if God is not all-powerful, then his love is impotent. Why should we worship a God that wills goodness but can do nothing about making sure that goodness will be victorious? The God Kushner worships cannot guarantee that evil will ever be defeated and that good will prevail.
The true God is allowing evil for a time, but promises that in the future, all accounts will be settled. Evil will be defeated and the suffering that humans endure in this earthly life will seem trivial. Those that love God will spend their afterlife with him, and those who reject God will spend their afterlife away from him.
Rabbi Kushner’s dilemma is resolved by the future promises of God. This is the blessed hope that all Christians have.
Note: If you would like to see Rabbi Kushner debate the issue of God’s omnipotence, in light of the problem of evil, with Norman Geisler, please order the DVD’s from The John Ankerberg Show. It is a fascinating discussion.