In this series of articles I’m looking at the Atheists’ question ‘Why do bad things happen to good people’ or ‘If God is all good then how is it that He lets bad things happen’ or so on. The question takes many forms but in the end they boil down to one question: How can an all-good God allow bad things to happen? Whether this is asked about a specific instance (how can he allow suffering of young children) or a more general question, the ultimate question remains the same.

There are many reasons why this is a misguided view and in these articles I will look at the many aspects of this. So here I want to look at what we mean by good and bad. What is good and bad?

Atheists, it would seem, have divided the world into good and bad. In some of these views religion is considered bad and science is considered good (and as to what science really is I will discuss in a later article). Many years ago a friend of my father’s worked on the production line at the Ford motor company. This kind of job has largely been replaced by robots as it’s one of the most boring jobs imaginable and the work was performed in a polluted and unpleasant factory. Whist on holiday he was involved in a car accident and lost the use of his legs. After many months of recuperation, during which he admitted to feeling suicidal, he wrote a book about his experiences and then was subsequently offered a lectureship at a UK university. He became very independent and a few years later he told me that although it sounds strange, in hindsight the accident was the best thing that happened to him. If it hadn’t happened he would still be working on the production line at Ford’s.

So was the accident a good thing or a bad thing? Undoubtably the Atheists would argue that if God is all powerful he could have achieved the result without the trauma that went with the accident. I have examined this response in On Belief in God, but the point here is regarding the argument as to what is good or bad.

In Islam there is the 99 names. These are attributes of God (Allah). It is said that God is infinite but he has a finite number of attributes. The universe is finite and is a creation of God. These attributes are not all ‘good’, in that there are constructive and destructive attributes He is the creator but also the destroyer. He is The Opener (Al-Fattah) but also The Constrictor (Al-Qabid); He is The Giver of Life (Al-Muhyi) but also The Taker of Life (Al-Mumit); He is The Forgiver (Al-’Afuww) but also The Avenger (Al-Muntaqim), and so on. This mature understanding of God is far more sophisticated than the simplistic notion that God is all good.

By Philip Braham on July 16, 2018

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