ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS
I. If God is love, why does He allow suffering and evil to exist?
When this question is verbalized most people think they have caught you in an obvious contradiction that you will not be able to answer. However, even though you can’t completely answer every possible situation regarding evil, you can give a general answer. How should you begin?
Start by asking this person, "Where did sin and evil begin? Who caused all the suffering and evil in this world?" The answer to this question is your best starting point. All suffering and sorrow in this world is the result of man’s rebellion against God and man’s choice to obey Satan (Gen. 3:4-5) (Gen. 3:16-19). God did not create this world to be a place of hardship, toil, and pain. Scripture emphatically declares that God is not the source of evil neither does He tempt men to do evil. "Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:13-17). On the contrary, God created man to experience eternal life, which results from personal fellowship with Him (Gen. 3:22-24) (John 17:3). God didn't tempt Adam and Eve in the garden, Satan did. Therefore, once the source of suffering and evil is identified, at least God can’t be blamed for that.
Concerning this topic of God’s relationship to evil you must be ready for some individuals who know Scripture that may bring up a passage that appears to contradict my statements above. In the old King James Version of the Bible, God declares, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things" (Is. 45:7). What does this verse mean? The word create means to bring about something. The word evil means calamity, which is the inevitable consequence of man’s sin. The word evil has been correctly translated as calamity in the New King James Version of the Bible. Therefore, God creates or brings about the consequences that result from man’s evil. Remember, God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
However, then people usually say, "Yeah, but even if God didn't cause the evil in this world, why does He allow it to continue? He is either too weak or He must simply not care?" This part of the question is answered by explaining the alternatives that exist. You should take this line of reasoning because most people don’t understand what they are asking for when they want God to stop all the evil in this world. What alternatives does God have for dealing with evil?
1. To stop all evil in this world, God would have to destroy every evil person because the nature of man is dominated by the power of sin (Rom. 7:14). Remind this person that one day God will destroy all that offends and will take unto Himself all those who believe (Matt. 13:36-43).
2. To stop all evil in this world, God would have to destroy the world because the world is completely held under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). Remind this person that one day God will cause the kingdoms of this world to become the kingdoms of His Christ and will do away with all suffering and pain (Rev. 11:15) (Rev. 21:3-4).
In addition, you should explain that if this issue of evil in the world is of real concern, they should receive Christ today because He came to set them free from their personal battle with sin and evil (Rom. 6:6) (Gal. 5:16). God has delivered us from this present evil age by the sacrifice of His Son (Gal. 1:4). In addition, God wants to give us His spiritual armor so that we might withstand the evil in this world and overcome evil with good (Eph. 6:13) (Rom. 12:21).
Here is a possible story you might also use.
A Preacher and an Atheist:
A preacher and an atheistic barber were once walking through the city slums. The barber said to the preacher, "This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God was as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and these other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things." The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkept and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. The minister then said, "You can't be a very good barber or you wouldn't permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut and shave." Indignantly the barber answered, "Why blame me for that man's condition? I can't help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!" Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said, "Then don't blame God for allowing people to continue in their evil ways, when He is constantly inviting them to come and be saved, and they refuse." Author Unknown
II. Is Jesus really the only way to God?
As you begin to answer this question you must first explain that the opinion you are about to express will not be your own, but the words of Jesus Himself. By doing this you are allowing the person to come directly into contact with the claims of Christ. When you finish sharing the following verses, remind them that if they want to argue the point, then they must argue with Jesus, not you.
The fact stated:
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (John 10:7-9).
Peter said, "Let it be known to you all, … that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, ... This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12).
Why is Jesus the only way to the Father?
1. Jesus is the only way to the Father because He is the only one that God promised to send to redeem us from our sin (Dan 9:24-27).
2. Jesus is the only way to the Father because He was the only one who had the right to redeem us being a sinless man (Heb. 4:15). God required a perfect sacrifice for sin without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19).
3. Jesus is the only way to the Father because He is the only one who died and rose again from the dead, never to die again. His resurrection was proof that He had paid the price of redemption for mankind (Rom. 1:3-4).
Don’t apologize for God having only one way for men to approach Him. Why should a person think it strange that the one true and living God should not have just one way to come into a relationship with Him? Further explain that there are a lot of things that we do every day that can only be done one way. No one seems to argue with these. We all drive one way down the street on our own side of the road and if someone argues with that they have a head-on collision. In your physical members, your heart is made to pump blood in one direction through your body and no one questions this. Mechanically, the moving parts within machines only work one way. If you took a machine apart and tried to put it back together, its working parts would only fit together one way. If you didn't replace these parts correctly, then this machine would not work. Therefore, share boldly the fact that, in the spiritual world, God has made Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the only means of knowing and experiencing life. This is the Gospel message that must be heralded to the entire world.
III. What about those who have never heard about Jesus?
This question deals with the fairness and justice of God in relation to how God will judge those who have never heard the Gospel message of Christ’s atoning death. If He is the only way to the Father, how can God judge someone fairly if that person has never heard the Gospel?
First, establish the fact that God by His very nature is incredibly fair and just in every judgment He makes. How can you be sure God is fair?
1. God is fair because He could have simply left man to perish in his sin. However, He did not do that. Rather, the Father purposed to send His Son to redeem us! This proves the God is fair.
2. God can be completely fair because He has all the facts seeing every intent and motive of every human heart (1 Cor. 4:5).
3. God is fair because He judges men by their own ways (Eze. 18:29-30).
4. God is fair because He only requires men to respond based upon what they know (Rom. 2:11-12). God bases His judgment on the light that has been given a man and the response that a person makes to this revelation.
a. The light of creation.
In Romans 1:19-20, Paul explains that men possess the light of creation because the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. God’s creation is a powerful revelation of our Creator. God has clearly proven His existence by what He has made. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psalms 19:1-3). God’s proof is the physical world we live in and the biological creation of the human body. The plant and animal kingdoms also give testimony that God is powerful and wise. These truths men either acknowledge or suppress in their hearts. Therefore Paul declares that if men reject this light they are absolutely without excuse before God.
God won’t even allow the excuse, "I never heard the gospel." Even if someone grew up in the jungles of South America, Borneo, or some remote place in the world. That man is still without excuse. Why? Because the witness of creation has already been given to prove that God exists.
However, if men respond to the light they have been given, God will give them more light, the light of the gospel. Cornelius, the Roman centurion, is the best example of this fact (Acts 10). This man believed and feared God but he didn't know who God was or that the Messiah had come. Therefore, an angel was sent by God to tell Peter to go witness to this man. Cornelius heard the gospel and was saved. I believe this is why missionaries are out in the jungles today, because someone is seeking more light. See also the example of Philip being sent to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29).
b. The light of conscience.
In Romans 2:11-15, Paul explains that God will judge every man on the basis of what he knows. He explains that to the Jew who knew the Law he will be judged by the Law. But for the Gentile who didn't have the law, God deals with him on the basis of his conscience. Since God knows the heart of man He knows if a man has obeyed his conscience or rejected it’s accusations. The conscience of man is the proof that the law of God is written on every man’s heart. The tribesman in the depth of the jungles of Borneo has a conscience. The Law of God is written upon his heart, just as it is with someone born here in the United States.
Think for a moment. Why is it that we felt bad about certain sins before we ever heard the gospel? That was the conviction of our conscience. Yet, we violated our conscience anyway and did whatever we pleased. Your conscience has been given to each of us to either accuse us for sinful actions, or excuse us when we do that which is right (vs. 15).
Therefore, God is fair in all His judgments because He sees man’s heart, He sees his conscience, and He sees man’s deeds, which enables the Father to judge righteously and according to truth.
c. The light of the Law.
To the Jews God gave the additional light of His Law. Therefore, the Jew will be judged by the light of creation, the light of conscience, and the light of God’s Law. "For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:11-13).
d. The light of the Gospel.
For us, we will be judged on the basis of the light of creation, the light of our conscience, and the light of the Gospel. Paul declares that one day God will, "judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Rom. 2:16).
In conclusion, God is obviously fair when He judges in this manner. He only requires men to respond based upon the light that they have. What could be more fair than that? Once you have established these truths, ask the person you are witnessing to; "since you know these things, what is keeping you from responding to Christ?" This person has heard and does know the truth. What’s hindering a response? Asking questions like this will help you determine exactly what is hindering the person from receiving Christ and what issues you need to address.