This is a question I was asked in so many words. The actual statement went something like this:
Christians claim that God loves everyone and that He is all-powerful. If you or I walked past a starving three year old child on the street who was begging for help, if we had the power to help, we would most certainly do so. God…if he exists, has the power to do so. God makes the conscious choice not to. The starving children and the millions like them are far more important than any reason you may give for God not helping. In fact, if he is all-powerful he could help without even being discovered. Just make the land capable of growing crops, with the wave of his hand.
The implication of this question is that humans are more moral than God…if He exists. The question also assumes that humans are in a position to morally judge God…if He exists. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ famous quote from God in the Dock:
The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin… The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes, or Pagans, a sense of guilt. (That this was common among Pagans is shown by the fact that both Epicureanism and the mystery religions both claimed, though in different ways, to assuage it.) Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.
The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.
I do not agree with the implication, nor the assumption of the question, and believe that there are morally justified reasons for why God does not help in such instances. I will examine two of them. First, God has cursed humanity because of our sin, we are being chastened, and God does not undo our chastening by helping in certain instances. Second, if there was no serious suffering in the world, rather if everyone’s needs were met, we might not believe we needed to trust in Jesus and repent.
We are being chastened. It is sad but true. We’re in trouble with God, big trouble. So much trouble in fact, that God will put us in a Lake of Fire forever, unless there is some way for us to get out of trouble. We, not God, are in the dock. God has graciously offered us a way out, through faith in Jesus Christ’s death for sin in our place. But we still face the curse on humanity for sin. For those who put their trust in Jesus the Bible promises in Revelation 22:3-5:
3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
But until that day, we live in a cursed world. There are starving children, and many other horrors, but God is not apologizing in the least for any of it. Rather, God tells us in the Bible that it is all our fault. Further, the Bible says we deserve all the suffering, including the eternal suffering of Hell. So to the degree God has chosen for each individual, He makes us suffer under His curse, without apology.
But is there another reason for all this suffering? Could it be possible that God uses the severe pain in the world to help us? That we actually need the evil in the world? In Genesis 3:16-19 we read:
16 ¶ To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”
17 ¶ Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
Notice the words “for your sake,” “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” Is God saying that in some way, the curse is actually instituted for the sake of helping us?
How many people would believe God would put them in an everlasting lake of fire if He met all their major needs? Would they not more likely think that everything was fine between them and God because He took such good care of them? If so this would make it much more difficult for them to believe that Jesus was crucified in their place, and that an angry God would eternally damn them to Hell if they did not believe and repent.
Or perhaps they would be led to think there was no God, that we just happened to live on a plentiful Earth, and death was simply the natural course of things? Again, no manifestation of wrath would make it hard to believe in a God who is full of wrath against sin.
When you consider these points, the words “for your sake” seem more and more profound.
Lewis provides an appropriate closing observation from God in the Dock:
If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be; if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all.