God Is Not a Sadist
Question: The Bible claims that God knows the future. Surely, then, He knew that Adam and Eve would sin and that immeasurable evil and suffering would follow. The Bible’s God must have known every rape and murder and war and every bit of pain and sorrow that would follow. Since He went ahead and created man anyway, how can He be anything but a monster or a sadist?
Response: The unreasonable and blasphemous idea that God is cruel can be dismissed immediately. For one thing, there is far too little evil and pain in the world to sustain that theory. If God were the fiend that the skeptics make Him out to be, life would be infinitely worse than it is. There would be no pleasure at all mixed with the pain, but all of life would be only depression and misery; sex would not be exquisitely enjoyable but horribly painful even while irresistible. Linton expressed it like this:
[If God were a sadist], He could give us infinitely more pain than
we do suffer. He could force us to eat, as the drug addict is forced to the use of his drug, by the pain of abstention instead of by the pleasing urge of healthy hunger. All physical functions could be forced by pain instead of invited by pleasure.
If God were indifferent, why the variety of fruit flavors for the palate, the invariably harmonizing riot of colors in flower and sunset, the tang of salt air and power to vibrate in joy to these things? Why the subtle joys and utter sense of well-being that a believer in Christ often experiences which he cannot even name or describe?
If God loves His creatures all is explained, except death, pain, and sorrow, and these things indeed present, as they do present to all but believers, an insoluble problem. But the Bible’s explanation is as clear as crystal: “Death came by sin,” and the glorious end is as succinctly put as the explanation, “And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes” (Isaiah:25:8; Revelation:7:17; Revelation:21:4).
The universe was clearly not designed by a sadist. We must abandon that theory as a legitimate possible explanation of evil and suffering. Nevertheless, the illogical and unreasonable complaint against God, blaming Him for evil and suffering, has been expressed repeatedly for centuries by atheists. Here is how Samuel Putnam phrased it in the last century:
In the place of that suffering he [God] could have made happiness. Of his will, and without compulsion, he made suffering. What is he, then, but an almighty fiend? His good acts cannot excuse his evil acts, any more than the good acts of a murderer can condone his crime . . . God must be all good, or else not good at all.
Putnam was seemingly an intelligent man. How then could the obvious folly of his argument escape him? Could he be blinded by prejudice? I dare say that Putnam (and if not he, then certainly many atheists who have raised the same objection) had children. Did he not know that the children that he and his wife brought into the world would suffer pain and eventual death? Did he not know that it was entirely possible that one or more of his children, like those of many parents, might even become criminals and do great harm to others? Of course he did. Common sense would tell him that.
God Is Not the Author of Evil
Is Putnam, therefore, responsible for all the evil and suffering that may have been inflicted upon his children and/or for that which they may have inflicted upon others? Of course not. Was there any way that Putnam and his wife could have been absolutely certain that all of their children would experience only pleasure and never pain, only joy and never sorrow? Certainly not. Could they be certain that all of the children they brought into the world would turn out to be honest and never be worthy of imprisonment or even execution for their crime? Again, the answer is clearly no.
Any honest person must conclude that neither Putnam nor any other parents who raise this objection against God could be certain of what kind of lives their children would live, whether good or evil, or of what suffering they might endure or inflict upon others. They could, however, be absolutely certain that their children would suffer at least some sickness and pain and sorrow. Therefore, are not these critics and all other parents just as guilty as God of bringing suffering upon others? If God is a sadist for creating man, are not all parents equally sadists for bringing children into the world?
The difference, it is argued, is that God is in control of the world, and He could make it what He wants it to be. Is He? Can He? On the contrary, has not the world, as it is today, been created not by God but by the willful thoughts, ambitions, lusts, and foul (and often brave and good) deeds of mankind down through history? It is a world as man has made it, not as God made and intended it. If blame is to be attached to anyone, then the pain and sorrow and evil in today’s world must be charged to man. Sin and suffering are not God’s doing, but man’s!
Could God force everyone even against their will to be wise and good and happy, any more than earthly parents could force their children to behave precisely the way they determine? Obviously not, so long as man is allowed to retain the power of choice. And if he were robbed of that power he would no longer be a man but some lesser species of moral cripple no more responsible for their own actions than puppets on a string. Would Putnam or any other atheist want that? Surely not. Then let them cease from unjustly blaming God for the evil in this world!
God’s Parental Lament
The prophet Isaiah, inspired of the Holy Spirit, expresses God’s grief over the actions of men, actions that are so contrary to His benevolent desire for them. Listen to God’s lament:
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people doth not consider.
A sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward (Isaiah:1:2-4).
These are not the words and sentiments of a sadist who has willfully brought pain and sorrow upon the world. On the contrary, it is the lament of a God of love who desires the best for those whom He has created and grieves that they have chosen to bring pain and death upon themselves by their own evil actions.
Surely any parent could identify with God’s expression of grief at the conduct of those whom He calls His children. Were there ever any parents who did not have some regrets for the behavior, at least at some times and in some degree, of their children? And what could be the solution? Could the parents, having brought the child into the world, force him or her to obey? Could they compel the child to behave according to their dictates? Obviously not.
Yet even if parents could accomplish that task, it would not solve the problem that plagues mankind. The child must respond of his own free will or the “obedience” forced upon him would be meaningless. So it is with God. He has given us the power of choice so that we could love Him, and to deprive mankind of that right would destroy man as God has made him and as man wants to be. Evil is not God’s doing but man’s, through a self-centered and thus malignant use of the power of choice bestowed upon him.