You’ve heard it before. The syllogism that squelches any reasonable commitment to Christian theism:
God is all-powerful.
God is all-loving.
Therefore, God does not exist as both an all-powerful and all-loving being.
This isn’t just an intellectual puzzle. Quite often these conclusions are reached as a result of very difficult experiences. Something terrible happens, a person prays for an answer, they don’t get the answer they’re hoping for, the answer to prayer they would have given if they were an all-loving, all-powerful God. They come to the conclusion that God doesn’t exist as he is taught to exist in the Scriptures.
I don’t mean to prolong the agony. I’ve been there before. I’ve been angered by God’s answers to my prayers. I’ve doubted both his love and his power. “If I were a parent and my child came to me asking for such and such, I would have given them what they asked for.” Makes sense. Makes perfect sense when you view it through the lens of parental benevolence.
The problem, as I’ve come to understand, is that God is much bigger than a syllogism. Yes, God is all-loving to his people. Yes, God is all-powerful. But he is also all-wise. That means he knows infinitely more than I know. It also means, when combined with the other theologically true statements about God, he always does everything he can do to love me in the best possible way.
One author put it this way: “You can come before God with the confidence that he is going to give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows” (Tim Keller, Prayer, p.229). He loves you. He is for you. And he knows exactly how to work everything together for your ultimate good. He always gives you what you would have asked for if you knew everything that he knew.
Psalm 85:8, 12 (ESV)
8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints… Yes, the Lord will give what is good…