Many skeptics and atheists claim God is cruel. Why? When looking at the Bible, there are many examples that can be found of people being killed, suffering punishment or judgment, or enduring difficult times that appear to make God mean or unjust. However, those who take this view overlook other aspects of these accounts that are important in understanding God's nature.
Is God cruel?
First, it is clear that God sometimes judges those who do wrong. This first took place in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. When Cain killed Abel, he also received judgment for his sin (Genesis 4). Noah and his family were the only ones to escape judgment in a world rampant with sin (Genesis 6—9). These accounts and others reveal that God despises sin and that there is judgment for those who sin and do not repent. This judgment may take place on earth or in the afterlife, yet is part of God's plan for those who reject Him. When God judges evil, it does not make Him evil.
Second, God is the Creator of all things. Therefore, He is the One who has the ability to define right and wrong, good and evil. His actions may appear unjust or cruel to us, but that does not mean they actually are unjust. If God is the One who defines right and wrong, moral standards of all kinds, then He determines what is cruel and what is not.
Third, God can use the problems and suffering in this world for His good. This is why James could write to count it all joy when a person faces struggles in this life (James 1:2-4). Both Jesus and His early followers often endured difficult situations. Jesus was put to death, while His followers endured beatings, imprisonment, persecution, and sometimes death as well. Yet these sufferings served as part of God's perfect plan (2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:7-12). These times of trial were not without purpose, but served as part of God's purpose.
Fourth, all God does serves to glorify Himself. This is often easy to see or understand when God expresses mercy, grace, and love. However, when God allows suffering, judgment, or punishment, we tend to question His goodness or even His existence. However, God uses both His love and His judgment to reveal who He is—a holy, perfect, righteous God. While our temptation is to question Him, the goal of His judgment is to reveal His holiness and our need to honor Him with our lives.
In summary, those who claim God is cruel do so by looking at His actions and attributes only from a limited human perspective. A closer look at God's activities and attributes in Scripture reveal that what He does serves to judge evil, that He alone defines right and wrong, that problems and suffering can be used for His glory, and that all He does brings glory to Himself.
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