This question tends to be at the heart of many people who struggle with the idea of God. If God is in complete control, why would he allow human pain, suffering, and death? This also shows up in many people looking for a reason to reject the idea of a good and all-powerful God. Hopefully these thoughts will be some assistance to you.
Is God Good for Allowing Humans to Die?
At the heart of this question is our allegiance to our own well-being. Human beings interpret “good” as whatever is best for self. This question cannot fathom how God could be good without creating a reality where all things work out for the good of man. When we ask is God good for doing this? What we mean is: is God good for not making the well-being of every man central to his plan for the world?
But is this a correct understanding for good? Is good simply whatever makes life easiest for humans? I don’t think so, but I don’t expect you to believe it simply because I don’t think it is. Here’s the reasoning as to why I don’t think we can interpret good as whatever benefits man’s well-being: If God created a universe where everything created existed for the benefit of his creation, wouldn’t that make God an idolater?
Idolatry is having a highest allegiance to something other than God. There is nothing greater than God, therefore, treating something with a higher interest or love is living in falsehood. This is what God means when he talks about idolatry. He is the greatest, most ultimate and perfect being, therefore, all things have a moral allegiance to him as author and creator of everything. Thus, if God created a universe for the purpose of something other than His own glory, wouldn’t that make him an idolater since it would mean that he valued something more than the infinitely valuable (himself)?
By default, our human nature wants to make everything about us, even morality. But right and wrong, good and bad, are actually determined by the Creator’s character. Good is good because it exalts God as the highest and greatest of all beings. If right and wrong are determined by how man is treated, then man has been elevated to the position of God. So my point is that God can be good and still create a universe in which people suffer and die.
But let’s reverse the questioning. The question: is God good for willing people to die? has a hidden assumption. God’s goodness is called into question because the person asking this question assumes that mankind is ultimately innocent and good. I will not take time to establish a case against humanity’s goodness because I don’t think that it is necessary. Watch the news and you’ll find sufficient evidence that mankind is clearly wicked. But also consider that mankind is a created being. Can what is created be entitled to anything? After all, because it was created it already has more than it deserves. Why does man deserve anything? At best, because we are created, we are created morally neutral, that is without offense. But because we are created, we could never “deserve” better treatment any more than a computer program deserves its space on the hard drive of a computer. But since we realize that mankind is created and wicked, the question “is God good for willing people to die?” is inaccurate. My first answer to that question is yes, he is good for doing that because he is just and ought to destroy all that is wicked. But here’s an even bigger question: can God be good by letting human beings live?
The answer to that question is: No. God cannot be good, that is, without Jesus Christ.
[Jesus] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Look at the second sentence. In God’s divine forbearance, he passed over former sins. This means that he let sin go unpunished by not destroying every human being alive despite offense. God appeared unjust. He appeared weak. That is why Jesus not only pays for our sin, but his death upholds the law by requiring sufficient punishment for sin. This shows that God is just by requiring punishment for sin. So yes, God is good in letting humans die. But he is also good and merciful in providing a way for them to live.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus