Ask An Evangelical: Is God Just?

Ask An Evangelical: Is God Just?

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By Scott McIntyre

Is God just?

If God wasn’t “just,” then by this definition of him, “God is perfect in every way. He is flawless,” I don’t think he would fit the description of God as accepted by evangelicals. So by default and other reasons, my answer is yes. He is just. 

Let’s start off with what I mean by the word “just.” It denotes “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good,” according to Merriam-Webster. It also lists “righteous” as a synonym, which Thesaurus.com also noted as a synonym for “just.” Merriam-Webster defines the word “righteous” as “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin.”

Other synonyms for “just” Christians can relate to when it comes to God include: blameless, dependable, ethical, fair-minded, honorable, nondiscriminatory, trustworthy and unbiased.

How God Differs From Humankind

We all know people who demonstrate some or all these traits, but I haven’t made an acquaintance with anyone who displays all of them perfectly. And that’s one area where I believe humankind differs from God. 

I consider, as spelled out via the link in the first paragraph of this article, that God is perfect. Living a just life is an aspect of that. Therefore, any characteristic we would expect from a just being is always part of God’s behavior, and that’s where some people run into significant difficulties believing that God is good.

If God is just, how can we explain all the terrible things that happen on this earth? An argument goes that either God isn’t just, or he is but has limited powers to act in a way that would prevent some obvious unjust actions from occurring. I don’t think either of those opinions is correct.

When Bad Things Happen

Think of the COVID-19 pandemic. How could a loving God allow something like that to happen?  Before accepting that premise, consider how he worked during this terrible time.

God created humankind. Though we’ve changed over the years, we still have the same basic bodies as our early ancestors. Our brains, the ones he gave us, have been hugely responsible for mitigating much of the potential damage this event could have caused.

Normal vaccine development can take 10 years or longer to produce, according to the History of Vaccines, an educational resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. But the vaccines against COVID-19 were created in a little over a year. 

Professionals in the scienctific and medical fields used their ingenuity, creativity, thoughtfulness and concern for others — behaviors that stem from the brains they were “given” — to create something that has saved countless lives and hopefully put the world on a road to recovery from this horrible disease. I see this as a natural byproduct of God’s power of creation and ongoing grace toward humanity.

God’s Grace

His power of creation is evident by the fact we’re not like other creatures. There are no other mammals on the planet that could have done the same thing regarding the vaccine, and I think that’s because of how God created living things. He put us above other forms of life for a reason. And then there’s his grace.

I understand grace as “unmerited favor.” In God’s relationship with us, it is something we receive in abundance. I touch on this more deeply in two other articles I’ve written for Spokane Faith and Values: “The Grace of God in The Face of Covid” and “Response to Ask An Atheist: A Loving God?

Here’s a brief look at it. If the Bible is correct in describing the creation of humankind, God intended that death would not be part of that process. We would not only live forever, but we would also never commit any act harmful toward another human. That all changed when Adam sinned by directly disobeying God’s command to him to not eat fruit from a certain tree.

God and Adam

With Adam’s sinful behavior, God would have been “just,” based on his command to Adam in ending his life immediately. Since Adam’s wife, Eve, had not yet conceived their first child, humankind’s time on this planet would have come to an end with their death had God gone forward with his punishment.

But that didn’t happen. Throughout the thousands of years since, even in the midst of situations that were unbelievably painful, much, if not all, o humankind has still experienced joy in their hearts that often makes the pain bearable and life worthwhile. My take is that these wondrous experiences are all due to acts of grace by our God.

God’s perfection in all aspects of behavior and his grace toward humanity cover a multitude of situations and convince me that he is just.

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The Bible promises an unending covenant between God and man, God’s commitment never to leave humankind alone. That original covenant is symbolized by the rainbow: “I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” The succession of God’s prophets over millennia fulfills that promise. God’s message is “updated” periodically through “Manifestations of God.” Abraham and Moses appear in the Old Testament, Christ in the New Testament and all within Muhammad’s Quran. Baha’is believe other manifestations include Krishna, Zoroaster and Buddha.