DO YOU find the question, “Is God cruel?” shocking? Some do, but a lot of people today wonder whether God is cruel—or they assume that he is. Why?
Some who survive natural disasters ask: “Why does God allow these things to happen? Is he indifferent? Or is he cruel?”
Others are similarly troubled when reading the Bible. They come upon such accounts as the one about Noah and the Flood, and they wonder, ‘Why would a loving God put all those people to death? Is he cruel?’
Do such questions occur to you at times? Or do you find yourself unable to give an answer to those who wonder if God is cruel? In either case, consider a different question that may help.
WHY DO WE HATE CRUELTY?
Simply put, we hate cruelty because we have a sense of right and wrong. We differ greatly from animals in that respect. Our Creator made us “in his image.” (Genesis 1:27) What does that mean? He gave us the capacity to reflect his qualities and moral standards, his sense of right and wrong. Consider this: If we received our sense of right and wrong from God and we tend to hate cruelty, does that not suggest that God hates it too?
The Bible confirms such logic, for in the Bible, God assures us: “My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) If we were to judge God to be cruel, would we not be stating the opposite—in effect saying that our ways are higher than his? It would surely be wise to gather more facts before taking such a stand. Perhaps we should ask, not whether God is cruel, but why some of his actions may appear to be cruel. To help us, let us consider what “cruel” really means.
When we call someone cruel, we judge his motives. A cruel person is one who enjoys seeing others suffer or who is indifferent to their distress. Thus, a father who disciplines his son because he enjoys hurting his son’s feelings is cruel. But a father who disciplines his son to instruct or protect him is good. Motives are easily misunderstood, as you well know if anyone has ever misjudged you.
Let us consider two of the reasons why some think of God as cruel—the natural disasters we see today and the divine judgments we read about in the Bible. Do the facts really show that God is cruel?