We believe God is good, powerful and loving.
There are various attributes traditionally associated with God - He is is everywhere, knows everything, and so on. But three of the key things that Christians believe about God is that He is good, powerful and loving.
It is important that we affirm each of these attributes, because they often seem to pull in different directions. But we believe that these qualities complement rather than conflict with each other - at least, when they are understood correctly.
In other words, we must not imagine that God's goodness and power are cold, harsh attributes: they are ways in which His love is expressed.
Equally, we must not think of God's love as being a soft, weak characteristic: it is a moral and strong love. In other words, true love is strongly moral. To give one obvious consequence of this: if you really love someone, you will never ask them to commit adultery.
People often talk as though God were schitzophrenic. Even experienced preachers and teachers sometimes talk as if the different aspects of His nature were in conflict with each other.
People also talk as if a powerful God must be able to do anything. This is clearly not the case: the Bible talks about various things God cannot do, and even childish logic puzzles make it clear that God cannot do absolutely anything.
Can God tie a knot that He can't untie? No, He cannot. Nor can He give human beings true freedom and ensure that they will always choose the right thing.
The basic objection that people raise here is the issue of pain and suffering. We can break the subject down into two aspects.
Objections in this area tend to be fairly personal. People say things like: "A God of love would never have allowed my wife/child/friend to have suffered the way they did." Sometimes it is stated in more general terms, such as: "How can a God of love allow so much suffering in the world?" - but even then, when this is a serious objection, a large part of it usually stems from some personal experience.
Many people seem to think that this is an incredibly powerful argument. In fact, people rarely even attempt to make an argument - they seem to think that asserting this conclusion is sufficient. There are at least two obvious holes in this, even before you start to argue the details.
Firstly, who are you to tell me what a perfectly loving God would do? A one year old child cannot understand its parents' love for each other, or their need to work so that the mortgage gets paid. Yet God is so much further beyond us than the human parents are to their child. To claim that we can know God's mind in this way is incredible arrogance.
Secondly, it ignores some obvious facts: people often choose to suffer (think of mothers and athletes), and loving parents do allow their children to suffer in some circumstances. We choose to suffer for the sake of future growth, learning and achievement, or to help other people.
You can read more about this subject in the article God is Good.
You also hear the more philosophical types of objection, such as: "A good God would never have created a world in which suffering and evil were inevitable - or even a world in which they were likely."
This suffers from the first problem described above. You are claiming to know not only God's mind and motivations, but also what He is capable of creating.
It also assumes that suffering is the worst possible evil, and that anything would be preferable to a world in which suffering exists. But we have already pointed out that we often choose to embrace suffering in order to achieve some greater good, so it is clear that we don't actually believe this to be the case.
The three basic alternatives seem to be fairly obvious:
We have already talked about this when considering Revelation.
This is not so far from the truth. The Bible does not teach that God's power is unlimited - it does not say that God can do anything. In fact, the Bible often talks about the things God cannot do.
What the Bible does tell us is that God is powerful enough. Nobody can make Him do something against His will, or prevent something He has decided will happen. This makes sense: it is not likely that God would create a universe in which some creatures are more powerful than He is - even if this is possible!
This would seem to be a real possibility, and many people glibly claim this is the case. But think about it: the existence of suffering may throw doubt on the claim that God is good and loving, but consider the alternative. If we lived in a universe in which God was not good and loving, how do you explain all the love and beauty in the world - how do you explain the comparative lack of suffering?