Archive for February, 2010


Where Was God? – Part 2

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This post is Part 2 in the series “Where was God?”. Click here to read Part 1.

In an earlier post, I was reflecting on the earthquake disaster in Haiti and I pointed out that when such disasters strike, the one question that seems to emerge more than any other is the question, “Where was God?”.  Or, to put it another way, “What was God’s role in all of this?”.  Whenever a tragedy of this magnitude takes place, there will always be those who will ask whether it may have been an act of God’s judgment and they will sometimes make comparisons to, or point to examples of God’s judgment in the Old Testament.  While I, for one, do not wish to assume as much in this case, or to make that connection, I think that it is important enough to take a moment right here to address that issue.  After all, the accounts of God’s judgment in the Old Testament have drawn a tremendous amount of attention and criticism from many of the more notable atheist authors living today who continue to hammer on this point as they seek to “build their case against God”.

It is no secret that the Old Testament does, in fact, record several events where God clearly demonstrated His justice through the destruction of a particular city or group of people.  Not wanting to get too far from the main topic, I will not take time here to specifically address each and every instance.  But let it suffice for now to say that when you get into the details, you begin to realize that in each case, God was justified in what He did and that it was consistent with His nature, knowing that God is perfectly holy, righteous, and just.  That, by the way, is the point that most of God’s critics tend to overlook, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Whenever they ask, “How could a loving God do such a thing?”, they are picking and  choosing which of God’s attributes they like and which ones they don’t like.  While it may sound contradictory to ask how a “loving” God could judge, there is nothing at all contradictory about judgment coming from a God Who is also absolutely holy, righteous, and just.

But even in such unmistakable examples of God’s wrath and justice such as we see in the Old Testament, the question that we really need to consider is this: “Does God, as the Author and Giver of life, have the right to call that life back to Himself as He sees fit to do so?”.  The clear and obvious answer to this is “Yes”.  I think that all of us, even the most ardent skeptic, intuitively knows that this is true.  This is why we often respond to life and death decisions by such comments as, “Who are we to play God?”.  Reality dictates that God does, in fact, have that right and that He will call each and every life back to Himself at some point -  all of us will eventually die.  I find it ironic that even those skeptics who feel that God doesn’t have the right to take life, are oftentimes willing to claim that same right for themselves!  A great example of this was given by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias as he shared some comments that were made during a Q&A time that followed a lecture that he had just delivered at a major university.  A young lady in the audience had commented earlier about an airline disaster that had occurred, and how “wrong it was” for God to take the lives of those passengers.  Later in the discussion, the same girl was defending her right to take the life of the unborn through an abortion.  Ravi responded to her by rightly pointing out the obvious contradiction between the two statements.  He said to her, “So, when it comes to the taking of a life, when God ‘plays God‘, you’re saying that He doesn’t have that right, yet when you ‘play God‘, you’re saying that you do have that right”.  She gave no response.

Turning our attention back to Haiti, even if we could somehow prove that there was some causal agent other than God that was responsible for the destruction in Haiti, this would only encourage the skeptic to proceed to the next question: “Even if God didn’t cause this event, He obviously allowed it.  Why would God even permit such a thing to happen?”.  Hence, the question, “Where was God?”.  In tackling this question, it’s important to point out that if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we have to admit that deep down inside, the question that we are asking is not just limited to the events in Haiti-  it goes far beyond that.  Ultimately, what we really want to ask is, “Why does God allow ANY evil in our world?”  After all, even if God had spared Haiti such destruction by divine intervention, that still would not be enough to satisfy us, nor would it stop us from asking this question.  We would simply brush that example aside, moving on to an example of some other catastrophe and ask why God didn’t intervene in that situation.  There would always be another example to point to.  As I said, what we really want to know is why God doesn’t remove all evil and suffering from our world, right here and right now.  That is a fair question, so we will take a closer look at it in my next post.

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Where Was God? – Part 1

Monday, February 8th, 2010

As I write this, I’m sitting down at the airport waiting to board a flight.  On my way through the terminal, I passed by a gift shop and stopped momentarily to see what was on the front page of the newspaper today.  The main story continues to be about Haiti and the rescue attempts that continue to be made.  Even though it’s already been a few weeks since the earthquake devastated the island, it continues to dominate the headlines- and rightfully so.  I can’t even begin to comprehend what it must be like to live through such an event or to try and recover from a disaster of that magnitude.  Understandably, events of that sort of power and destruction tend to evoke a whole host of responses, not only from those in the midst of the chaos, but also from those of us watching from the outside.  Among the feelings of despair, fear, confusion, and helplessness, it is almost inevitable that at some point, someone is going to ask the question, “Where was God?”.

As I look back on tragedies of this nature that have occurred in the past, I’m always curious to see the answers that are offered in response to this haunting question.  Oftentimes, well-meaning people will say such things as, “God works in mysterious ways”, or “God is just as grieved as we are”, or “Someday we will understand why this happened”.  Please understand that I’m not trying to be overly critical of those who give such answers, and I have no doubt that their answers are absolutely sincere when they say it.  But while such answers may sound good on the front of a greeting card, I have found that most people find such answers to be empty and dismissive, especially when they are the victims of such devastation.

Even though there are many people who are much more qualified than I am to address this topic, I will, nevertheless, do my best to try and make sense out of all of this.  Trust me, I want answers to this question as much as anyone.  So, with a great deal of humility, I will attempt to provide some answers to this troubling and difficult question.  I want to apologize in advance to those of you who are presently struggling through some sort of devastation in your own life.  I realize that no matter what I say, it is going to seem horribly inadequate  to address your questions.  Sometimes, the very best answer is not some profound, well-reasoned, well-argued response.  The only response that will really help in such times is for the one who is suffering to know that they are loved unconditionally and that someone will be there to listen to them, without interruption, as they pour out their hearts.

Although it may seem unrelated to the topic of the devastation in Haiti, I think that it’s important to begin with some understanding of the problem of evil in general.  Some of the great skeptics of the past have reasoned that if there is a God, and if He is the Creator of all things, then He must have created evil as well.  The reasoning is as follows:  God created everything. Evil is something.  Therefore, God must have created evil.  The problem with this argument lies in the second statement (“Evil is something”).   One of the great Christian thinkers of the past, Saint Augustine suggested that evil is not a “thing” in and of itself,  but rather, it is the absence of something- in this case, it is the absence of good.  I suppose that you could compare evil to “emptiness”.  Emptiness is a very real condition, the absence of something, but emptiness is not a thing in and of itself.  Evil may also be thought of as the privation or corruption of that which is good.  We are reminded of this every time we use words such as “unloving”, “uncaring”, “unkind”, “unjust”, and “immoral”.

So, if evil did not originate with God, then where did it come from?  Evil becomes a possibility whenever and wherever you have free-willed creatures who have the ability to choose.  The Bible tell us in the book of Genesis that God created man with the ability to freely choose to do good.  But the same free will that enables us to freely choose what is right, also allows for at least the possibility that we will misuse our freedom to choose to do otherwise.  Some may argue that perhaps God created evil indirectly by even giving us a free will.  However, it seems to me that giving us a free will only made evil a possibility. It is our freely choosing to do evil that takes a mere possibility and turns it into a reality.  Even so, God apparently felt that in giving us a free will, the benefits far outweighed the risks.  After all, the highest good that is possible is love, and genuine love is only possible and meaningful when someone has the ability to freely choose to love, rather than being forced to do so against their will.

While all of this may tell us something about the problem of evil in general, it doesn’t tell us much about the disaster in Haiti.  After all, in this particular case it wasn’t so much about man’s choices but rather, what was God’s role in all of this?  In my next post, I will continue with this point by examining that question.

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