Archive for January, 2013

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Why Did God Allow the Tragedy in Newtown?

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

In the aftermath of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, the haunting question on everyone’s mind is, “Why?”   I’m not going to pretend to know the answer to that question because I have no way of knowing, nor does anyone else.  Even if we could determine why this took place, I’m not sure that it would do any good.  Knowing why it happened cannot and would not assuage our pain or the gut-wrenching agony felt by those closest to the victims.  The real anguish lies in the fact that it happened at all, regardless of any reasons why.  Even if someone could explain it to us, it would never bring back the victims-  that’s the problem.  Nevertheless, we continue to seek answers, so perhaps we do so for other reasons.

 

When people ask this question in the wake of such tragedy, it seems that they usually do so for one of two reasons:  1) to question God’s existence, or  2) to question God’s fairness or His reasons for allowing it.  With regard to the first, I have explored this question in previous posts, so I will not do so at this time.  With regard to the second question, our limited understanding would not be able to fully grasp the complexity of the reasons why an all-knowing God allowed the kind of evil we witnessed at Sandy Hook.  At best, we can only attempt to understand in a general sense some of the reasons why God permits evil and suffering in our world.  Ever since the tragedy on December 14th, several thought-provoking articles have been written that attempt to explain some of the reasons why God allows suffering in our lives.  Most of the writers have correctly pointed out the ways in which God not only can, but does bring about tremendous good, even out of something so unspeakably evil.  In fact, over the past several days since the Sandy Hook shootings, we have already seen a response of love and compassion so powerful and so far-reaching that countries from around the world have expressed their deepest sympathy and support for the small, otherwise obscure town of Newtown, Connecticut.  While it is true that God will always find a way to bring triumph out of tragedy, I want to offer a slightly different perspective as to why God allows evil and suffering in our world.  The answer may surprise you.

 

Several years ago, a student said to me, “Right now, somewhere in the Children’s Hospital, there is a child dying of cancer.  If God can do something about it, why doesn’t He?”  I explained to him that I have no way of knowing why God is allowing that child to go through so much suffering.  I then asked him to stop and consider what would happen if God did do something about it.  What if God intervened, resulting in this child being healed and released from the hospital?  Even though this child and those closest to this child would be spared that particular experience of pain and suffering, would the overall problem of evil and suffering in our world go away?  Would our question finally be resolved?  Not at all.  While God’s intervention in that particular case may solve one problem, there would always be other examples of evil and suffering that we could point to and ask why God is not willing to do the same thing for that person as well.  If we follow through with the logic of it, the question that we eventually arrive at is this:  Why doesn’t God eliminate ALL evil from our world?  Why should He allow ANY evil at all?

 

It sounds simple enough, but here’s the problem- and it’s a big problem.  While we may say that we want God to remove evil from our world, the truth of the matter is that we really don’t-  at least not all of itIn reality, the moment we submit our request for God to rid the world of evil, we immediately begin to pick and choose which evils God should prohibit and which ones He should allow.  On the one hand, we demand that God do away with the evil that offends us.  On the other hand, we somehow expect God to ignore and overlook the evil that we enjoy- the ones that bring us pleasure, that we participate in, and that we try to justify.  We insist that God should stop the evil things that others do, but not the evil things that we do, personally.

 

When it comes to this whole matter of which evils God should judge and which ones He should leave alone, it should come as no surprise that most of us assume that God’s judgment will pass over us.  We assume that anything we’ve done wrong is not really all that serious.  We certainly wouldn’t characterize anything we’ve done as “evil”.   But lest anyone think that they haven’t done anything worthy of God’s judgment, please keep in mind that the offenses you and I commit are not just against other people- ultimately, they are offenses against God.  It’s equally important to understand that in order to know whether or not an offense is serious, it doesn’t do any good to ask the one who committed the offense (us), we must ask the one who has been offended (God). Above all else, God is absolutely holy, righteous and just.  The offenses we’ve committed against Him that we would consider “trivial” are not trivial to God.  Just as the tiniest speck of blood on a white shirt is noticeable to everyone, all of our offenses become obvious against the background of God’s holiness and absolute perfection.

 

That being the case, if God were to grant our request to remove all evil from our world right here and right now, He would not do so according to our flawed, arbitrary, ever-changing opinions, it would be according to HIS standard of justice.  If so, then no one-  not me, not you-  no one would be left standing.  Once we understand what it means to say that God is holy, we begin to realize just how serious our state of affairs really is.  Instead of demanding that God rid the world of evil right now, we should be grateful for the fact that He has chosen to do otherwise.  Even though we may not understand the reasons why God allowed the events to unfold at Sandy Hook, we can at least understand in a general sense that God temporarily allows evil in our world because He is restraining His justice for now, thereby demonstrating His incredible patience, mercy and forbearance toward guilty people like you and me that deserve otherwise.

 

In the end, God will deal with evil once and for all.  Until then, He has done something about the problem of evil by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world.  Through Jesus’ death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead, God has provided a way for us to be pardoned and acquitted of our offenses against Him if we surrender to Him.  In addition to this, because God was able to bring about tremendous good (resurrection) out of the greatest evil in history (the crucifixion of His Son), we know that we can trust Him to do the same with the tragedy in Newtown.

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.