Over the last several decades America has witnessed our fair share of blood. World history documents well the torture a dictator can cause. Hitler. Stalin. Mussolini. The mention of such tyrants only scrapes the surface of genocide and murder where innocent lives fall victim. The Problem of Evil is a matter which has squandered the human mind throughout the ages of time. Christian Apologist Matt Slick phrased this predicament perfectly, “The curious, as well as the critics of Christianity, ask this question. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world?”
Tragedies such as: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and as of this past weekend, Sutherland Springs, have left our country breathless. Another unhinged imbecile unleashes an incomprehensible fury on the undeserving. Devin Patrick Kelley, a name that the small Texas town will never forget, did not merely adhere to the Orthodoxy “Code of Criminality” that most outlaws respect- the golden rule that forbids the harming of children…“or else.” Believe it or not, there is a hierarchy within the society of bandits. Those who violate this decree forever remain at the bottom of the pit.
Twenty-seven people, including one third trimester baby, died in Sutherland Springs on that “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” As the rock band U2 so brilliantly harmonized of the Derry tragedy in Northern Ireland, “Bodies strewn across the dead end street.” This visual too will forever leave a “trench dug within our hearts.”
Can measures be taken to protect people? Maybe…I don’t know. Quite candidly, I am not a gun activist. Beyond the right for me to privately own a handgun, my 2nd Amendment politicking ceases to exist. I’m no gun expert either. Nor do I pretend to be one like the millions of internet warriors trolling over gun control on social media. Regrettably, these deliberations will continue to explode long past when this misfortune ceases to be headline news.
Personally, I do not believe the USA has a gun issue, but rather our country is suffering from a severe case of cardiovascular disease- a condition compelled by our rash attempts to eradicate Jesus from our schools, media, and culture. In the Almighty’s stead, He has been replaced by idols of political correctness, hashtag movements, dissenting morals, big government, and the all-consuming iPhone, or insert your chosen piece of technology- but I will let the keyboard militias solve that issue. The “Establishment” politicians in Washington can continue to dance around in circles like clowns, and engage in charades as well.
Although this column is not primarily political, in today’s world, I suppose separating religious matters from elephants and donkeys can be very challenging. However, my motivations here are to address these tragic adversities purely from a theological position of biblical solidity.
Rightfully so, questions like, “How can a good God allow this kind of evil?”, and “Why God?” are being asked more than ever. Skeptics are throwing out loaded questions such as “Didn’t God kill little children in the Bible?” Or the infamous, “If these Christians were praying, why are they dead?” Nonetheless, these are proposals often designed to cast doubt. Yet, not everyone will be fully satisfied with the explanations. Allow me to clarify.
Hospice chaplains are continuously knee deep in difficult circumstances. When I arrive to extend condolences to my fellow Christian families, I usually convey a similar declaration every time. I coined this dialogue while working as a CPE student in a major hospital, where I daily witnessed victims of gun violence, vile crimes, and the worst imaginable accidents possible. It was a place where the consequences of evil manifested with stratums of despair and sorrow. The expression of sympathy is delivered like this…
“When I use to work in trauma, one night, I was consoling a mother whose twenty-year old son had just died after horrifically being shot multiple times. I remember her words to me after his departure- they were simple, yet very profound. She said ‘Life will forever feel like walking a marathon on broken glass, without my son with me.’ Right now you have just walked a marathon on broken glass through this hospice journey…and there are no words that any man, minister or friend can say to take this pain away. Only the Word of God can accomplish such an incredible task.”
Conversely, there are no words that any minister can say to take the pain away of Sutherland Springs. Or any other horrific calamity for that matter…because the pain is very real. Only the Word of God can accomplish such an incredible task. As such, the responses provided will be entirely grounded in Scripture.
So let’s begin…
How Can a Good God Allow Evil?
Why would an incredible and powerful God allow a deranged man to walk into a church and murder innocent people? Even worse, why would He NOT intervene before children were harmed? This is the point of no return for many skeptics who have walked away from their faith. The question collides with a downpour of tears and severed souls. People with shattered hearts and broken dreams, woke up this morning to face the realization again, that their lives will be forced into a “new normal.”
Defining evil is no easy task. Bloodshed can be seen. Death can be witnessed. Graves can be dug. However specifically outlining the action involves a vast assortment of arguments, measures of morality, religion and cultures. The Problem of Evil cannot be demarcated without assessing the fallen state of mankind. Admittedly, one’s political agenda also affects their approach. Skeptics and Liberals often are more likely to not be people of great faith. This is not an absolute rule- but merely a common trend. One consequence of disbelief is a refusal to acknowledge a Deity of Higher Authority. Morality becomes a subjective contention, determined primarily by the consciousness and societal ideals. Consequently, this column will not satisfy the Liberal-minded person who disputes the existence of God. I would expect nothing less.
However, Ravi Zacharias framed this issue well…“When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there is good. When you assume there is good, you assume there is such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you are trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there is no moral Law Giver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there’s no evil…”
One of the greatest misconceptions of Christianity is that God promises a pain-free life. Don’t confuse Jesus’ words with those of the world. It is not a matter of if we will face tragedies and trials, but rather, when we will face tragedies and trials. Jesus’ promises of peace are there for those who will turn to Him. He wants us to bring Him our pain. He will not minimize it. If anyone knows how it feels to suffer a great loss, it is God.
In John 16, Jesus warned that there would be persecution. Yet He promised that His followers would be comforted by a Great Counselor, the Holy Spirit. Furthermore in verse 33, Christ stated,
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” With these words, the Son of Man told His disciples to take courage.” John 16:33
“At the very minute Judas met with Jesus’ enemies to plot His arrest. Jesus knew that He would be arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, humiliated, tortured, and executed before the next day was over. Jesus did not promise peace; He offered it. He said, ‘you may have peace.’” (David Guzik)
What God will not do is make mankind robots. In other words, humanity has free will (Not to ignite a debate over Compatibilism vs. Libertarian here, keeping the definition of free will general). If I want to go home and view porn all day long, the Lord will allow me to dig my own hole. Conversely, if I choose to obediently follow Jesus, likewise He will honor those actions.
The Father gives us every opportunity to follow Him. However, nothing is forced in a mechanical fashion. Instead, the Son of Man demands one’s heart to be surrendered entirely.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Though the question still remains…Why?! Is God less of an Almighty Father because He allows severe evil to take place? Should God be emphasized with a small g, because He allowed helpless children to be massacred by Kelley?
The brokenness of humanity cannot be denied. In other words, placing faith in the flesh will always lead to failure. Sure mankind will make us proud on occasion- such as the TEXAS STRONG kind of response the world witnessed from individuals, after Hurricane Harvey pulverized Houston. Just like Hitler or Stalin, Devin Patrick Kelley was not whole. These men were broken. Their hearts were starving for affection. Emptiness resided within the depths of their souls.
Job cried out when he felt God had abandoned him. The worst imaginable circumstances had already happened to the man. Besides losing his property, Job also lost his children and all his possessions. Undoubtedly, he was a man who felt completely destitute. He was screaming “Why God?!”
The Hebrew form of Job’s name is common in the Ancient Near East meaning “where is the father.” This is reflective of Job’s story. Not only did the Greatest Man in the East feel forsaken by the Lord, but he also speculated if the Almighty was sufficient for every trial and circumstance in life?
Ultimately, the question of “Why God?!”may never be fully answered. In this life there will be unknowns. Many cannot tolerate this. The Christian, though, is called to live by faith (Hebrews 11:1). In the end, God restored Job. He found Him sufficient for every need. Furthermore, The Father is still in the restoration business today.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Didn’t God kill little children in the Bible?
Yes. But please remember that Scripture must always be framed within its proper context. Anyone within their right mind would not make this comparison in the Old Testament to the actions which occurred in Sutherland Springs. In Numbers 31: 15-18, God commanded the Midianites be destroyed as a consequence of their sexual immorality and worship of idols (Numbers 25). Moreover, God would stop at no end to protect His people.
“The purpose of the holy war was to eradicate impure elements, whether persons or property, from society. This battle followed on the heels of the idolatrous activity of Baal-peor that began with the unholy sexual relations and resulted in the death of thousands of Israelites…these instructions were specific in time and place at the critical point of the founding of the theocracy of Israel, where their survival as the holy community of faith was at stake. Numbers 31 is consistent with the instructions given in other Pentateuchal passages, including Deuteronomy 7:5-25, 12: 1-12, 20: 16-19 (purging idolatry), 21: 10-14 (female captives).” HCHB Study Bible
Does this seem drastic to our finite minds? Absolutely. Nevertheless, God was going to do everything necessary to protect the future Messianic line, or the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
If these Christians were praying, why are they dead?
Prayer is one of the foundations in the Christ follower’s relationship with Jesus. The notion that prayer is ineffective merely because the tragedy occurred after or around the church service is absurd. The individuals that make this contention discredit the idea of spiritual warfare.
Merely from the Word of God alone, we know that Satan’s minions were responsible for disrupting many lives:
- Blindness- Matthew 12:22
- Convulsions- Luke 9:42
- Lunacy- Matthew 17:15-18
- Muteness- Luke 11:14
In Daniel 10: 12-21, the Prophet experienced a battle between Angels and Demons as he petitioned the Lord. In this passage, there were demonic spirits who were determined to oppose God’s purpose. Nevertheless, his requests were heard. While evil may exist all around us, as Satan is the god of his world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and ruler of this world (John 12:31), God still hears our prayers, just like He did Daniels. Still, as Isaiah 55: 8 states, His ways may not be our ways.
Christians should not count the quantity of years on this earth, but the quality, as this is not our home (Hebrews 13:14), but the Devil’s. We should fully live with an expectation that the Father can and will call us home at any time (Psalm 39:4-13). Fear cannot be the driving motivator in life- but rather our love for Jesus.
“For to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
Obviously the Problem of Evil cannot be solved within this column alone. Nor can anyone expect this issue to not surface again, until Christ returns. Pain is real. However, we must remember that God never promised a journey free from storms or hurricanes. He only promised a safe landing for those who truly trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. There is evil in this world, and the brokenness of humanity cannot be ignored. But there is hope. One day Jesus will catch our tears. Our failing flesh will be restored. There will be no more death or heartaches, and the old things will have passed away. Those who are in Christ will be reunited again, as we will be known as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4