As a Christian I am often challenged on why “Your God causes bad things to happen to people?”
It’s all well and good for me to feel assured that it is not God who is causing these things to happen. My faith is strong today. That might sound very strange limiting “strong faith” to ‘today’ – what about tomorrow, next week, five years from now?
For me FAITH is a growing thing … it is not static! I am a human being, weak and in need of ongoing grace. If I stop searching and reading and learning and conversing with My Lord, then my faith ‘deposit’ may weaken and diminish over time.
So today I am confident in the fact that Our Creator God does not cause bad things to happen. Also I am blessed that right this moment I am not being challenged. I praise God Mightily that no one in my family is in dire need health wise. No one in my family has been accosted, raped, murdered. No one in my family is suffering the effects of an horrendous natural disaster like the people in Haiti are, or those being poisoned in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet that is a selfish and very humanistic way to look at things. I admit it – I am human!
We are taught to pray for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. (Mt 5:43-48) It is not simply an ‘I suggest’ moment either, because Jesus was giving his famous Sermon on the Mount….. It was a definite ‘YOU MUST DO’ command.
But back to the original question – or better still let me try and define the original question. I will be truly honest with you, as I said – I do not believe that our Creator God causes bad things to happen. I do not believe that Our Creator God sits idly there, in His Heavenly Kingdom, ignoring these terrible things without feeling all the pain and suffering His children are going through.
“Why doesn’t He intervene and prevent them from happening” people will ask – and that is a fair question.
I am not a scholar, not a theologian and not a philosopher either, just a simple Christian on a journey in faith, and as such I will try and answer as best I can, in my own way of understanding from reading and study which I have done. In the end it takes faith. Faith is all I have, and faith is what I want.
As I understand it when most people question me on my faith in a God who allows these terrible things to happen, they are either denying the actuality of a Creator Trinitarian God altogether, so no matter how I answer, their atheism – agnosticism will continue to deny the reality of God, or they are a person who deep down in their souls know there is a God, but finds it impossible to believe in Him any longer.
They cannot trust that He is ALL GOOD, all loving, all caring and all forgiving because they have been personally hurt, or someone close to them has, or they watch terrible things happening in the world, and simply cannot justify their belief system with what they are seeing around them.
That maybe a very simplistic way of looking at the issue, but as I said, I am a simple person on a journey in faith.
Rick Rood, one of the authors I turned to when trying to find a suitable, faith filled answer to this question says:
First, it’s important to distinguish between two kinds of evil: moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil results from the actions of free creatures. Murder, rape and theft are examples. Natural evil results from natural processes such as earthquakes and floods. Of course, sometimes the two are intermingled, such as when flooding results in loss of human life due to poor planning or shoddy construction of buildings.
I would add to those comments about the two being intermingled- as an example – the cases of (perhaps) the murders that are being investigated currently, that took place after Hurricane Katrina. The Hurricane was a natural evil, compounded by the poor planning (moral evil) that had taken place with the levies, and taken even further by the alleged murders which took place whilst the entire area was in a disaster state.
Did God cause Hurricane Katrina?
Did God cause the State Planners to design defective levies in New Orleans?
Did God cause the (alleged) murders of the innocent victims, shot in the back, after the state of emergency had been put into place?
David Hume, the eighteenth century philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Craig, 80).
When sceptic’s challenge belief in God on the basis of the logical problem of evil, they are suggesting that it is irrational or logically impossible to believe in the existence of both a good and all powerful God and in the reality of evil and suffering. Such a God would not possibly allow evil to exist.
It is important to recognize that when we say God is all powerful, we do not imply that He is capable of doing anything imaginable. True, Scripture states that “with God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). But Scripture also states that there are some things God cannot do. For instance, God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). Neither can He be tempted to sin, nor can He tempt others to sin (James 1:13). In other words, He cannot do anything that is “out of character” for a righteous God. Neither can He do anything that is out of character for a rational being in a rational world. Certainly even God cannot “undo the past,” or create a square triangle, or make what is false true. He cannot do what is irrational or absurd.
And it is on this basis that we conclude that God could not eliminate evil without at the same time rendering it impossible to accomplish other goals which are important to Him.
Certainly, for God to create people in his own image, who are capable of sustaining a personal relationship with Him, they must be people who are capable of freely loving Him (remember the gift of free will? Deuteronomy 30:15) and following his will without coercion. Love or obedience on any other basis would not be love or obedience at all, but mere compliance.
But people who are free to love God must also be free to hate or ignore Him. People who are free to follow His will must also be free to reject it. And when people act in ways outside the will of God, great evil and suffering is the ultimate result.
But what about natural evil–evil resulting from natural processes such as earthquakes, floods and diseases? Here it is important to remember that we live in a fallen world, and that we are subject to natural disasters that would not have occurred had man not chosen to rebel against God.
So back to the question, Can God do away with evil?
Certainly, God is capable of destroying evil–but not without destroying human freedom, or a world in which free creatures can function freely.
I am blessed I know to feel such assurance. It is not that I don’t groan powerfully when I see disasters happening in our world. I cry out in my spirit and my humanity. But I know it is we humans who are the perpetrators. And I feel certain that my limited human groaning is magnified to the ‘inth’ degree in Our Creator God, who saw all was good….. it was in fact VERY GOOD – until the fall (Gen 3:1-24).
The Fall of Man
If the fall of man were to have occurred in our times, one can hardly conceive of the consequences. I would imagine that the American Civil Liberties Union would immediately file suit—against God and in defence of Eve and her husband (the order of the two is not accidental), Adam. The suit would probably be pressed on the grounds of an illegal eviction. “And after all,” we would be told, “this alleged sinful act was performed in the privacy of the garden, and by two consenting adults.” But most of all we would be told that the crime (if indeed there was one) and the punishment were totally out of proportion. Could God really be serious in what this account claims to report? Because of a mere bite of some ‘forbidden fruit’ the man and woman are evicted and will suffer a lifetime of consequence? And more than this, that due to this one act the whole world and all mankind continue to suffer the evils about us?
Till Next Time:
I will keep reading, keep learning, keep questioning, keep praying, and most of all – keep trusting in My Creator God, who lovingly made me in His image. I shall also try to keep writing the little revelatons and understanding I get….. maybe someone will gain benefit from them and share back.
Craig, William Lane. No Easy Answers: Finding Hope in Doubt, Failure, and Unanswered Prayer. Chicago: Moody Press, 1990.