No Apologizing

Christian Apologetic, and Social Commentary in a world gone mad

Tag Archives: Why does bad stuff happen?

The Challenger 25 Years Later: Responding to Tragedy

I was reminded that the Challenger exploded 25 years ago today… That means that 25 years ago I was a naïve and immature 10 year old trying to deal with the shock and awe of the tragedy by sitting around cracking stupid and insensitive “Challenger Jokes” in Mrs. Hoblitzel’s 5th grade class (no I won’t be repeating them here). It’s sobering and frankly quite embarrassing to think of how I behaved back then… but as is usual for me; “current” events have gotten me thinking theologically. Specifically today I’ve been thinking about how I’ve progressed throughout the years in responding to catastrophe.

Here’s the progression I’ve observed in myself – and I by no means want to claim I’ve cornered the market on how to appropriately respond to all tragedies – However, I’m hoping that as you read how I have in the past and am now currently responding to troublesome or “evil” events it will cause you to pause and consider what IS the proper response in light of who God is and our relationship to Him (throughout history, currently and in the future).  So, here goes (please keep in mind I’m not at all proud of these responses, but I think they will be helpful to our discussion):

Like I said above, when I was a kid I would respond to tragic events (and really pretty much most adversity I experienced) by either lashing out in anger and/or trying to defuse the impact by making light or making fun of the situation and/or the people involved.  So what if the nation was rocked by an unexpected and seemingly needless loss of life??? I was gonna have my laugh and try to get others to join along… The problem with this is that it was incredibly insensitive – it didn’t acknowledge the genuine pain people felt over the situation and it in no way considered God (and how HE felt about what happened).

As I grew into adolescence and young adulthood I slipped into a very jaded indifference… Sure, I’d put on a mask of concern and maybe even feign a little contrived and controlled outrage and sometimes I’d even revert back to the joke making… but inside, I really didn’t care. The two biggest examples I remember responding in this way were the Oklahoma City bombing and the OJ trial… Now, again, I have grown to deeply care about what happened in these (especially the OKC bombing), but back then my heart was very hard toward God and that translated in it being hard toward what He most cares about: people… My heart breaks in sorrow in how I used to think and feel, and now I am particularly grieved over the loss of life, especially when that life is one or more people who have not placed their faith and trust in Jesus.

As God got a hold of my attention and my heart I quickly transitioned into another and radically different response to personal, national and even global tragedy – I wanted to discover (and then proclaim) some “greater good” had and/or would come from it all. I was quick to fire out Romans 8:28 “All things work together for the good…” in an attempt to make sense of it all and out of a sincere motivation to comfort and build up those affected by various tragedies.

This is a view and a practice I’ve held to until just very recently… The three basic problems with this: 1) Verses such as Genesis 50:20, Job 1:21 and Romans 8:28 seem to be blanket statements promising some greater good, but when looked at carefully they are NOT actually blanket promises (we don’t have time to go into all the hermeneutics here, but read them for yourself in context and I think you will find me to be right); 2) If there is a “greater good” for a very visible tragedy for things to balance out wouldn’t the good also need to be visible and noticeably better than the evil event? (What is the visible “greater good” for the holocaust, the tsunami a few years back, Katrina, children being raped and brutally murdered, the OKC bombing, and 9/11?)  3) If God NEEDS these evil events in order for some greater scheme of His to come about, would that not make God guilty of and/or dependent upon evil? (I cannot in good conscience and will not charge God with evil – that is a theologically indefensible position and it would be plainly sinful (cf. Job 1:22 & 2:10).

So, how do I respond now? Well, first, I recognize that we live in a broken world – one that has been broken since Adam and Eve sinned. Because this world (including nature and culture) is broken and people’s relationships with one another, with themselves and with God are all broken bad stuff is bound to happen… This brokenness is the REASON for all the garbage that goes on, however, there doesn’t HAVE to be a PURPOSE for the evil (i.e. a “greater good” to be made out of it). Sometimes, out of His goodness, God will take a bad situation and make it better and/or bring some sort of good out of it – but He is under no obligation to do that 100% of the time (and He doesn’t) – sometimes, often even, bad stuff just happens and that’s it, period – no greater good occurs.

The second thing that I recognize is that sin and the evil it produces and has produced grieves God greatly.  The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that we are to Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us (1 Peter  5:7). He sympathizes with us in our pain and He ready willing and able to comfort us in our sorrow and affliction. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1: “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”

The last thing that I remember (and this personally brings me the most comfort) is that we know with 100% certainty that God will one day make all things right – The curse will be reversed:  Evil and agents of evil will be dealt with, the perfection of the Garden of Eden will be restored, those who have accepted Him through faith will be able to have continual fellowship with God in His presence, the world will be made new, our bodies will be glorified, there will be no sickness, no sorrow, no pain, no death and no tears. He has already taken steps to make this future reality possible.  The story of how He has done that and is continuing to do so is the central theme of the Bible.

So, I guess what I’m driving at is the next time something shockingly bad (like Challenger, 9/11, the tsunami, OKC bombing, or something more personal) occurs, don’t joke about it, don’t blow it off as insignificant and don’t try to placate people with promises of some greater good… Instead, I would challenge you to point them to Christ, who wants to have a relationship with them, will one day make all things right and who can comfort them beyond measure with peace that passes understanding (cf. Philippians 4:5-9) in the here and now.


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Is God Evil?

Is God Evil?

What a question to ask.  When you look out at everything happening in the world how can you not help but to wonder?  We have seen a number of calamities over the last 10 years.  Just to name a few, September 11, Katrina, Haiti, wars, a tsunami, and recently earthquakes and volcanic activity.  In addition to these major events innumerable amounts of people have suffered pain because of cancer, murder, rape, kidnappings, divorce or whatever.  If God is a God of love how can he allow these things to happen?  An agnostic said to me once, “I refuse to believe in a God that allows these things to happen.”  And I’ve seen an Atheist write, “If their God is so loving why does he allow violence?”

Atheists will use the following argument to show that our God is not in control, and/or our God is evil:  “Your God says that he is in control of everything, this means that he allows bad things to happen.  This can only mean one of two things…God is evil because he allows evil things to happen to others, if you say that he is not Evil, but is in fact love, then God cannot be in control of the world because of all of the evil that happens.”

If you have ever been in a heated discussion with an atheist, or even an agnostic, this topic surely came up.  With an atheist, it came up as another reason for them not to believe in God at all.  If it was an agnostic, it came up as a reason for them to not believe in the God of the Bible.  Thus, either directly or indirectly, they claim that the Bible is errant, after all the Bible emphatically claims that God is good (cf. 1 John 1:5, Psalm 25:8, Genesis 50:20).

So the real question is…Is God Evil?  The simple answer….NO!

And not just a simple no, or a feeble no.  Not the kind of no you hear from your child as you ask them questions when they know they have been caught in the middle of a lie.  The answer is a very strong NO!

To prove this “NO” I am going to focus on two key points used by atheists and agnostics to formulate their opinion…God is not in control, and God is Evil.

God is not in control: Atheists and Agnostics alike will try to tell you that bad things happen because God is not in control.  So what do we know so far about God being in control?  We know that God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (everywhere at once).  We can confirm that God is everywhere, and that he knows everything.  But what does the Bible say about God’s control.  How does he demonstrate it in the Bible?  If you look at the Bible you will notice that God demonstrates He is in control, not only by the large things, but also with the smallest things. 

God’s word is really fascinating when is comes to His power.  God could simply say that I am in control of everything and be done with it.  But, what God does is demonstrate his power. Sometimes He does so in the most extreme circumstances (Sodom and Gamorra), others in the most simplistic circumstances.  Here are a few verses… God’s own words… about his control.

Matthew 10:29 – God demonstrates that he is in control of the small things.

 Mark 1:27 – God has the ability to intervene against evil spirits.

Amos 3:6 – God controls disaster.

Matthew 8:27 – God controls nature.

Proverbs 21:1 – God controls our leaders hearts.

Luke 22:31-32, Job 1:12 – God controls Satan

The Bible does not give us a simple statement, like… “God controls everything.”  The Bible gives us a complete picture of what God controls… which is everything.  Birds, demons, natural disaster, human hearts, nature, and even Satan himself.

All of this will lead some to the conclusion: Well, if God is in control of everything… God must be evil.  This is where atheists will try to catch you. 

God is evil: If God is in control over everything, we now have to show that the result of that is that God is good, rather than evil.  To demonstrate this we need to look at one of the deepest characteristics of God: His love.

God’s love is all over the Bible.  Included in this is the ultimate display of love, the sacrifice for others.  If God is love…how can God be evil? 

 How much does God loves us?

1 John 4:8 – God IS love

Romans 5:8 – God has demonstrated that love through Christ

Romans 8:38-39 – There is nothing you can do that can separate you from God’s love.

And the ultimate display in love…

John 3:16 – God sacrificed his only child because of His love for you.

Many question the motivation of God.  I know that I certainly have.  It has to be a natural reaction in some cases.  No matter what, there are two things that are constant, God is in control and God is love.  Everything our Father does is because He loves us … because He loves you.  The problem with the argument presented by many is that they try to force God into being one thing or the other.  If God is in control He is evil, if God is not evil there is no way He could be in control.  God is perfect in nature, and is perfectly capable of being in control of everything, and being love at the same time.  The next question some will naturally ask…why?  Why would God do these things?  Well….It’s not so much “do” as it is “allow”. God doesn’t do anything evil, but He does allow evil to exist and persist, for now. Why? Because He loves us too much to make us simply be puppets. We don’t always know what the specific reasons for bad stuff happening is, but what we can always bank on is that ultimately everything that happens branches out from His love for us. How does that work? Well… maybe next time.

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