A brother in Christ recently asked, “Did God cause the Connecticut school shootings?” I am attempting to answer that question with this blog post because I imagine that question—or something similar to it—is on the minds of a lot of Christians.
So, let me begin by clarifying some language. Clearly, God did not cause the evil in the schoolrooms of Sandy Hook Elementary. The cause of that evil was sin in the heart of Adam Lanza. It was Adam Lanza’s sinful actions which led to the deaths of twenty children, six adults, his mother, and himself.
But the question isn’t so easily answered, is it? While it is true that the cause of these deaths was one man, Adam, the question still persists: Where was God? Did God have a hand in the evil? So, to clarify the question a little further, we might ask plainly, “Was this God’s will?”
Several passages of Scripture make it plain that God is in charge of all things pertaining to life and death. God is sovereign over life and death and all things good and evil.
Deuteronomy 32:39, See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life.
Amos 3:6, If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?
1 Sam 2:6-7, The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
Lamentations 3:37-38, Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?
Job 2:10, But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 37:13, “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.
Proverbs 16:4, The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Hebrews 9:27, And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
In accordance with Scripture, we would have to say that it was God’s will for those 28 people to die in Connecticut last week. A day is fixed by God for death for all people. After this death, the judgment comes, and no one knows the day or the hour. Some people die at birth. Others die at a hundred and three. Some die in plane crashes, others of sickness and disease. Some, sadly, will die at the hands of an evil murderer. So, these died on their appointed day.
We do not know how these things are ordered by God, but we know that they are. So, it was God’s will?
That still doesn’t seem exactly right to say, does it? On the issue of God’s will, the Scriptures are clear that murder is wrong: Thou shalt not kill. It was not God’s will for this man to kill these children. And yet it happened. And nothing happens outside of God’s ultimate will. So how could this happen apart from God’s will, and, if this is God’s will, how could He not be considered the cause of it?
On the question of whether God causes such evil, the answer must have the flexibility to handle both what God reveals as His will and what God ultimately accomplishes as His will. God spoke through Moses, for example, that it was His will for no one to murder or bear false witness. And yet, God accomplished the redemptive work of Christ through the murder and betrayal enacted by Judas. Acts 4:27-28,
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate… to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
So, it seems there is a revealed will of God–that which we should do–and a secret will of God–that which we do not know everything about but must trust God’s hand to accomplish. There is an immediate cause of sin which brings death, and there is the ultimate cause which God is accomplishing through sin and death. Adam Lanza caused the deaths. But, ultimately, the cause of all things is God, who is working everything according to the counsel of His own secret will.
In the ultimate reality of eternity (of which we by faith can see only darkly), God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). In the immediate reality of a world filled with sin and death, there will be gross injustice and dire despair. But there will come an ultimate day when all things will be made new and made clear. A day of triumph in Christ when righteousness will finally prevail. Even when we can’t see God’s will, we can still trust His word.