To my post Did God Cause Kids to Die in Connecticut, some objected that it did not go far enough. Some believed that it was necessary to say that God actually caused the school shooting for the purpose of judging Americans for kicking God out of our schools. Yesterday, I demonstrated why that position is inaccurate. Today, I look to a different objection, one that says my original post went too far.
The original post argued that Adam Lanza was the immediate cause for the evil. As such, God would hold him accountable for his sins. In addition, I argued that God was also active throughout the event, causing it to work together for His ultimate good. In all events, there is both a temporal (immediate) and eternal (ultimate) purpose. Some disagree, stating that this theological idea goes too far.
Specifically, some say that viewing God as having a purpose to accomplish through evil makes God evil. Some even say it would be cruel to tell a child that God has a cause to accomplish through the school shooting in Connecticut. So, I ask, Is it evil to say God orders evil for His ultimate purposes? I don’t think so for at least two reasons.
First, if God does not order evil for His ultimately good purposes, who does? If evil exists independently—apart from God’s authority over it—then there is a force (or being) outside of God’s control. If this is true, then God is diminished—He is not omnipotent. God is omnipotent only if he has the power to accomplish all of His will. If there is a force (like Satan or human free will) which operates independently of God’s ultimate control, then God may not be able to accomplish all of His will (because there would be a force opposing His will which He does not control). If that is true, then whatever else God may be, he could not be called sovereign or omnipotent. He could not guarantee that His ultimate will would be done. He could only guarantee that He would do His very best to accomplish His will.
Of course, there is the possibility that no one orders evil. That evil is some chaotic, non-directed force inherent in the universe without regard to an ordered will such as God’s (or Satan’s). But, again, I would say that an all-powerful God could not coexist with a force outside of His control. One could argue for a system of gods who are at war to establish good and evil (and authority and power), but one is not able to pretend that God is somehow sovereign but also not sovereign over free will or over evil. That would be like saying you are an unmarried man but you are not a bachelor. Either God is sovereign, or he is not.
Second, if there is no God, or if God is not sovereign over evil–using it to accomplish His purposes–then there would be no purpose for suffering and no hope in times of loss. It might seem insensitive to tell young people that God has an ultimate purpose for this loss of life. It might seem harsh to suppose that God’s will somehow mysteriously encompasses the loss of twenty children in a Connecticut school around Christmastime. But as harsh as that might seem, it is nowhere near as harsh as saying that the children were lost with no purpose or meaning at all. It would be even worse to say that they were lost to the purposes of evil.
God does not work some things out according to the purpose of His inscrutable will. He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). It is not cruel to admit that glorious fact in the face of suffering; it is helpful and hopeful. What would be cruel would be to leave people without the hope of redemption. In this world, there will be the heartache of deep loss. Jesus was never unclear about that point.
It does not go too far to say what Jesus says (and what the Scripture teaches): God is sovereign, and now all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). God is sovereign over evil. It is under His control—even if for a season we do not understand how that dynamic works. We can trust the ultimate hand of God to accomplish a good purpose through all of man’s evil (so Acts 4:28). And in this world of tragedy, sin, and loss, we have the Word of God to instruct us:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, nasb).
- Did God Cause Kids to Die in Connecticut? (gregoryccochran.com)
- Was Connecticut Shooting God’s Judgment? (gregoryccochran.com)
Someone in 2001 ask me “Where was God on 9-11? I told them “The same place he always is, waiting for his children and those who have accepted him to come home”.
I also said to them, “Yes, he could have stopped it, But I can 100% Guarantee you he will know handle the situation according to his perfect will. We’re only here for anywhere from birth to about 70 years or so, what is that compared to eternity?
Someday this life will not even be a memory in the stream of time, so what is 0-100 years as compared to Billions and Trillions and everlasting time?
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
You outlined quite pointedly the conundrum that puzzles mankind: Why does God “let” (italics mine) evil things happen?
I turned to 1 Corinthians 2:16 (“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”) I rely on the Fifth verse of Solomon’s Proverb 3 (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”) and am thankful I can trust God with all of this. I do not know what words of comfort I would have for those who lost someone in this calamity. I pray they reach a place of understanding, of knowing the Lord share’s in their agony, for He is the only One who can measure its depths. I know truth does not immediately lessen it, nor instantly deaden it, nor suddenly help them over the loss of their family. Only Jesus and time can help the human heart.
Your posts, however, inspire conversation on the topic and bring this to the painful forefront of the mind, requiring thoughtful examination of the Word, and one’s faith…beyond dogmatic triteness. Thanks, GC
Amen, Steven. And thank you, Darrell. You are right on the mark. In truth, there isn’t much to say immediately after someone loses a child or loved one. The most important thing is to be there, to be present for them. But discussions like this need to take place so that when the tragedy strikes, a framework is in place to help begin making sense of it all.
God lets evil things happen to bring sinners to choose to follow HIS direct commands. Who are we sinners to judge what HE is doing?