No doubt about it – bad things happen to people who do not seem to deserve it.
A precious baby is microwaved to death by her troubled mother. A child needlessly suffers and dies from a treatable cancer. A malicious patient allegedly deliberately infects his doctor with a deadly disease. Elderly couples are bludgeoned to death for their cars.
Repelled, we may seek to account for such evil by one of two responses: either bad karma is catching up with a deserving wrongdoer, or an undeserving victim is being punished by a mean god.
Neither is a christian perspective.
The concept of karma comes from hindu and buddhist beliefs. The idea is that a soul returns in penitence, as many times as is necessary, to exist in another living form – whether animal or human – to recompense the wrongs of a former life. In stark contrast the Bible states that “…people are destined to die once and then judgment”. Despite what the title to a 1960s era James Bond movie would have us believe however, you only live once – there are no do-overs.
So, what are we to do with the inescapable reality that awful, awful things happen to people who didn’t seem to deserve it? Did God make a mistake? Was He asleep when it happened?
The bible says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps. This need not be hard to believe. Even world mythologies take divine insomnia for granted, making perpetual wakefulness a staple characteristic of the gods. In greek and roman mythology for example, sleep, an experience unnatural to the gods, was experienced by or inflicted upon mortals by Hypnos (also known as Somnus), the god and personification of sleep. Understandably, a god caught asleep on the job would be subject to well deserved ridicule.
The possibility that God might have made a mistake is a different matter however, and mythological patterns don’t help with that one: greek, roman and other mythologies are riddled with accounts of the gods being misled or deceived. The bible in contrast assures us that God cannot be tricked and that He does not make mistakes. God is incapable of making mistakes because His understanding is presented as limitless. A single mistake by ‘God’ would disqualify Him from bearing that title in any case. To be God-with-a-capital-G, an alleged deity would have to have the three ‘omnis’: be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. To be a real contender for the title ‘God” therefore, the deity would have to be all powerful, all knowing and everywhere present.
An all knowing deity would be aware of absolutely everything and could never be misled or taken by surprise. Clearly, there is no room for mistakes by one who would claim to be God.
Possessed of the ‘three omnis’, a deity would be in absolute control of everything in existence whether material or immaterial. He would be the Be-All-And-End-All, Sovereign, the ultimate Director. If God is sovereign therefore, the result must be that the unfolding of events through the incidents and ‘accidents’ of life are by His design. It must be that all events occuring must either be purposed or permitted by Him.
This precisely is the scriptural perspective: a perspective in which God does not make mistakes, and there is no such thing as a coincidence. No matter how baffling or distressing the event, it is understood that God planned it, whether He directly orchestrated it or indirectly permitted it to occur.
From this perspective, the fall of humanity was no mistake. The destruction of everyone in Sodom and Gommorrah, save one man and his daughters was not by chance. The ancient, still enduring rivalry turned to enmity between Issac and Ishmael, two half-brothers, was preordained.
The heartbreakingly repeated betrayals of Joseph bar Jacob were no accident. The perishing of an entire generation of wandering Jews in a wildeness was deliberate. The violent obiteration of all in the city of Jericho – save one prostitute and her family – was according to a plan. The tragedies and torment of Job were allowed. The ruthless conquest and horrifyingly cruel subjugation of Israel by Rome was according to God’s timetable. Much more recently, the holocaust – a diabolically inspired world-shaking event still shaping our world today – was permitted by the all-seeing, Sovereign God.
This means that whichever contemporary horror it is, that reverberates most strongly in your consciousness, it was no accident. God didn’t drop the ball. He let it happen. Our next question must therefore be why? Why would God, who is supposed to be good, loving and kind, let such things happen? Presuming that there must surely be a reason, what on earth could possibly be the purpose of permitting such evil?
Are there are even remotely acceptable reasons why God would permit such evil in our world? Daily news reports, replete with accounts of global atrocities, relentlessly cause increasing dismay: if not for hope in the purposes of His Grace…..
It seems that God is still in the dock – acquitted of not being in control, but as yet, still suspected of being mean. God’s purposes in a capriciously wicked world will be the subject of my next post, but enough for now.
[Continued in Part III]
(originally posted 11/22/2014; 897 words)