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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

20 June 2005

How Can God Allow Evil to Happen?

Q: All my life I have learned that God exists. I still believe, but am losing faith every single minute. I am 15 and have always been taught that God is all-merciful and that everything He does is right. He is all-powerful, yet I see every day horrible murders, rapes, massacres. Is this how he intended it to be?

Why? Why would he make the purest form of innocence — children — suffer? Why must a child be raped and killed?

Why? Because of these and many more horrible things happening on earth, I’m losing faith.

A: Dear friend, I hope that as you think about the existence of God, you keep in mind that He is ultimately unknowable apart from His own revelations about Himself. Particularly, I mean the Bible and, especially, Jesus Christ.

In a way, you’ve been answering your own questions. You state, “God is all-merciful” and “all-powerful”; then you ask, contrary to fact, if the horrible state of the world’s affairs is “how He intended it to be.” Of course, this isn’t what He intended for His Creation! Picture God as Architect, with the world His perfect structure: Do we blame the Designer and Builder for the vandalism and graffiti of others? Consider Him as Parent: Do we blame the Father when the children ignore His care, concern, and love and wallow in their own evil?

Yet your questions echo those of other believers throughout history. Job wondered, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? (Job 21:7)” Psalm 2:1 asks, “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?” Jacob wondered why he lost Joseph while Joseph must have wondered how his brothers could sell him into slavery. Moses wondered why God burdened him with leading sinful Israel. On and on it goes.

Much of this I wrote of in a previous column, Why Suffering and Death?, a response to the 9/11 terrorist murders. It addresses some of our “Why?” questions.

As for the children, as society’s weakest members, they remain all-too-convenient targets for evil people. Some hurt them to gratify their own twisted needs for pleasure. Others kill them to exterminate races, tribes, and groups of believers. Still others attack children, knowing this brings a double assault on the parents. I’ll not dwell long on the innocence of these young victims, although we must remember that they, too, carry the stain of sin from conception and birth (cf. Psalm 51:5). Yet just because “all have sinned (Ro 3:23)” — including children — God grants no permission for powerful sinners to prey upon the weak and helpless.

An old hymn by Samuel Cowper begins, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” The burden you now feel could be part of His movement within you. He has a long history of working through people to accomplish His divine will. Moses and the prophets — who all testified to the coming Messiah — also worked to clean up the messes they found around themselves. With God’s help, they freed Israel from Egyptian slavery, battled false teaching and idol worship, and fought for justice and peace in society. Could He not now be using your empathy to lead you into service?

Getting back to your special concern for the very young, remember that your God has personal experience with evil being inflicted upon His own children. Beginning with Adam and Eve, evil beings and wicked people have tempted, tortured, maimed, and murdered His offspring by creation. More so, in Christ, God personally knows the special pain inflicted upon children. The Father watched His own Son’s torment while the Son experienced that pain in His body. While concerned with earthly suffering, God did this especially to free all — both the victims and the villains — from eternal suffering in hell.

You’re not too weak, too young, too anything to pray for the tormented and for their tormenters. You can advocate on behalf of the helpless; you can love the loveable and the unlovable; you can ask God not to toughen you against feeling the world’s pain but rather to strengthen you to do something about it. With Paul, you can confess, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” God grant you peace of heart and strength of will to stay firm in the faith and active in love.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Blogger David said...

Pastor Snyder,

Thanks for this entry. This is an important question, especially because one of the "classic" treatments of the issue comes from a liberal rabbi who denies the omnipotence of God ("When Bad Things Happen to Good People"). Even as a college student taking a basic religion course, I could tell Kushner's book was fatally flawed. But I didn't understand until later that his explanation for suffering is nearly inevitable without a confession of Christ.

22 June, 2005 11:46  

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