A chat with a bro. brought the following question my way.
Jan asks: “My next question (and it is the same for a lot of people) is why the loss of innocent life? Where is God’s protection for the innocents?”
I have several answers to this and as you suggest it’s a very common and important question that plagues plenty of us.
I say “us” because there are moments when, as the Psalmists sometimes in effect, write in God’s very Word “Where ARE YOU GOD… You don’t seem to care!!”
Psalms of lament would not be the largest population in the largest book of the Bible if the following were not reality:
The first two and most direct, honest and simple answers are “I do not know” and the question “How can one prove God was NOT with a person in the midst of the suffering innocents”?
Evil, pain, suffering, misery, injustice and at core, sin are all present in the world and in every human’s personal experience. Faith or no faith.
I am now reminded of two very different things. One is a blues classic entitled “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die)”. The other is actually two others- C.S. Lewis’s “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed”. Worthwhile reads!
There is actually a great deal of deeper thought/experience/writing on this subject if one wishes to fully study at least begin comprehending it.
What I will say here is brief, but I hope, helpful to some at least.
The Fall. Not autumn, but even that season is a reminder that decay exists. Death is in our experience sooner or later. We decrease, experience hurt from people, the weather, our own foolish and at times truly trauma-causing choices and/or those other people actually or at least seem to inflict upon us and/ or those we love and care about.
I and most Christ-followers among others on the planet believe sin is in the world precisely because there IS a God, the true God who -is- (“I Am”). Free will enters the discussion. So is God “the Author of sin”?
Sin means “missing the mark”, that mark being the standard of His actual character, sinless nature, holiness, essence of absolute purity and perfection.
Think about it: all else is less. “Less” includes flaws. cracks, fissures, problems, pain.
From Adam and Eve to you and I “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and human history littered with the painful results.
We can (and do) blame God for our pain. We may well fly into a rage and/or despair at the issue of Him creating us with free will and choices.
When we ask WHY or WHERE -WERE- YOU GOD WHEN… we ask what I asked after the hurt of my parent’s divorce, misery of girl after girl, band after band, music style after music style, drink and drug upon drink and drug, and finally not being able to find some small item I was searching for brought me to a fearful, angry, hurt tirade of swearing like a pirate and trashing my mother’s living room.
Addictions were destroying me and though me, bringing more misery on those around me.
I screamed out at the sky “IF You ever even existed YOU NEVER CRIED FOR ME!!”
On a bright, sunny day with nearly no clouds in the sky- no exaggeration… within a minute or two at most- it grew immediately dark and began to rain all over my front lawn.
Not everyone gets such signs but what could I do?
I could choose any number of options.
FREE WILL took me to most, not all, of the misery I was experiencing that day.
Sin was destroying me and bringing its ugly “benefits” to others. I had a Master’s in sin and had acquired a number of apt students.
All this is part of the reason I finally surrendered to the only God who IS God. He Who gave me free will in this sense, allowed for me to reject, deny, live numb toward Him. And in the way He is able to work so often in so many lives, that very misery of my own free choices brought me eventually to Him in a relationship of love, forgiveness, grace and living for Him and others rather than myself.
You might say hell sometimes brings us to heaven when little else gets our attention. Sad, sick, but true.
The point is not being angry or blaming God for creating us with the ability to reject Him and hurt others. The point is not that I cannot explain WHY all things horrid are at least allowed by Him and why He does not evidently (in my eyes) step in and stop the hurt, why He does not always answer our prayers for deliverance. The point is that without free will we truly have no choice in loving Him or anyone else.
This “robotic” theory in theology is understandable. Put bluntly, I am not a client nor believer in hyper-Calvinism.
I cannot go to the extreme position that for some “explains” at least to a degree, why pain exists and why a loving heavenly Father allows it in the nearly countless tragedies of human history.
I find a near endless stream of language in the New (and Old) Testament that clearly cannot be un-interpreted to say “Do” or “Do not”, “Remember” and “THIS way, not THAT way”. If we have zero choice in salvation how is it we have every other sort of choice every moment of every day we live on this planet?
The whole question of why/how a true God, a God Who “IS LOVE” can allow much less seemingly orchestrate disasters among humanity even to the most extreme, that of His perfect, sinless Son on the cross! WHY is this HIS doing? Is/was there no other way?
Apparently, He has decided regardless of our decisions, but being God, it is His right, not ours. Yes, the sovereignty of God, which is clear if not cloudy. Finite beings cannot fully grasp this infinite God and “His ways are past finding out”. There is mystery in Him and certainly incomplete theology in we imperfect, incomplete people.
So I find partial answers to “natural disasters” but not full explanation.
Put simply, I, Glenn Kaiser, do not know as God knows WHY He “was not there for me”, for you, for others in each and every horrid experience.
Then again, I am personally convinced He was indeed there.
An omnipresent God is everywhere, at once, always, among us all. “For in Him we breathe and move and have our being”. But we do not notice or we do our best to claim deity ourselves, or worship other (false) gods. So how is it we blame Him when He clearly seeks us -even seemingly using pain to get our attention, repent and come home to Him?
As I personally see it, the real issue is not God nor His love nor His presence and some tangible way of experiencing Him and it. The real issue is our sin.
Indeed, no free will, God IS the Author of sin. In the sense that we choose to believe we have no free will, He indeed IS to blame. Certainly He is sovereign and in the end ultimately gets His way… but to say He takes any pleasure in our hurt is contradicted not only by His nature but in verse after verse in both Testaments.
“I will never leave you nor abandon you” does not mean we never feel nor experience actual abandonment.
I love my children even when they anger me. There are times they wonder if I am “with” or “for” them when in fact in those moments they may well be against themselves in what The Book calls “sin”. For clarity, I do not mean merely that which myself or any local or larger church may have defined as sin, rather what The Bible itself clearly lists in that category.
So in overview, I am convinced free will is the only sane, indeed logical response to the lion’s share of suffering on earth. I fully believe (as did Jesus and His disciples) in a fallen angel and the others (demons) with him roaming the earth as well, hence temptation and opportunity to live against God’s plan, ways and desires, thus sin, thus “the wages of sin is death” and so it goes.
“If we live we are the Lord’s. If we die we are the Lord’s. If we live or die we belong to the Lord”.
We cannot force God to do our will, even when we have fully decided He ought to. This is why many reject Him, why many conclude He is non-existent or brutal and unfeeling in the face of our miseries. We judge Him to be very much like we are, especially if we do not trust Him and give Him the worship, respect and love He alone deserves.
I am fully aware of immature, mean and at times crazy Christians who seem clearly to miss the mark, further “proof” our God is insufficient… when it is we who are exactly that.
If and as we walk with Jesus in faith and surrender, He walks with us.
Martyrs (innocent) have died innocent and with the innocents. This is in part, what love is about. He was and is with them regardless, this I fully believe.
Plenty of biblical promises speak to this reality as much as to the reality of sin and suffering in our fallen human natures in a broken and need-of-redemption world.
Emmanuel- God WITH us. THIS is why The Savior- our Lord Jesus Christ- came and will come again.
Grace to you Jan! -Glenn