7 Points About Resolving the Question of God & Evil

Yesterday, someone who works for a radio station in California saw my post How Can a Good God Allow Innocent Children to Be Murdered? Subsequently, I was invited on the program to talk about the subject.

Here are a 7 points I made in the radio interview:

1. When something tragic touches us, that’s when we notice and feel the pain. Incomprehensible atrocities have and are happening all over the world, including the murder of women and children. But when children are senselessly killed in the USA, we take notice. This is human nature.

2. Sometimes in the face of unspeakable wickedness the only appropriate response is silence. No words or explanations are adequate.

3. If you’re a Christian, this is an opportune time to share your faith when asked. Do a lot of listening. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” You’re being honest. Don’t be afraid to afford someone who is hurting a hug.

4. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” When tragedy strikes or we’re starring death in the face via a funeral or the horrors of watching on our televisions what took place in Newtown, CT, we are forced to confront something most of us never think about. Our death. And this leads to questions about God.

5. To those who are angry at God and blame Him for such tragedies, consider this. Imagine that you are God right now. Snap your fingers and eradicate evil on the planet. You can do that because you’re God. So snap . . .

You’ve just annihilated every human being on the planet. Why? Because every mortal is capable of evil in some form. Every human is capable of harming others. In fact, every human past infancy has in one form or another hurt someone else.  So you’ve just removed everyone. OR  . . . you’ve turned everyone into robots whose wills you control. If you think that’s not a bad thing, watch the movie Ruby Sparks and you will see how removing someone’s will turns out. No. God allows humans the capacity and the choice to do evil, and He has an inimitable way of bringing good out of it. He has a gift for writing straight with crooked lines. The fact that He is sovereign and knows the beginning from the end is where the mystery lies. This brings us back to my illustration of the 2,000 page book I shared in a recent post.

6. The big elephant in the room that I hope this country will face and hammer out solutions for is how to help the mentally ill and those who show signs of being mentally deranged and disturbed. In virtually every case we know of where a mass murder took place, there were signs of mental disturbance. Most of those tragedies could have been averted.

7. Evil follows and confirms the biblical narrative. The first child to appear on this planet was a murderer (Cain killed his younger brother, Abel). Evil — which springs from selfishness — is in our genes and it came with the Fall of humanity when our ancestors disobeyed God. But God, in His mercy, sent a Savior. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. On the cross, Jesus experienced the blackness and horrors of torture, murder, and the death of the innocent. And on that cross He destroyed the power of evil and the authority of the evil one. Those who trust in Christ and follow Him are freed from its power. They will never taste death. Though they will “sleep,” they will rise again to immortality. And all things, both good and evil, work together for good for them because they love God and are called according to His purpose. So says Paul in Romans 8. This is good news.

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  • Heath Davis Havlick

    I’m late to the party, Frank, but thank you for another great post. I have to say that when I hear “God allowed it” it rankles me, because though God gave us free will, he also gave us radically awesome power and authority in the Earth. Take a stroll through Acts and Ephesians, Christians, and you’ll see how gnarly humans are capable of being–releasing his kingdom and will into the world, making God’s eternal wisdom known to the powers and principalities of the air.

    We have largely failed to understand and embrace our calling (I’ll include myself here, though I’m working on it), allowing evil to run riot across our world. Whose fault is it, for instance, that America is in a downward moral spiral? Not God’s. Ours. Now, I know that it’s not possible for Christians to prevent every tragedy, but it’s worth considering our own culpability when one occurs. Instead of assuming that God “allows” or even wants such events, perhaps the question should be: How could Christians have allowed innocent children to be murdered? How could we be so ignorant or indifferent to our own (God-given) power? This may sound fanatical or hard-nosed to some, but that’s not how I mean it. I’m not trying to shame anyone. I just want our collective heart to be so broken by events like this that we finally rise up to who we’ve been called to be.

    I think God would LOVE to avert tragedies like this. But there is a strange way in which God has limited his sovereignty on Earth because of what is supposed to be a partnership with us. “God will not do what humans can do” –I think I’m quoting that wrong, but that’s the gist of the idea.

  • Frank Viola

    Christmas is upon us so I don’t have time to research this for you and give you all the data to support a simple point which by the way does follow. You can research it yourself. The fact is, there were indications of violence and indications of the desire to harm others in *most* of these cases. I’ve worked with the mentally ill and I know first-hand that it’s virtually impossible to admit someone 18+ in the present system without an explicit threat they are making. And even then, it’s only temporary. It didn’t used to be that way; but the pendulum swing to the other side. Parents’ and teachers’ hands are tied. Some psychiatrists are even weighing in on it. If someone isn’t mentally stable and shows signs of violence/aggression, they need to be on medicine and/or be part of a facility. Period. There is a public discussion on this matter, but I’m concerned that it will be eclipsed by the discussion on guns. We need to discuss both. No time for more. Have a great holiday.

  • Doc Mike

    A few emendations:

    “He had a history of mental illness but it made no difference.” – This refers to the tenant, not our constable, as my poor construction implies.

    “prevent” – should be “prevented” in the next-to-last paragraph.

    mea culpa!

  • Doc Mike

    You wrote, “In virtually every case we know of where a mass murder took place, there were signs of mental disturbance. Most of those tragedies could have been averted.”

    Aside from the second sentence being a non sequitur (and it was technically a spree killing), my first thought was, “How? How can such horrific things be prevented without profoundly changing our Constitution, laws, freedoms, and culture?”

    Most people suffer their first psychotic break between the ages of 18-24, which is generally when schizophrenia and bipolar disorders first manifest. There are clues perhaps but psychology is a descriptive, not predictive, discipline. We are actually worse than your local weatherman at being able to identify which mentally ill people will be violent and which will not (not everyone, for example, who has the “psychopathic triad” – cruelty to animals, bed-wetting, fire setting – becomes a serial killer).

    But even if it were predictive, how do you suggest “averting” such tragedies? Would you make psychiatrists, psychologists, et.al., the prescient mental police as in “Minority Report”? As a mental health therapist, I can tell you that I would not want that incredible authority and corresponding power.

    If you suggest that the mentally ill should not be allowed to have firearms, I totally agree. But the problem is, as evidenced in my own city, guns and ammunition can be ordered online and background checks averted. And so our local constable was killed by a tenant he was serving an eviction notice. He had a history of mental illness but it made no difference. The possibility of 3-D printers creating untraceable guns only complicates the situation.

    I don’t mean to be or sound pessimistic. If there is a way for such tragedies to be prevent, I would be very interested. But even the solutions that my colleagues and I have considered would necessitate a violation of mental health, school, insurance, and criminal records that would make wiretapping seem lame in comparison. Do we really want to live in that society?

    It seems to me that wherever there are people there will be tragedies such as these. Seems to have started back in Gen 4 and to have mushroomed throughout history. There is only one way for such things to be ended – and only then with violence on a scale difficult to comprehend – but He hasn’t chosen to do so. Yet.

  • Frank Viola

    Every human is *capable* of evil. And every human has harmed others in some way. For God to “eradicate” evil and harm to others would require the annihilation of all humans or the removal of free will. “All have sinned” and “There is no one who is good, but God” the Scripture declares. But thank God we have a Savior who destroyed the power of evil through suffering and death and extends forgiveness, grace, and transformation to all who trust Him with their lives. The Savior’s name is Jesus.


    To those who are angry at God and blame Him for such tragedies, consider this. Imagine that you are God right now. Snap your fingers and eradicate evil on the planet. You can do that because you’re God. So snap . . .
    You’ve just annihilated every human being on the planet. Why? Because every mortal is capable of evil in some form. Every human is capable of harming others.

    All humans being are not evil on this planet, some people are capable to doing great harm but harmfulness and evil are different concepts. A few years ago a Walmart employee was trampled to death by a mob rushing into the store during Black Friday sales. I don’t remember our Nation crying God why did you allow this evil to happen. I don’t remember anyone in Congress preaching about controlling Walmart’s stores to keep their employees safe. All the babies killed for decades in drive by shooting. Did we rally around gun control for automatic weapons after the first child was murdered from gang violence? Do you believe God cares more about the number killed at one time or does God care for each individual’s death? Suppose Adam shot his mother, then the principle and then did nothing else. Suppose he walked into the school and shot one child and did nothing else? Suppose he killed himself and no one else using an automatic weapon. Would we be filling up Internet social media with information about the horror of Adam’s suicide? For decades we have been silent or complacent concerning the genocide of children in America and the Sandy Hook murders have shamed us, because it proved our total lack of morals regarding the safety and well being of our American children. And then we ask why did not God do something? How arrogant we are? How prideful and amoral we are to ask these questions? Adam Lanza purposed to kill all the children and their teachers but something stopped him. In Genesis Cain only killed Abel, he did not kill his parents Adam and Eve. In the Gospels, the Romans only killed Jesus, they did not kill his disciples and their families. Are we able to imagine God was there walking in the fire of bullets with those innocents in Sandy Hook, just as God was there experiencing the horrible sufferings of Jesus and hundreds of Christian martyrs?

  • Frank Viola

    You’re focusing on physical “murder” here. I’m speaking of evil, which also comes through speech. I suppose that God could have created humans without the capacity to communicate, move around, and touch others in a physical way. But they would cease from being human. So this brings us back to the point I made in #5.

    p.s. I won’t say that your response was “terrible.” 😉

  • John Evans

    5. is a terrible argument. This being is supposed to be omnipotent. If he can do anything, it shouldn’t be a big deal to make it as physically impossible for a human to murder another human as it is for a human to pass through a granite slab or see ultraviolet light. No invoking of the free will problem at all.

  • actually, point #5 is a good, very solid alternative to saying “i don’t know” to someone who asks the question “how could God allow ”

    thank you very much for that.

  • There is an alternative to “How can a good God allow…” For in saying or suggesting “God allowed it” somehow God is complicit. He’d be like a police officer seeing a violent murder about to take place standing by to allow it to happen. To say “God allows it” implies a view of divine sovereignty that has God not only Lord over all within God’s domain, but intimately in control over all that is done by subjects within God’s domain (a very weird notion of being a sovereign). It is a view of God that makes God not very likeable. That view of divine sovereignty had some support in Augustine, then much support in protestant theology after the rise of modern science with the notion of natural laws that control or describe how molecules move and interact throughout the universe. Add to that Newtonian view the notion that God had to be the source of even those laws, and one can easily prosecute God as not only Lord over God’s domain, but also in control of everything done by any subjects within the domain. But why take that view of divine sovereignty? The sense in which “God allows it” instead might be precisely the sense in which a human sovereign allows the subjects to disobey the sovereign, even if not without punishment.

    One (among the many) differences between a human sovereign and God as sovereign is that when a subject under a human sovereign messes up, the human sovereign might not be able to make things right again. A human sovereign might be able to authorize the punishment of a wrong-doer. A human sovereign might be able to ease some of the pain, restore some token of what was lost. Yet somehow, I believe but don’t know with confidence that when God sees a mess, God thinks something like “dang it. That is not the way things are supposed to be. Now I have to figure out a way of making bearable something that seems unbearable, and do so yet in this life.” I also believe, and this with a bit more confidence, that God can make whole in an everlasting state what is not whole in our temporal state.

    And don’t ask me to explain why I think all this. It is too complicated for a three paragraph or less explanation.

  • Greg

    Thank you for these points. I agree.