How Can a Good God Allow Innocent Children to Be Murdered?

The age-old question that has tormented philosophers and theologians for centuries is resurfacing again . . . with new vigor. This time it’s emerging in the wake of the horrors of a mass murder of small children in Newtown, Connecticut. Regrettably, atrocities like this have been going on in our world since the Fall. And they always seem to provoke us to make sense of evil.

Last month, I wrote a post entitled There is No Proof of God’s Existence. That post has suddenly taken on new meaning and fresh application for many Christians after what took place in Newton. No philosopher or theologian has ever adequately answered the “How Can a Good God Allow . . .” question. And I will shamelessly admit that I’m a card-carrying member of that club too. However, there are two things that I’ve learned on this score that have helped me (at least).

1) In Matthew 11:6, we have the forgotten beatitude – “Blessed is the person who is not offended by me.” According to the context of this saying, John the Baptist was utterly loyal to Jesus. He walked a life of total self-denial. He gave everything up for his God. And now he finds himself in a cold prison. We have no record that the Lord ever visited him there. So John is questioning and doubting. He’s probably thinking, “Was it really worth it? I lived my whole life to pave the way for the Messiah, and now I’m in prison. The kingdom hasn’t yet come.”

John is wondering and wavering; he’s tempted to stumble at his Lord. So he sends word to Jesus asking, “Are you really the one who was to come? Or should we expect another?” Again, Jesus doesn’t visit John. He instead sends this answer to him via his disciples: “Go back and report to John what you’re seeing. The deaf hear; the blind see; the lepers are cleansed; the dead are raised; the good news is being preached to the poor . . . and happy is the person who is not offended in me. Peaceful is the man who doesn’t stumble over me. Blessed is the person who doesn’t fall away on account of what I do or not do.”

Point: Jesus did not meet John’s expectations. If you’ve not met this side of God yet, you will. He will not always meet your expectations. And when that day comes, put your seat belt on. Your faith will be tested. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” . . . “Blessed is the person who is not offended by me when I don’t meet their expectations.”  This is the forgotten beatitude. And it’s a message that every Christian needs to hear at some point in their lives. In fact, many times over.

2) If I can use an illustration, we mortals are living on pages 300-400 of a 2,000 page book. Only God can see the whole book. And He’s only given us the ability to see pages 300-400. We have no capacity to understand what’s in pages 1-299 or pages 401 to 2,000. We can only speculate and assume what’s in them (hence we create all sorts of intricate theological systems to explain mysteries we don’t understand).

Here’s a lesson to learn: Life always comes down to trusting in the Lord rather than trying to figure out His ways via our finite, limited understanding. Yet together, we can better discover and understand what’s in pages 300-400, and thereby learn to live more effectively within them. I hope blog posts like this contribute to that goal.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” ~ Paul in Romans 11:33

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus in John 16:33

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About Frank Viola

Frank Viola is a best-selling author, A-list blogger, speaker, and consultant to authors and writers. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply so they can experience real transformation and make a lasting impact. See his About page for more information.

  • FiretronP75

    Oh that is easy! He can’t directly interfere. He decreed man in charge of the world, and ever since, needs a mans agreement in order to do anything in the world. Otherwise he’d be violating his decree, which he isn’t capable of doing. The issue is the age-old heresy most people believe in that God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. Reject that heresy and the matter is solved. Why is it a heresy? Because it is not true, and it slanders God’s character.

  • Frank Viola

    No reason to begin your comment with “But” because …

    1. I pointed out that NO ONE can answer this question to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s never been done nor will it be. In this post, I merely made two points that buttressed that point but gave a practical application that hits most of us where we live.

    2. You need to read the follow-up post (linked at the bottom) which delves deeper and goes into the question, “If you were God, here’s how you would eradicate all evil.” It’s a different take and the implications are surprising. Check it out.

  • Chandler

    But you didn’t answer the question. On the one hand, we claim that God can do anything… that he is sovereign. That he is out to do only good. That in God there is no darkness at all. That God can be trusted. But on the other hand, trusted with what? Eternal salvation ONLY or trusted with the here and now?

    Fact is, if we claim that our God is in control, then God alone made the choice that this murderous rampage would happen. Whether he ‘allowed’ the rampage or ‘orchestrated’ it is of no consequence to the end result. Could God have stopped the murders? It’s a yes or no question. And to play the free-will-of-humans card is useless if God is ultimately in control of the game.

    It is these types of tragedies that force Christians into a contorted mental gymnastics routine. We cannot allow our God to fail. But what we CLAIM about God (that he’s perfect, that he’s pure goodness, that he’s all powerful and knows best) cannot possibly be true when the plan includes the slaughter of kindergarteners.

  • Valeria T

    Thanks for this, Frank – very timely and very helpful.

  • Missy

    The same John the Baptist was beheaded at the whim of a woman and her child, and that, too, was allowed. The fact that these sorts of tragedies are recorded in the Bible is proof that we should expect them here in this fallen world. We long for heaven, but we are here. We know things can be better, and should be, and this is why we mourn, why we have hope, why we lean on The Creator.

  • David M

    I think the John the Baptist story is huge and one that many people look over. Maybe it’s because a lot of people don’t allow themselves to be “disappointed” in God, but I know I have been, and then I’ve realized I wasn’t looking at things through a renewed perspective. Thanks for this.

  • Sally Roach

    How interesting that just yesterday I attended a church where the preacher taught from the forgotten beatitude, blessed is the man who is not offended by me. Wow. It’s like Jesus is saying, get ready to be offended. If I had just lost a child, I’m very sure I would be angry at God and doubting his protection and intentions towards me. How do people handle such grief and not turn from God? But then, where do we turn? Whom else do we have?

  • @PaulSteinbrueck

    Thanks Frank. Tweeted & shared.