700 Club leader and purveyor of no shortage of off-balance comments on his TV offered a staggering response to a caller who asked him what she should say to a grieving coworker who recently experienced the death of her three-year-old son.
His advice? Tell her it was a good thing, because he might grow up to be Hitler, Stalin, a serial killer or only to die of some horrible disease. As one who holds firmly to the idea that call is entirely sovereign (in control of everything), he also believes that God saw to it for this innocent child to die. The good news, he says, is that now the child who might have grown up to be a horrible monster (and therefore burn in hell for all time) now will have the joy of living with God in heaven.
This is yet another example of the sort of damage that can be done to people in their most vulnerable state when we feel the need both to hang on to a faith that requires God to be sovereign, and that also seems to presume that every question requires a clean-cut answer.
Oh, and a point of clarification, Rev. Robertson: no one can grow up to be Hitler or Stalin, unless their parents name them “Hitler” or “Stalin.”
But back to the sovereignty issue. In this situation, and all-powerful God who is in control of everything and has a plan is (by our earthly laws) is a child-killer. Who wants to worship such a God? And just in case you feel this label is an overstep, consider this quote from pastor john Piper when asked why innocent women and children die, given his theology of a sovereign God:
“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.”
If that doesn’t chill you to the core, check your pulse.
But the sovereign God perspective raises several other difficult questions in this case, like:
Why did God let the child be born in the first place?
Why didn’t God kill Hitler or Stalin before they became giant assholes?
If God controls all, how can we possibly have free will?
If we don’t have free will, then what’s the point of the Bible and religion? Why not inhere us with the faith and knowledge God desires for us? After all, there’s no such thing as a test of faith if God preordains and controls all anyway.
And on and on it goes.
Personally, this and related cases are some of the best arguments for what John Caputo calls “The Weakness of God.” It also helps explain why the crucifixion happened: not because of some bloodthirsty God who needed payment, but because God made God’s self vulnerable to humanity, regardless of the cost.
I can live with a God that is willingly weak and vulnerable far more than I can tolerate one who is a genocidal monster.