Sometimes things occur that are too gut-wrenching to contemplate. Yet we must, and we wonder why God allowed such tragedy. Is God unaware of human trials? Does he not care? If God is good, why is there evil and suffering?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #68 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
Gunmen surprise worshippers and seize a Baghdad church during an evening Sunday service. Before it is over more than 60 people, including the priest, are killed when government security forces storm the church to free the more than 100 Iraqi Catholics who’d been captured. Eventually, the eight assailants involved are also killed.
Sept. 11, 2001, jets were intentionally guided into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the World Trade Center Twin Towers in Manhattan, causing both 110-story skyscrapers to collapse. Another attacking jet was stopped by brave passengers and the jet never reaches its target, crashing in a Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania cornfield, killing all on board, villains, innocents, and heroes alike. In the 9/11 attack, all told, 2,977 innocent non-hijackers die.
Feb. 6, 2023, two massive earthquakes registering 7.8 on the Richter Scale, followed by as many as 50 aftershocks of considerable force, erupt in southeastern Türkiye and across the border in northwestern Syria. At this writing, more than 36,000 are dead with authorities estimating this figure could double before the recovery is concluded.
Crises happen periodically in a fallen world. They often occur quickly and without warning, and they are times of danger, confusion, suffering, harm, destruction, and death.
Crises can be personal—injury, illness, disease, loss of loved ones, environmental—hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, tornadoes, social—unrest, violence, pandemics, famine, impoverishment, displacement, religious—moral failure of leaders, division, political—conflicts, wars.
In times of crises, human beings ask existential questions: Does God exist? Is God there? Is he angry, punishing or judging us? Does he know me? Does he care? If he is a good God, why does he allow this crisis?
Even Christians ask these questions, so imagine what non-Christians or non-religious people ask with no faith to back-stop them?
So, as Christians, how should we understand these events and how should we respond to them?
One way is to think about them in terms tragedy and theodicy.
Tragedy is a conversational word that means disaster, sadness, or unexpected developments that victimize human happiness, wellbeing, and even lives.
Theodicy means a vindication of divine justice in allowing evil, suffering, or tragedies to exist.
Theodicy, the idea that God has a reason for tragedies, the idea that God allows or, even more discomforting, directs tragedies is not always easy to understand.
Yet if we believe in the God of the Bible we must acknowledge his sovereignty, omniscience, and omnipotence. He is in control. He knows all things. Nothing is a surprise or an accident to him. He is all-powerful, so nothing happens outside of his will or influence. Not 9/11, not senseless brutality against innocent churchgoers, not our illness or disease.
In the wake of earthquakes or tsunamis taking the lives of tens of thousands, including children, the idea that God could have thwarted these so-called “natural” disasters is a difficult theological pill to swallow. In the face of wars that decimate entire populations of people, the idea that God could have stopped the carnage seems to beg the question of God’s purported love and compassion for people.
In the aftershock of senseless violence and unnecessary death, the thought that God could have prevented the tragedy tests our faith.
In the face of such events, some people question God’s existence, some his goodness. Some, like Job’s wife, simply want to curse God and die.
Yet in the Book of Job, the oldest scriptural writings, God does not answer all of Job’s questions. God reminds Job, and us, that he, God, is great. That he is good. That he is just. That he is love. God is big—bigger than our circumstances, bigger than suicide bombers, terrorists, or disease, bigger even than death.
Theodicy, in the end, requires faith—faith in God whose goal is to reconcile us with him, even through tragedies. This, in turn, requires a right understanding of theology. To interpret the world and its volatile events we must know who God is, what comprises his character, and what he wills for the world in which we live.
Tragedy is abrupt and often life altering. Theodicy can meet our rational need to know why and our emotional need for comfort. Theology provides us with understanding of a God who is not mean, not petty or vindictive, not arbitrary, or not clueless, but a God who is love, righteous, and peace.
I don’t know why those Iraqi worshippers were made victims of this tragedy. But I don’t believe in bad luck, the fates, or false pagan deities or ideologies. I believe in the God of the Bible who will bring all things to account.
We should pray for the Iraqi families devasted by evil. We should pray for family and friends who lost loved ones in 9/11 and who yet today feel that grief. We should pray for the people of Türkiye and Syria who face not only feelings of desolation in the loss of tens of thousands of their own but years of emotional and spiritual trauma and a long-term need for healing.
Like Job, not all our questions will be answered, even in a well-developed theodicy of how God works through suffering.
But the most important questions have already been answered – let me say that again – the most important questions have already been answered – in the book of Psalms or 1 Peter or other Scriptures proclaiming the good, great, and glorious character, works, and promises of an omniscient, omnipotent, loving Heavenly Father who knows the number of hairs on our heads.
We may not always know Why, but we know the God who knows Why.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2023
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