This past Friday, after the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I received the following inquiry from a friend. It has been abridged to respect his anonymity.
Good afternoon friend.
Like most people in America right now, I’m staring at the news right now and just shaking my head trying to figure out how/why something like that shooting could have happened. Most likely no one will truly know, but that doesn’t make it easier to process. …
I have never actively disrespected Christianity, as some people i know have. Whatever works for you is what works. A little liberal i realize, but I respect religion for what it is, and what it is (to me) is a method of ways to process what happens in the world into some form of useable information that one can use to find a meaning and purpose in all things.
So, as I read the news today about the CT shooting, I just keep asking myself the question, why would I want to place my trust in something or someone that would be ok with this happening. I know all the tropes, ie, God’s plan, or something good will come from this, always darkest before the dawn, you name it.
it seems like an overwhelmingly selfish thing to ask, in that something like this happens and I can only think “HOW DOES THIS IMPACT ME” but, please, no this isn’t from a selfish place.
I realize that if there is a God there are multiple miracles he could be responsible for. …
But for all of those, how does this fit in? How is this ok? How is this part of a plan? And if it IS part of an omnipotent being’s plan, how can I possibly trust in it/Him explicitly when he signs off on things like this happening. Does he say ‘well lots of people got home safely yesterday, I suppose today is a good day for this one’? I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I just don’t understand it. I hadn’t really asked myself these questions in about a decade, and I can’t shake it. Perhaps there are no answers for these questions, and such is the strict definition of faith. And it’s not that I set metrics for God and if He can’t hit them, then i’m out, no thank you, ask me again later. I just can’t answer the fundamental question of why would I place my trust and faith in someone that allows this to happen. Am I asking the wrong questions? Are my inquiries too selfishly motivated to have proper answers?
Again, I ask you these things because … I couldn’t ask my parents bc I’d get written out of the will, and I could ask my wife, but I don’t really want to sleep on the couch for a week.
Here is my reply:
These are great questions which warrant more discussion than this space comfortably allows. However, I’ll be glad to continue beyond this, either here or over a beer.
So… let me, for now, offer four points for consideration:
1. You’re asking what I’m convinced is THE most difficult question for any religion – or any belief system – to deal with: the reality of evil.
If you, personally, are entertaining atheism, let me suggest the challenge will be greatest for you. How does someone determine that something is in fact evil and speak out against it when they’ve removed any transcendent standard of measure against which a conclusion must be reached?
2. Of all the possible belief systems, you won’t find any that take the problem of evil more seriously than Christianity. (Of course, I think the reason behind this is because it’s TRUE.) The entire purpose behind God’s work in and through Christ is to confront, defeat and rectify evil and its consequences. I John 3:8 says, “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.”
3. Given that, I would not dismiss some of the explanations you listed that you’ve heard from Christian believers.
4. Finally, if I look solely at the tragedy in CT, I see no sign of God’s love and goodness. I have to go beyond such events – even beyond events that suggest there may be a loving and gracious God – and look at Jesus – His life, death and resurrection – to see most clearly the demonstration of a God who loves you and me.
Would love to keep in touch.