Brandon A. Cox
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Here’s a two minute snippet from my message this past Sunday at Grace Hills where I address the question of why God allows evil. Cruise over to GraceHillsChurch.com to watch the full message entitled The Reasons for Our Hope.
I appreciate the effort to offer some answer, but sometimes saying “we don’t know” is better. Especially when we can’t offer a reasonable answer. In your explanation here, you argue that God allows such horrific evil as Newtown is because he “allows” – he won’t interfere with a person’s “free choice” (whatever that is). But this fails as a reason on a great number of levels. First, it does nothing to explain natural evil – tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, epidemics and on and on that wipe out entire civilizations – hundreds of thousands of people – women, children, the old and infirm – with great cruelty, brutality and indiscriminate horror. This has nothing to do with human free will. Why does God, if he is all-powerful and all-good, allow such unrestrained horror to occur when he claims the power to stop such things?
But the “allows” argument fails even on the free choice argument itself: we may (though I’m not convinced) have to allow that a person’s free will – if we assume God honors this above all other virtues (another unfounded assumption IMO) – must be allowed to be carried out – God can’t stop a person’s free choice. Alright. But what if the person’s gun were to jam? Or the person were to trip and fall slowing their advance through a school? Or if a policeman just happened to be visiting the school when the shooter arrives? All of these are things that God should be able to control – given that he is all-powerful, correct? And none of them occurring in any way inhibits the choice the shooter makes to seek to kill.
The idea that we can understand this evil simply on the basis of a (flawed) understanding of God’s view of human free will is certainly well-intentioned, but ultimately hollow at best and destructive at worst. Thinking people will not be able to accept such a shallow explanation – and will, indeed, be repulsed by it.
The idea that the world is more complex than we can imagine and that God loves us in spite of what we see around us are mysterious responses in the face of such tragedy – and, no doubt, some will be unable to accept such mystery. But it at least leaves the door open for God’s grace. Trying to offer simple explanations is, to the contrary, a dangerous and fruitless path.
Jeff, I don’t think we can understand, and I don’t claim to have a simple explanation for such a complex issue. There are a multitude of questions that definitely can’t be answered – a fact I acknowledged repeatedly in the larger context of this message. I don’t think God is bound by our choices or honors free will over other virtues. Rather He has chosen to include our choices in His sovereign plan for history – a mystery I certainly can’t comprehend.
I’m quite bothered by some of your language. You insinuate that my explanation is dangerous and fruitless. Okay. But you also insinuate that the people who heard the message and expressed their feelings of being comforted are not “thinking people” since they weren’t repulsed.
I'm madly in love with Angie Cox and my three kids. And I'm loved and forgiven by an infinitely gracious God! I'm a Pastor, Church Planter, Editor, and Community Facilitator.
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