A friend made the following statement: I will care about aborted babies when someone can tell me why God killed all of humanity with the exception of Noah and his family in the flood. Curious to know how to a non-believer, you would go about explaining God’s actions?
@kelelek That is a very good question. The following answer assumes the other person really, truly wants to think through this question. If you suspect they are smoke screening you or mocking, then it may be wiser to simply point to the love of Jesus on the cross, pray for them and live out your faith. To truly think through this question requires a sincere desire to do so. May the Spirit guide you as you respond.
A short conversation starter might be, “God raises up nations and brings them down. Whenever a city or nation grows very wicked over the course of decades or centuries, like Sodom and Gomorrah or the Canaanites, God brings judgment on them. God even judged Israel when they became wicked by allowing them to be destroyed by Assyria and Babylon. God’s judgment is impartial and God is slow to anger, but He does judge evil nations. We all rejoiced when Hitler’s Nazi regime fell - I think we should be glad that God judges evil when it gets out of hand. What are your thoughts?”
I think this question is very similar to why God killed the Canaanites (see ‘Justify God’s Morality’ thread below). The main difference is that we have historical data about how wicked the Canaanites had become - but we do not have much information on what exactly the people in Noah’s day were doing. However, I think if we start with Lamech in Genesis 4, very soon after the fall, we can imagine how wicked the people had become. So the approach I would take is to begin with the Canaanites and the work backward to make the point that God is slow to anger, but that there does come a point where there is so much evil going and the people have rejected His warnings for so long that He does bring judgment.
God gave the Canaanites 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:16), but they only grew more wicked (see PDF in linked thread). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but there comes a point when He does bring judgment upon the nations - He raises up nations and brings them down. In the case of the Canaanites, it is not clear He intended to kill all - but He certainly intended to drive them out and bring judgment - they sacrificed their children to pagan gods and committed terrible acts of indecency. The entire culture had become corrupt.
If we start with Lamech, we already see that the human race was becoming evil very quickly - murder, polygamy and violence are in Lamech’s words. Assuming no gaps in the genealogies in Genesis, God gave humans nearly 1000 years before the flood.
keep in mind people had longer lifespans - so one wicked dude who lived 600 years could do a lot of damage to the culture - imagine if a Hitler or Stalin lived for 600 years. The world was also still unified in language as this was before Babel, so men could have united in their efforts and there may have only been one monolithic wicked culture that became more and more depraved. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah, except on a grander scale. There is some speculation there, but remembering their long life spans and unified language I think can help answer how the entire populace became so depraved.
also consider that God did not kill Cain for murdering Abel, so God is patient even with evil people. Which means that if God wiped people out they must have become very bad indeed.
Genesis 4:23-24 - Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Genesis 6:5-8 - The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
So, the three main points would be:
- God is not quick to anger
- long life spans and unified language likely led to an accelerated rate of decline
- the people of Noah’s day had become very wicked - which by ancient standards likely meant extreme violence, immorality, worship of pagan gods and child sacrifice
Are those thoughts helpful? Christ grant you wisdom
@kelelek Thought provoking question! I think SeanO answered this quite thoroughly so I have no intention of trying to improve his argument. I would however add another follow-up question to your friend - even if we were in the dark regarding God’s moral actions, how does it follow that humans terminating unborn babies is morally permissible?
I understand abortion is a touchy subject but it really doesn’t have to be. We often get intimidated with the peripheral issues surrounding this topic (women’s rights, bodily autonomy, government legislations) that we lose sight of the issue that is at the heart of the abortion topic - What is the unborn? If the unborn is not a human-being, we must grant every pro-choice argument available. But if the unborn is a member of the human race, then abortion is the unjust and indiscriminate killing of an innocent person.
I hope this does not come across as a red herring - I recognize that the question is in the context of God’s actions against the pre-flood population. SeanO did an excellent job laying out the case for the legitimacy of God’s punishment against a wicked and corrupt people. But even if one were unhappy with God’s actions, why should it follow that one need not care about the systematic destruction of unborn babies that did not deserve punishment? It does not
Hope that was helpful.
I love both responses which are very complete. Another possible question to ponder : What would become of humanity if God did not step in and do something at the time of the flood?
I like theBibleProjects way of describing it: Without God humans become just beasts or animals. One reference to an individual who was so proud I can think of is Nebuchadnezzar. His temporary judgment was to become insane, to eat grass like an ox and act like a beast, until he was given another chance by God to repent and acknowledge that he was only human, and God is sovereign.
@prashanthdaniel Great point! A lack of concern for the unborn does not follow logically from confusion over why God sent the flood. Perhaps it would be wise to ask why this individual sees a connection - how are God’s actions related to whether or not you show concern for the unborn? That might also be a good lead in for a deeper discussion of what it means to be human.
SeanO, thats a good question!
Obviously one has no way to know how this person’s friend is connecting the dots in their mind between these two points. I imagine though that because abortion is perceived to be the ultimate ‘sanctity of life’ issue, God’s seemingly gratuitous destruction using the flood, in contrast seems to be a complete ‘disregard’ for the sanctity of the antediluvian population’s lives.
You’re right to say that this is part of a much deeper discussion. A few cursory points might still be helpful to @kelelek. Firstly I would state that it is generally not a helpful practice to derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. In other words, because an incident or series of events played out a particular way, it does not set the precedent for similar future approaches of dealing with related issues. Let me try to offer another argument without sounding redundant.
One popular pro-choice argument that is often made is that ‘nature is the worst abortionist’ there is - because a substantially significant percentage of pregnancies end in unforced or ‘natural miscarriages’. But my earlier question still applies - because miscarriages happen spontaneously in nature, how does it follow that one can intentionally terminate the life of a baby? It does not. The ‘is’ does not prove an ‘ought’. A little more philosophy is necessary though - while all human life is intrinsically valuable by virtue of being image-bearers, not all termination of human life is morally wrong under all circumstances. Most people would intuitively understand this. Morally wicked men may sometimes need to be killed for the sake of the greater good.
And now comes theology - while human judgment is often flawed, God knows perfectly the moral status of any and every human. He deemed the antediluvian people to have been totally and morally corrupt, worthy of total destruction. And it wouldn’t be the last time God would come to that conclusion either. But God Himself commands, “Thou shalt not murder.” (murder being the killing of an innocent person, emphasis on the word ‘innocent’). Naturally God did not consider the pre-flood group to be innocent.
But He does consider little children to be innocent, as referenced in Jeremiah 19:4,5, where he calls the children sacrificed to Baal, as ‘innocent’. The Greek word, ‘brephos’ is also used several times in the Gospel of Luke, to refer to the unborn, newborn and young children. This means that God Himself makes no distinction between children inside the womb and children outside the womb. But rather considers them all full members of the human race.
The pre-flood culture was wicked and morally corrupt, and brought upon themselves God’s justified judgment. Generally when someone struggles with judgment against people groups like the ‘antediluvians’ or Sodom or the Canaanites, I think they possibly dont know enough about these evil cultures to recognize how much they warranted punishment. Paul Copan’s book, ‘Is God a Moral Monster?’ does a great job unpacking precisely that.
The status of an unborn innocent child however would not fall into the same category of these cultures and rightly so, we should be careful to not gauge them by the metric of how we can treat one group based on how God treated another group.
Thanks for all this great feedback and thought provoking information! I haven’t really had time to digest everything, but plan to mull all of this over. In fact I hesitate to throw out this next question since I haven’t completely absorbed what has been posted, but here goes (cause someone followed up with this question when I was reading a response): But what about allowing the children/babies to die? Were they guilty?
Ugh, again, this may be more fully addressed in some of the links (that I haven’t had a chance to review) so apologize up front if the information is already out there.
Again, I deeply appreciate all of this great information!!
I would stop and ponder something first when responding to someone about abortion. The question in my mind first, is this person a lady who had an abortion, or has this man either been in the position to coerce his partner to have an abortion (sadly I’m sure this is all too common in our hook up culture).
Straight away, if that is a possibility, then philosophical arguments do not help this person on the abortion side of the question. If they have been personally effected by abortion then we must be gentle and try and separate the connecting arguments - as @SeanO has done.
It does appear that the person has conflated the two together - and I’ve also heard the argument that God aborts babies by allowing miscarriage to happen. God could stop all miscarriage if he wanted to - and if a person is not personally suffering from a miscarriage then you could discuss or ask questions along the lines of general suffering: If God stopped all suffering (general evil), and individual evil (us), then he would have to get rid of humanity as we are the cause of this suffering. Creation itself groans, because of the curse, and this will be until Jesus returns and creates the New Heaven and New Earth ( Romans 8:21-23).
The abortion issue can be very personal, and you’re probably going to deal with very hurt and hurting people. Jesus reached out to the down-cast and out-casts of society. The prostitutes, the tax collectors.
I did discuss abortion online with an atheist, an exCatholic, who was very strong with many insults. I tried to be as gentle as possible and talked about womens rights (pro-choice) were just as important as unborn children’s rights. I said that I treat women as sisters and mothers (as in 1 Timothy 5:2). I had a gut-feeling that the person with whom I was discussing was deeply and personally affected by abortion, and was putting up an angry wall to protect themselves. I tried my best to respond to this anger with love.
The flood question could be more of a philosophical argument / discussion - that is, if I am an atheist/agnostic looking at God and judging him for his actions: I am a finite human being, looking to put God into the dock and judge him.
So all that said, how to ask a question that a person will take away and ponder: and as @andrea.l stated: one of the most, in my opinion, interesting way of writing it that I still think about it. How to ask a question that comes from within a person, that is almost impossible to push away, and one that really gets them to question their own worldview.
So to clarify the question you’ve been asked:
But what about allowing the children/babies to die? Were they guilty?
The questioner is asking ‘Why did God not spare innocent children/babies during the flood?’.
To aim to get the questioner to the ‘Morality’ big question, my questions in return would be:
What makes children and babies special? Why have you not protested against the innocent animals also being killed. How do you define the value of humans?
If there is no God, there is no absolute right and wrong. Morality is only a personal opinion, basically saying good is something I like, and evil is something I don’t like. If you are saying ‘it’s wrong to kill innocent babies’ to what moral standard are you appealing?
There is an additional thing that SeanO didn’t mention: some theologians conclude that the Nephalim were offspring of fallen angels and women and this was also why God said ‘enough is enough’, and stepped in to effectually start again with Noah’s family. I think that there are certain lines that humans cannot cross, where God steps in and says ‘no more’.
Another question to consider is what is this person’s view of the flood. Have they just watched the movie Noah, which is not based on the Bible, but rather taken from I think from the supposed book of Enoch?
really hoping someone can provide a better response than I have to the question.
@kelelek I appreciate what @matthew.western said about being aware of with whom we are speaking - if a person has been hurt in the past and this issue hits close to home we should listen more than speak. I also think this is a very challenging question to answer with a skeptic because the truth is we do not know the end of the story. What happened to those babies who died in the flood? Are they in Heaven? How will God judge them? We don’t know - so we have to trust them in God’s hands. But how can a skeptic put such trust in the One of whom they are skeptical?
I think that perhaps the best thing to do is to admit ignorance on the final fate of the children and then shift the focus on the trustworthiness of Christ. We do not know the end of these children’s story, but we can ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8) in our own lives. We can look at the cross of Christ see that God is love (Romans 5:8) - on the cross He proved it. We can experience God’s faithfulness to transform our hearts and lives and to answer our prayers to be filled with His goodness and Light.
I think I have peace admitting on this one that I do not fully understand, but that I trust God absolutely because He loved me when I was blind, naked and poor with nothing to offer. He touched me when I was a leper and without hope in the world. And if He loved me that way, I trust that He will do what is right in the end.
We do not yet have the end of the story - we are in the middle of the story. We must trust God to put it right in the end. These little children may yet be with us in paradise.
I really like this excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ book ‘The Silver Chair’. Jill is thirsty and wants to drink but she is afraid of the lion Aslan, whom she has never met. Of course Aslan represents God in the story - and the exchange is quite powerful. Aslan has swallowed up kings and nations and boys and girls and yet he is the only ‘stream’.
Jesus has judged nations and yet He is the water of life - the only way to salvation. There is no other stream. We must trust Him and He has proven His trustworthiness by dying in our place and conquering death and the powers of evil that held us as slaves. Only the true King - the true Shepherd - would make such a sacrifice. A hired hand would have let us die.
Excerpt from C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair
“Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
“I am dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”
These are valid questions @kelelek. I would start with the second one:
I think part of the answer lies in John 9:1-3 “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (emphasis added by me).
My experience with God and seeking answers showed me, that finding answers is a process, in which God makes us to grow and also prunes, making sure we are ready to handle the answer we get. I talked about it another topic, in which I shared the answer I got from God to your other question:
I personally experienced the depth of it both ways - burying a child and having a miscarriage after that.
Here is where I have finally arrived:
My answer there goes on there about the timing of the answers and its significant, why God is careful with when to reveal what.
Concerning answering someone bringing this topic up, I just would repeat what @matthew.western and @SeanO said: try to answer the questioner not the question, you can ask (open) questions to figure out why this topic is significant to them, so you can phrase an answer which talks to their needs.
What I tend to say - based on my personal experience - that it is something I cannot ever overcome, it is something I can learn to live with. It strongly contributed to become who I am now, and I know it sounds weird, but knowing and experiencing where God led me through this, it was worth it. Sometimes I even give a surprising answer to the common question: how many kids do you have, saying choose any number between (and including) 2-4, and you’ll have a right answer Maybe this is one of the ways I am coping with it, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was more than a decade searching, and struggle, and crying out, and pushing myself to God’s hand, submitting various parts of my life to Him (still have a few left though). With God’s help I found purpose in the sufferring. But that’s my journey, and I believe everyone has their own one with God, getting answer at their pace to their questions.
I’d encourage you to walk on and keep searching, be patient - some answers can be hard to grasp, you’d better to be ready to handle them.
Such a powerful allegory. As the disciples said to Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” . John 6:60-71
thankyou for the entire post. Very beautiful. Babies/young children who die before the age of conscience, (both as a result of disasters and God ordained events, and as a result of abortion or other human cruelty, and miscarriage - which my wife and I have been through too, so thankyou for sharing andrea), are in the care of their creator God. We rest in this.
I watched the interview with John Lennox livestreamed. Such deep answers from a lifetime of learning and loving Jesus Christ, and such humbleness and a disarming and friendly manner.
I love his response to ‘Why is there suffering?’. He asks a new question: “Why is God on a cross, suffering at the hands of his creation?”. Only one word: Love. What else is there to say, I’m rendered speechless.
@andrea.l, thank you for sharing your heart and how God helped you push through in suffering. May God use this experience to encourage others in similar situations and bring them to the knowledge of Him. I just praise God and thank Him for the healing He has brought. Once again I see that how we endure suffering gives purpose over understanding why God chooses to bring suffering whether its abortion or any other evil.
There are a lot of excellent replies here.
In abortion there is evil intent. It is the taking of innocent life.
Let’s consider who God is.
In the flood God is executing judgment. His intent was to punish the wicked. God’s intentions are always good. As pointed out in other posts God was very patient but we should know Who He really is as revealed in Habakkuk 1:13 “Before your holy eyes sin may not be seen, and you are unable to put up with wrong;…” The real question should be why was He so patient with those whom He eventually destroyed?
God can do whatever He wants with His creation. It is His possession. Thankfully He is holy and will never and can never do anything that is not righteous and good.
I think that sometimes we think of God as being like a man and being subject to a law, but that is just not right. In order to be subject to a law there must be someone to hold you accountable. Who can hold God accountable? The very idea is absurd. Psalms 135:6 says “The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” Who can tell God that He cannot do something or that He has done something wrong? Consider Job 41:11 “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” And also consider Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…Does the clay say to the potter what are you making…”
Assuming your friend’s statement is in good faith, which I think is questionable, then it might be interesting to discuss with your friend what he thinks are God’s attributes.
Do you think this statement leans towards a God that could be just arbitrary. God is subject to his own perfect characteristics. He cannot lie, He cannot contradict Himself etc.
For example when God made a covenant with Abraham, he swore by Himself as there is no greater to swear by. Hebrews 6:13-20
I’m just now into chapter 4 of Tim Keller’s book ‘walking with God through pain and suffering’. I’ve learnt a new word. A theodicy. Basically an attempt to justify Gods actions from mans perspective. How can you with a finite mind, and very limited knowledge of any given current or historical situation.
Keller suggests that The book of Job could be a warning against trying to construct theodicies, but rather just stick with a defense.
(Just a review summarizing the theodicy section)
There are a couple of main ones I’ve been learning about summarized in the book: CS Lewis in the Problem of Pain which is the , the freewill one, and another one I forget as the book is at home. I’m only in the first section of the book which is the philosophical/theoretical section of the book…
I do remember that Keller looks at the work of Alvin Plantinga, which suggests a defense is better than an definitive offense as the burden of proof rests on the skeptic.
Tell you what, it feels like the more you learn the less you realize to know. :). We’ll probably keep learning about our infinite God who is by his very nature Love for all of eternity.
Also, I would just like to say after re-reading it several times, I agree with your entire post as a train of thought, and I hope that my taking one statement is not trying to say this is wrong, but rather just to contribute to your very good train of though - God is good, all the time.
I don’t see God as arbitrary, but I can see how some might. I see Him as more mysterious, inscrutable and on many levels incomprehensible. Nevertheless I trust Him in His plans for me even though at times I am not happy with how things are going with my life.
@mgilliam I resonate with your feelings of trusting God in the face of uncertainty and even disillusionment. The Scripture and the saints testify that this world is filled with sorrow, but the morning is coming! We are in a war zone, but when the King reigns in Zion we will have peace and joy eternal! Maranatha!
1 Cor 13:12 - For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
John 16:33 - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?"
A great Shadow has departed," said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.” Tolkien, LOTR
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” Lewis, The Last Battle
Thanks, Sean. Great words and scripture references as well.