Challenge: Giving God Credit

problemofevil
suffering
evangelism-challenge

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, at an RZIM conference this weekend, this question was asked of our team. How would you respond - not only to the question, but also think through where the person asking this question might be coming from.

After a natural disaster, some thank God for their safety. Others say if you give God credit for this, then you must give him "credit” for all those who lost their homes. How would you answer this?

I’m curious to hear your responses!


(SeanO) #2

After Jesus had risen from the dead He was walking with the apostle Peter along the Sea of Galilee. He told Peter that Peter would die a violent death for the sake of God’s Kingdom. The apostle John was walking behind them. Peter looked at John and asked Jesus, “What about him?”

Why did Peter ask that question? He wanted to be sure he had not drawn the short stick. If he was going to die a violent death - he wanted to know how the others would die. And here is what Jesus said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Peter was trying to determine if he was being treated fairly by God by comparing his situation to that of John. Jesus redirected his attention to the task that God had assigned Him - to follow Christ in life and in death.

God deals differently in different peoples lives. We may not understand it. We may not like it. But God promises to walk with us through good times and through bad times.

Now, behind your question is a deeper assumption and Tim Keller has put it like this:
if it appears to us that all suffering and evil is pointless, then it must be pointless.

And here is Keller’s response: If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.

So the person who thanks God for delivering them out of the disaster is thanking Him for His work in their lives. At the same time the people who have lost their houses may be praying for strength to endure and wisdom to manage difficult circumstances that they do not understand. Rather than trying to reconcile this apparent discrepancy, God tells us to trust Him and see His goodness in our own lives. We cannot experience God’s faithfulness in someone else’s suffering, but if we walk with Him can experience it in our own. Test God and you will find Him faithful in every circumstance.


(Helen Tan) #3

Hi Carson
It is sad to see the natural disasters which have taken place in recent months and the question of where is God in all of these is a natural one among both believers and non-believers. I have found some answers in this article by Sharon Dirckx:

https://www.zachariastrust.org/why-natural-disasters

I would appreciate further discussion on whether the points raised will help us provide satisfying answers to our questioners.


(Carson Weitnauer) #4

Hi @Sean_Oesch, I like your answer. It is grounded in the Scriptures. It points out in a kind way the limits of our own understanding. And you applied this to our hearts:

We cannot experience God’s faithfulness in someone else’s suffering, but if we walk with Him can experience it in our own.

@Helen_Tan, I think Sharon has done a marvelous job pointing out many of the ways we can wisely reflect on natural disasters. I appreciate the bigger perspective she provides (it is a wonder there is any life at all!). And that she pinpoints with clarity the real problem: that these events cause people to experience loss and death.

Another direction to go is to compare our options.

We are faced with the shock and mystery and sadness of seeing great human suffering. What meaning is there to find in such a meaningless event?

Well, on the one hand, natural disasters simply illuminate the difference between the strong and the weak. The weak or unfortunate die; the strong or fortunate thrive. This is just how things are. No point crying about it. Toughen up and do your best. As a meme starkly puts it:

nolivesmatter!

From another perspective, sacrificial love is the primary ethic of life. To see how things really are, we need to see God. When God compared his situation in heaven with our situation on earth, how did he respond? Was it, “Thank God (!) we aren’t down there! Look at how those humans suffer with all of their sin. Good thing we’re safely in heaven!”

There’s a very different image at the heart of this reflection: Jesus on the cross.

The true blessing of God is not to have heavenly circumstances, but the character of heaven.

Luke 9:24-26 reads:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

While we are on this side of eternity, the goal is not to be better off than others, but to be with others to make their lives better. As Christ has loved us, so we are to love others.

Ultimately, I think the answer that God wants us to give to the question of natural disasters is not a philosophical one but a practical one. This is why I’m so grateful that Ravi founded Wellspring International. As he put it,

Love is the most powerful apologetic. It is the essential component in reaching the whole person in a fragmented world. The need is vast, but it is also imperative that we be willing to follow the example of Jesus and meet the need.