It is admittedly hard to read of news where children are killed or harmed. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton CT this past December 2012 was surely horrific. Reading about the 20 children who died in the Plaza Tower Elementary school yesterday in Moore OK via a EF-5 tornado is also heart-rending.
At times like these, people often ask, “Where is God?” “How could He allow this to happen?” “Is God good?”
I can put it this way. When a serial killer is placed on death row and eventually executed, we say that justice was done. If a person breaking and entering a home is shot by the homeowner, we often say ‘good! He got what he deserved.’
When Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron, he was rebelling against God. (Numbers 16:3). The LORD told Moses to tell the congregation to separate from Korah, and Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their household and the goods in the household were swallowed up as the earth opened up and took them alive to Sheol. When this happened, we say “God is just and right to do this thing. Korah was performing a moral evil in rebelling against God trough Moses and Aaron.”
When the tornado came and the earth swallowed the children in the bottom of the Plaza Towers Elementary School,” do we say, “God is unjust and bad to do this thing?” No! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).
What we cannot fathom, we must trust that the Lord is good and His purposes are good. On the one hand, He directly put down a rebellion by performing a supernatural disaster as He did in the Old Testament.
On the other hand, what of the children in the elementary schools which were razed by the tornado? If they are declared innocent by a righteous God, as Deuteronomy 1:39 and Isaiah 7:16 and also explained here, then why did they have to die? Why did God allow a natural disaster to take them?
And that is where I stopped my essay, many hours ago. I was stuck on the answer myself because I was unsatisfied with saying that sin is a blanket cause for all evil, including natural disasters. Though the sin done n the Garden of Eden was indirectly the cause of the weather patterns turning deadly, how and what are we to think of a deadly tornado such as the one yesterday, more specifically? My theology brought me to an understanding of sin as a reason for the general evil in the world, including disasters such as the Oklahoma tornado. But it wasn’t a deep enough answer.
But later today, Dr. Al Mohler wrote today of this exact subject. He said, “But Jesus rejected this as a blanket explanation for suffering, instructing His disciples in John 9 and Luke 13 that they could not always trace suffering back to sin.”
What are we to think, then? As I read the rest of Dr. Mohler’s essay, that more thorough explanation became clear through his precise and mature understanding of theology. He wrote,
However as Dr. Mohler explains that passages in Luke 13 and John 9 show us that “the problem of evil and suffering, the theological issue of theodicy, is customarily divided into evil of two kinds, moral and natural.” [emphasis mine]
The moral problem of evil was exemplified in Korah. Korah’s pride and ambition was his undoing. He committed a moral sin and ended up rebelling against God. Suffering ensued for him and his family.
He says that a discussion of both kinds of evil are included in the Luke 13 passage.
“In Luke 13, the murder of the Galileans is clearly moral evil, a premeditated crime–just like the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. In John 9, a man is blind from birth, and Jesus tells the Twelve that this blindness cannot be traced back to this man’s sin, or that of his parents. Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls, an earthquake shakes, a tornado destroys, a hurricane ravages, a spider bites, a disease debilitates and kills. The world is filled with wonders mixed with dangers. Gravity can save you or gravity can kill you. When a tower falls, it kills.”
Further, Mohler wrote,
A venerable confession of faith states it rightly: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any way to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”
But if God is sovereign, doesn’t He allow the tornado to occur? How do we reconcile God’s sovereignty and our responsibility? We can’t really. Not with our finite minds. Mohler answers,
God is God, and God is good. As Paul affirms for the church, God’s sovereignty is the ground of our hope, the assurance of God’s justice as the last word, and God’s loving rule in the very events of our lives: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]
We dare not speak on God’s behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner. Yet, at the same time, we dare not be silent when we should testify to the God of righteousness and love and justice who rules over all in omnipotence. Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further. There is much we do not understand. As Charles Spurgeon explained, when we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.
What we do understand is that God is good in having sent His son to die for us. Jesus took upon Himself all sin and exhausted God’s wrath for it, and then died, to be accepted by God as the eternal sacrifice for that sin and raised on the third day. He now imputes His righteousness to His saints who believe this Gospel by faith, and it is by that vehicle we declare His righteousness to those who are afflicted and suffering.
He allows us to be His witnesses, the indwelling Holy Spirit glowing and bringing God glory. If we were to see a visible manifestation of His Goodness, would it be in Christians’ Spirit lovingly racing TO the place of terror, danger, and devastation, to help their neighbor? Like this photo from the Baltimore Sun, with the lens flares I inserted?
As my friend Pastor Phil wrote yesterday, “May our suffering Oklahoma neighbors and friends see the manifest presence of God in the midst of their suffering, especially through the ministries of Christians.”
This is where God is good, and all that Goodness stems back to the only One who is Good, God, who sent His Son. (Mark 10:18).
If we could part the curtain and see His goodness visibly, would it be that we’d see the myriads of ministering angels? Especially at the flattened school? As I try to show with this photo from the Chicago Tribune containing lens flares I put in? (Those aren’t floodlights)
Dr. Mohler said,
“The second great error is to ascribe evil to God. But the Bible does not allow this argument. God is absolute righteousness, love, goodness, and justice. Most errors related to this issue occur because of our human tendency to impose an external standard–a human construction of goodness–upon God. But good does not so much define God as God defines good.”
Yes, we mourn and we cry when we see the terrible calamity of children killed, neighbors dead, homes lost, and businesses smashed. The heart of the matter is not whether God is good or God is bad, the heart of the matter is repentance. A calamity could happen any day. Like in Luke 13, the tower of Siloam fell on 18 workers constructing it and they died. Jesus said, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:4-5). Your eternal destiny awaits, are you ready? A tornado could take your life, it is a natural evil that is blind and thoughtless, taking with it into its deadly vortex a child or a sinner or a repented one. Any day, any time. If you do not repent, you shall likewise perish, not just body, but soul
God’s goodness is that He made a way for you to escape eternal destruction, no matter the manner of death. That way is Jesus. (John 14:6). Talk about good! It doesn’t get any better than the Savior.
Further reading or listening
God’s Sovereignty and Personal Compassion in Public Tragedy, John Piper
Supernatural Lessons from a Natural Disaster, John MacArthur
Does God control everything? free ebook or free kindle, RC Sproul
Why does God allow bad things to happen? SJ Tuohy
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? GotQuestions
Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people? GotQuestions