Rev.Anthony Martlew, L Th.
26th December 2004
SINCE the above date, many people are asking, "If there is a God, why did He allow this terrible thing to happen?" As Christians, we cannot ignore their questions and hope that they will go away. Those who accuse God of causing such disasters deserve an answer. If people know that we are Christians, and we decline to give an answer, then we are ignoring that challenging text in I Peter 3:15:
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear"
Before considering the question posed above, it is necessary to look closely at the words of the text, which is in three parts,
(1) "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts". The Moffat translation says "Reverence Christ as Lord in your own hearts". The Ferrar Fenton translation says "Love the Lord Jesus Christ in your hearts". The text is saying that we cannot answer any deep theological question unless we love the Lord Jesus, not superficially, but deep in our hearts.
(2) "Be ready always to give an answer". This instruction is specific: "Be ready always". This presupposes that we are on familiar terms with the Scriptures.
(3) "With meekness and fear". Moffat puts it "But answer gently and with a sense of reverence". Ferrar Fenton says "With gentleness and respect".
Bearing the text in mind, we must always be prepared to stand up for our beliefs. In answering any of the questions like "Why do babies die of cancer?" "Why do good people suffer and scoundrels get away with it?" it is necessary to have a clear picture in our minds as to why we were put upon the earth. Outside of the concept of an overruling power, which we define as God, it is not possible to give an answer. Many who ask questions like this will proudly inform you that they are atheists. Unfortunately, it is not possible to give an answer that they will accept. One would hardly expect them to comprehend that suffering and death are an integral part of life, and that our reaction to them is a vital part of the reason for our existence. The Christian's understanding of the meaning of life is that it is a training or learning process. Assuming that the premise is correct, it follows that the reason for our training is that there is something to follow. A soldier is not sent to battle until his training is complete. A doctor is not allowed to practice until he has qualified. In the case of Christians, the Lord only gives us work to do that He knows we can do. It is certain that our full potential will not be realised until Christ's Kingdom is established. How may we be certain that this is so? Although it may appeal to our reason, this is not our only guideline. We have much more on which to base our certainty that life is a training or assault course for better things to follow.We have the Word of God, which claims for itself the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is not within the scope of this article to demonstrate the many proofs that this is so, for it has been the subject of many previous articles.
Assuming that we can rely upon Scripture, we find absolute proof there that our short life, which most of us have to battle through, was never meant to be a bed of roses, or a paradise. Some will counter that statement by reminding us of those people who sail through life without experiencing illness, hard times, or the kinds of troubles endured by the majority of folk. The answer is obvious, if we think for a moment. The way in which such people react to their easy, trouble-free lives is, in itself, a testing. Do they dip into their pockets when they see great need around them? Do they show kindness to those less fortunate than themselves? Testing comes in many guises. The fact that so many of us are tested in a variety of ways is proof that the Creator allows these things to be.
The terrible event which ended the lives of thousands on Boxing Day, 2004, has caused many, including Christians, to ask "Why?" Some will agree that, yes, life is a testing ground, but why did all those innocent people, including children, have to die?
We must seriously question the word "Innocent". Scripture is clear on the point that man is not innocent, and that he has not been so since the Garden of Eden. From the day when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we have all come under condemnation. All humanity, throughout the centuries, has endured the result of that disobedience. If you are not convinced, read Genesis 3. In fact, if it were not so, it would not have been necessary for the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
As Christians, we understand the principle of blood sacrifice, so it will not be dealt with in this article. Even Christians have seldom understood the fact that the Old Testament is fullof bloodshed, and that thousands were put to the sword by command of Jehovah. They fail to see that it is a purging process, in order to limit the spread of evil. Strangely enough, most people will accept the principle when it is applied medically. For example, it is sometimes necessary to amputate a toe or a limb in order to limit the spread of gangrene. When Israel was instructed to destroy an evil nation, they sometimes refused to do so. Because of their disobedience, Jehovah cast them off as a punishment, and from then on, evil gained the upper hand. When we see the world situation today, it is not difficult to see that Satan is winning the battle. Evil remains unchecked for fear of upsetting peoples' "human rights" or for reasons of "political correctness".
Peace, prosperity, and perfect health will only be restored when Jesus, the Christ; comes to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Those who are familiar with the prophecies have known these things through the centuries.
It was stated above that our lives are for the purpose of testing for better things to come, and that the testing would be of many kinds. It is without question that most things that go wrong in life are of our own making. A few random examples will suffice. Infections are rife in our hospitals and the chances of picking up a life-threatening disease such as MRSA are very real. At one time, hygiene in hospitals was very strict, but since discipline has lapsed, the wards are not cleaned to the high standards of former years. Cattle disease is the result of bad farming practices. Our economic situation is wholly due to our ignoring the laws given to Moses. When children were killed in Aberfan in Wales some years ago, God was blamed. How could it have been His fault when people chose to build a school at the base of a mountain of coal slurry?
Having generalised on the subject of cause and effect, does it help us to understand that terrible event in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day?
Natural disasters are as old as the planet. Throughout history there have been dramatic climatic changes, and the earth has been tipped off its axis many times. Storm and tempest have always taken a toll of life, and they are on the increase in these last days. Man is aware where the earth's fault lines lie. Why then do we still build in the danger areas? San Francisco is a case in point. It lies on a fault line. There have already been devastating earthquakes, and another is overdue. Will God get the blame once more?
The tsunami was in a region known for its earthquake activity.Tracking stations were aware of what was happening within seconds. Yet, none of the places affected had means of receiving a warning, for communications are not highly developed in the region. The people had no opportunity to escape to higher ground. It was observed that wild animals were aware of impending disaster and made their escape. Large sums of money have been poured into building a tourist industry, but no thought was given to provision of a warning system. Is this God's fault again? We may be sure that the tourist industry will be built up again, but will the available money be spent on safeguards or on more and better hotels in vulnerable places?
Man is of the opinion that the world owes him a living, and that everything should go as he wishes. When it does not, he is quick to find someone or something to blame, but never himself. Since the curse of Adam includes the earth itself, we must accept that it will show its anger in many ways. Paul made this clear in Romans 8:22:
"For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
Of course, we are all grieved that thousands perished, but, strange as it may seem, good has come from it. It has shown that there is still love and concern among so many who have given so generously of time, strength and money, by sending teams of medics to render assistance. But, even here, bungling petty officials caused delays!
It is interesting to note that some of the oil-rich countries have shown little concern or compassion, or any interest in rendering aid. The Lord has blessed them with all that wealth beneath their feet, and they have given nothing in return. Surely, they will have to pay dearly for their lack of concern at the plight of others.
We now come to what is, perhaps, the most difficult question to answer. Why did God allow innocent babies to die? As hard as it is to take in, even babies are subject to Adam's curse. Although they have not committed sins, this does not exempt them from the death of the body. The Slaughter of the Innocents under Herod makes this clear. Paul in forms us in Romans 5:14:
"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come".
We see that there are some who have not sinned, yet Paul says in Romans 3:23:
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"
How may we reconcile these apparently conflicting texts? Firstly, we ask, who were those who had not sinned by disobedience, as Adam did? Who are not capable of sin? The only possible answer is babies. Clearly, they are exempt from Paul's text above. However, the situation is that they carry the mark of original sin, but they have not knowingly sinned as older children and adults do. A moment's thought will help us to come to terms with the loss of babies, for whatever cause. Because they are spotless in God's eyes, they will be carried straight to the Father's bosom when they die. Each one is special to the Lord.
This article has only touched on the subject of suffering, but it is to be hoped that you, the reader, will have been stimulated into carrying out your own studies, and
" ... be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" - (I Peter 3:15)
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