Here’s Franklin Graham, from last night’s Scarborough Country, reminding us of what’s important about the VA Tech shooting:
First of all, we know that God loves us and God cares for us. And there is a devil in this world. There is evil, and we have seen this manifest itself today in the life of one individual who took the lives of these students. It’s a tragedy. But God loves us very much, and I don’t think we should ever forget his love for us that he has provided a way for us to be with him in heaven and that’s through his son Jesus Christ.
Well, I don’t blame God for it, Joe. This is what we have to understand. There is–there is evil in this world. There is a devil who’s called the god of this age, who wants to seek and destroy your life and my life and every life. And when a tragedy like this comes, I think it’s time for us to remember how short life is, and we need to be prepared to stand before a holy God. There is a God in heaven who cares for us, and we are going to have to stand before him.
And a tragedy like this doesn’t increase the death rate in this world. The Bible says (INAUDIBLE) to die, and after that, the judgment. All of us are going to cross this valley of death one day, but right now, our focus is on the living, the families, the children there at that university, these students who’ve been traumatized, who are discouraged, who are afraid.
And there’s a lot of–you know, we don’t go in with all the answers. I think the point is we listen to them and try to answer the specific questions they ask. But the most important thing is to reassure people of God’s love, that God has not abandoned us in a time of tragedy like this. God very much loves us. He cares for us. And this is a time where we as a country I think need to come together and be united and stand with these families at this time.
I wonder if Graham will also remind the parents of the non-Christian victims that the loving God of whom he speaks has consigned their children to Hell, where they will burn for eternity. According to Mr. Graham’s theology, that is.
I am often told that religion is so popular because of the comforts it provides. The trouble is that before you can derive any comfort form it, you must first believe that it is true. And for people lacking the blind faith of a Franklin Graham, seeing thirty-two innocent people gunned down by a crazed gunman is cause to wonder whether the world really is superintended by a loving God.
Graham tells us that God is not to blame, and that Satan is loose in the world. By any normal moral standard, however, if you can stop great evil from happening without any harm to yourself, and you consciously choose not to do so, then you are guilty of great evil in your own right. We can not evade this point by arguing that God gave us free will, which implies the freedom to choose evil as well as good. What of the free will of the victims? God could simply have caused the killer’s gun to jam, after all. Then everyone would have their free will and thirty-two people wouldn’t be dead today.
Never afraid to tackle the tough questions, the folks over at Answers in Genesis have decided to take a shot at answering these questions. Why does a loving God allow such rampant evil?
You see, when we accept Genesis as it was meant to be taken–as literal history–then we understand that death, disease, and violence are intrusions into this world, and that they occurred after Adam was created. Paul tells us in Romans 8:19-23 that the whole of the creation is groaning because of sin.
So, it’s not God’s fault that there is death and violence in the world–it’s humanity’s fault, because we rebelled against our Creator. Certainly, the shooter at Virginia Tech has to answer for his own sin. However, we still have to recognize that we now live in a fallen world where we have just a taste of what we really asked for in Adam, when the head of the human race disobeyed God’s instruction not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. In a real sense, we are all responsible for the death and suffering we see around us. (Emphasis in original)
I’m sorry, but how does that explain why God would allow something like this to happen? Adam disobeyed God in Eden, so we should not be surprised when this God of love and mercy allows thirty-two people to be gunned down six thousand years later? If the folks at AiG are to be believed, then events like those at Tech represent a thwarting of God’s will. He didn’t want there to be violence and death in the world, but then Adam sinned. As a result, humanity was in some way asking for there to be violence and suffering, and God must sit solemnly by as we suffer our just desserts. Remind me again how this is comforting.
Of course, they’re not finished yet:
It’s also important to understand a concept that AiG presents in the book How Could a Loving God … ? We read there:
Only the person who believes in God has a basis to make moral judgments to determine what is “good” and what is “bad.&rduqo; Those who claim God does not exist have absolutely no authority upon which to call something right or wrong. If God doesn’t exist, who can objectively define what is good and what is bad? What basis could there be to make such judgments? The atheist has no basis upon which to call anything good or bad. They can talk about good and bad, and right and wrong–but it’s all relative, it’s all arbitrary. What’s “good” in one person’s mind might be completely “bad” in another’s.
Total stupidity, of course. If the morality of the atheist is arbitrary and relative, that is no less true for the morality of the religious believer. Moral assertions do not suddenly become objectively true or false when you base them on your perception of God’s will.
But do I detect a whiff of desperation in this argument? Remember, this is supposed to be an essay helping us to understand why a loving God allows shooting rampages. Yet one of their main arguments seems designed not to explain anything, but simply to assert that we must persist in our belief that God exists for otherwise we would have no basis for making moral assertions at all. Even if that were true (it isn’t of course), how would that help us make sense of what happened at Tech?
And we can’t let this one go by:
We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals–and humans–arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole). The more such a philosophy permeates the culture, the more we would expect to see a sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that pervades people’s thinking. In fact, the more a culture allows the killing of the unborn, the more we will see people treating life in general as “cheap.”
I’m not at all saying that the person who committed these murders at Virginia Tech was driven by a belief in millions of years or evolution. I don’t know why this person did what he did, except the obvious: that it was a result of sin. However, when we see such death and violence, it is a reminder to us that without God’s Word (and the literal history in Genesis 1-11), people will not understand why such things happen.
I’ll leave the refutation as an exercise for the reader. Suffice it to say that you don’t need the Bible to explain that there are bad people, and sometimes they do bad things.
The fundamentalists over at AiG are fools, but it is important to remember that more mainstream Christianity has no better answer than they for the problem of evil. The ability of people to deny the obvious is simply not to be believed. The existence of great moral evil such as this can not be reconciled in any plausible way with the existence of a God who loves His creatures. Surely the simpler explanation is also the better one. As Richard Dawkins memorably put it:
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
Instead of tying ourselves into knots trying to reconcile A with Not A, why not simply accept the plain truth that Dawkins expressed so well?
Let us close with AiG’s admonition to those who do not find their arguments convincing:
There is another important lesson we need to be reminded of in the context of suffering and death in this world. In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus said: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus was reminding people that every person will one day die, and that they need to be ready! Those who were killed by this tower in Luke 13 didn’t know that when they arose that morning, it would be their day to die. The Lord Jesus, in saying “unless you repent,” was reminding everyone that they needed to be sure they were ready to face eternity.
This is the most important lesson for all of us to consider during this tragic time in American history, and to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9: That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Let the comforting begin.